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Fall 2011 $10

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Behind the Iron Curtain

Solar Panel Comparison

Baja Adventure Guide

Jack Pine Scrambler

Overland Journal Fall 2011


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


CONTENTS

Fall 2011

Feature s 30

Abenteuer and Allrad Show, Christian Pelletier and Persephone Crittenden

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Behind the Iron Curtain: Cold War Russia, Åsa Björklund

51

Solar Panel Comparison, Graham Jackson

72

The World’s Favorite Bus: VW Syncro, S. Lucas Valdes and Jad Josey

83

Vehicle Feature: 200 Series Land Cruiser, Harry Wagner

91

Lessons from Ethiopia, Janet Wilson

95

Jack Pine 850 Triumph Scrambler, Chris Collard

Dep artments

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Overland Post

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Editor’s Column

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Editor’s Project

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News from the Trade

27

Overland News

65

Latitude

101

Overland Conservation, Roseann Hanson

102

Overland Medicine: Overland with Children, Andrew Cull

107

Skills: Traveling in Baja, Scott Brady

120

Overland Chef: The Baja taco de pescado, Chris Collard

123

Classic Kit: The Svea 123, Christophe Noel

128

Tail Lamp: Five Days in No-Man’s Land, Pablo Rey On the cover: The ascent from Aqua Verde, Baja Sur. Photo by Scott Brady. This photo: Last light on the Pacific Ocean, north of Guerrero Negro, Baja Mexico. Photo by Cam Brensinger. Back cover: NAS Defender 90 overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Baja Mexico. Photo by Scott Brady.

Overland Journal Fall 2011


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


Fall 2011 Publisher and Chairman Scott Brady President and Director of Design Stephanie Brady Editor-in-Chief Chris Collard Executive Field Editor Jonathan Hanson Senior Technical Editor Graham Jackson Technical Editor Christophe Noel Conservation Editor Roseann Hanson Medical Editor Dr. Edward Beggy Contributing Editors Zach Berning, Åsa Björklund, Tom Collins, Andrew Cull, Persephone Crittenden, Brian DeArmon, Jack Dykinga, Jad Josey, Lois Pryce, Andrew Moore, Christian Pelltier, Pablo Rey, Chris Scott, Tom Sheppard, Harry Wagner, Janet Wilson, Segismundo Lucas Valdes Copy Editors Denise-Christine, Tena Overacker Cartographer David Medeiros Graphic Designer Chazz Layne Senior Photographer, South America Jorge Valdés Photographer At-Large Sinuhe Xavier Director of Business Development Brian McVickers Director of PR and Marketing Ray Hyland Director of Operations Jeremy Edgar Contact Overland Journal LLC PO Box 1150, Prescott, AZ 86302 service@overlandjournal.com, editor@overlandjournal.com, advertising@overlandjournal.com Overland Journal is a trademark of Overland Journal LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. overlandjournal.com

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Subscriptions Payment must accompany all orders. 5 issues/year Online at overlandjournal.com or PO Box 1150, Prescott, AZ 86302 Domestic & Canada (USD) 1 year $45, 2 years $80, 3 years $112 International (USD) 1 year $75, 2 years $140, 3 years $202 Back Issues Payment must accompany all single-copy orders. Domestic & Canada $17 USD (includes p&h) International $22 USD (includes p&h) Online at overlandjournal.com or PO Box 1150, Prescott, AZ 86302 Moving? Send address changes to service@overlandjournal.com. Include complete old address, with zip code, as well as new address. Allow two to four weeks for address change to become effective.

Our promise to you

NO COMPROMISE We carefully screen all contributions to ensure they are independent and impartial. We never have and never will accept advertorial, and we do not allow advertising to influence our product or destination reviews.

You have our word

Overland Journal Fall 2011


OverlandPost Greetings from Afghanistan Thanks for the second greatest photographic and outdoor adventure magazine published (right there behind Nat Geo). I'm an ER physician with the 115 Army Combat Support Hospital and we’re down here in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, supporting the Marines while they chase bad guys. We work closely with a British helicopter medivac unit, and our brothers from the U.K., in addition to multiple U.S. Army medics and Afghani local nationals. They have been seen coveting my Spring edition, which replaced the entrenching tool in my rucksack during deployment earlier this spring. I’m not sure what happened to the Summer edition, but odds are that it and the missing cookies wound up in my dad’s possession before the last box of goodies was shipped. Here’s hoping the Fall issue makes it here! CPT Jon Solberg, MD 2005 Rubicon, 4” lift, front and rear winch, on-board air, inverter, CAT work lights, Sierra 4x4 trailer with 20-gallon water tank, propane, deep-cycle battery, and solar panels

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Editor’s note: We’ll be sending Jon some Overland Journal swag and a few dozen copies to share with his team.

Write us a note

Become a fan on Facebook to communicate with us and other readers and get up-to-date information on what we're up to, the latest trips, and newest gear. Overland Journal Fall 2011

I wanted to share some photos of the recent Easter expedition made by myself, my son, and several groups of good friends to the Padre Island National Seashore on the Texas Gulf Coast. Obviously, your Overland Journal 2011 Gear Guide was on my checklist of things to take for campside entertainment. While our rigs are U.S. domestic vehicles, the trip was every bit as exotic for us as many of the ones we have read about in your publication. I look forward to getting my next issue in the mail. While I may not be able to get my trusty steed to the same locations you feature in your magazine, the expeditions detailed often give me ideas for adapting to my particular wandering needs. John Hicklin 2006 Chevrolet Silverado K2500 Overland Rigging Ever-In-Progress

Independence Day I finally had the chance tonight to sit down and read my summer issue of Overland Journal and first congrats on the great job! Your [Chris Collard’s] journal entry, “Independence Day” is certainly inspirational!! Thanks. Bridget Michaud 2004 Jeep Wrangler

Life Well Lived

CPT Jon Solberg with his daily driver. John Hicklin on the Texas Gulf Coast.

CONNECT SHARE

Wandering Ideas

attention: Overland Post editor@overlandjournal.com PO Box 1150 Prescott, AZ 86302 Include your name, address, email address, daytime phone number, and the year and make of your vehicle. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

Where in the world has your Overland Journal been? Send us a photo, along with your name, the location, and a brief description.

I loved the [Lois Pryce] article about Robert Fulton in the Spring issue of Overland Journal. I thought that it was incredibly well written and truly captured the essence of his life well lived. I'm not sure whether I'm more inspired by his journey, his character, or [Lois’] writing. Stirling Noren, Noren Films 2010 BMW F800GS


Photo by Bruce McCallum

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Overland Journal Fall 2011


CONTRIBUTORS

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Fall 2011

Åsa Björklund

Janet Wilson and Tom Feuchtwanger

Swedish born and educated, Åsa has roamed the globe working as a waitress, a factory employee, and a dozen other odd jobs “that made life more interesting.” As a human rights lawyer, she worked with development aid in Central America, reporting on sensitive issues of the region. When Åsa could escape the office, she explored remote areas of Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras in a Land Rover. With a desire to write fulltime, she switched careers to journalism. Her work includes articles for a variety of Swedish and English language magazines and websites, covering topics such as overland traveling, wildlife, current affairs and social issues. Åsa has a passion for animals and has a particularly soft spot for horses. Whenever she can, she hikes the backcountry in her new home state, Arizona. She says, “I keep falling in love with this place over and over again.”

Janet Wilson and Tom Feuchtwanger grew up in Southern Africa where they met and married some 40 years ago. They have a deep love for that continent, its wilderness, wildlife and people. During their early years together, they spent many years living in the African bush where Tom worked as an exploration geologist. In 1979, they immigrated to Canada with their two young children and continued to explore the North American wilderness. Their first overland adventure in 1974, in a Renault, took them throughout Europe. This lifelong love for exploring the world continues, and in 2008 they completed three overland trips circumnavigating Africa. As regular speakers for adventure-travel seminars, they are currently taking a break to drive from Alaska to Antarctica. Next on the overlanding horizon…Asia.

Pablo Rey

Segismundo Lucas Valdes

Pablo was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He moved to Spain in 1992, where he enjoyed an extraordinary life… but just on weekends. In 1999, during a trip thru Africa, he committed never to buy a return ticket again. Shorty after, he moved into a 1991 Mitsubishi L300 4WD with Anna Callau, his adventure partner. The goal: overland during four years thru Africa, America and Asia while making as many turns as possible. After 50 countries and 11 years, they are still on the road—it seems they have succeeded. Pablo is an “ex” creative ad writer, “ex” illegal immigrant, and a master of getting into trouble in faraway places. His web page, viajeros4x4x4.com has become a source for Hispanic travelers and overlanders. His latest book, Around the World in 10 Years: The Independence Book, will be soon available in English.

Segismundo Lucas Valdes was born in Havana, Cuba, and grew up in San Francisco. At an early age he developed an interest in all things mechanical and an appetite for adventure. He was given his first bike on his 8th birthday, which he immediately took apart and put back together because, “they put it together all wrong.” He was introduced to Baja, Mexico at age 16, where he served as his group’s mechanic. After earning a mechanical engineering degree from Cal Poly and doing the “stiff shirt” routine, he quit, moved to Los Osos, California, and started a VW van business, Go Westy. When he’s not working, he’s probably exploring the Baja Peninsula with his wife Kathy and kids Lucas and Clara in their Syncro Westy.

Christian Pelletier and Persephone Crittenden

Harry Wagner

Christian left home at age 16, never to return.... With an Engineering degree in hand, he spent his twenties and thirties working and traveling all over the world—he even raced a mountain bike across Costa Rica. Such worldly experience made Christian the perfect candidate to be Expedition Portal’s President and CTO. Persephone, a citizen of the world, grew up with an Air Force father and visited five countries before entering kindergarten! This led to adventurous careers in acting, surfing, mountain climbing, and clinical psychology. She has written and edited numerous articles and books, and is an editor for Expedition Portal. Overland Journal Fall 2011

Harry Wagner was bombarded with outdoor opportunities from a young age. When not participating in Boy Scout activities, he was exploring the coast of northern California and the Sierra Nevada from the back of the family’s FJ40 Land Cruiser.  He earned a degree in geophysics in Colorado and was assigned to work in Venezuela shortly after graduation, where he developed an interest in travel journalism. The trend continues today, and Harry dovetails his career cleaning up old bombing ranges throughout the country (yes, really), with opportunities to explore, photograph, and document new locales.


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


JOURNAL ENTRY: From the Editor

Chris Collard

Forgotten Passions

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have certainly Child Protective Services would home. removed me from this dangerous

The simple things are often the most rewarding— The key is taking time to be absorbed by them . . .

Overland Journal Fall 2011

I received a package in the mail recently, one of those soft-pack types from an international carrier sporting numerous barcodes and customs stamps. Upon opening it, I removed several layers of additional padding, carefully positioned to protect a small cardboard-wrapped bundle. Peering in, there was a small Ziploc bag containing a plastic box of processed film. Yes, film— good old hold-in-your-hand color transparencies fitted on old-style paper mounts. The edges were yellowing and worn, and handwritten notes graced each one, noting locations such as Yugoslavia, Ukraine, and USSR. I dusted off my loupe and began a journey back in time—to the days of the Cold War, before the fall of the Berlin Wall… when a visit to the Union of Socialistic Soviet Republics was off limits to most travelers. My first camera was a Kodak 110 Pocket model. I received it as a sales prize from my paper route. With this new single-aperture, single-shutter-speed rig, I was sure, at age 10, that I was capturing National Geographic quality images of alligator lizards and king snakes from the local field, and my dog. For the past fifteen years I’ve been a Canon shooter, and begrudgingly converted from film to pixels as the quality of digital imagery caught up with, and exceeded, that of film. But there is something about laying out 36 transparencies on a slide tray and viewing them, brilliantly backlit, with the naked eye. As I carefully cleaned each of the precious artifacts before processing them to digital files, I remembered how much I enjoyed loading a roll of film in my camera and heading into the field. Taking time to focus on the basics of composition, exposure and depth-of-field, without the option of instantly reviewing them to see how I did. And what does this have to do with overland travel you might ask? Not much—maybe. But last week I rekindled another forgotten passion—motorcycles. I completed a 1,700-mile ride through northern Nevada and eastern Oregon. My mode of transportation—a scramblerstyle, 865cc twin, Jack Pine Triumph from Hammarhead Industries. I’d not been on a dirt bike since the late 80s, when I seized a piston on my Yamaha IT175 and my cousin Michelle was killed while racing. After literally thousands of days riding in the deserts of Southern California and Baja, Mexico, I just let it go. As a child of the 60s, my pre-kindergarten years were spent riding on the tank of my dad’s Greeves 250 (yes, today’s Child Protective Services would have certainly removed me from this dangerous home). Dirt bikes back then were no more than converted street bikes, and were known as “Desert Sleds.” Throwing my leg over the Jack Pine, feeling the throaty, seat-of-yourpants acceleration as my right hand rolled back on the throttle, brought it all back like it was yesterday. With a cocktail of nostalgia swirling around my grey matter, what better way to mitigate the situation than with a barebones solo ride in the desert? I bungeed a sleeping bag to the seat, stuffed my day pack with a basic tool kit, toothbrush, change of clothes, camera and a Jetboil stove, and headed for Nevada. My navigation tools; a paper AAA road map and compass. While it was light, I rode; when something captured my attention, I pulled out my camera. At sunset, I laid out my bag, fired up some instant soup with a little rehydrated beef jerky, and watched the constellations dance around the North Star. It is experiences such as this, taking time to sort through old slides or sleeping in the desert, a dozen miles from the closest human, which keep me grounded and help me remember what life is really all about. The simple things are often the most rewarding—yet they might just be a forgotten passion lingering under the surface of our consciousness. The key is taking time to be absorbed by them, allowing them to take you for a ride rather than the other way around. My good friend Jim Harris often says, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” I think it’s a good motto to live by. I’m contemplating a new Editor’s motorcycle project. I can’t wait to see what it is—maybe a Jack Pine.


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Meet the

TEAM Overland Journal

team members will be attending the Overland Rallies in Rockingham, Vermont (9/29 to 10/2), and Hollister, California (10/20 to 10/23).

We’d love to meet you

Go to overlandrallies.com for details.

FOLLOW US

on Twitter for real-time updates on our reviews and expeditions.

Overland Journal Fall 2011


Editor’s

Project Chris Collard

The Envelope Please… Overland Journal’s new Editor-in-Chief shares thirty years of driving the best overlanding vehicle on the planet.

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ast month I spent a few days with a group of overland travelers and dual-sport riders. They were an enthusiastic lot, and experience levels varied from newbie to world nomad. The conversation morphed from añejo tequila and Baja beaches, to which company makes the best dual-sport tire, headlamp or roof top tent—the former is not my area of expertise, I know a bit about the latter. The subject transitioned to traveling in Africa, Australia and the Americas—and then naturally to vehicle choice. One of the tequila connoisseurs in the group interjected, “Chris, in your opinion, what is the best vehicle for overlanding?” The side-discussions ceased, and I became the focus of all eyes and ears. The question, “the ‘best’ vehicle for overlanding?” was fair and relevant. But for some reason, quite possibly because of a few words printed on my business card, the answer, my answer, would carry significant weight. I let the question sink in, gave pause for a brief moment, and said, “In my opinion…”

Overland Journal Fall 2011


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


The items on my personal vehicle were chosen because they have a proven track record of durability.

The love of a 20-something’s life 16

I call this my “punk kid” truck—I feel like a twenty-something when I’m behind the wheel. Heavily modified and with 350,000 on the odometer, my 28-year friend has been all over North America with me.

Before I reveal my response, let me share a bit about me, my experience level, and of a few treks I’ve done—and why, for this specific question, I consider myself an “expert” in the field. I must be, why else would Overland Journal, the world’s leading vehicle-based adventure magazine, have asked me to take the wheel? If this sounds a bit on the arrogant side, read on. Working as an automotive-adventure journalist for the past decade, I’ve had the opportunity to drive a variety of vehicles through some amazing places on a number of continents. You may recall my “Lost in Lesotho” yarn (Overland Journal Summer 2011), which detailed part of a two-month, solo trek in Southern Africa—in an H3 HUMMER. A few years ago I spent three weeks in eastern Morocco—in a Land Cruiser. In 2008, my wife and I cruised the backroads of France— in a Land Rover. In the Land Down Under, I’ve done multi-week treks up the East Coast, across the Top End, and deep into the continent’s expansive red center—the vehicles: a Toyota Troopie Wagon, 79 Series trayback Ute, and Hilux. Going back a few years, to 1998, I traversed much of South America in a 1978 Jeep CJ7, and did I mention a 3,000-mile jaunt from the Mexican border to the 49th parallel (Canada) in the Overland JK? Shall I go on… or do you have your Wellies pulled up tight already?

The Best Overland Vehicle is… Ok, here we go… the envelope please. And the answer for “Best Vehicle for Overlanding” is…and you can quote the Omnipotent one on this, “The vehicle that keeps running.” I’m sure that the Land Rover, Land Cruiser, Jeep, and Pinzgauer fans were pulling for their favorite model to receive my nod. Quite honestly, does it really matter what “I” think?

Overland Journal Fall 2011

(Living with my own fragile ego, I hope it does have some relevance.) Each of us have enculturated and/ or inculturated biases. If you grew up toting around in a CJ7 or FJ40, there’s a good chance you drive one as an adult. I grew up bouncing around in the back of Ford pickups and an IH “Cornbinder” Travelall. However, when the Son of a Land Cruiser debuted in 1979, which was the coolest thing I’d ever seen, I had to have one (I parted ways with my beloved Baja bug). Let me share with you the basis of this “the one that keeps running” epiphany. I’ve had a starter go “south” in the middle of the Simpson desert, been towed 90 miles on the end of a strap in Baja (cracked head)—followed by a broken leaf spring, u-joint and tie rod (which sent me careening off the road into a cactus forest). Then there was the shattered CV joint on a remote track in eastern Namibia… and the broken rod end in Morocco that resulted in a moonlit barrel roll. Lest I forget performing minor surgery—vapor lock; hood removal and fuel line reroute—in Peru with only a Leatherman multi-tool. Enough said.

My Ride

My personal vehicle today is 2002 Toyota Tacoma. The “why” is quite simple—I need a truck. The Tacoma, in my humble opinion, is one of the most “reliable” and versatile platforms for my needs. The basic set-up consists of a mild, 3-inch suspension from Icon Vehicle Dynamics (formerly DR), Goodyear MTRs, ARB bull bar and All-Pro rear bumper. I’ve also added an ARB compressor and fridge/freezer, Warn 9000xd and Viking synthetic winch line. None were selected because they were the cheapest, the most expensive, or had the flashiest ad. These items are on my personal vehicle because they have a proven track record of durability. When I reach in


A bit of Collard history Discovery Our Discovery (borrowed

from Outback Imports) fit in perfectly in the French Alps.

Overland JK

The Overland Jeep JK en route to Canada. The most fun you can have on four wheels.

Tacoma Simple, clean modifications

will make your overlanding life much more fun: My ‘02 Tacoma is fitted with an Icon suspension, Goodyear MTR tires, ARB bull bar, Warn 9000, Viking winch line, Safari Snorkel, IPF lights.

Troopie

Kitted with a pop-top, 3.0 diesel and twin, 90-liter fuel tanks, this Toyota Troop Carrier, or "Troopie" was a reliable home-away-from-home for a trek across Australia's Top End.

Toyota with pop-up camper

Pop-up campers add a measure of weight and require a slightly more relaxed pace. The tradeoff is a nearly fully contained and very comfortable abode once you arrive.

Land Cruiser Toyota 79 Series Land Cruiser trayback ute in the Australian Outback (borrowed from ARB, this was one of my favorites rigs). Jeep CJ7 South America, 1998 with

the Jeepers Jamboree crew. A 6,000mile trek in one of Mark Smith’s original Expedición de las Américas Jeep CJ7s.

Mitsubishi

Hired in New Zealand's South Island, a super comfortable Mitsubishi L300: diesel, 4WD, pop-up, stove, fridge and shower—we loved it.

Overland Journal Fall 2011

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Vehicle choice shouldn’t be dictated by someone else’s opinion— there are just too many fun vehicles out there.

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the fridge for a coldy on a sweltering Baja afternoon, I want it to be… a coldy. On those few occasions that I’ve needed a winch, I really needed it. For me, a pickup is a necessity. When I cover events such as Overland Expo or Moab, or simply want the luxury of quick, dry and comfortable living space, I’ll slide my pop-up camper on the back. If I’m heading to Baja with my kayaks, a Leer canopy and Yakima load bars provide a level of security for my gear and platform for the boats. This being said, my runaround top is a canvas SuperTop from Bestop. I’m often hauling loads to the dump or moving equipment, and the SuperTop peels off in about five minutes. Prior to discovering the Tacoma, my ‘82 Son of a Land Cruiser was my overlanding daily driver for twenty years. Here’s the ironic thing—many of the aforementioned mechanical malfunctions can be attributed to my beloved 350,000-mile friend. If you asked me, I’m sure I’d argue as well as any red-blooded Landy or Jeep owner, that a vintage Hilux was one of the best vehicles ever produced—alas, it is semi-retired and sitting in my garage. Upon divulging my “best overlanding vehicle” thoughts, there were a few raised brows of surprise, a few comments of “hmm,” and “huh,” but ultimately there were nods of approval. I hadn’t enlightened them on anything they didn’t already know. Put simply, the best rig is what you choose to drive, the one that makes you feel good from behind the wheel—so long as it gets you there and home again. To some, my position may be perceived as a lack of brand loyalty on my part. To others, it may represent the opening of a new door— possibly that of a VW Syncro, Sportsmobile or EarthRoamer. Vehicle choice shouldn’t be dictated by someone else’s opinion—there are just too many fun vehicles out there.

Overland Journal Fall 2011

I don’t know what the newest revelation in 4WDs will be in twenty years, but I’m sure a twenty-something kid will have one. I’ll be an old-timer by then, tooling around in one of those “classic” carbureted Toyotas. Then again, I’ve always wanted a Flat Fender or a vintage Bronco.

Left column: Side storage bins fit spares, fluids, tools, a Hi-Lift, etc. A basic home-fabricated carpet kit: simple, cheap, ultimate utility. My gear slides underneath and, if needed, I can sleep above. Right Column: The Tacoma allows for a drop-and-go office/home when shooting remote events and I need a vehicle to get around in. Outback is an All-Pro rear bumper and Bestop canvas canopy. The ARB compressor was a handy addition.


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


NEWS FROM THE TRADE

Exploring the newest gear for overlanding

By Jeremy Edgar, Christophe Noel, Brian DeArmon, and Chris Collard

Noren Films WABDR Video and Butler Map $15 - 25

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Grab a cup-o-Joe, pop the new WABDR video in, and kick back for a mini vacation on the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route. Then grab Butler Maps’ tear-resistant plastic WABDR map, and head for Washington. Working with Touratech USA, Noren Films has created a fun and informative adventure video. While the film is directed toward dual-sport riders, the WABDR is suitable for four-wheel drive vehicles as well. Both products are well-produced and the Butler map contains embedded Scanfile barcodes which can be scanned with an iPhone to access online video, photos and useful links. (CC) butlermaps.com, 877-379-6053; touratech-usa.com, 800-491-2926

Adventure Engineering BringAlong and EZ Pull $249 and $89

Whether you are pulling your motorcycle or ATV/ UTV out of a mud hole, hanging game in camp, mending fences, or pretty much anything else that requires you lift, pull, or drag something heavier than you care to, Adventure Engineering has you covered. Their BringAlong aluminum hand-winch is rated for 600 pounds (1,200 with the included pulley block), and weighs a scant 2.8 pounds. With 12’ of usable spectra cord, a pair of 1,000-pound lanyards, the pulley block, and three carabiners, it comes with everything you need to get the job done.

