Packing for an overland trip





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    Default Packing for an overland trip

    Another in the Out There series as requested by Karistew

    OFF ROAD: PACKING
    Tony Weaver

    IF you're anything like me, every new trip into the bush starts off as something of an organisational nightmare: or used to, until I perfected a workable system. You know the feeling. You're belting down the highway, halfway to Namibia, and all you can think of is "did I pack the stove/lamps/tent pegs?"

    We were once on a trip to go river rafting on the Orange River on the Namibian side when my companion said to me, just outside Piketberg, "we don't need passports for this, do we?" U-turn and four extra hours driving.

    So now I have a system that sort of works. I keep my household goods and camping goods totally separate: no rifling through the cutlery and pots and pans drawers to make up the camp kitchen, no frantic searches for the missing tin opener. My bush kitchen lives in its own plastic ammo box (Wulff Pack), my bedroom has its own box, and so do all the other odds and ends. Each box is clearly labelled as to its contents.

    When we return from the trip, each box is carefully unpacked, dirty goods cleaned, cast iron pots oiled, the dust wiped out, and the whole box repacked ready to be slung into the back of the vehicle at 10 minutes notice.

    And I keep lists. On each trip I refine the lists, but essentially the core lists stay the same. What follows is my basic philosophy on packing for a bush trip. Bear in mind that there is very little difference between packing for a two week trip and packing for a two year trip, the core ingredients stay the same.

    BEDROOM:

    After living in one for two years, I am an avid devotee of rooftop tents. They are expensive but worth every cent. They take minutes to put up and break down, there are no guy ropes to trip over and you don't have to bash pegs into rock hard ground, they keep you high off the ground where you can catch the breezes and you are clear of snakes, scorpions and various other bugs.

    You don't have to worry about flooding or wild animals and they give excellent security, as you can feel it the minute a bandit tries to climb the ladder. You can pitch the tent on the rockiest ground or in the worst mud patch and you can stop anywhere - in petrol stations, hotel parking lots, border posts - and pop up the tent.

    All your bedding lives permanently in the tent - no extra storage, while their hard, level base covered with a good mattress is superbly comfortable after a hard day's driving (and they make an excellent hide from which to watch and photograph wildlife).

    We also always carry a ground tent on long trips (for short trips it's not usually necessary). If you take the ground tent option, a high quality geodesic dome tent with just two arced, jointed support poles of the same length is your best option. They are relatively light, free-standing, quick to erect and break down, and if well secured, are storm-proof. One word of warning - if you are packing up a dome tent in high winds, leave the groundsheet pegged down until the last moment - it is not uncommon to see these tents flying through the air: Friends lost a very expensive tent over the cliffs of Newfoundland in Canada during Arctic winds.

    Do not skimp on your tent. There are plenty of cheap, supermarket sold tents around, mostly made in China and sold at Makro, Game etc . They are fine for the kids to play in in the backyard, but are useless for African conditions. The tent must have a strong, fully waterproof built-in groundsheet, preferably one which rises at least 15cm (six inches) up the side walls. Doors must be fully zippable, with a waterproof flap over the zips. Zips should be lockable with a small padlock, as much to deter baboons as thieves. The best makes of tent have an inner shell which is constructed of a combination of breathable fabric and mosquito netting, and an outer fly-sheet which completely encloses the inner shell, pegging in right down to the ground. While the good quality nylon tents are OK and useful because of their light weight, we prefer canvas/Ripstop fabric - long-lasting, and provides better protection against boisterous teenaged lions.

    All seams must be double-stitched and sealed against rain, stress points like peg loops and zips must be reinforced and loops where ridge poles pass through should be fairly broad to avoid extra stress.

    Carry spare pegs and guy ropes. Light alloy pegs do not last long, as they bend and then lose their tensile strength. Strong steel or galvanized pegs are best, and you should also carry some plastic sand pegs - pegs with a T-shaped point and shaft to give better purchase in sand. Include in your peg bag a couple of six inch nails - when the ground is very hard, knock the nail in first to make a hole for the lighter peg. They can also be used as pegs in an emergency. We also carry a bag of custom-made pegs fashioned out of 16mm rebar for really hard ground.

