Planning the Outfitting Stage

This is the first post in the Expedition/Outfitting category of the West African Wander blog, one year after we first purchased the vehicle.   That delayed post is terribly misleading, in fact we started thinking about outfitting very early, and even purchased a National Luna 52 litre fridge in late 2010 before we even bought the Land Rover to put it in.  Since then the focus has definitely been on restoring the basic vehicle (see post on a Look Back at the Year), but we have made a number of purchases that fall into the outfitting category.  This post is going to provide a brief picture of where we want to get to.

The idea for the six-week trip is to spend much of the time camping, interspersed with hotel stays.  That means we need to outfit the Defender to sleep, cook, eat , wash and various  other sundry activities.  Laura and I very much enjoy the outdoors and have done lots (I mean lots!) of camping, including car and canoe camping in Canada and backpacking in Costa Rica.  However our overland vehicle experience is limited to the week we rented an outfitted Defender from Bushlore in Johannesburg in 2010 and took it up the Sani pass into Lesotho (see separate post TESTING THE IDEA).  We had also rented a small motorhome van with our daughter Katherine to do a trip through the Alberta foothills years ago on the way to our niece’s wedding in Waterton Lakes National Park.  Not exactly off road or as immediately relevant to a Defender, but it still provided some exposure to independent vehicle camping.

Essentially our approach is to think in terms of systems, a preliminary list of which could include:

  1. Electrical:  We will install a dual battery system  where the first battery is devoted to keeping the motor running and a second serves to power camping accessories when the motor is not running, such as a fridge, lights, sound system, computer, etc.  Solar power back-up will also be useful.
  2. Cooking/eating:  In South Africa we carried two propane tanks with fitting burners.  We need to find out what fuel supply is most available in the area we are covering and design a system to fit that.  Cooking and eating utensils also fall into this system, as do a table and perhaps a shade/rain awning.
  3. Sleeping:   Basically, a tent to protect from the elements.  We really liked the roof-top tent we used in South Africa/Lesotho and just need to figure out how to get one into Ghana.
  4. Water:   We need water for washing and potable water for drinking and cooking.  Options for either include storage tanks installed in the wheel wells or the back seat interior floor or jerry cans mounted on the side or the roof.   Safe weight distribution, specifically the need not to put too much weight on the roof, is one of the considerations that favours the storage tank system.   Water sources will be limited and for drinking water we may need to rely on buying commercial bottles and just store those.   Some way of purifying water, and cleaning fruit and vegetables, will also be necessary.
  5. Lighting:  This close to the equator it gets dark at 18:00 every night so having sufficient exterior light to be able to use and enjoy evenings is very important.   I would also like to have additional driving lights as a backup in case of system failure or in the event of sandstorms.  And extra driving lights on a 4×4 look so cool…..
  6. Recovery:  This is the term the 4×4 off-roaders use to refer to getting unstuck.  It is probably not worth investing in a winch because we are not planning or expecting to do much off-roading, but a tow-rope, whether for our benefit or for others, is probably a good idea, as would be jumper cables.   This category could also include a tire pump and sand ladders of some sort.
  7. Maintenance:  This is about the tools that are required to address the most likely problems that might arise.
  8. Storage:   All the systems mentioned above imply some need for storage, indeed water and fuel systems are essentially storage systems.  However, we need to think about accessible storage for all the kitchen gear, food, clothes, tools and accessories.   The refrigerator is an important component of storage.

In addition to these these “systems”, there will no doubt be other things that will come up as we learn more about “overlanding”.  From now on most posts will be in the outfitting category.