ARB Dual-motor Compressor $545 - 875

Australian-based manufacturer ARB has released the revolutionary CKMTA12 dual-motor unit air compressor. The new offering, which virtually mates two of their venerable 12-volt compressors, churns out 6.16CFM, sports a 100-percent duty cycle, built-in cooling fan, and like its single-motor cousin, has internal thermal protection. It is available in a fixed-mount or portable version (shown), which comes in a rugged carrying case with a forged aluminum, 4-liter tank. (CC) arbusa.com, 866-293-9083

Overland Journal Fall 2011

If the BringAlong is still too bulky, try the featherweight and compact EZ Pull. At first glance, this block and tackle assembly looks like something your kids would use on their Tonka trucks. After all, the entire package weighs less than half a pound, and will easily fit in your pocket. But don’t be fooled, this is no toy. It’s rated for 500 pounds, and thanks to its 5:1 mechanical advantage, a single person can move an incredible amount of weight. Don’t believe us? Visit the Adventure Engineering website to see a BMW 1200GS being lifted off the ground by a single person. (BD) adventureengineering.com


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


NEWS FROM THE TRADE

Exploring the newest gear for overlanding

Jetboil Sumo Companion Cup

$50

The Jetboil Personal Cooking System has been a backcountry favorite since its debut in 2003. The compact size and efficiency of the system made it a go-to for anyone concerned with space and weight. The new Sumo Companion Cup addresses the system’s one drawback—volume. Accommodating an impressive 1.8 liters, the aptly named Sumo is nearly double the size of the original 1-liter system. Weighing in at only 12.5 oz it’s large enough to store a 230-gram fuel cartridge and is compatible with Jetboil’s GCS, Sol, Zip and Flash cooking systems. True to the original, it employs Jetboil’s revolutionary FluxRing as well as a transparent drinkthrough lid, neoprene insulator, and bottom cover which doubles as a measuring cup or bowl. (CN) jetboil.com, 888-611-9905

Snow Peak Kanpai 500 Insulated Bottle $79 This tri-purpose insulated wonder sets new standards for insulated beverage containers. The vacuum-sealed, double-walled, stainless steel canister holds 17 ounces of hot or cold liquids or soup, and comes with three lids: cold, hot and one for drinking. Using the cold lid (previously frozen), the Kanpai 500 will keep a 39°F beverage cold for six hours (43°F final temp at 68°F ambient temperature), (Hot specs: 203°F to 140°F at 80°F). Want a cold soda at the end of the trail? The Kanpai 500 will accommodate a 16-ounce beverage can. (CC) snowpeak.com, 503-697-3330

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EarthRoamer Approved for Canada

EarthRoamer vehicles have long been revered as exemplary expedition platforms—Overland Journal Publisher Scott Brady drove one to the edge of the Darien Gap during his Ends of the Earth expedition. After extended testing and documentation, EarthRoamer’s Ford F-550 XV-LT has been approved for import to Canada. The one-piece molded composite shell and rugged F-550 base platform passed the country’s strict Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS). (CC) earthroamer.com, 303-833-7330

Overland Journal Fall 2011


NEWS FROM THE TRADE

Exploring the newest gear for overlanding

Sierra Expeditions LR Rock Sliders $800 Fabricated by Sierra Expeditions in Arizona, these rock sliders will provide protection for a Land Rover LR3 or LR4 far beyond what the stock trim can offer. Installation is simple, and no drilling or cutting is required. The sliders are made of .375-inch (7-gauge) coldrolled steel, and bolt directly to factory mounting points. Mounting bolts are recessed, so as not to incur damage while sliding over obstacles. An optional tubular kick-out ($300 extra) allows for safer use of a Hi-Lift, in addition to functioning as a step for accessing a roof rack or roof tent. (JE) sierraexpeditions.com, 866-507-4254

Jet Bag $15 for a 3-pack

Anyone who has experienced a broken bottle of fluids while traveling knows it’s not fun—not only because of the loss of the precious liquid, but also the damage to clothing, electronics, etc. Originally designed for airline travel, the Jet Bag not only provides padding and protection for a glass container, but also absorbs up to 750 ml of fluid should breakage occur. This biodegradable bag employs a reusable zip-seal closure as well as carrying handles. What better way to protect that special bottle of wine, Scotch or tequila in your drawer system or pannier while traveling over endless corrugated roads in the far reaches of the world? (JE) thejetbag.com, 248-891-8939

Snow Peak Hozuki LED Lantern $90 I used the Hozuki on a barebones bike trip in northern Nevada this month (ok, I also brought it camping on my sailboat) and was pleasantly impressed. Hozuki received its name from a plant used in making Chinese paper lanterns, and certainly does the ancient illuminators justice. With three intensity settings (and a flicker mode for romantic candlelight effects), the 4-inch silicon rubber dome transmits a smooth, 360-degree pattern as well as a direct vertical beam. Specs: 4 AA batteries, 100 lumens, 8/20/80 hour on high/medium/low. (CC) snowpeak.com, 503-697-3330

Overland Journal Fall 2011

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Review

NEWS FROM THE TRADE

Exploring the newest gear for overlanding

By Christophe Noel

Kayland Vertigo LT Dual-Sport Boots

$180

F

or backcountry travelers, proper footwear is as important as any other piece of kit. Unfortunately, the requirements overlanders have for their footwear are often in conflict, making the search for a good pair of boots a challenge. In the field, proper footwear must be light, yet durable; comfortable, but also supportive. Waterproofing is nice, but only if it breathes well. There may never be a perfect boot for everything, including overlanding, but the Italian Kayland Vertigo LT is certainly worth a closer look. Kayland may not be the most well-known name in boots, but their reputation for excellence is no secret. Headquartered in Italy at the base of the Dolomite Mountains, most of their creations are put to hard work by discerning climbers and backpackers. Here in North America, the Kayland brand has received numerous awards including a three-time Guide’s Choice award by the illustrious American Alpine Institute. The typical Kayland boot is a complex mix of modern materials and construction methods paired with old-world passion and experience.

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The typical Kayland boot is a complex mix of modern materials and construction methods paired with oldworld passion and experience.

Overland Journal Fall 2011

The original award-winning Vertigo, a full-leather model, has been around for several years. This year, Kayland introduced the lighter-weight Vertigo LT with a full nylon upper. For the overlander, the Vertigo LT in full nylon is the easy choice of the two boots. Leather is often the preferred material, in large part for aesthetic reasons, but the LT’s nylon uppers are light, unusually durable, and unrivaled for breathability. Adding to these redeeming attributes is an unexpected component—coconuts. The material Cocona® is an activated carbon fiber derived from coconut shells—Cocona® in the boot’s lining aids in moisture absorption and transference, resulting in dryer, cooler feet. Not to dismiss the science of coconuts and happy feet, but let’s just say it works, and it works very well. Since most overlanders spend much of the day with their feet stuffed deep in a vehicle’s hot footwell, this is a welcomed feature. On the trail, the Vertigo LT reveals its heritage. The low-profile tread of a Vibram® sole affords unencumbered control of accelerator and brake pedals and feels even better on terra firma. The climbing-boot-inspired lacing is snug and uniformly tensioned, and uses infallible lace holes instead of riveted hardware. The medium stiffness of the midsole is comfortable underfoot, and more than enough to accommodate a hiker and 30 pound pack. The eVent® liner insures protection from the elements and maintains the boot’s breathability objectives. Fully synthetic, the eVent® liner is proven to keep water out, even when faced with stream crossings and wet days on snowshoes. As one would expect from the product of master boot makers, the Vertigo LT offers surprising latitude when it comes to fit. Not to forget another important criterion for boot selection, the aesthetics of the Vertigo LT fit the bill for a quality piece of kit—maybe we should have started with that. kaylandusa.com, 603-758-6486


Black Diamond LED Lanterns

$30, $50, $80

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lack Diamond may have made a name for themselves as industry leaders in climbing and backcountry ski equipment, but their collection of headlamps and LED lanterns is equally impressive. The headlamp will forever have a place in the backcountry, but for many of us there is nothing more annoying than a campsite full of bobble-headed camp mates with light emitting diodes bursting from their foreheads like a scene from an H.G. Wells novel. What many prefer is the soothing ambient glow from a well-positioned lantern.

Orbit The Black Diamond family of lanterns starts with the diminutive

Orbit lantern. At 3 ounces, and only 4 inches tall when collapsed, this tiny light easily slips into a jacket pocket. When powered up, four AAA batteries produce a surprisingly bright 45 lumens for up to 15 hours, and 10 lumens for up to 24 hours. The frosted globe common to all Black Diamond lanterns creates a mild, diffused light, and the single control button serves as the dimmer switch giving users infinite control of brightness to conserve battery life. The Orbit is also compatible with Black Diamond’s NRG rechargeable battery system, which can be charged via a wall charger, or 12volt car charger.

Apollo The Apollo lantern is next in line with a slightly larger size than

the Orbit. At 7.8 ounces and only 6 inches tall when collapsed, the Apollo is an obvious choice for weight-conscious overlanders on bicycles or motorcycles. With the addition of extendable legs, the Apollo rises to 9 inches tall and generates an evenly dispersed 80 lumens at the maximum setting. The lowest setting will endure for up to 60 hours on four AA batteries, or with the NRG rechargeable battery. The Apollo also has infinite dimming as well as a three-stage battery life indicator. All three lanterns are available in an assortment of colors and feature an ingeniously simple double-hook to facilitate hanging the lanterns where needed.

Titan With a name like Titan, you would be correct to assume this is

the largest of the three lanterns, and it lives up to its name. This is not a lightweight light, at a pound and a half, but it does deliver an impressive 250 lumens. On the lowest setting, the four D batteries offer enough light for even the most protracted game of Risk or Monopoly, up to 168 hours. The Titan also features a battery life indicator, diffused globe, infinite dimming, but is the only lantern of the three not compatible with Black Diamond’s NRG rechargeable battery system. All three lanterns are available in an assortment of colors and feature an ingeniously simple double-hook to facilitate hanging the lanterns where needed. The only misstep is how Black Diamond managed to produce three lamps named Orbit, Apollo and Titan, and missed the opportunity to name at least one of them, Sputnik. blackdiamondequipment.com, 801-278-5533

Overland Journal Fall 2011

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Overland Journal

HOLIDAY SPECIAL

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Purchase Receive Purchase Receive

A 1-year subscription or renewal A limited edition Overland Journal / Triple Aught Design patch A 2-year subscription or renewal An Overland Journal logoed, Triple Aught Design Overland Shirt* and a limited edition Overland Journal / Triple Aught Design patch *Limited to the first 150 orders. Customer pays shipping on shirt.

Triple Aught Design Overland shirt with Overland Journal logo in grayscale.

4 things you need to know

1. Must click on ‘2011 Holiday Offer’ in our shopping cart or mention the offer when you call our offices for offer to be valid. 2. The TAD products will ship in December. We are unable to guarantee Christmas delivery. 3. Sizes S - XXL. The Overland shirt is a slim cut. If you are between sizes, default to a larger size. 4. Offer expires January 8, 2012.

Overland Journal Overland Journal Fall 2011

overlandjournal.com 928-777-8567


OVERLAND NEWS

Showcasing expedition travelers and resources from around the globe

By Chris Collard

Seventy Years of the Seven Slot Grille

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n 1903, while working for the Standard Wheel Company, Claud Cox founded a small ‘horseless carriage’ company called Overland Automobile. It was the beginning of an overlanding adventure, which to date spans seven decades and has inspired millions. John North Willys purchased the company in 1908, renamed it Willys-Overland, and led the company to become the second largest American auto manufacturer in America. With America’s inevitable entry into WWII, the U.S. Government was in need of a light reconnaissance vehicle to replace the military’s ill-equipped fleet of modified Ford Model-Ts. Their specifications defined a vehicle platform that defied anything in production—and they needed it in short order. American Bantam and Willys-Overland were the two companies that answered the call, followed shortly by Ford. The race to win the lucrative government contract ran at a frantic pace, right up to the 49th day, September 23, 1940, when Bantam rolled out its hand-built prototype, the BRC. The Willys-Overland Quad arrived on November 13, followed by Ford’s GP. The three companies were commissioned to produce 70 vehicles, followed by an additional 1,500 units for field-testing. When the dust settled on the Camp Holabrid, Maryland, testing grounds, Willys-Overland, with its impressive 60 hp “Go Devil” engine, was handed the contract. As you thumb through this issue of Overland Journal, seventy years have passed since the first production Jeeps were delivered. When Overland Journal received an invitation to join Mopar’s Jeep historian Brand Rosenberg in Moab, Utah, and drive some of these historic vehicles—as well as Jeep’s newest offerings—we were honored to accept.

Courtesy of MOPAR

There are mixed theories as to where and how the “Jeep” designation evolved. Some claim it was a slurred abbreviation of the Ford GP (General Purpose), while others argue it sprung from a gravity-defying character in 1930s Popeye cartoons, “Eugene the Jeep.” Whatever the origin, the U.S. Military, the American public, and the world have embraced this moniker, and it quickly became part of the international lexicon.

The first civilian Jeep and a new Jeep Wrangler. During WWII, Ford produced the Willys under contract from Willys-Overland Company.

Jeeps, in their various forms, have been used for everything from mail delivery trucks, personal carriers and mobile artillery deployment, to farm implements, tow and fire trucks— and have been offered with two or four doors, as wagons, pickups, cab-over utility, and luxury sport-utility versions. By conventional definition, the Jeep is no stranger to overland travel; what we would expect from any company with the word Overland as its surname. Jeeps quite likely, if you include the half-million-plus MB flat fenders slogging through the planet’s harshest environs during WWII, may have logged in more off-pavement miles than any other vehicle. Sporting olive-drab paint, fold-down windscreens, shovel and axe mounts on the side, and a rifle rack above the instrument panel, the Willys Jeep has long been considered a key element in winning WWII. The Jeep breed changed ownership a number of times in its first seven decades; sold to Henry J. Kaiser in 1953, then to AMC, and ultimately to Chrysler, which has also had its share of owners and is now held by Fiat. I recently had dinner with Mike Manley, President and CEO of Jeep. The conversation spun from flat fenders and Wranglers, to family and personal goals—and eventually back to the current goals of Jeep. I was impressed with his heartfelt dedication to customer satisfaction and personal convictions about product quality. Overland Journal Fall 2011

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OVERLAND NEWS

Showcasing expedition travelers and resources from around the globe

Claud Cox hit the mark when he chose the Overland designation for his fledging automobile company—he could have only dreamed that over a century later it would still be inspiring the world. In Moab, in addition to driving the new Grand Cherokee and Wrangler, I spent my spare hours behind the wheel of a specimen of American automotive history, an OD green 1942 MB. Brandt wouldn’t let me drive it back to California, so I just tooled around the ranch—working the three-on-the-floor shifter, sliding around on the non-adjustable flat canvas seat, and enjoying the view with the windscreen folded down on the hood. It felt good…

They say “The Sun Never Sets on the Mighty Jeep,” and after seventy years of service in every sovereign nation on the planet, I am anxious to see what the next seven decades bring—I’m sure it will have a seven slot grille.

Courtesy of MOPAR

Overland Journal has had the Jeep JK Overland, one of Jeep’s Underground Engineering creations, on loan for over two years. It has performed flawlessly and been a pleasure to drive (I’ve personally put over 5,000 miles on the vehicle’s odometer). As I write this column I’m preparing to attend the launch of the 2012 Wrangler (which sports the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V6) on the Rubicon Trail. With guys like Brandt Rosenberg keeping Jeep’s Heritage alive, Chief Designer Mark Allen preserving the aesthetic appeal of the seven slot grille, Mike Manley providing direction (all of whom are avid 4WD enthusiasts), I’m looking forward to Jeep’s latest overland offering.

From its introduction to the public in the 1940s, Jeep has enjoyed a reputation as the ultimate utility vehicle. Above left to right: The military-spec MB has probably logged more combine overland miles that any other vehicle to date. In 1945, Willys-Overland introduced the CJ-2A (left rear), a civilian version of the MB. Minor changes included moving the spare tire to the side, a three-on-the-tree shifter, and side-mounted fuel filler. Overland Journal Fall 2011

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Abenteuer and Allrad Show 2011 Europe’s largest overland show inspires thousands By Christian Pelletier and Persephone Crittenden Photography by Matthew Scott

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2. 1. This vehicle would probably serve you better in the Canadian taiga for a snowmobile rally. 2. Expedition Cabin of Germany performs overland conversions on a dozen different chassis. 3. A unique Land Rover Defender creation will allow you to go fast in forward or reverse.

The place where all overland travelers start and finish their journey. The place where the dreams begin and stay alive. Overland Journal Fall 2011

t seems that if we have the good fortune of finding ourselves at home for a spell, it’s not uncommon to spend large portions of our time searching the Internet for our next destination, vehicle or piece of gear. It inspires us to plan our next adventure. Overland Journal and Expedition Portal are at the forefront of delivering this inspiration, and Overland Expo lets us ogle over the newest bits of kit. Expo is great, but if you are in Europe and need your fix of overlanding mania, we have you covered. The “Abenteuer and Allrad” (adventure and all-wheel drive) show, which takes place in Bad Kissingen, Germany each summer, is by far the largest gathering of overlanders on the planet. After the inaugural event 12 years ago, the show has continued to grow each year, attracting about 54,000 visitors in 2011. We first heard of this event while chatting with others around a campfire in a remote corner of southern Ethiopia. At that time, we were on the final leg of a five-year, 50,000 km journey around the world—in our trusty, if slightly beat-up, 1988 Land Cruiser HJ75 pop-top. Someone mentioned the Allrad gathering in Germany and urged us to attend. The grand claim was, “That’s where all overland travelers start and finish their journey. That’s where the dreams begin and stay alive.” We gave each other a knowing look that confirmed our eventual attendance.


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


Bad Kissingen

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3. 1. The diesel Jeep JK is widely available in Europe. 2. The 70 Series Land Cruiser, when properly modified, is considered by some to be the best overlanding vehicle on the market. 3. Two great models side-by-side, representing Land Rover's latest offerings.

Overland Journal Fall 2011

The event consists of two areas, one for exhibitors and one for camping, and has a fairly informal nature. While the exhibitor area is expansive and hosts hundreds of vendors, you can just as easily get lost and spend hours, if not days, wandering through the impressive rows of overlanding vehicles in the campground. Allrad is quite different than Overland Expo in that there isn’t a set agenda of classes, presentations, or trainings. There is a Land Rover training course and other 4WD activities, but no specific assignments—just show up and go for a class or tour. What makes this event unique is the grand scale—number of vehicles, travelers, and manufacturers. There are literally hundreds of vendors and thousands of displays representing just about anything and everything available on earth. It is interesting to witness the development of numerous grassroots overlanding innovations. Some are as basic as a better latch for securing gear; others are as technical as solar arrays and dual-battery electronics. Whether you are looking for the latest development in portal axles for your G-Wagen or a pop-top conversion for your Land Cruiser, you will find it here. There were also a number of vehicles unavailable in North America—such as the new Volkswagen Amarok, the “still available in Germany” Lada Niva, diesel Jeep JK Wranglers and 78 Series Toyota Land Cruisers. If you have technical, navigational or gear questions, manufacturers large and small were onsite to demonstrate their wares and provide detailed answers to your inquiries—thanks also to German “savoirfaire.” Beyond the sheer size of the event and variety of vehicles, we found that it is the people who make Allrad and the overlanding community so great. With several thousand attendees in the camping area, many of them having already completed significant journeys across the globe, you can acquire any information for your next trip to Iceland or Mongolia by walking the aisles and asking questions. Be aware though, it’s likely that you will run into an old friend, and end up eating German sausages, and sipping Kölsch all night. Whether your passion is for travel, adventure, vehicles, gear, or all of the above, this is the place. After a few days (and nearly wearing out a pair of shoes), we thought back to our friends in Ethiopia, and the claim made that night around the campfire… It would be an understatement to say that this show is anything less than inspiring. If you find yourself in Germany and in need of an overlanding fix, or simply want a unique experience in a beautiful setting, be sure to add Allrad to your bucket list.


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1. The VW Amarok was surprisingly common and available in various configurations, such as this Tischer slide-on camper. 2. TreKK, the Front Runner European distributor, displayed their expedition-ready Defender. 3. Unimog with a self-contained Unicat Cell. 4. Roof Lodge roof top tent on a Defender. 5. With a fully removable roof, the Land Rover Defender has become increasingly popular for pop-top conversion. 6. This Scania truck has been given a special carpet treatment on the camper cell. Overland Journal Fall 2011


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1. OzTent’s new line of camp chairs. 2. The TreKK Defender featured this custom storage cabinet behind a Front Runner replacement window panel. 3. Cooking table made of sand ladder lashed to a Defender. 4. IBS displayed their line of dual-battery electronics systems. 5. Tibus Offroad Engineering offers a 15,000 lb., 15.5 hp, dual-motor winch. 6. Nice hideaway stove/sink combo. 7. Believe it or not, there is a trailer behind this tent castle. 8. Need a street-legal quad for your next Africa trek? Slip it in the garage. 9. A new tubeless tire from Ranger. 10. Vendors from all compass points were on hand to display their wares (National Luna 40L). 11. Dual-purpose sand ladder/camp table combo. 12. Portal axle for a Defender from Tibus. Overland Journal Fall 2011


You can acquire any information for your next trip to Iceland or Mongolia by walking the aisles and asking questions.

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1. A diesel Mitsubishi with full camping cell conversion 2. Defender 110 prepped for the Grand Erg Africa Rally (postponed until 2012). 3. Dual-sport riders from around the globe attended the show. 4. Another great example of a G-Wagen converted with a pop-top. 5. A VW Amorak with a North American Northstar pop-top camper. 6. The folks at Desert-Tec offer fully-kitted Toyota HJZ78 Land Cruisers. Overland Journal Fall 2011


Whether your passion is for travel, adventure, vehicles, gear, or all of the above, the Abenteur and Allrad show is the place.

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1. The early Daihatsu 4WD had a striking resemblance to the Jeep. 2. This 70s era VW Beetle has been stretched and mounted on an 80 Series Land Cruiser frame. 3. This custom-made, four-door Lava attracted well deserved attention. 4. This G-Wagen was given a full-size cell, making it an extremely well balanced vehicle. 5. The “Geocar Cabin� from Extreme (in Germany) weighs just 620 lbs. and fits on the Toyota Tundra.

Overland Journal Fall 2011


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


Behind the Iron Curtain Six French co-eds, a pair of Citroëns, and a road trip through Cold War Russia. By Åsa Björklund Photography by Claude Mischler, André Augé, Jean Berger, Jean-Pierre Cautru, Pierre Huart, and Serge Le Danois.

