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Over­land­ing is a rel­a­tively new word in the off-road­ers’ dic­tio­nary, but self-re­liant ve­hi­cle­based travel is hardly a new phe­nom­e­non. Ever since the in­ven­tion of the au­to­mo­bile, peo­ple have wanted to travel fur­ther in their quest to ex­pe­ri­ence ad­ven­ture and new cul­tures; none more so than lit­tle­known Cana­dian overland pi­o­neer, Aloha Wan­der­well.

The aptly named and rest­less teenager, who was born Idris Gal­cia in 1906, sought more than Win­nipeg had to of­fer and when at six­teen years old, she saw an ad­ver­tise­ment in the Paris Her­ald look­ing for young women with “Brains, Beauty, and Breeches” to join a round-the-world ex­pe­di­tion, she jumped at the chance.

The ex­pe­di­tion lasted for six years and her story of overland travel in a Model-T Ford, through a world which wasn’t pre­pared for the au­to­mo­bile, is re­ally some­thing else and well worth the read; imag­ine hav­ing to use mashed ba­nana skins as grease, or get­ting labour­ers to tow you for 129 kilo­me­tres be­cause fuel wasn’t avail­able, now that’s real ad­ven­ture.

Even though to­days’ over-lan­der has a much eas­ier life than the Wan­der­well Ex­pe­di­tion, be­ing thor­oughly pre­pared is still paramount as self-re­liance is the key to any suc­cess­ful overland trip.

Af­ter a se­ries of per­sonal losses in­clud­ing his real es­tate ca­reer, ethno­g­ra­pher Eric Lobo em­barked on a ther­a­peu­tic 35,000 km around-the-world mo­tor­cy­cle trip with­out so much as a map or GPS, re­ly­ing in­stead on the ad­vice of other mo­tor­cy­clists that he met along the way. His sub­se­quent trip to the Cana­dian arc­tic on a 2015 Har­ley David­son Street Bob was ap­proached very dif­fer­ently, as se­ri­ous plan­ning was re­quired to min­i­mize risks from the ex­treme dan­gers that Lobo would face from the weather and ter­rain. One par­tic­u­lar mod­i­fi­ca­tion, out­rig­ger skis to keep the bike up­right, proved ex­tremely ef­fec­tive as Lobo was stopped by lo­cal po­lice who thought that their radar gun was bro­ken and wanted to con­firm that he was ac­tu­ally trav­el­ling at 115kmh on ice. Way to go, Lobo!

Every trip is dif­fer­ent, and the es­sen­tials for equip­ping your ve­hi­cle are go­ing to vary ac­cord­ing to what it is that you want to get from your overland ex­pe­ri­ence, so spend some time work­ing out where you’re likely to go, and what it is that you want to achieve, be­fore you spend your hard earned cash on items that you later dis­cover you don’t re­ally need. Mike Cerutti spent two years plan­ning ex­actly what he wanted from his ve­hi­cle be­fore he went crazy spend­ing money, but even so, he’s al­ready re-con­fig­ured his FJ Cruiser’s in­te­rior stor­age solutions five times.

Ve­hi­cle se­lec­tion is equally im­por­tant for the over-lan­der and the FJ Cruiser was an au­to­matic choice for Cerutti, just as the 80 Se­ries Landcruise­r was for Ja­son Butt. The FJ, while be­ing an ex­tremely ca­pa­ble ve­hi­cle, has lim­i­ta­tions be­cause of its size, but the roomier coil-sprung 80 Se­ries with a solid front axle was a more ob­vi­ous and prac­ti­cal choice for Butt and his teenage sons, who were al­ready avid campers.

An off-road ve­hi­cle isn’t es­sen­tial for overland travel but it def­i­nitely helps if

you re­ally want to get off the beaten track and away from the mad­den­ing crowds. You can travel across Canada in a mini-van and le­git­i­mately call your­self an over-lan­der, and even though you won’t get to ex­pe­ri­ence quite as much of the coun­try as the 4x4 driver will, you’ll def­i­nitely ex­pe­ri­ence much more than the mo­tel-hop­pers ever will.

