Relative to the other overlanders we saw out there, we travelled light and fast. How you equip your vehicle will be based very much on the type of trip you are doing, where you are travelling, who is travelling and for how long. Everyone has a difference preference, and importantly, no one way is right, or wrong (unless it doesn’t work, then it’s wrong I guess.) So what I write here shouldn’t be read as “the” way to do it, rather it is just “a” way to do it.
Roof Tent: The best piece of equipment we purchased. Having a roof tent meant we never had the stress of needing to find hotel accommodation: we always had a backup. In places like Mongolia travelling without your own accommodation severely limits where you can stay, and it has to be said: The towns of Mongolia are not the highlight.
For us, after much research I chose the Italian brand Autohome. The primary reason was aerodynamics: The Autohome tents are low profile low wind resistance, which made sense given a lot of our driving would be at or over 100km/hr. Secondary reasons were quality and comfort, and we weren’t let down here either. The tent was fine in rain, wind, cold and warm. It took us 2 minutes to setup and allowed us to leave all our pillows, sleeping bags, blankets and ladder in the tent as well.
Fridge: Waeco CDF25 litre. Another great purchase. Getting the size right was a worry, these things take up space and weight in an SUV. For our type of travel, where we were on the road, travelling past fruit and vegies being sold on the side of the road, or passing through towns with shops, 25 litres was perfect. We could carry a few days meat and veg where we needed to. The fridge could freeze items quickly if needed and held things cold easily for a day without power. It was tough as guts too – we didn’t have it strapped down (bad) and the whole thing would get airbone briefly almost daily, but never missed a beat.
Power: To dual battery or not to dual battery: A dual battery system is better, especially if, like us, you are camping alone without other vehicles, and possibly in places where there are no other people. That said, dual battery systems are more use if you are relying on the house battery for longer periods of time, where overlanding you are frequently on the move. I didn’t put a dual battery system in. However we carried a power pack battery that could restart the car when needed, and also provided a power inverter (which we rarely used). It also had a compressor for tyre inflation (useful) and provided 12V power for camping too (which we rarely used).
We found that the fridge would run while we drove, and this was more than enough for overnight. We would charge all our devices (phones, batteries, laptops) while we drove. Finally we had two solar lights (mentioned below) for evening camp. Once we had replaced Magda’s bad battery in Italy we never had another failed battery situation again, and got away without needing the second battery. It just comes down to your style of travel.
Cooking: Initially I had purchased a Coleman two burner stove. Big mistake. The colemans use a proprietary fuel bottle which we found was almost impossible to buy outside of the UK or Australia. We hunted town after town through Europe trying to find the right gas bottles. Further, the stove itself was big and unnecessarily heavy. In the end we abandoned it altogether. We replaced it with a Kovea Compact X1 burner (which in Kazakhstan was a lot cheaper than Paddy Pallin Australia seems to sell them for…) Tiny, compact, light and powerful, this did all our cooking for the remainder of the trip, and did it well. I had a set of aluminium bowls/pans from eBay that we did the cooking in.
Water: We carried two 27 litre bladders for water, and bought bottled water along the way. To be honest, we only needed one of the bladders. The advantage of the bladders was they rolled up into next to nothing when we weren’t using them, where a plastic container would have taken valuable space. The other advantage we found was being black, they absorbed the sun during the day in the back of the car, and gave us a warm home made shower in the evenings, without the need to buy a specific piece of equipment. We filled these mostly in streams in Mongolia, or taps where there were some.
There are quite a few water solutions out there for treating water. Filters require water to be passed through a filter, and can get rid of 98-99% of bacteria, depending on the quality of the filter. Other solutions rely on tablets or drops being put into the water, and can leave a taste. I went for Steripen, which relies on UV light (much like city water supplies work) to kill anything in the water. We used it primarily when we were cooking, and using water from the bladders. We never got sick from any of the water, so for us it was a tick. This pen is also one of the smallest, lightest solutions for purifying the water, and doesn’t need filter replacements etc.
Light: Nokero.com! A friend recommended these little lights, and they were great. They would charge in the back during the day, and gave great light in the evening. And by buying you are supporting a great cause too.
And the rest: To give ourselves a surface when camping or making lunch, a friend and I built “Tony’s table”, my invention that made use of the spare tyre carrier. This worked treat. Our non-fridge food and plates etc had a container each. I would love to have installed a shelf/drawer system, but it was too expensive for what we were doing. Our system worked just fine, and weighed a lot less.