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Overland Journal Fall 2011


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Overland Journal Fall 2011

In a campground near Kiev, the group celebrated French National Day with music and local vodka. Opposite: Pulled over for a police motorcade in Kiev. Previous page: Though parking was prohibited in Red Square, the defiant Frenchmen decided to take photos for the benefit of their sponsors.


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he snow had melted and left the Swiss Alps pinching the sky with their green spears. On a steep hillside, two bug-like vehicles overloaded with luggage had just struggled up the switchback of the ascending mountain road in first gear. Inside, six Frenchmen sighed in relief; they had somehow reached the mountain pass and begun rolling down the other side. Another collective sigh, the brakes worked. So far, the first day of traveling was running smoothly. Now they had only some 14,000 km (8,700 miles) to go… All in their early twenties, the six travelers—Claude Mischler, André Augé, Jean Berger, Jean-Pierre Cautru, Pierre Huart, and Serge Le Danois—had decided to drive from France to Moscow and back during their summer break from college. An expedition of this type in today’s world is not an extraordinary feat. But the year was 1961, at the height of the Cold War, and their vehicles of choice were two Citroën 2CVs (pronounced Duh-shuv-vuh)—bizarre little cars that usually triggered more smiles than horsepower. The political tension between East and West was on the rise, and only weeks later would culminate in the Soviet Union building of the Berlin Wall—separating German families and blocking ideological exchange for decades to come. At the time, some Europeans did not know much about communism, but many in the West feared it greatly. “Nobody knew exactly what happened [in the USSR], what it was all about. Some politicians and other people had traveled there, but they were very few. We said, ‘we’ll see what it’s like,’” said Claude Mischler, one of the six young students. In fact, the USSR had only recently opened the country for Western tourism. Fifty years later, Claude lives in Arizona, but the expedition remains a vivid memory.

Overland Journal Fall 2011


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To get to the shared bathroom, they had to walk through long, quiet hallways, under the strict eye of the housekeeper, who zealously noted down each time the Frenchmen entered or left their rooms. It had taken six months to prepare visas and other paperwork for the trip. While the bureaucracies of the Eastern European countries were infamous for their entry requirements, access to the USSR had been particularly difficult. Tourism in the region was in its infancy, and the authorities treated all Westerners with suspicion. Travelers had to submit to the Embassy a detailed itinerary for their trip—and no deviations would be tolerated. “Initially we wanted to go to Samarkand [now in Uzbekistan] and a bit further,” said Claude. “But they told us there wasn’t any point in asking. It simply wasn’t allowed.” The alternative was to head to Moscow. After crossing Western Europe and former Yugoslavia—where donkey-drawn wagons were the traveling fashion and outnumbered automobiles—the Frenchmen arrived in Istanbul where they would take the ferry to Odessa, in the USSR. Shuffling through customs and immigration at the port, they submitted their paperwork to Soviet officials, who examined carefully—meanwhile, their two cars dangled precariously in the air as a crane hoisted them onboard the splendid ship “Litva.” Because they were on a tight budget, the group had arranged fourth-class passage with the Soviet tourist agency, Intourist. Despite their miserly intentions, upon arrival they were informed that tourists Overland Journal Fall 2011

were required to travel in first class according to Soviet rules. André Augé, the appointed cashier, ground his teeth as he handed over the tariff. On the positive side, the first class fare, and associated onboard meal privileges, granted them a culinary upgrade from their routine diet of cold sandwiches—the ship’s chef served an abundance of Russian caviar, smoked salmon and regional Champagne… At Odessa, they said goodbye to the Russian jet-set life on“Litva”and stepped on Soviet ground for the first time. According to their travel permits, they were required to report to the Intourist offices at each stage of their approved itinerary. The Intourist employees in Odessa informed them that there was no campground in town and recommended they reboard the ship again and go to the next city, 400 km (250 miles) away. Without a better choice, the travelers opted for Odessa’s only hotel that allowed foreigners. Far too pricey for most Russians, hotel lodging was a ripoff even for tourists. The stately entrance ornamented in marble and gold promised an experience to rival the luxurious accommodations of the “Litva.” Once inside, the spartan accommodations knocked them back into reality—the wrought iron beds were better suited for a medieval hospital, and the thick, dusty curtains induced severe coughing attacks. To get to the shared bathroom, they had to walk through long, quiet hallways, under the strict eye of the house-


keeper, who zealously noted down each time the Frenchmen entered or left their rooms. “I guess she reported our movements to the authorities,” said Claude, smiling. Departing the suffocating prison walls in the morning, they discovered that a curious crowd of people, surprised to see vehicles from so far away, had gathered around the Citroëns. A young man stepped from the crowd, addressing them in fluent French. His name was George, and French-born to Armenian parents. His interest in the group and flowing hospitality was a welcome respite from their first few days in-country. George took his French guests to dance the Mazurka at Odessa’s openair dance palace, and drink “Kvas” (an innovative elaboration of fermented toasted bread…) on the beach. It would be the beginning of a lifelong friendship. George desperately wanted to return to France, but his family had fallen victim to the same trickery as many Armenians in the region. After WWII, Armenians who had immigrated to Europe were invited back, the Soviets promising a life of heaven and beyond. When George and his father arrived, it was immediately clear that the USSR was far from paradise. It was too late—the Soviet authorities immediately confiscated their French passports. For several years, George had tried in vain to return to his native country. “We took all the information about him and when we came back home we started asking the authorities about his case,” said Claude. “After four or five years, he managed to come back to France. He came to Besançon, our hometown, and got a job there.” During the sightseeing tour in Odessa, George always wore dark sunglasses and preferred meeting inside rather than in public—only a couple of years previous, talking to foreigners was strictly prohibited. People still feared the possibility of informers watching them in public, and often would mirror George’s patterns, a behavior to which the travelers would soon grow accustomed. Nevertheless, many curious Russians approached them during the following weeks to ask about life in the West. It had been just a year since the Bay of Pigs invasion, and a year later, the Cuban Missile Crisis would unfold. Despite the escalating fear of “communists” in the West, the Russian people seemed to fear their government more than they did Westerners. “I don’t think they had much information about what was going on in the world,” said Claude. “They were very surprised to see young people like us doing a trip like we did. The tourism concept hardly existed. Some had a place where they could spend holidays because they worked in a factory that had an agreement with another town, such as Sochi, or on the Caspian Sea, so they could go there on a holiday paid by the employer.” When traveling, most Russians could only afford to stay at campgrounds. Run by the government, campgrounds were vast areas with identical tents set up, one next to the other on wooden platforms. If you wanted to go Soviet deluxe, you could even get a tent with real beds. It was in these communist-era campgrounds and cheap self-service restaurants that the French expedition became familiar with many of the Russian people. “When people heard that we spoke French they would go and get somebody who knew the language so we could speak,” said Claude. Even the government employees were generally friendly, and though they would initially seem to strictly enforce the established rules, they Curious locals gathered around the little Citroëns everywhere they stopped. Wooden-floored tents at a campground in Skopje, Macedonia. Visiting the Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. Opposite: The cars were lifted on board the ship “Litva,” that would take the team from Istanbul to Odessa, USSR.

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When we left Odessa, two policemen riding a motorcycle with a sidecar followed us to Kiev, stopping whenever we did.

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would usually make exceptions when it was convenient. Before leaving Odessa, the group was informed by police that according to their visa, an officer should accompany them in their cars. “We showed them that unless he (the officer) wouldn’t mind sitting on the hood he didn’t stand a chance,” said Claude and laughed. “So when we left Odessa, two policemen riding a motorcycle with a sidecar followed us to Kiev, stopping whenever we did. Then we didn’t see them anymore.” On some occasions, pure stubbornness proved the best way to deal with Iron Curtain bureaucracy. Upon attempting to exit the USSR, they were informed by border police that it would not be permitted. They were missing their Laissez-passer documents—which had been stolen from their car in Moscow. The border police had to check with Odessa, the port of entry. After several hours of waiting, and fed-up with the continued eastern-block incompetence, the Frenchmen decided to camp out in the border police’s office building. “The next morning they had to navigate around our sleeping bags to open their office doors. I think they noticed we wouldn’t give up, so they simply let us go—without Odessa’s confirmation,” said expedition member André Augé. Encounters with Soviet authorities resulted in mixed outcomes, and they never knew which way it would turn. While passing though Moscow, they navigated through a maze of drab grey buildings to the center Overland Journal Fall 2011

of Red Square, where they stopped to take in the sights and centuriesold Russian architecture. They gazed at Saint Basil’s Cathedral, across a dizzying expanse of hand-laid stone. Little did they know that parking in Red Square was strictly prohibited. “There were only two cars on the Red Square—ours. There was a very long queue of people waiting to visit the Lenin and Stalin mausoleums. Half an hour later, there wasn’t any queue for the mausoleum anymore—all the people were standing around our car,” Claude said with a chuckle. When it was time to go, one of the vehicles wouldn’t start. The six Frenchmen were in the process of jumpstarting the dead battery as hundreds of curious spectators gathered around to admire the foreigners’ exotic cars. This is when the police arrived. Claude continued, “But we explained that we were taking photos and when we showed them the cars and their engines, they were happy.” Other run-in encounters with Soviet law were not as pleasant. Outside Kiev, large identical housing projects sprawled from the city, eventually giving way to miles of wheat fields run by the Soviet farming cooperative Kolkhoz. The impeccably manicured highways were basically empty, and the drivers pushed the 2CVs to their maximum speed, about 100 km/h (60 mph). Deviating from the highway towards their next itinerary-required destination, they found the road increasingly rough. The group had covered some 150 km (100 miles) before they realized


that they were driving on a prohibited road and it was nowhere near their destination. Turning back towards Kiev, they knew they would have an issue with fuel—The 2CV had a tank of only 20 liters (5.5 gallons). Navigating the deteriorating roadway, the first car stopped abruptly with a nasty thump, tilting sideways like the Titanic and raising its back end. One of the front wheels had been swallowed by an unmarked, open sewage manhole. Fortunately, no major damage was done and twelve strong arms were all that was needed to lift the vehicle to terra frima. Midway back to Kiev they arrived at the single gas station on the highway—only to see the “Closed” sign dangling on the door. It was Sunday and the next station was in Kiev, over 50 km (30 miles) away. Though they carried an extra can of gas, it was not enough for both cars. It became evident that only one vehicle would be returning to Kiev. Behind schedule, they could face significant consequences for not following their established itinerary. As a result, Claude, Jean and Pierre shook the jerry can’s last drops into their tank and set off to find fuel. The other car continued on until the tank dried up near the outskirts of town. As Serge, Jean-Pierre and André waited for the first car, the hours passed. Their patience grew thinner and thinner. Were the others dancing the Mazurka and drinking vodka? Little did they know, the gas stations in the city were also closed—still Sunday. The fuel reconnaissance

team managed to find a friendly Kolkhoz truck driver who sold them needed fuel for next to nothing. Problem solved, they thought. On the way back to save their friends, they stopped on a bridge to take a photo of a funny propaganda sign. In less than a minute, policemen on motorcycles surrounded their car. Bridges, being of sensitive military interest, were apparently illegal to photograph. The group received a private escort to the city’s campground where they were interrogated for several hours. It was decided that the Western “spies” were to be set free, but requested to leave Kiev immediately. It was 8 p.m. They still had to locate their friends and drive 400 km (250 miles) to comply, once again, with the established itinerary. The various run-ins with the law, including being interrogated and kicked out of Kiev, didn’t hinder the group from taking a few liberties. While in Moscow, they made an interesting acquaintance with a student who made his living selling Russian icons to tourists. In his spare time was planning nothing less than a revolution against the Soviet regime. Though he failed to engage the fab Frenchmen in either of his dubious activities, he convinced them to visit the enigmatic Zagorsk monastery near Moscow. The Intourist office, however, had denied them permission. Enthused by the accounts of the celebrated place, they secretly slipped

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Parked across from Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square. Opposite clockwise from top left: The hero of the time, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first human being to journey into outer space. The sign reads: “Glory to Yuri Gagarin, the pioneer who opened space.” Matronly ladies in a small town in Albania. A rainy day between Kiev and Kharkov, USSR. Near Skopje in Yugoslavia, traveling performers went from village to village, exchanging room and board for exhibitions of a dancing bear. Overland Journal Fall 2011


Less than two weeks later, East Germany would close its border with the West and begin building the Berlin Wall.

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away from city campground at dawn with their new Russian comrade. Several forests lined the road to Zagorsk. The first was of dense pine and fir trees, the second was a plethora of television antennae sprouting from the rooftops of a dozen impoverished villages that lined the route. Buried at Zagorsk in 1338, Saint Sergius’ body rested under the stone church, which is surrounded by 13 other churches—all with blue, onion-shaped domes with gold stars. As for the other visitors, the Orthodox Church did not attract the young and healthy. The monastery seemed to be hosting a national gathering of wrinkly hunchbacks . . . Though it was a high-risk day trip, the history and beauty of Zagorsk left a lasting impression on the group. “It was really worth it. It was a place where they never saw foreigners because they weren’t allowed to go there,” said Claude. A few hours after leaving, they stopped for a picnic on a small country road. Mid-meal, the silence was broken by the crackling pop of machinegun fire. Had somebody found out about the illegal detour to Zagorsk? Maybe they had taken the Soviet law enforcement a tad too lightly? To the shrieking noise of car tires, various military trucks surrounded the surprised party. A stern-faced officer stepped out of a truck, approaching the group hastily, and angrily querying their intentions. They addressed him in French, only to be interrupted in the same language. They had stopped, again, in an area of military importance— though this time it was an actual military base. In addition to speaking French, he apparently understood the French obsession with eating well. Calming down eventually, instead of carting them off to a dark and stuffy interrogation room, he simply urged them to avoid future picnics in the area. In addition to Zagorsk, Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) was a highlight of the trip. As the old capital of the Russian empire, the city boasts a treasure of stunning buildings and airy parks. “If there is one place where you have to go, it’s Saint Petersburg because there are reOverland Journal Fall 2011

ally remarkable things to see there. The churches were well maintained, simply extraordinary,” said Claude. No male-dominated expedition is complete without some good old foolhardiness, and André carried the burden in this department. “I filmed a submarine at the dock in Leningrad with my American video camera, whose film could only be developed in the United States. This little feat could have cost me a life sentence,” said André. In Leningrad, as in the other Soviet cities, the group was surprised to see women driving the subways and buses. Even in the countryside, women drove trucks and worked with road construction crews, which was not common in Western Europe in the early 1960s. It was a socialist era where “work” was one of the core communist pillars—women were no exception to this concept. Around the country, on billboards, posters and in newspaper were ads encouraging hard labor, women and men working side by side. To make sure the citizens got the message, the propaganda message crackled regularly through loudspeakers in public places, and even in gas stations and campgrounds. With the final border crossing and associated paper chase, the expedition departed the USSR. They carried with them fond memories and experiences most Westerners would never know. They’d also witnessed firsthand the suppressing control and fear the Soviet Socialist government could impose on its populous. “Only two states in the world are not subject to foreign powers–all other countries are influenced by either the United States or the USSR. This nation has maintained its own personality. People have suffered tremendously. The last war cost them 17 million lives. I think it is a fundamentally pacific people,” wrote André in the travel diary. Entering Poland was like being transported to another planet. Though the country had been devastated by the war, the people were generally cheerful and welcoming. After the enormous Kolkhoz cooperatives of the USSR, eastern Poland’s quaint farms and agrarian landscape proved a refreshing change.


One morning, they stopped to assist a man lying on the side of the road, face covered in blood and bicycle beside him. The man was unconscious and they were sure he needed urgent care. They waved down a couple of Polish farmers, also on bikes, but the farmers merely smiled and made a gesture, as if tipping a bottle. It seemed the Poles had a similar national past-time to the Russians, the bottle. Closer examination revealed the man was so drunk he had passed out and fell off his bike. “Then we understood why we say ‘drunk as a Pole’ in France,” said André. A midday lunch with some new Polish friends confirmed the theory—no matter the time of the day, vodka was the beverage of choice. It had been only sixteen years since the end of World War II, and Eastern Europe was on a slow road to recovery. In Warsaw, scars of the numerous military campaigns still marred the city. Bomb-ravaged remains of historic buildings, houses and factories buildings stood as stark reminders of the horrors of war. The escalating Berlin Crisis served as another reminder of the current power struggle between the two superpowers. While Western and Soviet leaders argued bitterly over the future of Berlin and its occupational status, the French expedition rolled into East Berlin. The feel was more like that of the USSR, a grey cloud suppressing the mood of the city. Simple things like shopping for supplies proved to be an arduous task. After clearing a shop’s zealous array of paperwork, apparently to allow access to the store, they discovered limited goods and basically nothing worth buying. Despite the turmoil and political undercurrents, heightened security measures within the eastern portion of the partitioned city seemed lax and relatively non-existent. However, the landscape had changed drastically as they entered the West Berlin. Surrounded by American cars, well-stocked stores, street-side cafes, and prosperity, it was again as if they’d been transported to another planet. The day was August 1, 1961. Less than two weeks later, East Germany would close its border with the West and begin building the Berlin Wall, and thus dividing Germany for almost three decades to come. Czechoslovakia would be the final communist state the group would visit on their return to France. After almost 14,000 km (8,700 miles) through 14 countries, the expedition was coming to an end. The two Citroen 2CVs, while not typical expedition vehicles, had performed well. Due to their simple design, the few mechanical issues they did have were easily addressed. “It’s an extraordinary car, because it has a very special suspension and, for example, on the snow you don’t slide. It’s simple but very well built,” said Claude. The return to their homeland bought celebration, reflection, and a traditional French meal of steak, French fries, and many glasses of red wine. For the six young men, the trip had provided an education beyond any they could find at a university. The realization that governmental and political forces could divide a once-united people left each with a unique opinion of their Eastern Bloc neighbors. Beyond the “approved” travel itinerary, numerous run-ins with authorities and the insanity of bureaucratic red tape, the people behind the cloak of communism were just that, people. They were farmers, shop and innkeepers, restaurant and gas station workers, and policemen, all with the same political agenda, or absence thereof, of feeding their families and raising their children. Above all, they never wanted to see a WWIII. Claude, now in his later years, reflected that it had been a darn good adventure. “It wasn’t always easy to travel with six people. Sometimes it was hard to get along, but after the trip there wasn’t anyone who said ‘I wouldn’t do it again.’ Instead we asked, ‘where are we going next time?’”

The Citroën 2CV

In the 1930s, French manufacturer Citroën campaigned to bring the automobile to the country’s rural populace. The then-current mode of transportation was the horse carriage. Citroën’s new design would be a low-cost, robust vehicle capable of transporting two people and a payload of 250 kg (550 lbs). It boosted a maximum speed of 65 km/h (40 mph) with a range of 100 km (60 miles) over the rough, often muddy, unpaved rural roads of pre-WWII France. The car’s suspension was to be smooth enough to drive over ploughed field while carrying eggs to the local market, yet tough enough for the unpaved roads of pre-WWII France. The removable canvas roof would allow the carrying of oversized cargo and farm tools. The war halted production until 1948, and upon its introduction in Paris it became the laughing stock of the auto industry. Four decades and nearly nine million Citroëns later, when the last vehicle rolled off the assembly line, the “Dedeuche” had nothing to prove. The tin-can-of-a-car had become an iconic symbol of no-nonsense utility. With service around the world, and in every capacity imaginable, it had become an icon of the twentieth century, comparable to the Model-T, the Jeep, the Beetle, the Land Rover, and the Mini Cooper. Tech Sheet: Units produced

8,700,000

Years

1948-1990

Produced

France, Belgium, U.K., Portugal, Spain, Greece, Slovenia, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Iran, Vietnam, Chile, Argentina

Engines

Front engine, 425cc - 602cc (9 hp up to 29 hp),  air-cooled

Drivetrain

Front wheel drive, 4-speed manual transmission

Suspension

Citroën self-adjusting to payload, leading arm/ trailing arm/swinging arm tie rods system

Wheelbase

96 in (2.40 m)

Weight

1,230 lbs (560 kg)

Nicknames

“Deux Chevaux” (Duh-shuv-vuh) French for “two horses”

Opposite: One evening in Czechoslovakia, a rabbit picked the wrong time to cross the road—bad for the rabbit, but good for the Frenchmen, who decided to prepare a special dinner for the occasion. Road kill at its best… The team on the Red Square, from left: Jean-Pierre, Pierre, Claude, Jean (sitting) André, Marcel (standing), and Serge. Overland Journal Fall 2011

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USSR Trip

Route

Cartography by David Medeiros (mapbliss.com)

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Overland Journal Fall 2011


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


Power from the Source By Graham Jackson Photography by Brian Slobe

Senior Technical Editor Graham Jackson tests the latest offerings in portable solar energy.

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Overland Journal Fall 2011


“Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” – Noel Coward

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n 2003, while preparing for an extended overland trip in Africa, I purchased a small Brunton solar panel. I don’t remember the model or name, but I certainly remember the expletives I showered it with on discovering that it could not power any of the electrical devices I then owned. Fast-forward almost a decade, one marked by massive strides in the development of renewable energy, and a quick look at the market reveals a smorgasbord of solar panel offerings for the aspiring energy efficient traveller. This review is slightly different from our previous fare. We decided not to just compare apples to apples, but to go through a large range of options that would fit different traveling styles and requirements. From super-light motorcycle (or even hiking) friendly units, to large panels that will keep a fridge running and your beer cold while at camp. Most of the panels can also be integrated into larger systems for more power hungry needs. For a full overview of solar cells and how they work, see “Solar Panel Fundamentals” in the Overland Journal 2009 Gear Guide. I’ll not reiterate much of what that article covered, however one detail we cannot forget is a recurring equation that will come up in every test in this review. When looking at output from solar panels, we will be focusing on watts. Watts are a measure of power (in this case electrical power), and can be calculated by measuring the amperage from the solar panel and the circuit voltage. By multiplying amps times volts we get watts. Conveniently, each product in this test includes the nominal wattage of the panel in its name. We have three manufacturers represented—Brunton, Goal Zero and PowerFilm—and eight panels which are divided into three groups: device power, system power and vehicle power. At the low-power or compact end, are the Goal Zero Nomad 7 and the Brunton Solaris 4 USB. These are primarily designed to recharge one single device at a time via USB connections. In the midrange, we have “system power” panels which can be used to charge vehicle batteries, individual devices or (specifically in the case of Goal Zero) an independent power pack. These panels provide 12 volts and come in both soft and hard varieties with a range of wattages: the Brunton Solaris 26, the Goal Zero Nomad 27, the Brunton Solarflat 15 and the Goal Zero Boulder 30. At the high-power end of the spectrum we have panels that, by themselves, can extend your stay in camp by days. Combined with others in a “system,” these units can go all the way to making you fully energy independent. In this category are the PowerFilm 60 and the Brunton Solaris 62. To be fair, most of the panels tested can be chained to their kin to produce more power in an integrated system. What we are not coverOverland Journal Fall 2011

ing here are the large hard-panels that are used on many RVs and larger expedition rigs. These types of systems are usually built in and require a level of system integration.

