Sam Wat­son

Don’t get caught up in the ‘over­land­ing’ hype trap of shiny new gear, says Sam. In­stead, make sure you and your Land Rover are prop­erly pre­pared

LRO (UK) - - Contents - SAM WAT­SON

Don’t buy over­land bling, buy re­li­a­bil­ity

There’s a new buzz­word in the world of 4x4s – it’s ‘over­land­ing’. Trawl ebay and you’ll find ‘over­land­ing’ ver­sions of Land Rovers and pieces of oth­er­wise run-of-the-mill kit that com­mand huge price hikes just be­cause of that one word in their de­scrip­tion.

New­com­ers to the idea of trav­el­ling long dis­tances to in­ter­est­ing lo­ca­tions by Land Rover can be drawn into this world and in­fected with the be­lief that they need to spend a for­tune on this tent or that roof rack, or this match­ing ar­ray of ac­ces­sories if they want to be as­sured of a suc­cess­ful trip. Of course, this isn’t the case.

A chrome-plated mouse toaster may well look nice bolted on to your Land Rover, es­pe­cially if it has a de­sir­able brand name stamped on it, but it’s of­ten far bet­ter to spend that £200 (or what­ever) on bor­der cross­ings, ferry tick­ets or an extra ser­vice.

Ba­sic ve­hi­cles are of­ten best, and while I’m not sug­gest­ing the trav­eller nec­es­sar­ily for­goes com­fort in favour of util­ity, it’s all too easy to stock up on shiny ‘over­land­ing’ toys and for­get the ba­sics like as­sur­ing me­chan­i­cal re­li­a­bil­ity and safety.

Ser­vic­ing, not kit, is key

I am fre­quently driven into froth­ing apoplexy by sneers about ‘Land Rover un­re­li­a­bil­ity’ (usu­ally from arm­chair pun­dits) where in fact most fail­ures of Green Oval prod­ucts on long trips are caused by the fit­ment of cheap af­ter­mar­ket spare parts, or cut­ting cor­ners on ser­vic­ing and me­chan­i­cal prepa­ra­tion – user er­ror, in other words.

This is made worse by the fact that when you buy a used Land Rover you of­ten have no guar­an­tee about the prove­nance or qual­ity of parts fit­ted by pre­vi­ous own­ers. If you are pre­par­ing for a trip, get some miles un­der the wheels and check that all the parts cur­rently fit­ted are fit for pur­pose. You should only look at up­grades once you have a re­li­able ve­hi­cle.

Get some pre-trip prac­tice I’ve just come back from a long trip through the north­ern moun­tains of Oman, where the land­scape is very much a case of rocks and rock-crawl­ing rather than desertscape.

My Camel Dis­cov­ery is a fairly heavy over­land ve­hi­cle rather than a ded­i­cated off-roader, so not hugely nim­ble in awk­ward ter­rain, and the trek brought into sharp relief the need for a spot­ter when go­ing over rocky ar­eas (un­less you are lucky enough to be driv­ing some­thing far newer from Soli­hull with its own spot­ter cam­eras).

Part of my route was a washed-out min­ing track with an ad­verse cam­ber caused by flood­ing, cou­pled with big eroded hol­low ar­eas and large rocks. Luck­ily, I had a friend in the car who could hop out and spot for me as I inched the heavy truck over the dif­fi­cult sec­tions. The abil­ity of the Land Rover was never an is­sue – what was cru­cial was the abil­ity to care­fully and slowly tackle the po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing sec­tions of track with a pair of extra eyes to guide me through the ar­eas that I couldn’t see.

As Ray Mears, De­fender fan him­self, of­ten re­marks: ‘Drive your car like it’s made of glass – it has to get you home.’ A big right foot can re­sult in dam­age, of­ten ter­mi­nal, and on an over­land trip you could be thou­sands of miles from home and tens of miles from help.

It can quite rightly be ar­gued, though, that some­times in a dif­fi­cult stretch of ter­rain ‘he who hes­i­tates is lost’ – whether the ground is un­sta­ble, an ac­ci­dent is about to hap­pen or traf­fic is be­ing un­for­giv­ing – and the only way to know whether you should tread gen­tly or give her a boot­ful is from ex­pe­ri­ence. This is why pre-trip prac­tice is vi­tal. Green­lan­ing, prefer­ably on long lanes like Rud­land Rigg in York­shire, and prefer­ably with a fully-laden ve­hi­cle that you are camp­ing with – it’s an ex­cel­lent re­hearsal for over­land­ing.

Af­ter a few green­lan­ing trips you’ll know how your Land Rover (and its load) will be­have when at an odd an­gle, or un­der sud­den ac­cel­er­a­tion or de­cel­er­a­tion. You’ll know the an­gles where you can or can­not see, and your blind spots. You’ll know where your diff hangs down and what sort of rocks and axle-twisters you can deal with with­out is­sue. Not just that, but if you live out of your truck on such a trip. you’ll know where you pre­fer to keep things like matches, brew-up kit, loo roll, head torch, bin lin­ers and so on.

It’s even bet­ter if you can guide your­self over the lanes rather than take a guide – most of the time on a long over­land trip you stand or fall by your own ex­pe­ri­ence – and you get that ex­pe­ri­ence by mak­ing the de­ci­sions your­self.

Don’t let ex­cuses put you off mak­ing the over­land trip you dream of. There will al­ways be a rea­son ‘why not’ – job, fi­nances, fam­ily, weather, hol­i­days – and there will al­ways be plenty of time af­ter the op­por­tu­nity to re­gret not go­ing. Land Rovers don’t need mod­i­fi­ca­tions to be over­lan­ders – look at the words in the green oval. That’s what they do. Pack, and go. Go while you can.

‘Don’t let ex­cuses put you off mak­ing the over­land trip you dream of. There will al­ways be time to re­gret not go­ing’

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