Our first selections for camping gear involved our most basic requirements: Water, food and shelter. We did a tremendous amount of research (as usual) both online through websites and by asking questions, reading forums on Expo Portal, IH8MUD and reading reviews and comparisons in Overland Journal. We’ve always found that you get what you pay for - good gear costs more up front but lasts a long time and doesn’t break out on the road when you need it most. We stayed away from the mass-marketed gear like Coleman and some of the cheaper brands sold in places like Walmart. They’re fine for weekenders but not for extended ‘cruising. I’ve used Coleman products all my life so don’t get me wrong. Their products are good for what they’re designed for - family camping for up to a few weeks.
So - here’s our selections and short narratives on why we chose what we did:
Front Runner 40L Water Tank w/Recessed Spigot
1. Water. Normally in the areas where we plan to travel (not too remote) water quantity won’t be a significant issue although quality might. We’ll be using a commercial filter for that issue. For storage we purchased a FrontRunner 40L water tank that attaches to our Front Runner roof rack. It has a recessed spigot on the left corner which allows us to use gravity to get a little pressure for washing up or for showers, although we plan on a different set up for showers. The straps are adjustable to ensure there’s a tight, rattle-free fit. The plastic is BPA-free, so no worries from chemical leakage from the tank. Out of all the units we looked at for primary water storage, this was the toughest (besides jerries, see below), permanently mounted water storage that doesn’t interfere with our cargo area storage.
In addition we wanted the flexibility of jerry cans to carry water. The FrontRunner tank is a good unit but it is permanently mounted and not easily transported to a water site. We decided on jerry cans for additional water storage. So - what jerrys to buy? We have used Scepter 20L jerrys for a number of years and found them to be robust, normally not prone to leakage and they don’t rust. The only problem we ran into is that they don’t have an “EPA Approved” spout so they’re not commercially available in the U.S. Luckily they were widely available online and through outlets in Canada. We have a total of 8 Scepter cans - 4 for water (tan color) and 4 for diesel fuel (olive drab color). We also purchased a FrontRunner dual jerry can holder for the other side of the rack to balance weight when fully loaded. The rack has adjustable straps like the water tank and is lockable (a great feature, especially where we’re going!) This gives us a total of 80L of routine water storage. For 2 people this should normally be enough for several days at a time. With an additional 40L in another 2 Scepter cans we should have enough water for about 4 or 5 days. Obviously the dual jerry holder can also be used for fuel storage should the need arise.
Scepter Jerry Can Front Runner Dual Jerry Can Holder
A few comments about Front Runner products: Made in South Africa and designed for extreme African outback environments and extended overlanding, we’ve found their products’ construction, use of materials, hardware, solid welds, powder coat finishes and overall build quality superior to most other products. Our friends Tina and Dave at Front Runner Outfitters in L.A. are truly dedicated to customer service and are great folks to deal with. It is our belief that you can’t find better products for outfitting your overlanding vehicle.
2. Food. A subject near and dear to our hearts (we’re ardent Foodies), our selection of field kitchen products was paramount in our search for the best products to outfit our Troopy for extended trips. I think sometimes that folks don’t pay enough attention to their food and its preparation when out camping. There’s nothing worse than coming back to camp from a long day exploring or worse, after dealing with a mechanical problem, rude Customs officials, being lost, etc., and having a cold, bland meal or serving the same thing you’ve had for the past week. There’s an old adage that an “army travels on its stomach” and it holds true: Nothing affects a feeling of well-being and positive attitude of your crew than a good, hot meal at the end of the day (or for that matter, any time of the day). We searched for a camp kitchen and food storage that would be compact, sturdy and portable. I also wanted a robust, easy to maintain stove having dealt with various makes of camping and backpacking stoves over the years. Based on our research we selected the Kanz Outdoors Field Kitchen K120 and their matching Field Pantry P120. Based around Zarges aluminum storage boxes, these units are built like tanks but, as they’re built from aluminum, relatively light to carry. For our stove we chose the Partner Steel 22 inch propane unit. It’s 2 burners deliver a massive 10,000 BTUs each, which is critical for cooking (searing, frying, sauteing) well outdoors. Other stoves with lower outputs tend to not have the heat necessary for proper food preparation. Some have outputs as low as 1500 BTUs or less - in the wind and cold, barely enough to boil water, much less properly saute a Coq Au Vin! Here’s our new Field Kitchen and Pantry side by side:
Kanz Field Kitchen w/Partner Steel Stove Kanz Field Pantry
Both units have extended legs so that the working height is approximately 43”, a bit tall by U.S. and certainly European standards, but we’re tall people and like to not have to bend over to prep food and cook. Accessories we purchased include side wings as shown above and a 22” x 14” stainless steel bridge that connects the two units into a single long work area. We think this is a very workable set up and provides a suitable prep area for chopping, washing, and seasoning the food. We chose stainless as it is easy to keep sanitary out in the field (a wood bridge is also available). We use plastic cutting boards for the same reason.