Testing Procedure The data sheet for this review holds the expected general metrics; weight, dimensions, price and manufacturer claims. Beyond that I wanted to give some small insight into how these very differently intentioned systems work in the real world. Unlike previous tests, this cannot be a true comparison of performance due to the differing range of design parameters of the hardware. Having said this, all of the tests give insight into how the selected panels perform.

Developments in solar technology are providing sustainable power options for the plethora of electronic overlanding gizmos we now carry.


Math first. Since direct comparisons may not be effective, ratios can be. Power-to-weight ratio stands out as a measure of significant interest, and in the case of solar panels, power-to-area ratio as well. In both cases I provided one ratio with the claimed maximum power output (the theoretical maximum), and one with the measured power output from our testing (see “Sahara” below). With the data collected, I compared our results with what the manufacturer claims, giving an objective comparison of panels that would otherwise be incomparable. This was done by giving the test result as a percentage of the claimed maximum; a higher percentage being better. I designed four tests that I thought would be instructive. To collect the data for all tests I used a Fluke 345 PQ clamp meter capable of logging data over several days, storing it and downloading it to Fluke’s Power Meter software package.

Sahara test The “Sahara” test is a full-power measure of the pan-

els. Done under full sun, with the panel aimed as close to perpendicular as possible to the incoming light, this is an indication of peak output. Data from each panel was logged for five minutes at one-second intervals, and the maximum amperage was extracted along with the circuit voltage and peak output (in watts). Since solar cell performance decreases as temperature increases, I also included the panel’s surface temperature for each test. Getting the panel perpendicular to incoming sunlight is not simple, but is made much easier by using azimuth and elevation values for sun position at a specific latitude and longitude from www.sunearthtools.com.

Austria test The “Austria” test (so named because I have seen

few Austrian days without clouds, and indeed sympathize with the tourist t-shirts that claim, “it’s raining, it must be Austria!”) was designed to measure panel output under cloud cover. We can’t always get full sunlight, and it is instructive to learn how panels perform in substandard conditions. For this test I waited for an overcast day and logged five minutes of output data for each panel at mid-day while it was attached to a non-fully charged Odyssey 1400 battery. As with the other tests, data included amps, volts and watts, and peak values were extracted from the data set.

Canyon test The “Canyon” test is related to the Austria test above, but instead of cloud cover, the data was collected in the early morning after sunrise, but with the panel in full shade. Temperatures were lower than in the Austria test, and somewhat surprisingly, outputs were too. Shade, it seems, is not equal where solar energy is concerned.

The missing link: Solar charge controllers

For anyone serious about using solar panels to supplement power in their car or truck, a solar charge controller (also called a solar charge regulator) like the SunGuard-4 from PowerFilm or the Controller from Brunton is an essential ingredient. The controller will protect the batteries from being overcharged by the panels, and also stop current from leaking back into the panels in low or no-light conditions. Some panels have a blocking diode to try to prevent reverse leakage, but a charge controller is a more effective solution in systems where multiple panels are linked together. Some controllers also have multiple voltage settings for protection of either lead acid or gel batteries.

Baja test The last test was the real-life simulation. Imagine arriv-

ing at a beach in Baja at midday and setting up camp. No one else is around and you immediately decide to spend several days here—or at least until the beer in your National Luna Weekender runs out. You set up the solar panel, grab a cerveza, lose the shoes and relax in the sand. This is the scenario I considered for this test, which I call the “Baja” for obvious reasons. With a fully charged Odyssey battery at the start of the test, and a cold fridge attached as a load (set to 4°C), the solar panel is deployed just to keep the battery topped up. No care is taken on panel/sun alignment, and the panel was not moved after testing started. Unfortunately I didn’t have 16 days to spend in Baja doing the testing, so I shortened the test to two hours for each panel. As above, amps, volts and watts were recorded, but here I extracted the average rather than the peak for review. At 15-minute intervals during testing, I opened the fridge (to extract a beer, of course) so the motor would continue to cycle. For the two largest panels I added an ARB Adventure Light as an additional load. This test worked for all panels except the smallest two (since National Luna has yet to produce a fridge that will run off five volts). For those panels, I used my iPhone and set it to play a two-hour playlist. Amps, volts and watts were again recorded and the averages extracted for the data sheet. Panels did not all see the same amount of sun as I had no control over intermittent cloud cover, so take the values as they are presented, as averages for a sunny day with a few wispy clouds drifting over. Overland Journal Fall 2011

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Brunton Solaris 4 USB

$252

Pros:

• Light weight and small size • Great power-to-weight ratio • Simple to use

Cons:

F

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irst up, and squarely in the device category is the Solaris 4 USB from Brunton. This is the lightest panel in the test, at 0.4 pounds (0.18 kg), and perfect for hiking or motorcycle use. The Solaris 4 has a single USB port and claims four watts of output at five volts. Power comes from four flexible CIGS (copper/indium/gallium/diselenide) panels mated to ripstop nylon with a rubberized finish texture. Open, the panel measures 25 inches (63.5 cm) long by 8.9 inches (23.5 cm) wide. Closed, it folds down to a very neat 14.9 inches (12.5 cm) at the same width. Included is a stuff sack to contain and protect the panel, though it comes with no wires or other accessories, and is the simplest panel in that sense. The nylon structure tends to have a fold memory, so the panel can be hard to keep flat until it warms up in the sun. Once warm, it is easy to keep unfurled. A large grommet is provided at each corner for staking to the ground or tying in position. The USB connector has a built in blocking diode to prevent the panels from drawing down an attached battery in low or no light conditions. Since the Solaris 4 is so light, it does very well in the power-to-weight comparison. With a theoretical value of 10 watts per pound (or 22.2 W/kg), it was the fourth best in the line up. The tested value was lower than this, though barely, at 9.9 W/lb (21.9 W/kg) putting it fourth out of all the panels. The test results for the Solaris 4 showed some surprises. In the Sahara test it did best of all, giving an output of 3.94 watts, or 98.4 percent of its claimed output. Small panels suffer in lowlight conditions, not having the sheer area to collect photons. In the Canyon test, the Solaris gave its worst performance, though this isn’t really reflected in the test results. Though able to deliver five volts consistently, the current just wasn’t enough, and it sent my iPhone into a charge/no charge cycle. The phone would say it was charging and give the familiar iPhone tone, which would drop the current enough to register no charge, and then charge again and so on. This cycle went on for the full five minutes of the test. I suspect it would eventually drain the iPhone rather than charge it. The values reported on the data sheet show the peak output for the test, but the average was much lower at 0.4 watts. In the Austria test the Solaris did better, though its peak output was lower, the average was higher, and it was able to keep a charge going into the iPhone. In the Baja test, the Solaris 4 also shined, giving the highest average output as a percentage of claimed peak, at 74.5 percent. It was easily able to keep the iPhone topped up throughout the playlist and could probably handle a bigger load like a movie on an iPad. bruntonoutdoor.com, 307-857-4700

Overland Journal Fall 2011

• Can be hard to keep unfurled at first • Struggles in very low-light conditions • Limited to only USB output

Folded the Solaris 4 USB is tiny and comes with a stuff sack for storage. A single USB connector makes the intensions obvious and the use very simple.


Goal Zero Nomad 7

$100

Pros:

• Versatile, includes both 5 V USB and 12 V power options and an optional battery charger • Well-marked connection ports • Compact

Cons:

• Poor low-light performance • When closed, cells rub and surface scratches can result • Hard panels make it relatively heavy

G

oal Zero specializes in power systems for travel, and this is reflected in their products, including the Nomad 7. I have placed it in the device category and all calculations and tests were done using the 5 volt USB port. The smallest of the Goal Zero panels, the Nomad 7 weighs 0.75 lbs (0.34 kg) and folded measures just 9 x 6.5 inches (23 x 16.5 cm). Releasing the Velcro closure reveals two mono crystalline panels, a connector and small accessory pocket—all encased in a soft Cordura-like material. Open, the unit measures just 19.3 x 9 inches (49 x 23 cm). Of all the panels in the test, the Nomad 7 is probably the most versatile. It has a USB port, a 12-volt port with an included female cigarette lighter adapter, and a port specifically for attaching Goal Zero’s Guide 10 battery charger (for AA and AAA). All output voltages are clearly marked and around the edge of the panel, and there are eight loops for hanging or securing. A built-in accessory pocket easily holds the 12-volt cable. Power-to-weight numbers are on the lower end due to the weight of the hard panels 6.67 W/lb (14.7 W/kg) or theoretical and 4.6 W/lb (10.2 W/kg) as tested. Power-to-surface area numbers are better, but not stellar at 3.32 W/ft2 (35.5 W/m2 ). In testing, the Nomad 7 did not excel, but it did hold its own. In the Sahara test I could only eke 3.45 watts out of the panel, which comes to a pretty low 69 percent of its theoretical maximum. Some of this could be due to the high panel temperature during the test at a balmy 113°F (45°C). It did well in the Baja test, easily keeping my iPhone charged to 100 percent during the long playlist and averaging 37.2 percent of its theoretical maximum. As with the small Brunton, low light proved to be a challenge for the Nomad 7. Under clouds (the Austria test) it could only produce 0.12 watts, and in the shade test (Canyon test), it suffered even worse. It only gave back 1.34 volts (far from the 4.95 volts it gives under direct sun), which was not enough for the iPhone to register a charge, and certainly not enough to give any power to the battery. Again, small panels do suffer in low light due to surface area, and the Nomad 7 has the smallest surface area of all the tested panels. goalzero.com, 888-794-6250

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Velcro closure keeps the tiny folded package secure. Clear output markings are very welcome, and 12 V output a boone.

Overland Journal Fall 2011


Brunton Solarflat 15

$115

Pros:

• Excellent in low-light conditions • Long output cord • Good selection of included connectors

Cons:

• Heavy • Requires a hard-mount • Low output for size

T

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he first of two non-foldable hard panels in the review is the Brunton Solarflat 15. This is a system panel, but could be used as a vehicle-integrated panel quite easily. Curiously this unit uses amorphous thin-film cells (usually used in folding panels) housed in a hard case. The panel measures 12.5 x 36.5 x 0.75 inches (31.8 x 92.7 x 1.9 cm) and the frame, made of aluminum and anodized in blue or orange, has brackets at each corner suitable for mounting on any hard surface. A plethora of adaptors are included, each with a simple two-prong connector to mate with the 12-foot (3.65 m) output cable; alligator clips, female cigarette lighter, bare wire pigtail and a green LED—presumably for checking to see if the panel is working. The Solarflat 15 only outputs 12 volts, and has a built-in blocking diode and battery overcharge protection. Up to three Solarflat 15s can be chained together to increase output. For more than three, Brunton sells a solar controller to handle the additional load (see The Missing Link side panel). Hard panels suffer in the power-to-weight ratio calculation, mainly because of the glass and metal used in their structure. The Solarflat scored at the bottom in this measurement with a 2.0 W/lb (4.45 W/kg) theoretical and a 1.8 W/lb (4.1 W/kg) as tested, but scored very well in powerto-area ratio with 4.73 W/ft2 (50.9 W/m2 ), third highest in the review. In the Sahara test the Solarflat did well, being one of only three panels to reach the 90s as a percent of theoretical output. It also had the coolest surface temperature during that test, which may have helped. It also did well in the Baja test with an average of 55.6 percent of theoretical maximum, and keeping the Odyssey test battery mostly topped up. The low-light test is where the Solarflat really came in to its own. With a 17 percent score on the canyon test it was only beaten by the Solaris 4, which as we have seen, did have other issues. In the Austria test it was the undisputed winner with a peak output of 33.9 percent of theoretical maximum. bruntonoutdoor. com, 307-857-4700

Overland Journal Fall 2011

Great selection of connectors included: alligator clips, free end of attached cable, bare pigtail, cigarette lighter adapter, LED. Joints at each corner also drilled for use as mounting points.


Brunton Solaris 26

$646

Pros:

• Great power-to-weight ratio • Good low-light performance • Rugged and well made

Cons:

• Cost • Stuff sack seems ill-equipped for cable storage • Hard to keep unfurled until fabric gets warm

T

he Brunton Solaris 26 is the big brother of the Solaris 4 USB, and fits in the systems category. Brunton provides several battery packs that can integrate with the Solaris 26 for powering accessories. This panel has eight CIGS cells housed in the same ripstop fabric as the Solaris 4. Folded it is a neat 10.8 x 8.7 x 1 inches (27.5 x 22 x 2.5 cm) package held with a Velcro closure—open, it is a large 43.2 x 21 inches (107.5 x 53.5 cm). The fabric has a similar fold memory to the other Brunton soft panels, which can make keeping it flat a challenge when initially opened. There are large grommets on each corner for securing if necessary. The Solaris 26 has a fixed output of 12 volts, and comes with a selection of adaptors; alligator clips, a female cigarette lighter and Brunton’s multi-linking cable. A fourprong connector that can be used to link panels together or power any compatible devices. The receptor on the panel has two outlets for linking and powering. When folded the panel fits in the included stuff sack along with the cables and connectors. I’m not convinced that the drawstring closure on the sack is a good idea—when closed, inversion can let cables escape. Power-toweight ratio of the Solaris 26 is excellent. Its theoretical value is 14.85 W/lb (32.9 W/kg), third highest in the review, and its tested value is 11.8 W/lb (26.2 W/kg), second highest in the test. In the Sahara test the Solaris was third highest with a measured output of 79.5 percent of its theoretical maximum and a peak output of 20.67 watts. It did even better in the Baja longterm test, with an average of 70.1 percent over two hours. It seems that the Brunton CIGS cells are very accepting of off-angle light and perform well in static positions—something very valuable to keep in mind. In low-light conditions the Solaris 26 did well, but not exceptionally well. The Canyon test resulted in 8.3 percent of maximum, and 20 percent for the Austria test. bruntonoutdoor.com, 307-857-4700

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Compact when folded; comes with stuff sack for storage. Included connectors: alligator clips, cigarette adaptor, and multi-plug.

Overland Journal Fall 2011


Goal Zero Nomad 27

$350

Pros:

• Both 12 V and USB outlets • Can chain multiple units together for more power • Included poles to add rigidity

Cons:

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• Can be hard to fold correctly • Heavy due to hard panels • Hard panels at risk of being scratched when panel folded

he Nomad 27 takes the Nomad 7 design into the next level, and straddles the device and system categories. For this test we did all of the calculations and testing via the 12-volt port rather than the USB. Construction is similar to the Nomad 7, but with eight monocrystalline hard panels all sewn into the fabric case. Folded the Nomad 27 measures 11 x 7 x 2.5 inches (28 x 17.8 x 6.4 cm), and is held closed by a Velcro strip—open dimensions are 22 x 43.5 inches (55.8 x 110.5 cm). It took several tries to correctly fold the panel and get the Velcro to match. I kept getting it wrong, but I expect that’s because I had six other folding panels to deal with at the same time. A nice feature is the inclusion of three aluminum support poles that give the open panel more structure. A pocket stores the poles, a 118 inch (3-meter) output cord, and 12-volt cigarette adapter. Large grommets at each corner allow for hanging or staking down. Like the other Goal Zero offerings, the Nomad 27 integrates well with their battery packs and inverter products, allowing for numerous power options. Outputs include 12-volt, USB, and the ability to chain multiple panels for more power. Due to the Nomad 27’s hard panels, it is heavy for its size and power-to-weight ratios suffer—though the power-toarea ratio is in line other panels of similar output. The tested power-to-weight put the Nomad 27 fifth in the lineup, exactly where the calculated figure predicted. In the testing, the Nomad 27 did not excel, but it didn’t embarrass itself either. The Sahara provided an acceptable 77.7 percent of its theoretical high of 27 watts. The larger folding panels had some trouble with the full-power test mainly, I think, due to the difficulty of getting all the individual cells aligned perfectly with the sun. In the Baja, the Nomad 27 was at the bottom end. This is likely the result of it having the most cloud cover during its testing period. For the Canyon test (full shade), the Nomad did very well—but curiously, not so well in the Austria cloud cover test. goalzero.com, 888-794-6250

Careful folding required for Velcro to match up perfectly. Ports clearly marked; cigarette adapter included; aluminum poles provide rigidity. Overland Journal Fall 2011


Goal Zero Boulder 30

$300

Pros:

• Very high power-to-area ratio • Good mounting options • Good performance over variable conditions

Cons:

• Limited connection options • Hard to store unless hard-mounted • Heavy

T

he second hard-panel in the review is the Goal Zero Boulder 30. Specifically designed to be used with one of Goal Zero’s battery storage systems (like the Escape 150), puts this contender in the system category. The 12 monocrystalline cells are encased in a 21 x 18 x 1 inch (53.2 x 45.6 x 2.5 cm) aluminum frame. The 16 mounting points make the Boulder very easy to secure to a hard surface. A single cable is included to interface the Boulder 30 with Goal Zero power packs. Two ports labeled ‘in’ and ‘out,’ grace the output box—for chaining multiple panels together. An LED light indicates when the panel has power, and another labeled “charging” shows when the panel is providing power to an attached device. As with the Brunton Solarflat 15, the power-to-weight of the Boulder 30 scores low (4.8 W/ lb, 10.6 W/kg, theoretical and 4.2 W/lb, 9.3 W/kg, tested). Power-to-area ratio, at 11.4 W/ft2 (124 W/m2 ), is where the Boulder excels, burying the competition with a value almost twice its nearest rival. In testing the Boulder did well, consistently sparring with the Brunton Solarflat 15. It came fourth in the Sahara test, achieving 88.1 percent of its theoretical 30-watt output, and was third in the Baja test—giving an average of 57.9 percent of theoretical. For the low-light tests, it ranked better in shade (Canyon test) than it did under cloud (Austria test), though both were ranked close. Power output was 5.5 percent and 17 percent respectively. goalzero.com, 888-794-6250

59

Single cable included with specialized ends; LEDs give power and charging info. Plenty of mounting points on the housing.

Overland Journal Fall 2011


PowerFilm F15-3600 60 Watt

$1,000

Pros:

• Compact and light; great power-toweight ratio • Easy to fold • Consistently good performance

Cons:

• Size can make it a challenge to deploy • Cannot chain panels together without additional hardware • Limited connection options without additional hardware

P

60

owerFilm offers a range of solar options (as do the other manufacturers in the review), but we only sourced their largest for this test. The F15-3600 is a 60-watt folding unit with 24 thin-film panels sewn into a black canvas-like material. With 60 watts of theoretical output, it is large enough to power most overlanding systems and would go very far to keeping a static camp powered for an extended period of time. Folded, the F15-3600 is a compact 11 x 10.25 x 1.5 inches (27.9 x 26 x 3.8 cm) and weighs 3.75 pounds (1.7 kg). Open, it is a massive at 42.5 x 58.8 inches (108 x 149 cm). The sheer size of the unfolded panel can cause some issues in aiming it at the sun. Grommets at each corner are handy hanging or staking down, but a flat surface like a vehicle hood or roof top tent top would prove more effective. Power output is 12 volts, via a single pigtail connector. A female cigarette lighter adaptor is included, and other cable options, including extensions and cables for linking to a vehicle system, are available. This panel was surprisingly easy to fold up and I never had an issue securing the Velcro closure. PowerFilm provides solar panels for military applications, and the construction is, as expected, robust. On their website is a video showing a panel continuing to deliver usable power after being tattered by several rounds. Measured by the power-to-weight test, which resulted in 15.4 W/lb (33.9 W/kg), the PowerFilm F15-3600 won hands down against all others—calculated theoretical ratio put it second behind the Brunton Solaris 62. In the Sahara test it ranked second best behind the Brunton Solaris 4 USB—peak output of 96.1 percent of its theoretical 60 watts. In the Baja test, it only managed 25.6 percent over the two-hour period. However, it was the only panel in the test that was able to run the fridge, the ARB adventure light, and leave the Odyssey battery at a higher voltage than it started. In low-light conditions, results were mixed. While it excelled in the Austria cloud cover test, second best at 25.2 percent theoretical output, the Canyon test proved hard for the PowerFilm, scoring lowest at 2.5 percent. powerfilmsolar.com, 888-354-7773

Overland Journal Fall 2011

Panel is very compact when folded. Cigarette adapter included, extension and pigtail are extra options.


Brunton Solaris 62

$1,320

Pros:

• Compact and lightweight • Multiple cables included for connection options • High power-to-weight ratio

Cons:

• Hard to keep unfurled until fabric warms • Hard to align all panels to the sun for maximum power • High cost

T

he Solaris 62 from Brunton is a folding system with 12 CIGS thin-film panels arrayed in the same flexible nylon material as the Solaris 4 and Solaris 26. With a theoretical 62-watt output, it is the “largest” panel in the review—though physical dimensions do not reflect that. The folded measurement is 14.6 x 8.8 x 2 inches (37.1 x 22 x 5 cm), and the accessories pocket is large enough for included cables—a Velcro strips keep unit securely closed. When open, it extends to 29.3 x 52 inches (74.3 x 132 cm), and weight comes in at 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg). Output is a constant 12 volts, and supplied cables include a female cigarette adaptor, alligator clips, and the same multi-linking cable provided with the Solaris 26. There are two ports on the panel itself, both with the same plug—two output cables can be used simultaneously, or multiple panels can be linked with a single output cable. The panel has a blocking diode for reverse-flow protection under low-light conditions. Just like its smaller Solaris brethren, the 62 can be hard to keep flat until the fabric heats up. Grommets are provided at each corner to hang the panel or stake it down—again, a hood or camper top would be best. Theoretical power-to-weight ratio is the Solaris 62’s forte; it wins with a value of 17.71 W/lb (38.75 W/kg) but under testing, it got pipped by both the PowerFilm and the Solaris 26 after giving back only 11.2 W/lb (24.5 W/kg). It ranked second for theoretical power-to-area ratio, with 5.86 W/ft2 (63.22 W/m2). For the Sahara full-power test, the Solaris 62 could only provide 63.3 percent of its 62 watts, landing it the lowest scoring panel. I suspect that this has something to do with its stiff fabric structure and our difficulty in getting each of the 12 panels to be perpendicular to the incoming light at the same time. In the Baja test, the Solaris 62 was also lowest at 15.5 percent of its 62-watt theoretical maximum. It was, however, able to run the Engel fridge, ARB light, and maintain the Odyssey battery charge, leaving the same 12.79 volts that it started with. Not quite as good as the PowerFilm panel achieved, but virtue of its available power, certainly adequate. For low-light, the Solaris 62 was sixth in the Canyon test and third in the Austria test showing variable low-light performance, just like most of the other panels. bruntonoutdoor.com, 307-857-4700

61

External pocket provides storage for all connectors. Included connectors: alligator clips, cigarette adaptor, and multi-plug.