    CHOW TIME:

    While some of your cooking will be done on open fires, you will also need a stove for when it's raining, no firewood is available, or you are camping somewhere where fires are out of the question - a bush camp where a fire would attract attention, hotel parking lots or in a fire danger area. We don't particularly like cooking on fires - the heat is uncontrollable, pots get damaged and permanently fire-blackened quickly, and if a pot of water falls over into the fire, goodbye fire.

    Gas stoves are the cleanest and most efficient option. Avoid single plate burners, as you then need two cylinders at a time to run a two-burner kitchen. A simple two-plate table top gas stove with built in regulator is the answer (or if you can find one, the fold-up suitcase type two-burner stoves that Cadac, Primus and others make for the military). Some stoves need a special regulator to run off small cylinders: Avoid them if possible. The regulators are unnecessarily bulky, and prone to leaking after a few months of use in rough conditions. Currently, both Cadac and Alva make very good two-burner stoves.

    Gas is freely available throughout Africa. South African Cadac and other cylinders can be refilled in most countries, but it is a good idea to buy several small adaptors for filling from different types of gas sources. Two number 10 cylinders will be enough to last you for three to four months if used only for cooking. We prefer cast iron pots because they are very easy to clean, and are great on the fire - but avoid three legged potjies as they are a nightmare to pack and keep secure.

    Our kitchen box contains, among other things, a galvanized grid strong enough to hold heavy pots; kettle, two cast iron Dutch oven pots (one Best Duty "Super Potjie", which has a lid that is a griddle pan on one side, and a frying pan on the other, one smaller Dutch oven that fits inside the Super Potjie), a cast iron frying pan and an all-purpose deep pot; full cutlery set including long fire tongs and braai fork (packed in canvas bags so they don't rattle and you can hang the bags from the vehicle or a tree); extra teaspoons as they always get lost; enamel plates (plastic gets very grubby); china coffee mugs (they actually last and enamel is horrible to drink out of - melamine is the compromise option); a good veg peeler; good knife set; tin opener; two bread boards; grater; colander; plastic mixing bowl; measuring jug; stainless steel hot water flask; and plenty of cleaning materials (make sure your dish washing liquid is in a well sealed container. Better still, buy dishwashing paste.)

    A sprouting jar is something we would not dream of travelling without. Sprouts are high in protein, are great in salads, and add flavour to the most boring of dishes.

    Luxury gas appliances like skottel braais and gas braais are fine for weekend trips, but on long trips they rarely get used, are awkward to pack and consume vast amounts of gas.

    FOOD BOXES:

    Divide your food into three categories: Bulk supplies, daily supplies and tea/coffee break stops (day box). Replenish the daily supply box from the bulk box and the tea box from the daily box. Bulk supplies are fairly obvious - your tins, bulk rice, pasta, oil, soups and all other non-perishables.

    Your daily box contains everything you need for daily meals - including condiments and herbs/spices. The tea box is the one that you haul out for those half hour stops under a handy tree (or when you get stuck and need some inspiration before starting debogging).

    The tea box usually takes a bit of trial and error to get right, especially if you're travelling with companions with unfamiliar needs. Typically it would contain all the makings for tea and coffee, juice, mugs, plates, basic cutlery, bread, spreads and snacks, and loo paper. The hot water flask can also go in here so you can boil water in the morning and not need to set up the stove at each stop.

    Carry two plastic basins - one for dish and clothes washing and one for personal washing. A plastic bucket (or heavy vinyl fold up one) is also very useful for a variety of uses, as is a hand broom and dust pan.

