Trip Preperation

We always planned to put a bit of information about how we prepared for our big trip and what we learnt during that preparation and then once we were on the road. Well we have finally got around to writing some of it down, seven months after we started! We found many other blog sites inspirational and useful while planning and we wanted to put down a few things to inspire/help others planning similar trips.

Landy – our vehicle and home

The idea of this journey through Australia and Africa distilled from a melting pot of our travel dreams. I had always thought that it would be a great experience to drive the length of Africa when I worked in Lesotho years ago, those early dreams always included travelling in a Defender, call me crazy?!

Choosing our vehicle

When we dared to start thinking of putting our dreams into some sort of reality and the possibility of actually doing the trip started to surface I knew one of the first things we had to do was look for a suitable vehicle. There were, to begin with, only a small list of factors that the vehicle had to meet; to be a four wheel drive, so we could go anywhere we wanted and get off the beaten track; to be fairly simple so we wouldn’t be electronically stranded anywhere (especially in Africa); and to be strong enough to carry us and our gear over all the pounding that outback corrugations and African pot-holes will throw at it. We also decided that we would rather get an older vehicle and get mechanical work done on it, rather than a newer vehicle to reduce the carnet costs (by having a lower vehicle value, see more below). The obvious vehicles (to me) were a Toyota Landcrusier, Land Rover Defender, and also the reliable and very common, but possibly less rugged/lower payload Toyota Hilux. To be fair any of these vehicles and many other utes/wagons would do the trip, with the set up changing depending on what vehicle body type you go for. We decided on an older turbo-diesel (300tdi) 110 Defender station-wagon as it fitted the requirements above, is very capable carrying heavy loads off road for an older vehicle, and for the very logical reason that I have wanted one since I was a boy!!

The pop-top roof and fit-out

Our original plans to kit it out included putting a roof-top tent on top and fitting storage cupboards inside, setting them up so, as a back up, we could sleep inside if we felt we needed to. We wanted something we could set up and take down easily, as we would be on the move a lot and we also wanted to camp off the ground. One day while camping we saw a pop-top Landcruiser and started thinking about that as an option. A bit of research threw up Daniel Fluckiger ( who does pop-top conversions for Defenders. As his workshop happens to be in Sydney we thought to ourselves we’ll go down and have a look, just a look mind. We came away impressed and could see the potential of the pop-top roof that hinges at the front and lifts up at the rear. The most notable thing was how much room it gave you inside the vehicle, easily being able to stand up inside. After a bit of thought we were sold on the idea.
So far with seven months of living in the defender, the pop-top has been great. Especially when camping close to others or when the weather’s bad. Doing a trip like this means you live so much outside and the weather has a big impact, having the option of a living space inside, get changed etc and jumping into a ready made bed is great. From our experiences on the road so far the pros and cons of the pop-top are:

Pros of pop-top:
Extra space it gives you inside the vehicle – when the bed is up there is loads of space, opens the back of the vehicle up to sit in and access storage easily.
Super quick and easy to set up and pack up camp.
Comfortable large bed that stays made up and is out of the way.
So far it’s coped with the corrugations, wind and heavy rain with no leaking or other problems.
Being able to get in bed without going outside (great if it’s raining).
Can pop the roof and open the windows up top to cool the inside down.
Uses the original vehicle roof that is sturdy and totally secure when down, all the latches are on the inside of the vehicle.
Cons of pop-top:
On some cold nights you get some condensation inside overnight (just like you do in a tent) you have to find a balance between warmth and keeping a window open!
More expensive than a roof top tent.
Cannot remove it like you can with a roof-top tent when you are not needing it – not really a consideration for us.

IMG 0089

We would really recommend a pop-top for this type of trip, and we have been really happy with the work Daniel has done. The roof is so easy to put up and down we don’t even mind putting it up at a lunch stop, or putting it down to drive about when we are staying at the same place for a few days, this does get a bit harder when we have our awnings attached to the vehicle though.
As for how we were going to organise the inside, there were a few main considerations that affected our design, some of these obviously fit in with what we have mentioned above. Things we prioritised were; to have a workable living space inside the vehicle; to be possible to sleep inside without putting the pop-top up (this was in case we came across any situations in Africa where we felt uncomfortable to have the pop-top raised overnight); to keep one extra seat for a passenger/guide that we might need in some places; and to do as much as we could ourselves to reduce the overall cost.
We took out two of the three seats in the back and in their space have fitted a fridge and three plastic jerry cans (connected to a tap on the back door via a pump and Doulton Ultracarb water filter). Behind this in the back we made two storage lockers, one on each side of the vehicle, the drivers side storage locker has a cushion on it and is a “bench seat”, the passenger side locker has a set of shelves and boxes on top of it. It’s a bit hard to describe, hopefully it makes sense with the pictures. We have two fold up director style chairs that fit behind the front passenger seat, and a table that was made by Drifter, and fits in a sleeve attached along the front of the bench seat lockers. The doors of the lockers on the opposite side open out and fit on top of this table sleeve to form the temporary bed if we don’t want to put the pop-top up.

Easy bit done, everything out.  The lockers taking shape, and the finished product on the road.

One thought on “Trip Preperation

  1. Hi guys, just read that you are in Busselton if you come back to Perth and have time would love to catch up for a coffee, I live in Freo and have driven fom here to Europe, see am planning to head to Africa maybe before Xmas or early next year, love to catch up, Micko

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