There are also 4x4 panel vans avail­able that would make per­fect overland ve­hi­cles. The VW Syn­cro is a pop­u­lar choice but is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly rare and if you’re lucky enough to find one, a good clean model can be very ex­pen­sive. At the other end of the scale is the Mercedes Sprinter 4x4 that comes avail­able with lim­ited fac­tory op­tions but would make an awe­some base ve­hi­cle for your cus­tom overland build project.

Once you’ve de­cided on which ve­hi­cle you need, the next pri­or­ity is where you’re go­ing to sleep and you have one of three choices; in the ve­hi­cle, on the ve­hi­cle, or on the ground.

Tra­di­tional ground-level camps usu­ally re­quire con­sid­er­able amounts of equip­ment, time, and en­ergy to set up, un­less you sleep un­der the stars of course, but for many this is all part of the fun. Although if it’s rain­ing, this can be the most mis­er­able ex­pe­ri­ence ever. Orig­i­nally Cerutti had a three-man tent but “needed more space” and so pur­chased an Oz­tent RV5 Ta­ga­long, which at­taches to the Rhi­no­rack Foxwing awning, that he says has been a great setup. The one down­side is that it’s not a free stand­ing unit, as it re­quires the awning to hold it up, which is only ever a prob­lem if you need to move the ve­hi­cle away from camp.

The over-lan­der em­bark­ing on a longer trip may pre­fer the safety and con­ve­nience of sleep­ing in­side the ve­hi­cle, but they will ei­ther need to be very se­lec­tive with their gear or choose a ve­hi­cle that can ac­com­mo­date a larger, more com­fort­able sleep­ing area.

The third op­tion is sleep­ing on the ve­hi­cle in a roof top tent, and ac­cord­ing to con­firmed RTT fan Butt, “Every night is a great sleep and it frees up lots of room in­side the truck”. In use for over seventy years, th­ese in­ge­nious de­vices can be set up in less time than it takes to pho­to­graph the process. And pro­vid­ing you’ve given a lit­tle thought to where you park your truck, you’ll have a flat sur­face to sleep on that is guar­an­teed* to keep you free from bugs, bears and bum­bling bud­dies dur­ing the night.

For that home-away-from-home camp­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, Butt uses a -7 de­gree Cel­sius sleep­ing bag year round, with mem­ory foam com­pres­sion pil­low, a two burner propane Cole­man stove, a tent fan in the sum­mer, and a re­liance fold­ing toi­let with popup shower tent for pri­vacy. Cerutti’s camp lux­u­ries in­clude a Lug­gable Loo 5 gal­lon portable toi­let and a Buddy heater that keeps the sleep­ing quar­ters warm dur­ing cold Cana­dian win­ters. And yes, th­ese guys are hard core four-sea­son campers.

An 800w - 1000w power in­verter is also a nice-to-have

*Not re­ally guar­an­teed, but it’s def­i­nitely safer than sleep­ing on the ground, more fun than sleep­ing in­side your ve­hi­cle, and if you pick the right spot, you’ll get an awe­some view in the morn­ing.

ac­ces­sory so that you can charge your de­vices, boil a ket­tle -or if you re­ally miss the con­ve­niences of home - power a mi­crowave, says Cerutti. A per­ma­nently mounted, or portable so­lar panel, is also a great ad­di­tion if you’re plan­ning to stay in one spot for sev­eral days.

Ul­ti­mately, what­ever fits your wants, and your wal­let, will have to work; you might wish to fit a tai­lored brand-name awning that pro­vides shel­ter for cook­ing or sim­ply re­lax­ing away from the mid-day sun. Un­for­tu­nately awnings don’t come cheap, but there’s noth­ing wrong with se­cur­ing an auto-store tarp be­tween your truck and the near­est tree with bungee cords if it does ex­actly the same job.

A cooler is a ne­ces­sity whose fea­tures can range from ba­sic to rugged to res­i­den­tial. A prop­erly in­stalled unit, like Cerutti’s favourite pur­chase, a Whyt­ner 45qt fridge, does more than just keep your beer chilled - it will en­sure that food re­mains both fresh and se­cure on those longer overland trips.