    Vegetables that last a long time are: potatoes, onions, carrots, squash, butternut, green avocado pears, and cabbage (don't slice it, peel it - this stops it going brown.) Fruits that last are oranges, green apples, granadilla's and lemons (but be very careful of fruit, especially citrus, around elephants and baboons). Namibian made Pumpernickel bread (available at most major South African supermarkets) lasts for months and months and is very nutritious.

    OTHER GEAR:

    Here is a selection of camp items we wouldn't dream of leaving home without: comfortable chairs; a lightweight table; waterproof (and shade) awning permanently attached to the side of the vehicle; camp lighting (we use a combination of solar powered LEDs, two battery-powered UST 30-Day lamps, and Dietz paraffin lamps - we've given up on gas lamps. Candles are very useful in an emergency, and for lovely ambient light, and make useful firelighters in an emergency); metal driepoot (triangle pot rest); panga (machete); spades (small, flat-edged garden type and a fold-up trenching tool); 20 to 30 metres of light nylon cord; fly swatters; rubber snakes to keep the baboons at bay; flat iron with bent tip for lifting pots and pot lids out of the fire; water bottles (two X 25l; one X 5l and personal one or two litre bottles); extra ground sheet for dusty camp sites and keeping scorpions at bay; backgammon set or cards or whatever for whiling away the time during inevitable delays; and a good library of books. We also carry a combination bow saw/hacksaw made by Stanley and don't carry an axe, which is a pretty useless piece of kit, unless you are doing a tropical forest crossing and need to clear trees out the road.


    PACKING:

    Now you have to fit all this gunk into the vehicle. Trailers are popular with many campers, but I don't recommend them for remote or rough offroad travel. Besides the obvious drain on fuel and power, they become a terrible burden in tricky off-road conditions like thick sand, donga (gully) crossings and mud. If you intend towing a trailer in serious off-road conditions, then you must fit a winch so that you can cross obstacles without the trailer, then winch it across. Make sure your trailer has the same axle width and tyre size as your vehicle so that the trailer follows in the vehicle tracks, and spares are interchangeable. The trailer will need to be heavily sprung and dampened, have a super-strong chassis, and be fully lockable.

    ROOF RACKS are incredibly useful things, but don't be tempted to overload them. Pack only very light, bulky objects on the rack as an overloaded roof rack puts huge strain on the chassis and adds greatly to your risk of capsizing or rolling. They must be very strong, light and securely mounted onto the vehicle, not just lightly clamped onto the gutter. If you're fitting a rack, spend extra bucks and get one that has gas bottle racks, a ladder and options for bolting on spades and other items.

    Whatever system you choose for packing, keep it as compact, light and modular as possible. Excessive weight in a vehicle has seen many an offroad trip abandoned because of vehicle crack up. Discard anything you don't think is absolutely essential, and each time you do a trip, refine the system a bit more.

    Custom-fitted modular drawer systems are great, but the time-honoured packing system consists of a plastic ammo boxes. Cardboard boxes last surprisingly well (especially liquor boxes) and when they die, you've got fire-starting material. We pack items that won’t be replaced on a long trip, like wine and beer supplies, and bulky snacks, in carboard wine cartons.

    A cooler box is also a useful packing space, and filled with ice, will give you days of cold beer. Leave them open at night with wet dish cloths draped across them on top of the vehicle to cool stuff off. Many overlanders won’t travel without a fridge/freezer. We see no need for them - they are bulky, can trash your battery, and besides, you can buy supplies all over the place, in markets, supermarkets, etc etc.

    Fill in the spaces between the boxes with your clothes bags and bedding. The best way to pack clothes for rough travel is in plastic bags (to keep the dust out) inside strong duffel bags. Suitcases are very awkward to pack and can't be stuffed into holes to stop rattles and chafing. Pack your bedding (if it isn't permanently in the rooftop tent) in extra strong stuff sacs so that it, too, can be used to fill in the spaces.

    Pack your heaviest items at the bottom and in front of the rear axle, and pack with unpacking in mind: with a rooftop tent and a well thought-out packing system, it shouldn't take more than 10 or 15 minutes to get a camp site up and running, and only a bit longer to pack away again.

