Sunday, September 2, 2012


I have seen our colleague travellers on their blogs describe and rank their gear they have taken on their journey as important or indispensable.    Not to be left behind, I thought it be also interesting our take on our stuff.

The battle cry for GEAR by the overlander crowd is that items must be multi-use and have as great a range of flexibility as possible; or be so dedicated that nothing  else  will be useful in any way.   Obvious items on the list - hat, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, super-high-tech-towel and Swiss Army knife are not included on the list as not being obvious inclusion and thus not worthy of discussion here.  Overlanders often disuss interesting high tech stuff like a fridge, for instance.  Or the latest GPS or how to make the Solar System most useful or how big a tire you can put on your bad-ass truck.

Take the fridge:  We travel without a fridge. This was a deeply considered decision and was, for most of the initial planning, included in the layout and design of Bip Bip.    In the last year while travelling there have been very few ‘wish we had a fridge’ moments.   So few in fact that we don’t regret the decision to leave it.  So infrequently we pine for a fridge that we saved ourselves more than $700 (not to mention having extra expenses upgrading our solar system to accommodate the power demands), and we saved on the cargo space would have taken.   How do we do it?  Easy peasy – we do our groceries every two or three days and eat our way down.   A fridge would not store more than that anyway.  We eat our meat the day we buy it, score fish on the beach by passing fishermen and EGGS come in the perfect travel package.

Ok so what are the items important to us?  Ranking from bottom up to the most important:

1.  Combination Lock-  small and barely useful for locking up your fine valuables. But it is pocket sized and can be kept in the backpack for any eventualities.  It does lock and you never know when you need to lock your backpack or your hotel room or your boots to the drying rack.

2.  3 meters of parachute cord – what a deal at a dollar store.  Hang your laundry anywhere, lash your stuff down.  Replace a boot lace. Imminently useful.  Very often the first thing I do when arriving at a campground or hotel room is string up the line.

3.  Petzl headlamp – the kind with spring loaded drawstring.  Wrap it on your head, around your wrist (like a BAT lamp), around your bicycle handlebars.  Fits in your pocket easily ad instantly available to light your way.
4.  IKEA solar desk lamp.  Add mood to your late nights.  It is solar powered, what more is there to say?  The flexible neck lets you position it anywhere any way.

5.  BBQ – a $25 dollar investment from any Home Depot makes the camping experience just like home.

6.  Water Pump-the 20 litre water fountain refills.  But as every country has many different suppliers and suppliers are safeguarding their own bottles you have two choices – buy a new bottle at each entry to a country and TRY to get the deposit back before leaving the country or just buy a bottle one time and then refill as you go.  Either way the hand-pump is a way to get water OUT of the bottle without making a mess.

7.  SOLAR Shower lets us carry water, take showers (the 9litres lets us both shower IF Fanny does NOT wash her hair) and ultimately gets more use for washing dishes.

8.  Folding bucket – need to collect rain?  Do dishes or soak your fine dainties?  It transports water as well as greasy car parts with ease.  Can be a useful vessel for marinating those huge Argentinean steaks too.

9. Organizer – This one, a Walmart special located in the baby section for organizing the stroller works very well for all the odds and ends and storing our tooth brushes. 

10.  Baby wipes cuz you never know when you wanna wash up and wipe down.  These bad boys are the bomb for removing grease from the hands and the tools.

11.  Adapter.  You can find light bulbs hanging from all sorts of jury-rigged wiring but it is hard to find a socket.  This baby lets the light shine through but also gives you a place to plug in your electronic devices.

12.  Golf umbrella.  This baby does many things, so many it hard to list: rainshade, sunshade, walking stick, dog beater, pickpocket hooker.  Big enough to cover me and Fanny and the backpacks. Can even  CATCH  rain if you find yourself thirsy.  Best $10 I ever spent.  It has hiked over 2000km by now...Dollar for dollar the best investment possible.

Other nice to have
  1. Hippo – gives Fanny someone to talk to when I am driving.  Priceless.
  2. Micro table.  A free find at a road-side yard sale.  Actually a child’s toy carpenter bench looks like it was made in Finland.  Nice foot  rest.  Also a nice side table for the beach chairs. Disconnect the legs and you have a fine laptop computer table.
  3. ARB 2500 side mounted awning.  Gives us nice shade.  We regret it is not longer but think it is very cool, the attached mosquito tent.
  4. GPS – turns out that the Garmin official maps for South America are crap.  But better to have something than to run around blind in say....Medellin!
  5. MEC polypro Tshirt/Skirt.   Chris loves the way his shirt wears (despite the stink factor) and that it does not have some ‘No Fear’  or Beer label logo.  Simple.  Class(ier) than cotton as it will not hang to the knees and deform in hot humid climates.  Wash at night wear the next day.  Fanny appreciates, likewise, the comfort and piss-ability of her skirt.
  6. Stainless steel wine goblet – adds class to any drink.
  7. Hydrogen Peroxide.  I spend a lot of time repairing damages to my head and my hands.  Good thing Fanny is a nurse.
  8. Citronella beach candle – adds ambiance and maybe helps the mosquito problem?

Things that didn’t work out
  • How to play harmonica....only the  dogs sing along.

ADDENDUM must have:


  1. For your Garmin, download the free Open Street Map for all South America and you are better off than the original Garmin map:

    Our ARB awning awning already moved from "nice-to-have" up to "must-have". I can not count the days were it protected us from the elements and let us sit outside and enjoy the surroundings.

    I disagree on the fridge, but that's probably just me not want to go shopping every couple days. Not sure how small of a fridge you were thinking about, but ours hold stuff easily for more than just a few days.

  2. I anticipated that fridge thing would create some discussion...but the cost/benefit (even to have a chilled brew) just didn't justify. I can let a lot of food spoil before the cost equals the value of the fridge and the concomitant upgrades on the solar system. The act of shopping is free.

    I do like the awning too.


  3. Sure, the fridge is expensive, but it also outlasts your vehicle many times. So this is a once in the lifetime investment for happy campers....unless you go cheap and buy Chinese crap :) If you only see it as an expense for this trip, it is too much for sure.

    Not sure why you want to upgrade your solar system. I met quite a few overlanders with compressor fridge and no solar system at all. If your second battery is large enough and you don't want stay put at the same location for more than a few days you are fine. Or just let the engine run for a bit and your are good for another couple days.


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