If your fridge packs up and you have noth­ing to eat don’t worry, us hu­mans are a re­silient bunch and can sur­vive with­out food for up to three weeks. But go with­out wa­ter for a week, or less dur­ing Canada’s hot sum­mers, and you’re go­ing to be in se­ri­ous trou­ble. Make sure that you take enough wa­ter, roughly five litres a day per per­son, to last your en­tire trip. And that’s just for drink­ing and cook­ing, if you’re plan­ning on tak­ing show­ers or wash­ing clothes en-route, then an aux­il­iary wa­ter tank will be a ne­ces­sity.

For emer­gency sit­u­a­tions Butt keeps a Lifes­traw handy and it does pretty much what it says on the tin; up to 1000 litres of con­tam­i­nated wa­ter can be made safe sim­ply by draw­ing it through this straw­style fil­ter.

Now that you’re rested, fed, and wa­tered, if you plan on go­ing off-road as part of your overland ad­ven­ture, it doesn’t mat­ter how good or ex­pe­ri­enced a driver you are, you need to be pre­pared for the pos­si­bil­ity –no, cer­tainty- that you’ll get stuck. A ba­sic re­cov­ery kit is es­sen­tial.

Stow­ing all your gear safely and se­curely can be quite the headache, but there are sev­eral com­pa­nies pro­vid­ing off-

the-shelf or cus­tom-built stor­age solutions. For a price. The al­ter­na­tive is to build your own; my truck has a DIY lift-up-lid box in the rear that does a very good job of car­ry­ing re­cov­ery gear safely and qui­etly. The only down­side is that it doesn’t give the same ease of ac­cess to the gear which slid­ing draw­ers pro­vide.

Cerutti re­moved the FJ’s rear seats to make room for his Ger­man Shep­herd dog and also to in­cor­po­rate a 50” x 20” x 8” slid­ing drawer on one side, and an ad­ja­cent slider for the fridge on the other. Butt has a full width, thirty six inch deep, two-drawer-slid­ing sys­tem. Cus­tom built by his brother, it houses re­cov­ery gear and tools in one side, with the other con­tain­ing all the ‘do­mes­tic’ camp­ing uten­sils that have been ac­cu­mu­lated over the years.

Both guys are happy with their cur­rent set-up and agreed that if they had to do it again they’d take the same route with a cou­ple of ex­cep­tions; Butt says that he’d pre­fer a diesel pow­ered 80 for the econ­omy and us­able torque, while Cerutti says that although thirty five inch tires are cool and vis­ually ap­peal­ing, the in­crease in fuel con­sump­tion just isn’t worth it on long trip so he’ll be re­vert­ing to thirty three’s.

Next on Cerutti’s list of mod­i­fi­ca­tions is a com­plete re­wire of the elec­tri­cal ac­ces­sories that are fit­ted to his truck and also to re­place the tired six year old sus­pen­sion; which is pretty im­por­tant when you drive off-road as of­ten, and carry as much gear as Cerutti does.

The choices are seem­ingly end­less when it comes to choos­ing and spec’ing your overland ve­hi­cle and equip­ment, so take your time and think very care­fully about your in­tended des­ti­na­tions and ob­jec­tives. A suc­cess­ful overland trip de­pends on good plan­ning.

One thing is cer­tain, you shouldn’t need to worry about mash­ing ba­nana skins to grease es­sen­tial com­po­nents.


Below is a sug­gested, but by no means com­pre­hen­sive, list of items that you may want to con­sider for in­clu­sion in your re­cov­ery kit. For your safety, please make sure that you’re fa­mil­iar with the use and op­er­a­tion of any gear cho­sen.

• Winch with syn­thetic rope • Fire ex­tin­guisher • First aid kit • Rope • Tow straps • Tug straps • Ki­netic re­cov­ery rope • Shackles • Tree strop • Snatch block • Hi-lift jack • Krazy beaver shovel • Chain saw • Split­ting axe • Tools, volt­meter, jumper ca­bles, • Flu­ids; WD40, oil, coolant, etc. • Track-mats • CAA mem­ber­ship

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