    If your vehicle has interior tie down hooks, strap down all your boxes with nylon webbing straps with "Titan" clamps on them (Holdfast make good ones).

    And finally, before leaving, transfer anything in glass bottles into strong plastic containers with lids that seal properly: I will never forget one of my early offroad trips in the Kaokoveld. Arriving at camp, we opened the kitchen box to find that the tomato sauce bottle, the dishwashing liquid and the sunflower oil had all exploded - and we didn't have enough spare water for proper cleaning. It was a scene from a B-grade horror movie.
    Last edited by Tony Weaver; 2019/06/03 at 03:28 PM.

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  3. #2
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    I found this list that is verry handy.
    Attached Files Attached Files

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    Quote Originally Posted by straush View Post
    I found this list that is verry handy.

    If I have to pack that list. I'll never go camping
    Corne

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    Default Packing Advice

    Thank you for this advice. I have done a number of trips, but you have made me aware of some "tricks" which I have not used and which will be handy

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    Great advise - using candles as fire lighters!!! I just HATE that Blitz smell getting into everything. Thanks !!

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    Great advise Tony

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    Thanks for this Tony, it will assist me greatly. My only problem with a RTT is that I am not particularly keen on climbing up and down a ladder 3/4 times a night to go catch a leak
    Alan


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    Quote Originally Posted by All -in -one View Post
    Thanks for this Tony, it will assist me greatly. My only problem with a RTT is that I am not particularly keen on climbing up and down a ladder 3/4 times a night to go catch a leak
    Funnel with hosepipe on it...


    But I agree, a RTT is the last accessory on my list. I find it very inconvenient for various reasons.
    Ground dome tent is much better.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Weaver View Post
    Arriving at camp, we opened the kitchen box to find that the tomato sauce bottle, the dishwashing liquid and the sunflower oil had all exploded - and we didn't have enough spare water for proper cleaning. It was a scene from a B-grade horror movie.
    Reminds me of a time we arrived at Kokerboomskloof after a very bumpy ride. We had a flimsy Addis box lodged between a fridge and the back door and it was pretty much crushed. The lid had come off the Cremora container covering everything with a sticky white powder. To add insult to injury, a tin of sardines had ruptured, leaking fish oil onto the bulk of the Cremora. No water at Kokerboomskloof, so we used up much of our drinking water to clean up the mess. Fortunately it was in my buddies cruiser...
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    Quote Originally Posted by bvandyk View Post
    Funnel with hosepipe on it...


    But I agree, a RTT is the last accessory on my list. I find it very inconvenient for various reasons.
    Ground dome tent is much better.
    We carry both. Ground tent for longer stays and game parks, RTT for one night stands. This is a guide for overlanding, not camping - ie a long trip with many one night stops. In, for example, Ethiopia, there are very few campsites and it often isn't safe to bush camp. But every village has small hotelis with an armed guard and a walled compound, so you pay for a room (full of bedbugs) but sleep in the RTT.

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    I agree with the list, apart for the sprouting jar. I have one at home, but on the road? Not so sure.

    We packed all in 12 Ammo boxes, fitted them into the back of the Cruiser, and strapped two panels of plywood panel on top, with a thin mattress for emergency sleeping in mind.

    We had beer cans rupture on us, but the camping gas stove worked all the way. We carried a Cobb, but it is a chore cleaning it after a hard day's driving and another one coming, so it remained in the beer crate on the roof most of the time.

    We had a medical box with everything up to a drip kit, and somewhere perscriptions for the lot, which we could not find when the Nigerian Customs guy insisted unpacking everything. However he stopped at a tin which he proclaimed rusty, and near expiry. I convinced him that the "rust" was in fact dirt, which he rubbed off, and that we would use the coconut milk that evening. I did not tell him that the dirt was chili paste, I just wished that he would scratch himself somewhere. I am a bad person.