3. Shelter. We spent literally hours and hours pouring and agonizing over our tent selections. Yes, selectionS because we actually ended up purchasing two tents: A rooftop tent (RTT) and another tent for the rear of Troopy to allow for additional family, guests or as a changing room. We based our decisions on a number of factors: Ease of deployment, sturdiness, roominess and compact storage.
-- For the RTT we chose an Eezi-Awn from Equipt1 Outfitters (www.equipt1.com). These tents are really the industry standard and used by expeditions and outfitters throughout the world. Again, made in South Africa for extended bush travel, these tents feature ultra-heavy duty construction, super tough materials and have a support network throughout the world. We chose the Series 3 1800, which is the largest of the Series 3 tents, equivalent to a king-sized bed. Here’s a video of the Eezi- Awn RTT set-up:
Paul and Kristin from Equipt1 have been great to work with as we decided on our equipment. We’re very happy with our selection of the Eezi-Awn and we’ll post new pics soon on the install. Here’s a photo of our RTT and accessories shipment all palletized and on the Lynden truck from Equipt1:
And here’s the final result mounted on Troopy:
For the second tent we purchased the new OZTent J-25 “Jet Tent” from Family Tent Camping (www.familytentcamping.com). Why the Jet Tent? If you’ve ever seen an OZTent you’ll immediately notice the heavy duty quality of the materials and workmanship. The Jet Tent is of the same quality but uses an aircraft-quality external aluminum frame that sets up literally in a couple of minutes. One of the great things I liked about the Jet Tent is the extended canopy on the front - our plan is to extend this over the back of Troopy to provide shelter and shade for the rear cargo area. Here's a quick video of the Jet Tent and set up:
Jet Tent by OZTent
4. Camp Furniture. Sticking with our Aussie theme with the OZTent Jet Tent, we decided to purchase "King Goanna" chairs by OZTent. We liked the fact that they were built really well and gave us plenty of room to lounge. With their own heavy duty bags, these chairs will stand up to just about anything and are extremely comfortable in camp. Winners!
For sleeping inside the Jet Tent we wanted something to get our guests up off the ground while constructed to last. Since we were already bought in to OZTent, we decided on their "King Goanna Stretchers" as sleeping cots. Coupled with a sleeping pad, the "stretchers" perform well and can hold even a large person with ease. Two of these fit nicely in the Jet Tent and make a nice set up for guests.
5. Refrigeration. We studied quite a few reviews in Overland Journal, talked on the forums and read specifications for a number of refrigeration units. We decided on National Luna. Built tough in South Africa, National Luna refrigeration has gained a tremendous reputation on overland expeditions worldwide and are the units of choice in southern Africa. Here's some info from the Nat Luna website - http://www.nationalluna.com/weekender52.htm and a short video link to YouTube on the fridge (its a 50L instead of the 52L, but it's virtually the same unit:
"The National Luna Weekender 52-litre is the ultimate small-family getaway refrigerator. This model has been designed to fit into most vehicles with space to spare and at the same time boast enormous internal capacity. New features such as built-in battery monitor, dual-hinging lid and removeable cables is what sets the Weekender apart from others. The Weekender inherits the same quality and robust construction as the rest of the National Luna refrigerator range and comes complete with a 3-year warranty."