Overland Journal Fall 2011


Conclusions

O

62

f all the technical evaluations I have done for Overland Journal, this has been the least clear and most frustrating. Usually, a single product will jump to the fore in several tests and be a pretty clear winner. In this review, probably due to variable sun conditions, none of the tests were exceptionally clear-cut. Panels that performed well in one test did poorly in another—leaving no clear technical winner. This may be due to the fact that we covered a wide array of products, with different specifications and under varying conditions—thus reducing the “evaluation” to a set of opinions, albeit based on some technical review. The hard panels, the Brunton Solarflat 15 and the Goal Zero Boulder 30 are somewhat specialized in overland application. Though I put them in the systems category, they would most likely be hard-mounted to a vehicle, maybe in multiples, as part of an integrated vehicle system. Both panels were just as advertised, with the Solarflat excelling in low light and the Boulder having the highest power-to-area ratio. Both Brunton and Goal Zero offer battery systems that could be integrated with these panels. However, I find it difficult to justify a “systems” approach when the folding panels from both companies are more compact and easier to transport. Based on performance and price, the Value Award was aimed at the Solarflat 15, and that’s where it stuck. The small folding panels, Goal Zero Nomad 7 and the Brunton Solaris 4 USB, are perfect device panels—either would be a great choice for foot, bicycle or motorcycle travel. I would favor the Brunton due to its excellent performance in the Sahara and Baja tests and its very low weight. Should you need to power a laptop, there is no denying the value of the 12-volt supply from the Nomad 7. In conjunction with the Guide 10 battery charger, the Nomad 7’s power options for cameras and other devices would be handy. The medium-size folding panels are the Goal Zero Nomad 27 and the Brunton Solaris 26. Both of these would do well in conjunction with a battery/inverter system from their respective companies—as

part of a systems approach. For the overlander who does several weeks a year, or for the serious adventure motorcyclist who needs more power than the small device provides, either would be excellent. Again, I think pure performance goes to the Brunton high power, low weight, and great performance in the Baja test. This said, the USB port on the Nomad 27 makes it a very versatile tool, and something that could suite a variety of needs for someone looking at a single-panel solution. That brings us to our large folding panels, the Brunton Solaris 62 and the PowerFilm F15-3600. The Solaris 62 ended up on the bottom rung in the Sahara and Baja test, and just one step up in the Canyon test. I’m at a bit of a loss to explain this as it uses the same CIGS cells as the other Solaris panels that did much better. To be sure, the sheer size of the panel and the stiffness of the fabric predispose an accordion effect, making perfect alignment with the sun difficult, but that should have had no effect on the low-light tests. More investigation is needed here. The PowerFilm F15-3600 did everything asked of it, and was a great performer in the Sahara and Austria tests, and did well (if not stellar) on the Baja test. Given price, build quality, performance and ease of use, the F15-3600 gets the Editor’s Choice. If I’m on a beach in Baja expecting my beers to be cold (and not wanting to worry about it), you’ll see me setting up the PowerFilm to provide the juice. Perhaps the mad dogs will keep this Englishman company in the midday sun.

RESOURCES

Odyssey Battery, odysseybattery.com, 660-429-2165 National Luna, equipt1.com, 866-703-1026 Fluke, fluke.com, 425-347-6100

Why are the numbers low, watt should I expect? Solar panels are usually rated using watts of output, as all the panels in this test are. The question then becomes “how did the manufacturer calculate that number?” A solar panel will have an unloaded nominal voltage when exposed to light—but not connected to a circuit. This voltage can often be 20 volts or more. Since watts are calculated using amps and volts, it makes a big difference if 1.5 amps of output are calculated with the nominal 20 volts (30 watts) or a slightly more realistic 12.75 volts (19.125 watts) when the panel is connected to a car battery. That’s better than a 30 percent difference in reporting, so even though you might buy a panel rated to 30 watts, you may never see that actual output when connected to a 12-volt circuit.

Overland Journal Fall 2011


Solar Panel Comparison Solaris 4 USB

Nomad 7

Solarflat 15

Solaris 26

Manufacturer

Brunton

Goal Zero

Brunton

Brunton

Retail cost

$252

$100

$115

$646

Weight (lbs / kg)

0.4 / 0.18

0.75 / 0.34

7.4 / 3.3

1.75 / 0.79

Dimensions folded (in / cm)

4.9 x 8.9 x 1.2 / 12.5 x 23.5 x 3

9 x 6.5 x 0.78 / 23 x 16.5 x 2

N/A

10.8 x 8.7 x 1 / 27.5 x 22 x 2.5

Dimensions open (in / cm)

25 x 8.9 / 63.5 x 23.5

19.3 x 9 / 49 x 23

12.5 x 36.5 x 0.75 / 31.8 x 92.7 x 1.9

42.3 x 21 / 107.5 x 53.5

Number of cells

4

2

1

8

Cell size (in / cm)

3.7 x 6.9 / 9.5 x 17.5

9 x 5.7 / 23 x 14.5

11.75 x 35.5 / 29.8 x 90.2

8.3 x 7 / 21 x 18

Cell structure

Flexible

Hard

Hard

Flexible

Cell type

CIGS (Copper/Indium/ Gallium/DiSelenide)

Mono crystalline

Amorphous thin film

CIGS (Copper/Indium/ Gallium/DiSelenide)

Claimed output

0.8A @ 5 V ≈ 4 W

USB 5 V 5 W, 12 V 4 W, Guide 10 6.5 V 7 W

0.9A @ 12 V ≈ 15 W

1.6A @ 12 V ≈ 26 W

Country of manufacture

Cells made in U.S.A., assembled in Mexico

China

Cells made in U.S.A., assembled in Mexico

Cells made in U.S.A., assembled in Mexico

Power-to-weight ratio calculated (W/lb / W/kg)

10 / 22.2

6.67 / 14.7

2.0 / 4.45

14.85 / 32.9

Power to weight ratio tested (W/lb / W/kg)

9.9 / 21.9

4.6 / 10.2

1.8 / 4.1

11.8 / 26.2

Power-to-area ratio (W/ft2 / W/m2)

2.59 / 26.81

3.32 / 35.50

4.73 / 50.90

4.21 / 45.21

Sahara test (direct sun high output) Peak output (amps)

0.80

0.70

1.05

1.58

Peak output (watts)

3.94

3.45

13.67

20.67

Measured output as a % of claimed output

98.4

69.0

91.1

79.5

113 / 45

99 / 37

104 / 40

Panel temp during test (°F / °C) 108 / 42

Baja test (long term 2 hour) Average output over 2 hours (amps)

0.60

0.37

0.64

1.39

Average output over 2 hours (watts)

2.98

1.86

8.34

18.22

Battery condition start (iPhone % or V)

100%

100%

13.11

13.19

Battery condition end (iPhone % or V)

100%

100%

13.01

13.05

Measured average output as a % of claimed output

74.5

37.2

55.6

70.1

Peak output (amps)

0.18

0.18

0.2

0.17

Peak output (watts)

0.89

0.24

2.54

2.16

Measured output as a % of claimed output

22.3

4.8

17.0

8.3

Peak output (amps)

0.14

0.09

0.40

0.41

Peak output (watts)

0.69

0.12

5.09

5.21

Measured output as a % of claimed output

17.3

2.4

33.9

20.0

Canyon test (full shade)

Austria test (high sun but cloudy)

Overland Journal Fall 2011

63


Solar Panel Comparison Nomad 27

Boulder 30

F15-3600

Solaris 62

Manufacturer

Goal Zero

Goal Zero

Powerfilm

Brunton

Retail cost

$350

$300

$1,000

$1,320

Weight (lbs / kg)

3.5 / 1.6

6.25 / 2.83

3.75 / 1.7

3.5 / 1.6

Dimensions folded (in / cm)

11 x 7 x 2.5 / 28 x 17.8 x 6.4 N/A

11 x 10.25 x 1.5 / 27.9 x 26 x 3.8

14.6 x 8.8 x 2 / 37.1 x 22.2 x 5

Dimensions open (in / cm)

22 x 43.5 / 55.8 x 110.5

21 x 18 x 1 / 53.2 x 45.6 x 2.5 42.5 x 58.8 / 108 x 149

29.3 x 52 / 74.3 x 132

Number of cells

8

12

24

12

Cell size (in / cm)

8.5 x 6 / 21.6 x 15.2

4.9 x 4.9 / 12.5 x 12.5

9.4 x 8.7 / 24 x 22

12.4 x 7.3 / 31.5 x 18.5

Cell structure

Hard

Hard

Flexible

Flexible

Cell type

Mono crystalline

Mono crystalline

Thin film amorphous silicon

CIGS (Copper/Indium/ Gallium/DiSelenide)

Claimed output

USB 5 V 5 W, 13-15 V 27 W

2.5A @ 12 V ≈ 30 W

3.6A @ 15.4 V ≈ 60 W

3.1A @ 12 V ≈ 62 W

Country of manufacture

China

China

U.S.A.

Cells made in U.S.A., assembled in Mexico

Power-to-weight ratio calculated (W/lb / W/kg)

7.71 / 16.87

4.8 / 10.6

16 / 35.29

17.71 / 38.75

Power to weight ratio tested (W/lb / W/kg)

6.0 / 13.1

4.2 / 9.3

15.4 / 33.9

11.2 / 24.5

Power-to-area ratio (W/ft2 / W/m2)

4.06 / 43.79

11.43 / 123.67

3.46 / 37.29

5.86 / 63.22

Sahara test (direct sun high output)

64

Peak output (amps)

1.65

2.02

4.33

2.98

Peak output (watts)

20.99

26.42

57.63

39.25

Measured output as a % of claimed output

77.7

88.1

96.1

63.3

Panel temp during test (°F / °C)

104 / 40

104 / 40

104 / 40

104 / 40

Average output over 2 hours (amps)

0.38

1.35

1.18

0.75

Average output over 2 hours (watts)

4.94

17.38

15.37

9.62

Battery condition start (iPhone % or V)

13.16

12.98

12.91

12.79

Battery condition end (iPhone % or V)

13.07

12.87

13.05

12.79

Measured average output as a % of claimed output

18.3

57.9

25.6

15.5

Peak output (amps)

0.2

0.13

0.12

0.21

Peak output (watts)

2.54

1.65

1.53

2.67

Measured output as a % of claimed output

9.4

5.5

2.5

4.3

Peak output (amps)

0.33

0.40

1.19

0.99

Peak output (watts)

4.20

5.09

15.12

12.60

Measured output as a % of claimed output

15.5

17.0

25.2

20.3

Baja test (long term 2 hour)

Canyon test (full shade)

Austria test (high sun but cloudy)

Overland Journal Fall 2011


South of the Border

Lati tude

65

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Steve Pfeffer

Overland Journal Fall 2011


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29째 N

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Chris Collard


67

30째 N

Steve Pfeffer

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Overland Journal Fall 2011


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62째Collard S 29째 NJournal Chris Overland Fall 2011


23째 N Overland Journal Fall 2011

Chris Collard

Chris Collard

Chris Collard

24째 N

28째 N

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25째 NJournal ChrisFall Collard Overland 2011


The World’s 72

Overland Journal Fall 2011


Take a motorhome

on your next overland trek‌ (Psst...you can if it is a VW Syncro Bus)

Favorite Bus 73

By S. Lucas Valdes and Jad Josey Overland Journal Fall 2011


The sound

cracked across the valley like a

grenade

going off—BANG!

“What was that?” I thought to myself. Then I heard a more familiar—ping, chug, chug, ping. I cringed. There is nothing quite like the resonance of a ring and pinion set meeting its demise. I watched helplessly as my friend Taylor’s VW Syncro lurched to a halt on a precariously steep incline. Jaden, Taylor’s 11-year-old son, who had been honing his 4WD skills since the tender age of eight, was having a “training session.” He had revved the engine to about 6,000 rpm and dumped the clutch. Over the CB radio I heard Taylor say solemnly, “Yeah, it’s just as bad as it sounded.” This certainly wasn’t good. We were seven Syncro Westys in the middle of nowhere, 600 miles below the border in Baja, Mexico, and had not seen a paved road for 10 days. The ring and pinion was most likely destroyed, and we were a two-day drive from the natural hot springs that would mark the beginning of the end of our journey. The rugged switchback Taylor was perched on had not been traveled in some time—but this was the reason we chose this route.

74

It could be worse, though. My large electric fridge was well stocked with cold ballenas (quart-sized beers), fresh-caught fish, and tequila. Beneath the steady Baja sun, the solar panel mounted on the poptop roof could keep us supplied with electricity almost indefinitely— however, our beer supply, though plentiful, was finite. Our cupboards were stocked with black beans, tortillas, hot sauce, limes, and jalapeños. Heck, if we were stuck here all night—all week, for that matter—we could simply pop the top of our Westy and have a solid night’s sleep. One of the nice things about driving Syncros: In under twenty minutes we could “circle the wagons,” be comfortably camped, and look like we’d been there for weeks. For us, these vehicles are much more than metal and machine. Hearing the ping, chug, ping—this was personal. “I’ll be right there,” I answered into the CB handset. I grabbed my tools and kissed my wife, Kathy, who had slipped into the rear seat, pulled two Pacificos from the fridge, and was already slicing a lime into thick wedges. “Wherever we end up,” she said, “we’ll be fine.” She was right, of course. And it wasn’t the first time she’d spoken those words. Kathy and I were married in June of 1985. I knew I’d found the Overland Journal Fall 2011

right woman when she enthusiastically agreed to a honeymoon that involved a three-month circumnavigation of the continent in our red 1970 Westfalia camper. We packed everything we owned into a small storage unit and hit the road, meandering east on a sweeping counter-clockwise route. We ended up in Bar Harbor, Maine, where we boarded a ferry to Nova Scotia. One afternoon, we found ourselves hunkered down in the bus somewhere outside of Dartmouth. It was raining so hard neither of us wanted to get out. We sat in our cozy travel capsule, writing postcards that doubled as thank you notes for wedding gifts. Within moments, a storm broke out inside the vehicle— we were having our first fight. One of us surely would have stormed off, but there was nowhere to go. We’d committed ourselves to this home-on-wheels, and we were stuck with one another. Before long, somehow, we were both laughing. Call it campervan catharsis, but there was simply no way to stay angry in a vehicle as happy as our bus. “No matter where we go in this bus,” Kathy said, “things seem to turn out just fine.” The postcards we wrote that day might have been stained with tears of anger, tears of laughter, or simply Canadian-sized raindrops.


American Love Affair

When I was 14 years old, a friend’s dad owned a 1966 Westfalia pop-top camper. It was a time in my life when the idea of getting out of the house and away from my family was very appealing, and that little VW Bus, with its funky two-piece windshield and square pop-top, looked like freedom. I remember staring at that bus, imagining all the places I could go—and as it would turn out, I was not alone. Until the mid-1950s, Volkswagen only made one type of vehicle: the Beetle. Then came the Micro Bus, VW’s second offering (hence the Type II moniker). It was then that the vehicular and recreational worlds collided with irreversible results. Volkswagen produced three generations of rear-engine vans. The 50s-style “Splitties,” so called because of their two-piece, split-window design, were produced until 1967. The “Bay Window” was introduced in 1968 and manufactured for thirteen years, and the Vanagon from 1980 through 1991. Today, when driving my 1979, or newer 4WD Syncro, I can’t go anywhere without somebody stopping me to say they knew somebody who owned one, or they had one themselves. “Wow, is that thing really 4WD?” and “I should have never sold mine!” are common. It might be a daydreaming teenager, as I once was—or a couple in their 70s reminiscing about traveling with their kids in a Type II. Admiration for the beloved bus seems to span all ages and backgrounds.

Youth, Rivers, and Bus Bravado

Classic bus ad images If you were wondering where Hannibal, Eezi-Awn, and ARB got the idea for a roof top tent, buses were fitted with pop-tops, such as this vintage unit from Sportsmobile, as early as the 1960s. From its inception, the VW bus was promoted as a platform for outdoor adventure. With ample room for coolers, BBQs, and passengers, it was not uncommon to see VW buses used as everything from campers and beach roamers, to commuters and construction vehicles.

Youth is the lowest common denominator of poor judgment. When I began exploring the vast countryside of Baja in a 1979 Bay Window Bus, I had plenty of the former and a prerequisite amount of the latter. The year was 1987, and the Bay Window was the most modern VW bus to date. We were 150 miles deep into Baja near Laguna Hanson, staring at a fairly wide river crossing. In the back were my two-year-old son and my pregnant wife. In the passenger seat was my brother-in-law with a wide grin on his face. “Looks pretty deep,” he said. That smile was somewhat maniacal, but it gave me a strange sense of bravado. “Yeah,” I said. “But I think we can make it with a good running start.” It was a warm fall day and we had been cruising with the sliding door wide open. Our bus was fully equipped, and by that, I mean that it had a “fridge,” a cook stove, and a pop-top. What it lacked, of course, was anything resembling a suspension lift, differential lockers, or self-rescue equipment. Perhaps there is some direct correlation between a “cozy as home” feeling and that of invincibility. We had no map, very little fuel, our youth, and a sense of indestructibility that was almost palpable. I put the bus into reverse, backed up about 50 yards, and eyed my line across the river. A thought suddenly crossed my mind. “What about my wife, my two-year-old son, my unborn daughter?” I put the bus in neutral, pulled the parking brake, slid out of the driver’s seat and walked around to the sliding door. “Safety first,” I said, and I slid the door shut. As I climbed back behind the wheel, my brother-in-law gave me a nod of approval. It was clear that we were both thinking the same thing: Got to watch out for the women and children. Overland Journal Fall 2011

75


The Syncro: part motorhome, part Jeep

76

1.

4.

8.

2.

5.

9.

3.

6.

10.

11.

12. 7.

12.


Seatbelts were buckled, the sliding door was closed, and the road to freedom sat squarely within our view on the other side of the river. I pushed the accelerator pedal to the floor and wound out first gear, then grabbed second. We hit the water going about 30 mph—it must have been a sight to see. Halfway across we lost traction, in layman’s terms, we were now “floating.” Luckily, we had generated enough momentum to keep moving forward until the rear wheels grabbed river rocks—we emerged on the other side. My hands were shaking with adrenalin. “I think we should get a Jeep,” my brother-in-law said. He looked only slightly less invincible than he had on the other side of the river, but I could tell his confidence was rattled. “No way,” said Kathy from the backseat. She was still smiling. “There’s no place to hang curtains in a Jeep, and no place to sleep, either.” She had unbuckled her seat belt and began preparing some sandwiches. “Wherever we end up,” she said, “we’ll be just fine.”

The Water Boxer

With German roots, and based on the 1948 Volkswagen Beetle motor (right down to the cylinder head bolt pattern), the “Water Boxer” was the last in a long line of  VW’s horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder engines. It was water-cooled instead of air-cooled (thus the moniker), beautifully efficient and reliable, and simple to work on.

Opposite: 1. Upstairs bunk in a Vanagon Westy camper. 2. The interior of a Westy is spacious and has all the amenities of home. 3. Plug-ins on the front and rear bumpers provide for the use of a “portable” Warn 6,000 lb winch. 4. The undercarriage, when modified with suitable skid plates, is almost indestructible and fully protects the drive train. 5. The 30° and 45° points are red for a reason. It is the tilting point of no return. 6. Though hard-mounted showers are available, solar units work well, take very little space, and are the preferred method of many Westy owners. 7. The rear seat folded down provides for a full-length bed for two. 8. The “locker indicator” appeared in all Syncros with a rear locking differential, but only with the right-most knob. This is a true “triple knob” console for vehicles with front and rear lockers. 9. There is plenty of room under the front seats for air compressors, solar panel controllers and accessory electronics or radios. 10. All VW buses have 4-wheel independent suspensions and good ground clearance. This Westy has been upgraded with FOX Shocks and GoWesty 2-inch springs. The rubber flap with the hole in it is a CV joint protector. 11. Though the dash is almost nonexistent, the cab of the Syncro is spacious and visibility is exceptional. 12. A feature of the VW bus is that the engine/transaxle assembly is directly over the rear wheels, thus providing for near 50/50 weight distribution.

The Gen III Bus

The third generation of the rear-engine van was the VW Vanagon, introduced in 1980. The first four years of production featured some of the most profound examples of engineering schizophrenia in automotive history. The ’80 and ’81 models used the same 75 hp, 2.0-liter air-cooled engines as the preceding buses. In late 1981, VW decided to add a radiator and offer a 48 hp diesel—that’s right, 48 horsepower. It was as though the German engineers thought that 75 might “break” something. In less than two years, they scrapped the air-cooled and diesel variants for a new version of the 1.6-liter Beetle engine—watercooled and punched out to a whopping 1.9 liters. Thus the VW “Water Boxer” was born. But those crafty Germans weren’t done yet. In 1986, they redesigned the entire cooling system and upped the engine displacement to 2.1 liters—now offering a blistering 90 hp.

Part Jeep, part motorhome—The Syncro

After my Baja river-fording experience, I was hungry for a van that could provide the same sort of self-contained adventure, but with a stronger, more capable platform for getting off the beaten path. Maybe a 4WD. Enter the Vanagon Syncro. There had been rumors about VW producing a 4WD version of the Vanagon, but the rumor mill is strong and the results often nebulous. In this case, VW came through, and in 1986 introduced the Syncro. The basic platform was there—super rugged and rigid unitized body design, independent 4-CV joint suspension front and rear, and a near-perfect 50/50 weight distribution. With a 96-inch wheelbase, it could be maneuvered like a forklift. However, schizophrenia had run amok among the array of German engineering head-scratchers. The original design was to have 2WD and 4WD selection on-thefly, and lockable differentials front and rear. Ironically, VW never produced such a vehicle. Though all Syncros were wired to accommodate the aforementioned options, most left the factory empty handed. It was basically an “all-wheel-drive” vehicle stuck in a pseudo-4WD. (A fair share were fitted with a rear locking differential). The Syncro endured six tumultuous years (none were sold in 1988), and in 1991, export to the U.S. ended. It is not clear how many Syncros were produced, but most agree that fewer than 2,000 pop-top models landed on American soil—enough to stir the imaginations of VW Bus dreamers like me. Today, Syncro aficionados can complete what VW had overlooked. Straightforward modifications include on-the-fly 4WD, locking front Overland Journal Fall 2011

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The VW Westy has a loyal following and has been utilized for overland travel since its inception. (El Toro, Baja)

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In all the years of trekking southward, we’ve never had to leave a van behind— or tow one out.

and rear differentials, suspension lifts, taller tires and larger engines—up to 2.5 liters. VW Bus nirvana coupled with true 4WD capability. The dream has become a reality. Case in point: Even hard-core Jeep guys like my friend Ned Bacon have become believers. As an auto-journalist, Ned has spent most of his professional life reporting on the most capable 4WD vehicles on the planet—his overlanding vehicle of choice… a 1986 Syncro Vanagon. Syncros posses character that is hard to define. In addition to being capable and practical, they are a barrel of monkeys to drive. It might be their size, boxy appearance, or that you sit RIGHT ON TOP of the front wheels. Driving off-pavement or in town, visibility is simply unparalleled. The fact that the engine and transaxle are in the rear, means the front suspension is much less rigid than that of front-engine vehicles. This translates to the feeling of riding on air. In my opinion, the Syncro can stand toe-to-toe with any 4WD vehicle. Of course, I’m admittedly biased.