    We threw out the Dietz lantern, as we could not get paraffin, headlight torches worked. We also had a 32 liter Engel, a real gem.

    We carried two potjies, and sold them to a South African in Mauritania, we never used them and the space they took was just too much.

    As for roof racks, we had a lot of stuff up there and felt it on every rough road. Seven jerry cans are heavy, and you fill them when you have bad roads coming, which is just when you do not want weight up there. Imagine ramping dunes in the Sahara with full jerry cans...

    But most important, pack ample sense of humour! And enjoy.

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    I just love this forum , thanks guys for all the useful info

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    Default Happy Camping

    Everytime I log on to this forum I learn something. Thanks to all the guys for sharing info so readily. As a novice I use the forum to search for info on just about everything and I have never been disappointed with the answers.

    Baie baie dankie almal!

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    Default Re: Packing for an overland trip

    Tony Weaver, I just stumbled on this thread. Thank you for this, these are all methods I have been thinking about but now simplified.
    Thanks/Groete


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    Default Re: Packing for an overland trip

    Thanks Tony,

    I have always appreciated your advice. Helped me when I went from Cape Agulhas to North Cape, Norway on my Vespa in 2008.
    Also your advice came in very useful when my son and I came down from London in his Cruisers in 2013

    Outop
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    RTP

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    Default Re: Packing for an overland trip

    How does the sprouting jar thing work on the road? Doesn't it spill etc?
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    Default Re: Packing for an overland trip

    Great list, thanks Tony. I would add a catapult for the monkeys especially for somewhere like Mana Pools main camp

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    Default Re: Packing for an overland trip

    The advice on this list got 3 camping newbies through 7 months of travel. My one major addition is a small (2-3l) pressure cooker pot. For overlanding you're often only spending 1 night in each spot - and you arrive late (esp if you're wildcamping) The further North you go the more dependent you are on dry goods (beans and chickpeas in Ethiopia) and - how shall i put this politely - tough goat meat purchased in conditions that make long slow cooking very NB. We got into a routine where we'd cook the following nights meal in the pressure cooker pot while we reheated the previous nights food (we did go with a freezer).

    The pot made it possible to cook beans and other easy to store dry goods, or cook up a tender batch of meat . This is all possible on even our backup mini-gas hiking butane stove which barely gets an open pot bubbling at full strength. Again very cool for late night arrivals where you want to keep a low profile and minimise kitchen set-up.

    Matthew
    Last edited by mdegale; 2017/07/19 at 11:36 AM.
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    Default Re: Packing for an overland trip

    Hi Tony

    great post and super helpful for a pair of clueless first timers

    just wondering what rooftop tent you use now. We are about to leave on a 7 month trip and are tossing up between a Bundutop and an Eezi Awn Dart. Any feedback would be great although we are edging towards the Bundutop for the windows on all sides

    cheers

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    Default Re: Packing for an overland trip

    Hi Gemma, our rooftop tent is an Echo four sleeper (our kids were little when we got it, and they grew up in it now we have a very spacious tent for two!) It's now nearly 20 years old and still in brand new condition, despite many overland trips. Both Bundu Top and Eezi Awn are good makes, so I guess it's really down to personal preference. Two comments, though - seven months in a rooftop tent with continuous camping is rough on the tent (our first RTT fell apart after two years of daily use, admittedly in some incredibly harsh tropical conditions, including monster storms). So I would be a) a bit worried about the durability of the Bundu Top's electrical mechanism and b) a bit worried about the lack of space in the Dart. There will be days when it is pouring with rain and you want to lie in the tent for a while, reading books or whatever, and the low pitch of the roof on the one end would bug me.
    Big windows would actually be a drawback for me - lovely when you're in an organised campsite with a view. but not great when you're camping near a village, as you will have to from time to time, and you wake up every morning with a crowd of kids sitting around your camp waiting for the morning's entertainment. No kidding, that's standard throughout Africa in rural areas.
    Last edited by Tony Weaver; 2019/06/02 at 10:42 PM.
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