Back to the Ring & Pinion

As I climbed under Taylor’s van, I was struck by the peculiarity of the moment. There we were, hundreds of miles away from the droning Los Angeles traffic—sixteen people, four dogs and seven Syncros. People were milling around, grabbing lunch fixins’ from their fridges, or popping up their tops for some midday respite. Damon, a young filmOverland Journal Fall 2011


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maker collecting footage (and memories) for his upcoming movie, The Bus, leaned in close with his camera to document our makeshift repair. An observer from outside our Vanagon clan would surely find this scene exceptionally hard to grasp, if not downright unbelievable. To our group, though, this was just another day of exploration, another obstacle to navigate—we had piloted many in the preceding days. We had come from an isolated stretch of shoreline known as La Playa Perdida, (The Lost Coast.) Greeted by empty beaches and abundant fishing, we’d spent the first night camped on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. Though strong winds buffeted our vehicles throughout the night, we slept warm and dry in the Westy’s pop-top tents. At some point in the dark of night, a 40-foot sailboat, piloted by a Canadian couple, ran aground on the rocky shore not 200 yards from our camp. In the morning we helped the castaways the best we could; loaning them a satellite phone and off-loading cargo from the boat they’d called home for the previous eight years. We were struck by the juxtaposition of our experiences. However, their enthusiastic attempt to purchase

Editors note: S. Lucas Valdes, owner of Go Westy in Los Osos, California, is an expert in the field of VW Buses and Syncro Vanagons. He has turned a lifelong passion into a full-time business that employs over 30 people. After a stint in Baja with Ned Bacon’s Syncro, I was so impressed with these iconic, rear-engine fun-mobiles, I asked Lucas if he would share his knowledge with us, the Syncrolaymen of the world. The “Bay Window” Bus to his left is the same overlanding ’79 from his “youthful” days. It is now fully restored and semi-retired. Not sure about the dog…

Overland Journal Fall 2011

Photo by Taylor Grant

Ristau Photo by Damon

Cataviña, Baja

one of our vehicles only served to highlight the similarities of our collective situation. Though we politely declined the offer, it was hard not to think, “they just lost their traveling home, and they desperately want to replace it with one of ours.” That night we relocated from our bluff camp to seek shelter from the relentless onshore wind. Tucking the vehicles into a tight arroyo for the next few days, we relished in the dexterity of our Syncros and were thankful to be safe and comfortable in this remote landscape. The feeling made all the more poignant by the devastation of the shipwreck. As luck would have it, the ring gear in Taylor’s Syncro had lost just enough teeth for us to perform a semi-magical repair. We removed the rear axles and positioned the ring gear (still with missing teeth) in just the right spot to clear the pinion. He was able to travel the remaining 800 miles of the trip with only his front wheels pulling him onward. One of the most enticing attributes of the Syncro is the simplicity of its systems. When we head to the backcountry, a small roof-mounted Pelican case holds virtually every part that is likely to fail. The comfort and self-reliance born of this knowledge is priceless. In all the years of trekking southward, we’ve never had to leave a van behind—or tow one out. That night we circled the wagons in a wide, dry lakebed, cracked in almost-perfect geometric patterns. We laughed about the previous 48 hours as we crunched our way around our improvised campsite, pulling firewood from the luggage racks and passing around cold ballenas. As the sky grew milky with stars, I walked away from the group and watched the scene play out from afar. The desert was quiet and still. The pop-tops pointed skyward, canoes, surfboards and kayaks were silhouetted against the dark backdrop of mountains in the distance. Embers from the campfire floated upward, casting a warm hue on our band of Westys. I could smell fish frying on an open grill and tortillas warming on the stove. There I was, surrounded by my family and friends, my VW Syncro glowing in the firelight. Hundreds of miles from the place where my mail arrives, I never felt closer to home.


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New Car Smell Modifying Toyota’s luxurious 200 Series Land Cruiser for overland treks to the ends of the earth. By Harry Wagner Photos by Harry Wagner and Stephen Jones Overland Journal Fall 2011


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he Land Cruiser community is a tightly knit group with six decades of collective history. While many things have changed through the years, one thing has remained consistent—their complaints about change. Short wheelbase FJ40 drivers felt the FJ60 was too big and bulky when it debuted in 1980. FJ60 owners found the 80 Series far too expensive and luxurious for trail use. When the independentsuspension 100 Series was introduced, those driving FJ80s couldn’t imagine taking it on a serious expedition. Fortunately, Stephen Jones is not overly sensitive about change. If anything, he is overly practical. When Toyota introduced the luxurious 200 Series in 2008, he knew it would be his next overlanding home away from home. Expectations are high for any vehicle wearing the Land Cruiser surname, and the extensive changes to the 200 were cause for concern—it is a completely different vehicle from the outgoing, yet superb, 100 Series. Perhaps the biggest change is the suspension, which is a far cry from the leaf-sprung FJ40s of old. Coil-over springs have replaced the torsion bar front suspension, allowing for stronger support from aftermarket manufacturers. Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), a design first introduced on the 2004 Lexus GX470, has significantly changed the nature of Land Cruiser suspensions. Depending on trail conditions, KDSS automatically adjusts the front and rear anti-sway bars via a system of interconnected hydraulic cylinders—a comparison would be to have four disconnectable sway bars. Capability is further enhanced by the addition of “Crawl Control”, which automatically modulates throttle and braking. Turning it on is akin to setting the cruise control at 1 to 3 mph and having the traction control engaged. Do these high-tech “improvements” take the skill and fun out of the overlanding experience? Maybe. But they actually do work—and quite well. Land Cruiser faithfuls should take solace in the fact that Toyota has not abandoned their backcountry needs. This new generation is physically larger than any of its predecessors—part of the growth Overland Journal Fall 2011

Slee rock sliders protect soft body panels. Opposite: 1. A Safari Snorkel protects the motor from airborne contaminants and during deep-water crossings. 2. African Outback 100 Series drawer system was modified for the cargo area. 3. A Blue Sea solenoid provides charging selection to one or both batteries. 4. Extended range is possible with a 47-gallon Australian-made Long Ranger auxiliary fuel tank. 5. Joe Risavi of Slee Off Road built designed a tubular roll bar and aluminum storage bins in place of the rear seat. 6. Slee rear bumper, fuel can rack and spare tire mount. Two five-gallon Scepter fuel cans add to the already impressive 1,000-mile range. 7. A compact ARB CKSA12 air compressor fits snugly under the hood. 8. Quick-disconnect shower fittings are nestled into the engine bay. 9. Dual Optima Red Top batteries ensure sufficient power for electrical accessories. 10. The Warn 9.5xp is wrapped in Master-Pull synthetic winch line. 11. Trimming the quarter panel provided room for a Slee rear bumper and spindle-mounted rack system. 12. Dual latches secure the swing-out tire carrier and cargo rack.


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A Technitop tent provides for comfortable and dry accommodation in any climate.

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“As with all modern vehicles, reliance on electronic engine management remains an open question, but is something we increasingly need to prepare for as older vehicles finally bite the dust.” Steve Jones

needed to accommodate the gargantuan 3UR engine. The 5.7L V8, which is shared with the Tundra, is one of the most powerful Toyota offerings to date, and runs on standard unleaded fuel. Though a diesel variant is offered in much of the world, the V8 LC owners will never worry of low-temperature gelling or damaging particular filters. In keeping with the industry trend towards longer service intervals and sealed components, the fuel filter is “not” serviceable. It might be a good idea to strain fuel from dodgy Third World filling stations. Behind the engine, is a new six-speed automatic transmission, which combined with the 3.91 differential gears, yields reasonable fuel economy for the vehicle’s size and mass. As with the fuel filter, the transmission is a sealed unit—no filter or even a dipstick. Less than ideal qualities in an overland vehicle that is subjected to harsh use in remote environments—but it does make a strong case for Toyota’s commitment to the longevity of components.

Expanding the foundation While the 200 Series makes an excellent foundation for an expedition vehicle, Steve recognized that it was just that: a foundation. The Amazon Green 200, with under 3,000 ticks on the odometer, was placed in the custody of Land Cruiser outfitter Slee Off Road. The first issue to address was ride height, as ground clearance was reduced by an inch compared to the 100 Series. Fortunately, the front suspension components are the same as the Tundra, and Old Man Emu already had heavy-duty replacement coilover shocks available. The rear suspension shared a four-link, coil-spring configuration similar previous Land Cruisers— since the 80 Series. Old Man Emu springs and dampers were utilized here as well. The additional three inches of altitude provided clearance for a set of 285/65 R18 Nitto Terra Grappler tires— the OEM alloy rims were retained. Overland Journal Fall 2011


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Rising to 20,320 feet, Denali means “The High One” in the native language of the Koyukon Athabaskan people.

Specifications

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• 2008 Toyota Land Cruiser URJ200 • 32-valve 5.7L 3UR V8 engine • AB60F six-speed automatic transmission (3.33 first gear) • JF2A full-time gear-driven transfer case (2.62 low range) • 180-liter Long Ranger auxiliary fuel tank • Old Man Emu 3-inch suspension system • 285/65 R18 Nitto Terragrapplers, OEM rims • Front/rear ARB air lockers, 3.91 gear ratio • ARB high-performance compressor • ARB front bull bar • Warn 9.5xp winch, Master-Pull synthetic line • Lightforce 240 lights • Slee Off Road slider steps • Slee Off Road rear bumper, tire and jerry can carriers • Blue Sea dual-battery system, Optima Red Top batteries • On-board shower with Sure-Flo pump • Icom 2m HAM radio • African Outback drawer system and roof rack • Slee Off Road custom aluminum storage • Engel 45-quart freezer/fridge • Technitop roof top tent and awning

Overland Journal Fall 2011

The factory spare tire, which sits under the rear cargo area, was removed to make room for a 47-gallon (180-liter) Long Ranger auxiliary fuel cell—raising total capacity to 70 gallons. Outback, excessive amounts of bulging OE plastic were trimmed away to fit a Slee rear bumper system, which supports a pair of swing-out racks for the spare tire and two 5-gallon fuel or water cans. Up top, an African Outback aluminum roof rack supports a Technitop roof top tent and set of MaxTrax sand ladders. A second fullsized spare was also fitted to the rack. At the business end of the Cruiser, an ARB bull bar cradles a Warn 9.5xp winch wrapped in Master-Pull synthetic winch rope. The ARB was selected due to its compliance with modern airbag systems—should an errant elk be encountered on the Al-Can Highway. Lightforce 240 HIDs, controlled by OE Toyota switches on the dash, accompany an Icom 2-meter radio antenna on the bull bar. Under the hood, an ARB air compressor and a pair of Optima Red Top batteries were shoehorned into the already-crowded engine bay. To keep everyone clean on long treks in the backcountry, a Helton heat exchanger, Sure-Flow pump with quick disconnects, and Blue Sea switches were added. The beloved folding rear jump seat has been a Land Cruiser staple since the early days of the FJ40, and the 200 Series is no different. Unfortunately, it had to go. The additional space provided for the installation of an African Outback drawer system. Since there were no aftermarket products available, Slee Off Road modified a 100 Series drawer system to fit. The flat-deck drawers provide lockable storage for recovery gear, camping supplies, and camera equipment, without conceding any floor space. The second row of seating was also removed, and replaced with custom aluminum storage dividers, also from Slee, and a 45-quart Engel freezer/fridge. An auxiliary fuse panel was also added to accommodate additional electronics.

The First Scratch Is the Deepest Of course, all of the accoutrements in the world don’t count for much when they are sitting in the garage. Steve frequently uses his Cruiser to explore the remote corners of Utah and his adopted home state of Colorado. The 200 has also taken him north to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, and as far south as Cabo San Lucas on the Baja peninsula—though not all has been trouble free. Land Cruiser purists will bristle at some of the situations Steve recalled for us. “I discovered an issue where the security system would disable the electronics on the vehicle and keep it from starting. Switching to the second battery did not resolve the issue, but shutting the ajar rear passenger door did?” A broken windshield on the Alcan Highway caused a delay of several days (for the replacement to be shipped from the lower-48) and came with a $1,500 price tag. Thus, there are some considerations when choosing an overlanding vehicle with more wiring than the Space Shuttle. Fortunately, most of the issues have proven to be minor. Upon returning from a trip to Baja, he was turned back at the border due to excessive sand and mud clinging the 200’s body. The U.S. Agriculture inspector stating that importing soil needs a permit and the vehicle would have to be cleaned. The solution: he found a few locals with dirty rags, cranked up the hot shower and put them to work. “I can still hear the sand grinding through the paint,” he jokes. When the next generation (210 Series?) Land Cruiser is introduced; we might expect the cost barrier to be to the point where adventuresome 200 Series owners will be able to make the transition. It will no doubt be appointed with yet another three miles of wiring and a few dozen new electronic gizmos. The purists will still rant, the Luddites will threaten rebellion, but we’ll bet the new form will have rear jump seats and be fit for the trail—save a few modifications. And Steve’s rig—likely strafed, bruised and lacking any new car smell—will be the contemporary example of “how to” build one of those “old” 200 Series classics.


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Lessons from Ethiopia A heartwrenching story of travel and loss. By Janet Wilson

Editor’s note: As we venture into the remote corners of the planet, there are underlying risks we are aware of, but tend to dismiss from our consciousness. Editing this heartbreaking account of Janet and her husband Tom’s experience in Ethiopia brought tears to my eyes. Overland Journal would like to thank her for sharing it. Cape Town to Cairo is one of the most celebrated overland routes on the planet. For my husband Tom and me, who both grew up in Southern Africa, completing this trek had been a lifelong dream. Tom is a geologist by trade, and our married life began in the bush, living in a canvas tent. Tom spending his days trekking on foot through the African scrub with a plane table and theodolite—tools of the trade before GPS. In his off time, we’d set off in our four-wheel drive, learning by necessity the proper use of a Hi-Lift jack and winch, and how to manage our vehicle in rough terrain. We moved to Canada in 1979, but the allure of Africa never died. In 2005, we’d finally committed ourselves to a Cape to Cairo adventure—the first of three overland journeys on the continent. Even with our experience in the field, little could have prepared us for the immense landscapes, diverse

cultures and unimaginable wildlife we would encounter. The excitement of new experiences and anticipation were life affirming—the sense of achievement from overcoming obstacles was intoxicating and empowering. The African continent challenged our preconceptions, forever changing the way we view the world and ourselves. It would challenge our values, judgement and character, and teach us how fragile life really is. While we knew the rewards would be significant, we were also aware of potential risks. It was always easier to focus on the enjoyable and exciting aspects than dwelling on what might go wrong. We had, however, discussed how we would handle potential worst-case scenarios—remain alert, be aware of our environment and surroundings at all times. Traveling in Ethiopia offers access to Overland Journal Fall 2011

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some of the world’s most ancient sacred religious sites and unique and unusual cultures. But it’s a challenging environment and not for the faint of heart. Six months into our dream trip, preparing to exit Ethiopia and enter Sudan, our journey took a tragic turn. In a moment, we were thrown into an overlander’s worst nightmare. It is with great sadness and difficulty that I share with you our last days in Ethiopia. This is our story. Road conditions in Ethiopia lie somewhere between bad and dangerous. Constant dust obscures your view and goats, cows and donkeys wander across the track. And, Ethiopians have the reputation of being the world’s worst pedestrians. They, the entire village, treat the road like a town square (walk-

into a dusty stark examination room with a stretcher, bare desk and a dirty sink in the corner. “He is gone,” wept Tom, “he died in my arms.” The doctor arrived and announced, “I am here to determine the cause of death and then you will be fully accountable.” He pulled the blanket down and glanced at the lifeless boy. Looking at the child’s bandaged head he said, “He died of intracranial bleeding.” The little boy had a large gash at the back of his head, but there was not another mark on his body. He must have fallen backwards and hit his head on a rock. The doctor pulled the blanket up over the child’s face before turning to leave the bare room. Overwhelmed by sadness I began to weep. “Why are you crying?” the doctor demanded to know. “Children die all the

He and I looked each other directly in the eyes, I saw his soul, and then he disappeared beneath the car.

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ing, playing games, and socializing are commonplace), and seem completely oblivious to the dangers of traffic. It was in one of these villages, less than 30 minutes from the Sudan border, where I hit and killed a young Ethiopian child. Under Ethiopian law, a pedestrian always has the right of way. If there is a fatal accident, the driver is sent to prison until a settlement is agreed to, regardless of the cause. It has been recommended that if involved in an accident of any kind, not to stop—continue driving to the nearest police station because of the very high risk of being the target of a mob revenge attack. We had just passed the village of Metema when I saw about 30 children and adults ahead, stretched across the entire road. I slowed down and hooted and they all scattered to the sides. Then, a little boy simply changed his mind and ran right back into our path. I was going so slowly that he actually grabbed the bull bar. He and I looked each other directly in the eyes, I saw his soul, and then he disappeared beneath the car. In a sense of disbelief of what had just happened, we stopped and got out of the car. The little boy lay motionless in a pool of blood. As I ran to get our medical kit, a busload of people arrived. I yelled to Tom to come and help me as I was having difficulty dislodging the medical kit from under the boxes. Unable to hear my screams above commotion and the noise, Tom watched the crowd trying to gauge their mood. I managed to get the medical kit and attend to the child. I am a nurse, and attempted to assess and stabilize his condition. Tom appeared and above the wails and shouts, I yelled at him to bring me a blanket. Tom picked the boy up in his arms and we returned to the car. The crowd was screaming at us in Amharic, banging on the car and trying to stop us from leaving. We managed to understand that the father of the child wanted to come with us. Tom opened the door and a sobbing man got in. When we arrived at the medical clinic we were ushered Overland Journal Fall 2011

time. If he hadn’t died today he would have died later of malnutrition or disease. I see it every day. So stop crying; you are lucky that they didn’t put a bullet in your head.” The police arrived and I was taken into a small grubby office at the clinic to wait alone—out of sight of the agitated and restless crowd that was growing outside. Tom went to meet the local police chief and to arrange for a vehicle to take the boy’s body and the father back to their village. Fortunately, a nurse who spoke some English appeared and he explained to me what was happening. Trying to reassure me he said, “You will need to pay the family something, and then perhaps you will only spend a month or even only a few weeks in prison; it is not too bad. Don’t be sad.” It was the beginning of so much kindness shown to us by the Ethiopians who assisted us over the next few days. Several hours later Tom returned with a truckload of distraught people and the police. We left in a convoy for the police station. Once the crowds were certain we were in proper custody, the truck full of people, the father, and child’s body left for the boy’s village. The station was comprised of several tin office shacks around a dusty, grubby courtyard. Each office contained a desk with messy piles of paper and a phone. Opposite each desk stood two plastic chairs. A hole in the tin wall was the window, a single light bulb hung from the ceiling. In the center of the courtyard was a secure wooden shack with no windows. No one opened the door; the police simply shouted to the persons inside. I assumed it was the local prison. Another crowd gathered in the courtyard, whispering among themselves and watching us closely. Tom and I were each given a plastic chair to sit on in the courtyard while the police discussed their next steps. Tom managed to contact the Canadian Embassy on our satellite phone and informed them of our situation. After some discussions between the Embassy and the Regional Headquarters Chief of Police, I was informed that I would not be arrested, but they were going to impound our


car and our passports. They allowed us to get some toiletries and then escorted us to a “safe and secure” location for the night. For our safety, we were told we were not to leave the enclosure, be seen, or go near the car—the “family may return for a revenge attack.” We were to be escorted to Gondar (the nearest town) the following morning. It was a restless night; the tiny room was hot, dusty, and stuffy. During the evening, the local district police chief and his assistant arrived in plain clothing and wanted to meet with Tom. They offered to help us get to the Sudan border, but it would it would cost us $1,000 and it would have to be a “secret.” After some thought of all the possible outcomes, Tom told them that he could not agree to anything that was illegal. The police seemed somewhat shocked that, at the cost of only USD $1,000, we would prefer not to make a dash for the border. They were however, respectful of our wishes and continued to assist us through the processes. Under a police convoy, we arrived in Gondar in the late afternoon. We met with the District Police and a translator. Several phone calls were made to the Embassy, who continued to monitor our situation. The family arranged for their own translator and we all met to discuss the options. The family agreed that we would “settle out of court” and negotiations would take place the following day. Understanding a third-world judicial system, the formal or unofficial systems, and the value of a life is difficult. Rules change, different people come and go, and everything is handwritten on plain pieces of paper. There were no computers, no forms, and no official stamps. I signed the agreement, written in both Amharic and English. After the payment was complete, we were to go to the boy’s village so his mother could sign the document. We turned to leave the office when yet another demand was made. The stern looking police chief said, “We need agreement from the Canadian Embassy that they will return Janet to Ethiopia at any time should we want to question her further.” It had been four days since the accident, we were both exhausted, and finally Tom had had enough. He was firm, and told them we were not prepared to do that. We had signed all the papers and we needed to leave. The policeman then returned my passport and we departed, again under a police escort, to the boy’s village where we would meet his mother and village elders—a four-hour drive. With their guns at-the-ready, the police accompanied us into the village center. The townspeople were sitting on wooden benches around a large tree, waiting for us. We were greeted with wails and cries, and I saw a young pretty woman clutching a small pair of boy’s pants, weeping softly into them. She slowly made her way towards us, and with no words spoken we gently shook hands. We were seated on a bench next to the family and the police officer addressed the assembly. I wept, as nothing prepared me for such sadness. There was some discussion between the village elders and the policeman. He then turned to me and said, “The people want you to say something.” I struggled to find the right words, how to share my sorrow over what had happened. I expressed my grief as a moth-

er of sons, I apologized for the accident, and I thanked all those who had helped us during this time. The officer translated my words and there was some more discussion among the villagers. Finally, the policeman turned to me again and said the villagers knew it was an accident and I should not cry for the boy. We stood up to go when the mother approached me slowly. Through the translator she thanked us for stopping, rendering first aid and taking the boy to a clinic. We stood together, both mothers in our own grief and sadness. I approached her and together we held each other and cried. They were astonished that total strangers should feel sadness at the boy’s death. “Don’t cry,” said the translator, “by this time next year she will have another; children die all the time. You should not feel sad.” After signing the papers, the child’s family invited us for tea. We entered their little mud hut, and with no words spoken I learned the importance of forgiveness. I hugged the mother and we left. Under police convoy, we reached the main road and the Sudanese border. Before departing, the police again expressed their amazement that we actually stopped at the scene, that we gave first aid and took the child to the clinic, and compensated the family. “Even Ethiopians would not have stopped after the accident,” the police declared. The accident was horrendous, yet from it we met some very kind people. We saw a side of an Ethiopian family and community that we would never have otherwise had the opportunity to witness. We experienced the Ethiopians as compassionate and kind, the family and village community, forgiving, and gentle. Perhaps they too had experienced a different side of white foreign tourists. Hopefully, we are all now wiser and more understanding about each other. I know Tom and I are. As overlanders, this experience has engrained the importance of doing the right thing, no matter how difficult it may be—of always acting with respect, compassion, and humility, and when confronted by officials, sticking to ones core values. And, no matter how carefree and exciting your next adventure may sound, never leave home without being mentally prepared, with a plan for the worst, should it happen. We continue our love of overlanding and global travel, and feel the lessons learned along the way have made us better people.

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In Colorado, We Stay the Trail Overland Journal Fall 2011

Free downloadable OHV maps available online.

www.staythetrail.org


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The Rebirth of an Original Desert Sled Editor Chris Collard rides the retro-modern Jack Pine 850 Triumph Scrambler. By Chris Collard Overland Journal Fall 2011


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few months ago I received an email from Ray Hyland, Overland Journal’s Director of Marketing. He said that he’d lined up a motorcycle for me to use, a shortterm loaner. “A really cool motorcycle” were his actual words. Ray didn’t know this at the time, but it had been two decades since I had slipped on a brain bucket, thrown my leg over the seat of a motorcycle, and heaved my 200 pounds down on the kick-starter. However, back in the day, if I didn’t spend three days a week riding, it was most likely because I had a broken leg. I clicked on the attached file and an old Triumph desert sled appeared on my screen. A quick study of the bike revealed a few things—First, it appeared to be immaculately restored; second, it was missing a kick-starter…odd, and third… it wasn’t so “old.” If you read my Journal Entry in this issue, you know that my early years, from age two to five, were spent atop the tank of my dad’s 250 Greeves in the Southern California desert. It was an era when BSA, Norton, Montesa and Triumph ruled the track, and the California riding scene was abuzz with anticipation of a new and upcoming event called Barstow to Vegas (B to V). Races such as B to V, which hosted up to 3,000 competitors, became know as “scrambles.” Riders would line up across the desert handlebar-to-handlebar, when the starting gun fired, it was a mad scramble to the first turn. At the time, trail bikes were not much more than modified street rides. Headlights, taillights and turn signals would be removed, fenders trimmed or relocated, banana seats exchanged for flat, “monkey butt” units, and knobby tires added. If the billfold overfloweth, a custom bash plate (the impetus behind the “desert sled” moniker) and upgrading the front springs might set you apart from the field. Yet I digress… The not-so-old desert sled before me drew my attention further. Black in scheme with a matte-finish tank, it sported a few selectively placed chrome bits. The clean lines were without question “Scrambler,” but with the refinement of a contemporary work of art. This was a 96

The clean lines were without question “Scrambler,” but with the refinement of a contemporary work of art. 2008 Jack Pine Triumph from Hammarhead Industries. Low and lean, with a squared-off stance, it lacked the gangly accessories of current street and dual-sport offerings. Like its predecessors, it was clean and mean. My mind spun back to my youth (not that I don’t have a little “youth” left in me). I had to ride this bike. I also knew I needed to open a closed chapter in my Book of Life. James Loughead is the brainchild behind Hammarhead Industries. With the singular focus on building simple yet modern motorcycles, the company has perfected the craft of transforming present-day OEM offerings, into retro-modern bikes of the past. The four models currently available are the Royal Enfield Woodsman 500, Volta 102 electric, Ural Solo X, and the Triumph T100-based Jack Pine 850. None of the bikes in this lineup, save the Volta, are built for smooth street gliding, fast single tracks or economy. Their sole purpose on this planet is to provide the rider with a pure, seat-of-your-pants experience. In this case… me—even if only for a few weeks. Overland Journal Fall 2011


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Overland Journal Fall 2011


The Jack Pine

As with desert sleds of bygone days, awkward fixtures such as mirrors, instruments, lights and fenders, had been stripped away from the base T100 Triumph. With a minimalist approach, replacements were chosen with discretion or fabricated from scratch. The headlamp, a simple dual-beam unit, is fitted with a digital speedometer recessed in its upper surface—the analogue-to-digital converter receiving its signal from the stock speedo cable. As for turn signals, at first glance I would have bet they’d been overlooked. Closer inspection revealed a pair of quarter-sized orange lenses tucked into the upper forks and rear of the frame. Though they function, I’m not sure how functional they are—I’d need to be heavy on the hand signals. After removing the factory seat, fenders, passenger foot pegs and frame mounts, the rear of the frame was shortened by four inches. Hammarhead alloy fenders were added fore and aft, the rear holding a small LED taillight. A shorter “monkey butt” seat, based on the shape of a Honda CL450k1, completes the rear trim. The absence of bulky OEM debris provides the Jack Pine with clean, unadulterated lines, and adheres to the bike’s classic lineage.

The feel is powerful and raw—a seatof-your-pants ride where each firing of the cylinders is felt in your spine and stimulates the senses.

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Though top-of-the line for their time, desert sleds were never known for a comfortable ride. They were built for rough-and-tumble, handlebar-to-handlebar scrambles across wide-open terrain. Their suspensions needed to be tough, and were modified appropriately (hightech for the era). Loughead took this to heart. The rear shocks, sourced from Works Performance in Canoga Park, CA, sport remote reservoirs, tighter valving and heavy-duty springs. Up front, stiffer springs and heavier oil, also from Works, improve the ride over uneven terrain. Unlike the 650 cc Triumphs of the 60s, the present-day mill displaces 865 cc and is tuned with a slight nod towards economy. To address the motor’s lean factory settings, specific attention was directed towards intake and exhaust. The twin Keihin CR carburetors, which are jetted for performance and fitted with K&N air filters, route fuel through custom CNC-milled plenums—inspired by vintage T120TT units. To accommodate this assembly, the factory air box has been replaced with an aluminum box that holds the rectifier/regulator and ignition switch. Spent gases exit via a Zard two-into-one pipe. Unless you ride with asbestos-insulated pants, this configuration bides better than the twin straight pipes shown on the company’s website. Other cool additions were a pair of billet pegs, sprocket cover, mirror, and Continental Twinduro knobby tires (130/80-17 rear, 110/8019 front). And, no desert sled would be complete without squared-off MX handlebars and a solid bash plate under the frame. A bare bones ride like this, one with pedigree and lineage dating back five decades, was deserving of the wide-open expanses of the American West. Twenty-four hours after I picked up the Jack Pine, I bungeed a sleeping bag to the seat, stuffed my daypack with the basics, Overland Journal Fall 2011

and headed over the Sierras for the high deserts of Nevada. I wouldn’t return for six days, and ultimately spun more than 1,000 miles on the odometer—I correct myself, there is no odometer—I’ll say, “on the rear tire.” More on this adventure in a future issue of the Journal…

First Ride

Turning the key to the “on” position and pressing my thumb against the starter button, the big twin-cylinder thumper crackled to life like a top-fuel dragster—sputtering and spitting, and reverberating off my metal garage door. Rolling my right hand back on the throttle and slowly easing out the clutch, I could sense each stroke of the piston rods as they forced down on the crank with purpose and authority; sending a 68 hp pulse through the gearbox and down the chain to the rear tire. Shifting through the gears, each release of the clutch pulled my hands hard against the grips—the knobby tires clawing for traction, the bike begging for more. The feel is powerful and raw—a seat-of-yourpants ride where each firing of the cylinders is felt in your spine and stimulates the senses. It gave me the feeling of… freedom. Upon my return, my dad, who had lined up for the inaugural Barstow-to-Vegas scramble in 1967, took the Jack Pine for a spin around the block. He returned with an ear-to-ear grin, musing about Bud Ekins, Steve McQueen and jumping a 650 Triumph over the barbed-wire fence of a Germany POW camp (I’ll need to re-watch The Great Escape). We stood around my steed with a cup of coffee, reminiscing on the old days, of a simpler time. Anticipating my solo ride to Nevada, I said to him, “Dad, these are the good old days.” There may be a father-son Baja ride in our future. Hammarhead is a small operation with a no-compromise philosophy about what they produce. This is clearly apparent in the attention to detail in their work. Due to the limited availability of donor T100 Triumphs, Hammarhead produces an extremely scant number of Jack Pines—there will be just four available in 2012 at a price of $16,500. I’m not one of the lucky four on the client list, so I’ll eventually need to return the Jack Pine to its rightful owner. In the meantime, I think I’ll put a few more miles on the, uh, rear tire.

Specifications • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Base bike: Triumph T100 Scrambler Engine: 850 cc, twin-cylinder, four-stroke Custom compact oil cooler Zard 2-into-1 pipe Keihin CR carburetors CNC aluminum plenum K&N air filters Hammarhead air box with electronics Works Performance shocks Custom turn signals headlamp and digital speedometer Frame shortened 4 inches Hammarhead bash plate and alloy fenders Hammarhead seat Vintage-style MX handlebars CNC alloy mirror and sprocket cover Paint: stealth flat black


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1. Classic “monkey butt” seat accommodates the cropped rear frame. 2. Basic dual-beam headlamp. Note placement of front turn signal. 3. Zard 2-into-1 pipe. 4. Spurgin compact aluminum oil cooler. 5. The twin Keihin CR carburetors, K&N air filters, CNC-milled plenums. 6. Billet aluminum mirror. 7. Brake hydraulics and quarter-sized recessed DOT-legal turn signal. 8. The only instrument is a small digital speedometer. 9. Classic “desert sled” aluminum bash plate. 10. Twin caliper disk brakes (255 mm rear, 310 mm front). Work Performance Pro Piggyback shocks. Continental Twinduro 130/80-17 knobby. 11. Hammarhead billet aluminum sprocket guard. 12. Unneeded accessories removed and black levers added. 13. Hammarhead rear fender with integrated LED tail lamp. Overland Journal Fall 2011


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OVERLAND CONSERVATION

Roseann Hanson

Strong silent type

One of the biggest distractions while game viewing on safari is the rattlerattle-rattle of diesel 4WDs as they approach a pride of lions feeding on a kill, or elephants relaxing under a baobab. In extreme cases, the ratchety clatter can even irritate elephants, which is something you definitely want to avoid. Axeon, Europe’s leading manufacturer of lithium-ion battery systems, has joined forces with Land Rover South Africa to fit an electric motor into the engine bay of a Defender 110 pickup, replacing the standard 2.4-liter diesel. The result has impressed not only Land Rover Experience’s team during rigorous trials at the Gerotek test facility, but seasoned safari operators as well. Due to its quiet operation, the vehicle, which has a range three times the average game-drive, has also been able to get closer to animals within game parks. From a conservation perspective, the carbon dioxide emissions are now zero (compared to 295 grams/km out of the diesel), and the viewing experience is as quiet as the footsteps of a six-ton elephant. axeon.com (News & Events)

Exploration Roundup

Antarctic, Land of Future, lead by South Korean Young Seok Park, became the first carbon-free expedition to cross Antarctica earlier this year. The feat coincides with the 100th anniversary of Roald Amundsen's historic Antarctic exploration, and the spring 2011 release of the documentary, Antarctic, Land of Future, by Seoul Broadcasting System (search YouTube for a preview). The team used electric-powered snowmobiles, recharged en route by solar modules and wind turbines.

On a smaller scale but no less important, a group of friends, wishing to honor the man who inspired them to get out and explore, has started The Ted Simon Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to encourage “those who adventure into the world to go the extra mile and transform their experiences into something of value for the world to share.” The foundation will support “Jupiter’s Travellers” and choose annual winners of the Jupiter Awards. jupiterstravellers.org Next, if you fancy exploring closer to home in a new Jeep, the National Park Foundation will be auctioning off a Jeep from XPLORE Vehicles this fall to raise funds for America’s beleaguered parks. Details forthcoming. Check the foundation website. xplorevehicles.com, nationalparks.org

Eco-Overlanding Noteworthy efforts around the globe

Project Mobility 4x4 With a dream and a few old Land Rovers, Sally Povolotsky and friends started the U.K.based Project Mobility 4x4. The simple idea was to adapt the vehicles to be driven by disabled veterans. “It started when I wanted to do more than put a £1 in a pot, and Land Rovers is all I know,” said Povolotsky, director of Mammouth Chequerplate. The year-old project now has a fleet of at least six Land Rovers, serving up adventure for men and women who are struggling with amputation or other disability. Project Mobility offers veterans practical help, emotional support, and the chance to enjoy adventure and new challenges through rallies and custom African safaris. The team has recently launched a mechanics’ skills-training program, to enhance employment

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opportunities as veterans transition into civilian life. They are looking for help to create and run an accessible garage on the edge of Exmoor National Park, U.K., where trainees can come for a week, weekend, or longer, depending on their rehabilitation program. projectmobility4x4.org

Overland Journal Fall 2011


OVERLAND MEDICINE

Andrew Cull Remote Medical

Pediatric Medical Concerns with Overlanding Kids Overcoming fears about packing up your children and heading for the backcountry.

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Overlanding with kids

With a little preparation and training, you can confidently travel with your kids; building a life-long love for adventure and exploration.

Overland Journal Fall 2011

uring the past two years at the Overland Expo, I’ve met some amazing parents; many of whom have traveled the globe with their children in tow. I talked to a couple this year who took their daughters, five and nine years old, through Africa for several months—others ventured deep into the Central American jungles, also with their kids. As a father of two young daughters preparing for our first overland adventure together, I found these parents to be amazingly cool and inspiring. The girls and I have been practicing the word “adventure” and staying in our OzTent in the backyard at night, the two of them tucked into their pink sleeping bags with their baby dolls. I am encouraged by parents like those at Overland Expo. There are few ways to do better for the world than exposing our kids to these amazing places. This being said, there is clearly a prevalent fear among many parents for a pediatric emergency in an area where help is far away. While these fears are understandable, I hope to abate some of those feelings by sharing a bit of knowledge and some preparation skills. Maybe we’ll downgrade apprehension to empowered concern. Taking preventive measures to control potential hazards is the most important action you can take to protect your children. Some of the common dangers in overlanding are the same as in your own home: a hot stove,

falls, fire, water, and access to chemicals such as camp fuel. All too often people fear wild animals and getting lost, but as a rescue professional I see a lot more children burned by campfires than attacked by aggressive fauna. It is important to remember that while exotic diseases and animal attacks get television time, it is most often common illness or injury that ends a trip. The measures you take to check the child-seat, ensure seat belts are on, and ensure a hot stove is protected, all decrease the potential for injury. As a regular contributor to the Overland Journal, I include this theme of prevention throughout my writing. Proactive management, sometimes something as basic as washing hands, could prevent a majority of cases I see. With a little preparation and knowledge, you can manage these risks relatively well. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the top four most common conditions affecting traveling children are diarrheal illness, malaria, and vehicle and water-related accidents. This is in alignment with my personal experience in the field of emergency medicine. Diarrheal illness is one of the most dangerous medical conditions affecting children worldwide. The virus is often transmitted by dirty hands, contaminated water, contaminated food, contact with fecal matter, and pets. Therefore, a plentiful supply of alcoholbased hand sanitizer is a smart investment to


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prevent the transmission of bacteria and viral causes. Clean water is important but not always easy to control, I know my daughters sometimes drink the water they swim in before we can stop them. If you travel with pets, keep them away from the area where you prepare your food or child’s bottles. Think “Prevention first, treatment if necessary.” The illness in itself is not the primary challenge; it is the dehydration caused by diarrhea that puts kids at risk. If your little one has diarrhea, keeping him or her hydrated is the focus of treatment. In most cases the illness should pass within several days without complications. Oral rehydration solution or Pedialyte® is the best fluid of choice; however if your child is still breast-feeding, then breast milk or formula is more appropriate. All of these solutions are electrolyte-balanced, which help maintain the equilibrium of salt and minerals in the body—soda, juice, or sports drinks can make it worse. Over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medication, which is formulated for adults, is not recommended for children due to concerns over safety and efficacy. Symptoms of serious dehydration include a dry and sticky mouth, lack of urination and lack of tears while crying. Rehydration is extremely important at this stage and you should seek immediate medical care or telephone consultation. Signs of more severe diarrheal illness include a fever over 102°F, refusing to drink fluids, blood or mucous present in diarrhea, prolonged episodes or diarrhea with severe abdominal pain. These signs and symptoms are relatively rare, but indicate that it is time to seek urgent medical care. Malaria is caused by a parasite carried in mosquitos. It is known for its famous fever and chills, as well as killing approximately one million people annually. It is not common in America, but can be found nearly everywhere in Mexico, Asia, South America, and Africa. Earlier this week I talked with one of our doctors here at RMI, a well-known malaria expert. He said that the experts estimate that half of all premature deaths in human history have been caused by malaria. The good news is that malaria can easily be prevented for both you and your family. Since malaria is transmitted by a mosquito bite, using liberal applications of mosquito repellant and taking preventive medication is the best way to avoid contracting the disease. If you are traveling to known malarial zones, you should visit your healthcare provider’s travel medicine clinic at least six weeks before departure. They will initiate appropriate proper vaccinations and antimalarial prescriptions for you and your children. They will also provide a personal “Yellow Card,” or record of immunizations, for each member of the family. The CDC website has a wealth of information on malaria and other travel-related illness. cdc.govmalaria Vehicle and water-related accidents rank third on the CDC list. The regular precautions you take at home, ensuring proper restraint systems and safe driving, are the most important prevention techniques. Drowning and submersion incidents can be prevented with proper oversight and life jackets—know as Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs). My observations have been that people sometimes let down their guard “on vacation” and do things that they wouldn’t normally do at home. My advice is to simply stay alert and aware of your kids, while on vacation or not. Develop confidence in your ability to respond to trauma injuries by getting some training. In addition to wilderness first aid, you should add an infant and child CPR certification. The CPR aspect, while imOverland Journal Fall 2011

portant, is not as important as learning to clear a child’s blocked airway. It isn’t a particularly difficult skill, but learning and mentally practicing proper technique is important. If you must fall back on your training (it could be at home, or on a backcountry trip), it will most likely be a situation where every second is crucial. With proper planning, by building preventive measures into your trip and attaining the knowledge to effectively deal with common situations, your family can enjoy years of safe and healthy adventures. Below I’ve provided a short punch list of items to consider acquiring. Stow them away with your medical kit, and remember—helping your children build a lifelong love of adventure and respect for nature surely far outweighs the risks.

Pediatric Medical Kit Considerations • First aid manual (military manuals are good) • Hand sanitizer, soap (Use hotel bar soaps. They are cheap, small, and long-lasting.) • Standard first aid kit • Any prescription medication the child is currently taking • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer • Insect repellent • Mosquito net • Oral rehydration solution or Pedialyte® • Thermometer • Tylenol® • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) • Sunscreen • Extra diapers • Diaper rash ointment • Oral syringe for administering medication • Lifejacket


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SKILLS

Scott Brady

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¥Viva Baja! The adventurer’s guide to the beaches, dirt tracks and best tacos on our favorite peninsula. Photography by Scott and Stephanie Brady, Cam Brensinger, Chris Collard, and Jeremy Edgar. Overland Journal Fall 2011


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The Sea of Cortez is a haven for both overlanders and blue water sailors alike. Previous page: Playa de Aqua Verde, Baja Sur. With a highly-capable drivetrain and beach-friendly layOverland Journal Fall 2011 out, the Sportsmobile is an excellent choice for the Baja traveler.


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he recoil forces me backward, the shaft releasing from the teak stock of the Riffe spear gun and driving home into the side of the triggerfish. I take a moment to pull the fish toward me, coiling the steel cable on the gun, all the while floating above a magical aquatic world of blue. Rock outcroppings below provide a haven for grouper, barracuda and countless reef species—and a great place to fish. The Cortez waters feel cool against my torso, refreshing me and insulating me from the endless email and phone calls that occupied my workweek prior. As I climb onto the pebbled beach, friends smile at my success and hand over a cold Pacifico. We’ll have sushi in minutes, crushing fresh wasabi and dousing the cuts with soy sauce. This is paradise—this is Baja.

Getting Started Traveling in Baja is far easier and safer than most imagine. Once south of the border cities and their expansive maquiladoras (factories), the primary source of income for locals is tourism, ranching and fishing. With a few preparations, a robust vehicle and some knowledge, adventures on Overland Journal’s favorite peninsula can be safe and fun.

The Vehicle From the first Model Ts driving to Mulegé, to the SCORE races that have tested man and machine for four decades, Baja has enjoyed a legacy of epic vehicle travel. The first serious overland trek was completed in 1925 when Erle Gardner drove from Tijuana to Santa Rosalía. In 1928, a road to Mulegé was completed and an expedition from the Automobile Club of Southern California documented the first useful maps of the peninsula. In 1930, the “road,” a rocky and rutted dirt two-track, was extended all the way to Cabo San Lucas—which was at the time no more than a single pier and small fishing village. I have met several Baja aficionados who traversed the peninsula before the 1973 completion of Mexico 1 (Mex 1, the transpeninsular highway from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas). Their stories (see Al Walters’ notes on page 113) are captivating and filled with accounts of busted frames, punctured fuel tanks and shredded tires…adventure. While the entire length of Mex 1 can now be driven in a minivan, any desire to venture off-pavement should be supported by a sturdy vehicle. Modifications can be limited, but the base vehicle should be reliable and 4WD. Of course, just when you are feeling really cool in your fully-kitted rig, a local will pass you through the brush in a clapped-out Toyota Corolla—but having the right hardware will improve your odds of trouble-free travel.

Modifications The Toyota Tacoma is a popular choice for Baja

travel, as it affords the simplicity and reliability desired, and can be easily modified (although not necessary cheaply) to handle any road on the peninsula. As for modifications, they should be kept to a minimum and favor a lighter, better handling vehicle than an overloaded and unstable monster. The most dangerous things in Baja are the highways, namely Mex 1. They should not be tackled with 200 pounds of gear on the roof and a budget suspension hacked together from JC Whitney. On or off the pavement, one of the most important upgrades is a set of high-quality tires and matching spare. Size is less important than construction—which should be light-truck rated with the strongest carcass possible. I have had excellent success with BFGoodrich AllTerrain TAs, although other tires, including the Goodyear MTR and Cooper STT, are also known for durable sidewalls. Huge tires are rarely necessary, although a small increase in diameter over stock will improve running ground clearance and usually provides greater surface area when aired down—you’ll appreciate this on Baja’s sand and silt tracks. Compliment the full-sized spare with a complete tire repair kit and air compressor.

Suspension Careful attention should also be paid to the vehi-

cle’s suspension. Shock and spring failure on Baja’s heavily corrugated dirt roads are common. If the suspension manages to survive the dirt tracks, the random vado (dip) or tope (speed bump) on Mex 1 will wreak havoc on, well… everything else. As a general rule, if the load is light, stock springs may suffice. However, the shocks should almost always be upgraded to provide better fade resistance (high-heat thinning and foaming of the shock oil) and durability (mounting integrity and shaft diameter). I fitted my 2004 Tacoma with an Icon Vehicle Dynamics suspension and Deaver rear springs. The ride and handling were sigOverland Journal Fall 2011

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1. Beautiful sea shells line the beaches. 2. Street tacos have never made me sick. Fresh ingredients and quick turnover of the food makes the difference. 3. Fun to look at, but not safe to eat, the shores and shallows are filled with puffer fish. 4. Live music in Todos Santos. 5. Load up the toys, especially a kayak or two. The Cortez is North America's massive and warm swimming pool. 6. The Patron Saint of Good Housekeeping? The small churches are worth visiting for their ornate and unique artwork. 7. Cactus are common throughout the peninsula and will do their best to wreck your legs and tires. 8. Baja can indulge every taste, from $1 street tacos to intimate bed and breakfast delights. 9. Hand-print artwork, compliments of the curious local children. Overland Journal Fall 2011


nificantly better than stock, and the vehicle survived tens of thousands of miles of fully-kitted travel—including prerunning the 2007 Baja 500. A number of manufacturers offer high-quality suspensions designed to accommodate heavy loads and extended abuse. The key is quality of construction. Avoid tall ‘suspension lifts,’ as handling is adversely affected (think emergency lane change around a cow in the road) and “tall” is not necessary in Baja—I promise.

Navigation

12-volt fridge Though acquiring ice is no longer an issue in Baja,

I highly recommend a 12-volt fridge to keep those Pacificos and fish fillets fresh. Remember, Baja has long, hot summers. Hot weather travel to the more remote areas of the peninsula can quickly turn the contents of a cooler into a mashed and blended soup-of-mass-destruction. Having a fresh, cool, dry food supply is a reassuring perk—and the pure joy that comes from handing an ice cold Coke to the fisherman who just sold you fresh lobster, unforgettable.

Camping equipment Camping equipment should be sturdy,

For navigation in Baja, I will help shortcut the research loop and advise you on all of the products that ‘just work’ south of the border. The first purchase should be the Baja Almanac, a large-format road and topographical atlas of the entire peninsula—all in full color and 1:350,000 scale. For a second/smaller map to compliment the almanac, or as a primary tool on a moto, the new National Geographic Adventure maps Baja Almanac are excellent and durable (one map for Baja California Norte, and another for Baja California Sur (1:450,000 scale). And don’t forget a good-old whiskey compass. While GPS is a worthwhile support to paper maps, I have mostly found it useful for recording a track or marking those perfect campsites and taco shacks. If detailed base maps on your Garmin are the goal, Larry from LB Maps has the best offering. He aggregates usercontributed tracks to provide the most comprehensive digital backroad data we have found.

Basic Equipment It is certainly possible to stuff every square inch of your vehicle with accessories until it is a single shining lump of fear-based compensation—but common sense dictates otherwise. Here are the important bits:

Safety equipment fire

extinguisher, comprehensive first aid kit with antibiotic and gastro-intestinal medications, and road flares.

Recovery equipment and tools A high-quality recovery kit and Hi-Lift jack are essential. A pair of sand tracks can be handy, along with a comprehensive tool kit for your vehicle. And don’t forget basic spares (belts, hoses and filters).

yet simple (i.e. serviceable). Most of your cooking will be done in pleasant outdoor temperatures and settings. Sleeping can be done in anything from a cot under the stars (my favorite) to a fully integrated camper. It is important to avoid cluttering your experience with heavy and distracting gear. Instead, save your money for fuel and an extra margarita at sunset.

Radios HAM radios are quite useful in Baja, but technically require

a permit from the Mexican telecommunication commission (COFETEL). Mexico does have reciprocal agreements with the U.S. regarding HAM licenses, but the permit should be obtained. We use 2-meter radios on simplex for vehicle-to-vehicle communications. This greatly improves safety on the busier paved routes, announcing to drivers behind the presence of donkeys in the road, drunks staggering against traffic, or a semi wandering dangerously over the yellow line (there are no shoulders on most paved roads). We have endless stories about the crazy things we’ve encountered on Mex 1.

Before Leaving

Tourist visa While it is fairly easy to travel in Baja, some pre-plan-

ning is useful. As a matter of convenience, many complete their tourist visa (FMT) prior to crossing the border (required if traveling south of the ‘tourist’ zones). This is accomplished most easily through Discover Baja in San Diego. You can complete the visa application online. The prepaid visa is sent in the mail, but the migración (immigration) entry stamp at the border is required for validation.

Vehicle insurance Contrary to popular information, vehicle

insurance is actually not compulsory in Mexico. However, the law does state “proof of financial responsibility” is required. In the event of a collision, liability would need to be covered by the driver at fault, and both vehicles may be detained until compensation has been secured. Insurance provides access to counsel and limits the detention and impound period. Shelling out a few pesos for a policy gives considerable peace of mind.

Research It is also worth talking with others who have recently visited your area of interest—they can often recommend their favorite beaches and good restaurants, and advise you on current road issues. Forums like bajanomad.com and expeditionportal.com are good resources, as is membership with (including cost-effective vehicle insurance) Vagabundos del Mar travel club. vagabundos.com

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Guns and Drugs It is important to do a thorough search of your personal effects and vehicle prior to crossing the border. Possession of firearms and ammunition is highly illegal and carries a maximum penalty of 30-years incarceration. If a federale (military cop) finds a single spent cartridge rolling around your floorboards, the subsequent and thorough ravaging (search) of your vehicle, in addition to causing delays, will be very unpleasant and a mess to clean up. Drugs are also a serious offense and carry similar penalties to those for guns. It is a good idea, as when traveling in any country, to keep all medications in the pharmacy-labeled container. Mexico operates under Napoleonic Law—essentially you must prove innocence before charges can be dropped or fines reversed. Let me say this: NOTHING is worth the risk of 30 years in a Mexican prison. As a guest of the Mexican people, you are subject to their laws, culture and language. Show respect, comply with local laws and customs, and make an effort to speak their language. Even a simple “hola señor(a)” and “lo siento, yo no hablo español” (I’m sorry, I don’t speak Spanish) will go a long way.

The Border Crossing

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Crossing the frontera into Mexico is an easy process, and begins with a few minutes on the U.S. side cleaning up and organizing your cab. A neat, tidy vehicle will greatly reduce suspicion and make any inspection much more efficient. When approaching the border zone, you will likely navigate a maze of concrete pillions on the U.S. side, then a series of drive-through control gates on the Mexican side. There may be a drop arm, but most likely there will just be green and red lights on the driver’s side. Green means continue on, while a red requires you pull into the inspection station where a federale or aduana (customs) agent will likely ask a few questions and check the contents of the vehicle. Our experience has been that they are professional and just doing their job. Once the inspection is complete, you will want to park, grab your passport, find the immigration office and obtain the FMT tourist visa.

This is technically not required if your stay is north of Baja Sur and less than 72 hours. The FMT costs $32 if processed through Discover Baja and about $20 if obtained at the border. Once these formalities are complete, “Welcome to Baja.” You may begin your south-of-theborder adventure now.

The Taco The biggest mistake I made during my early Baja travels was bringing too much food. Yep, the food in Mexico is some of the best in the world and it is cheap. There are big grocers in the larger cities that may even have baristas to serve up a double cappuccino. Smaller towns will always have a market with basic sundries, and usually a restaurant or two. I’ve had some of the best food in all of my travels in these local cantinas; just don’t expect to find any nachos or chimichangas. One of the common questions we receive about travel in Mexico is whether or not it is safe to eat the food and drink the water. In years past, food and waterborne illnesses were commonplace, but this is becoming much less of an issue. Over the last few years, I made the decision to start drinking the water, asking for ice in my drinks, and even eating salad—I’ve yet to experience a single run-in with Montezuma’s revenge. A more conservative approach would be to skip the salad and make sure the food you eat is piping hot. In the end (no pun intended), the likelihood of a problem is minimal. Most gastro-intestinal issues, when treated with Ammonium AD or antibiotics, pass in a day. I find the risk worth it. Another taco de camarones (shrimp taco), please.

Camping

It is important to do a thorough search of your personal effects and vehicle prior to crossing the border. Possession of firearms and ammunition is highly illegal and carries a maximum penalty of 30-years incarceration.

{ TIP

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The camping experience in Baja is almost always better than a hotel. There are exceptions to this in the larger cities, but on most nights I yearn for the sound of crashing waves and the glow of the Milky Way. There may be options for campsites near towns and popular beaches, though that “improvement” might only be a palapa (a thatched, opensided structure) and pit toilet—maybe a shower—that is usually cold. The best campsites are the remote ones on secluded beaches and isolated arroyos or canyons. It is important to remember that nearly all of the land in Baja is privately owned or part of a national park. The exception


is the beach, which is public to the high-tide line. If there is a rancho near your desired campsite, it will be worth stopping in and asking permission to camp. Some respect and a smile can go a long way.

Cities and Towns Border cities hold few attractions for the adventure traveler. Their economies are built on a combination of manufacturing and “entertainment” (which unfortunately brings the security issues of any big city). Most are merely a conduit to the places we really want to go. Tecate, a pleasant little town famous for its exclusive spa resorts and nearby brewery of the same name, is one exception to the rule. Tecate is my favorite crossing point into Baja. This is not to say Baja doesn’t have any cities worth exploring. La Paz makes the top of the list in this category. There is a beautiful malecón (esplanade), and beachfront hotels intermixed with variety a of restaurants (even an Irish pub and a vegan cafe). The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, and with an authentic feel—attributes that have been commercially bleached from Cabo San Lucas. Loreto is also a nice city to stop in for a taco and resupply on your way south. Most small towns are located along the Mex 1 corridor and serve to refuel vehicle and driver. Though hidden beneath layers of dust, most have a unique story to tell as well. It might be of Mama Espinosa’s lobster burritos in El Rosario, the lost mission of Santa María near Cataviña, or the mission and verdant lagoons in San Ignacio. Don’t hesitate to park the truck and walk around a bit. Some basic research in the highly recommended Baja Adventure Book or Lonely Planet (more current) will remove much of the guesswork. Baja Legends, by Greg Niemann, is an excellent source for “insider” information.

Security and Travel Tips Safety and security is the most frequent discussion point with regard to Baja, and reservations are understandable. U.S. media channels have painted an alarming picture of Mexico—some of it well deserved. However, much as the violence in Detroit is not a reflection of safety in Prescott, the issues in Tijuana have no relevance to the colorful and inviting Todos Santos. It is important not to be dismissive of the potential dangers, but rather to go equipped with realistic expectations and accurate information.

Travel tip #1 Avoid traveling at night. This has much less to

do with banditos than it does with open grazing and other hazards of the night. I still remember coming around a corner and finding a drunk wandering down the road, stumbling in and out of the lane. The most dangerous thing in Baja is the road, and it must be approached with vigilance, starting with no driving at night.

Travel tip #2 Keep control of your valuables by locking your ve-

hicle and not leaving cameras, purses or bags on the seats. Violent crime is rare in Baja, but petty theft, as in any developing country, can be a problem. The “out of sight” rule has served me well around the world. Don’t keep large amounts of pesos or dollars in your wallet, but carry only what you need for the day.

Old-timer’s Take

My first trip to Mexico was back in 1968. We crossed the border at Laredo and took the Pan American flight from Monterrey to Mexico City. In 1978, I was introduced to Baja California with a trek to a beach camp south of Santa María on the Pacific side. In those days we’d just pull over at a wide spot in the road to camp. There was no military presence or checkpoints then, and regular (nova) and diesel were the only fuel options. Pemex stations were few and far between, so we didn’t pass one without filling our tanks and jerry cans. The lure for me has always been the peninsula’s fertile farms and ranches in the north, snow-capped Sierra San Pedro Martir and Picacho del Diablo, centuries-old cave paintings, and seventeen Jesuit missions along the El Camino Real. From whale watching in Scammon’s Lagoon, to fishing the nutrient rich waters of the Sea of Cortez, there is a lot to love about Baja. It is a special place with something new around each bend in the trail. - Al Walter

Overall, Baja is a tranquil and safe place to travel. I have completed dozens of trips into Mexico and have never experienced a problem (other than being subjected to an attempted extortion in Mexico City, but that is another story). I was in Baja last December with several friends, including their six-month old daughter—No banditos, just great memories.

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Baja Norte The Wine Region One of the best-kept cultural secrets in Baja

is Valle de Guadalupe. Wine production in Baja is older than most would imagine. The first Vitis Vinifera, planted by Father Ugarte at Mission San Javier in 1701, predated California vintners by nearly a quarter century. After crossing the border in Tecate, you’ll find the wine region is a great place to spend the first evening as you begin to settle into Baja time. We have stayed at Adobe Guadalupe, a beautiful winery with bed and breakfast accommodations and wonderful meals. It is also possible to camp in the vineyard with prior permission. 114

Laguna Hanson Within an easy drive from the border is Baja

Norte’s high country, a forested region with elevations around 5,000 feet. This beautiful route starts near La Rumorosa and climbs through the foothills and higher plateaus to the national park Constitución de 1857. The route is stunning, and includes small ranchos with family-run restaurants and cabañas for rent. Laguna Hanson allows camping on the perimeter of the park’s man-made lake. A small fee must be paid when entering the park. The contrast between this place and the rest of Baja’s arid landscape is striking and worth the visit.

Mike’s Sky Rancho Mike’s is a small hotel and rancho along the famous SCORE Baja 500 route and has long been a popular rest stop for drivers and riders. Camping and family-style dinners are available, the rooms are clean and there is a cool splash awaiting in their courtyard pool. The road in is beautiful and a good test for the 4WD. It is also possible to continue south towards Rancho Meling and the road into Picacho del Diablo.

San Pedro Martir (for the climbers among us)

Picacho del Diablo (The Mountain of the Devil) rises 10,157 feet above the Pacific coastline, and reaching the rocky summit represents a serious climbing challenge. There is not much of a trail and the last third Overland Journal Fall 2011

is a full-on scramble where most climbers choose to use a harness and rope. There is also an interesting celestial observatory and forested campgrounds. A small group and I attempted the mountain in May of 2005 and were turned back by heavy snowdrifts on the north face and snowfall.

Gonzaga Bay Alfonsina’s Cantina and the beaches of Gonzaga

Bay are the real draw to this section of the coast. A small dirt airstrip and beachfront homes serve an expatriate community and fly-in vacationers. There is a Pemex and a small hotel/cantina, and that is it—but this is part of the charm. For the overland traveler, driving the road from Puertecitos down to Mex 1 can be one of the most interesting parts of the trip—although more of it is being paved each year.

Bahía de Los Ángeles The best route to Bay of L.A. is via the

Mission San Borja road. Starting in Rosarito, it winds its way through large washes and mountain tracks to one of the best-kept secrets in Baja Norte: Mission San Borja. There are small palapas for camping, and hiking tours to hot springs, pictograph sites and pristine cactuslined canyons. From San Borja, the road continues north to Bahía de los Angeles with more 4WD work and beautiful views. Bay of L.A. itself is little more than a fuel stop and a few restaurants, but the beach camps south of town are stunning. This is also northern access to remote southern destinations (more beach camps) such as San Francisquito, San Rafael, and El Barril. The track ultimately turns west to El Arco, Mex 1, and the state of Baja California Sur.

Above: Coco’s Corner, built by an enterprising local with prosthetic legs, offers cold beer and soda. Previous spread: (left page) Laguna Hanson is a cool respite for a summer trip to Baja and a beautiful spot for exploration. It is particularly well suited to adventure motorcycles with fuel stops (drums) and small cabin accommodations. (Side bar) Seaside cliffs punctuate most of the Pacific side in Baja Norte.


6. 4.

7. 1.

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1. Tacos in Loreto, Mike and I have ‘just one more.’ 2. Beautiful wineries dot Valle Guadalupe. 3. Mission San Javier 4. Church in San Ignacio. 5. Adorable, but not so happy about his ride, a local rides a pony during an independence parade in Santa Rosalia. 6. San Ignacio is an oasis in the desert and a great town to walk through day or night. 7. Mama Espinosa’s in El Rosario. 8. Eiffel’s church located in Santa Rosalia. 9. The SCORE races are fun to watch and bring out locals and gringos alike, all cheering the passing vehicles. Overland Journal Fall 2011


Baja Sur San Ignacio Most of Mex 1 runs through Baja’s arid interior des-

ert. While Boojum (cirios) and cardón cacti pepper the landscape, there is little in the way of fresh water. However, when you turn off at San Ignacio, the brown transitions to green, palms appear, and then a beautiful blue lagoon manifests with campsites and cabins available. The town is clean and authentic with a well-preserved mission and colorful town square. Cozy restaurants dot the streets and locals add to the charm. San Ignacio is the jumping off point for 4WD roads into the interior and several interesting tracks leading to the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez.

Santa Rosalía Despite the crooked Pemex operators, Santa Ro-

The Feared Federales Chris Collard

I traveled in Baja three times last year. I drove the entire peninsula twice, camped on beaches, bought fish from local pescadores (fishermen), and socialized with local villagers. On one of my trips I spent a day with Chef Bernard, former chef to El Presidente de México and current Ambassador of tequila (yes, Mexico has an Ambassador of tequila) and the next day with Baja’s Minister of Tourism. The one message they requested I return home with was “Please tell America that Baja is safe, secure, and a wonderful place to visit.”

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The Mexican military provides policing in Mexico. It can be a little disconcerting for many north-of-the-border types to contemplate having a half-dozen well-armed eighteen-year-olds pull you over, inspect your vehicle and search through your bags. I’m trying to recall the first time I was face to face with one of Baja’s fatigue-wearing, machinegun-toting federales. The thing I do remember is that he was tall and had a big gun. Of course, I was probably about eight or nine years of age. The other thing that comes to mind is that my father seemed to be on his best behavior, at least until the ordeal was over. Today, Mexico and the U.S. are allies in the war on drugs. Federale searches, whether on Mex 1 or a seemingly deserted two-track, are routine and not to be feared. They might request to look through a few storage boxes, behind your seats, or inside your cooler (offering a cold beverage after the inspection is always appreciated…but not expected). With a smile, a nod, maybe a gracias, you’ll be on your way. I’ve been through hundreds of federale checkpoints over the years, and have never, and I’ll repeat, never had one go sideways. Just remember: the federales, the ones with the big guns and cold, stern stares, are usually on your side. FYI: Secondary searches when reentering the U.S. can be a more trying ordeal. The Baja economy relies heavily on tourism. Most of the peninsula’s inhabitants appreciate your presence. It means they may be able to feed their families this week.

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salía has become one of my favorite towns in Baja, principally because of its unique history and surprising historical buildings. Originally owned by a French mining conglomerate, the town has a French Quarter, positioned high on the hill with tropics-inspired homes and the Hotel Francis. In town there is a 120-year-old bakery that still turns out hot baguettes and other treats. We never pass through without filling up on bags of pan (bread). The most notable structure in Santa Rosalía is the iglesia (church), which is said to have been built by Gustave Eiffel and originally displayed alongside his more famous tower in the 1889 World’s Fair.

Bahía Concepción The village of Mulegé and the beach

camps along Conception Bay mark a notable transition into the subtropical region of Baja with evidence of greater rainfall. A small river runs through town and there are thousands of date palms. Mulegé is a fun, bustling town with small, crooked streets and many excellent restaurants. Little shops and even a coin-operated laundromat are available to resupply the weary traveler (note: park big trucks outside of town). One of my favorite campsites is about 20 minutes south of town on a small spit of sand called Requesón. I have met dozens of other overlanders on that little sand bar. The snorkeling is excellent and there is a small island to hike around on.

Agua Verde One of the top overland routes in Baja is the one-way

trek to Agua Verde, a roughly graded dirt track just south of Loreto. The road winds through the desert and over a mountain pass before switch-backing down a narrow canyon to a series of bays—the final bay being the setting of a small village and single restaurant. Camping is available, fresh fish can usually be purchased right from the catch, and I’ve enjoyed a panga (boat) tour led by an enterprising local who showed us sea lions, bird rookeries and several caves.

San Evaristo If a serious overland trek is on the agenda, the remote, rugged route to San Evaristo—though difficult to locate—is one of the best on the peninsula. The track, which winds its way through washouts, loose climbs and narrow shelf roads, is best suited for the experienced Baja traveler. Deep gorges and canyons fall away from an


The sun sets on the Pacific as we enjoy cold cerveza after a wonderful day on the trail.

elevated plateau, and small ranchos and villages provide a unique experience. Several old missions can be accessed by 4WD or on foot, and the route eventually terminates at the gulf. Fuel and supplies may not be accessible (especially diesel) in San Evaristo, so plan accordingly. The rewards for making this trek are stunningly remote campsites and beautiful, isolated beaches. The route continues south along the coast, eventually turning to pavement and finishing in La Paz.

Todos Santos and the Naranjas Road Another excel-

lent overland trek is the Naranjas Road, which starts just south of Todos Santos and eventually connects with Mex 1 just north of the Cabo San Lucas airport. This 25-mile route traverses the rugged mountains north of the Cape, reaching an altitude over 3,000 feet, before descending to the east. It is one of the few roads in Baja that requires low-range and a smaller, more nimble vehicle—this can change, for better or worse, with each passing year. Todos Santos is a quaint little village on the Pacific, and worth visiting. It claims to be the location of the original Hotel California (think The Eagles), which is still operational, and nestled amongst art galleries and restaurants. There is also a quiet beach camp to the south of town. This is about as far south as I would recommend going, unless cheap t-shirts, expensive margaritas and pushy timeshare salesmen are your goal. Once the stop signs in Cabo changed from ‘alto’ to ‘stop,’ Cabo lost its appeal for the adventure traveler.

Though our favorite peninsula is slowing changing, much of Baja has retained its old-world charm and appeal. With long, sandy beaches, stunning landscapes, and thousands of miles of backcountry twotracks, there are hundreds of new adventures to be written. It is time to dust off the passport and head south—fish tacos and Pacificos are waiting. Editor’s Note: While Baja California has proven to be safe during dozens of trips by Overland Journal’s team members, travel in any developing country comes with risks, and no one is exempt from freak accidents. We always advise people to use extra caution, check current conditions with the U.S. State Department and Baja forums, and respect local laws. If you do need help, it may be a long distance or several days away.

RESOURCES LB Maps, lbmaps.com, 253-225-9962 Discover Baja, discoverbaja.com, 800-727-2252 (Note: Discover Baja is the most comprehensive resource for Baja travel. Their many offerings include The Baja Almanac and National Geographic Adventure maps.) Baja Bound Insurance, bajabound.com, 888-552-2252 Expedition Portal, expeditionportal.com Baja Nomad, forums.bajanomad.com Overland Journal Fall 2011

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Baja Trip

Route

Cartography by David Medeiros (mapbliss.com)

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OVERLAND CHEF

Chris Collard

The Baja Fish Taco When south of the border, grab a cold cerveza and indulge in a few of Baja’s legendary Tacos de pescado. The Baja peninsula extends south from the U.S. border like an 800-mile-long treble hook, its business ends jutting west into the Pacific and east along the Sea of Cortez. With 3,000-plus miles of coastline, punctuated with marine-rich bays and estuaries, it is only natural for the region to boast some of the best seafood on the planet. Topping that list of south-of-the-border delicacies is Baja’s world-famous fish taco. You don’t need a two-week vacation and your passport to indulge in the peninsula’s signature dish. Make a quick run to the pescadaría (fish market), grab a cerveza and fry up a plate of tacos de pescado.

Menu

Photo by Jeremy Edgar

Starter ~ Tortilla chips, salsa, and guacamole Main course ~ Tacos de pescado, served with rice and beans Beverage ~ Cold cerveza, mojito, or margarita Dessert ~ One sandy beach, a brilliant Baja sunset, and

another choice from the “beverage” list 120

Tacos de pescado

Serves: 4-5 | Cook Time: 20 minutes | Equipment: 8-inch skillet, single-burner stove, mixing and serving bowls

1.5 pounds fresh fish (yellowtail tuna from local pescadores (fishermen) if possible) Fresh corn tortillas 2 eggs 1 ¼ cups milk 1 lb flour 1 cup mayonnaise 1 cup plain yogurt 1 tomato ¼ head fresh cabbage ½ yellow onion 2 limes Tapatío hot sauce Garlic powder, salt and pepper Corn or olive oil

with preparing the white mystery sauce. Mix mayonnaise, yogurt, a dash of garlic, and two tablespoons of milk in a bowl. Set aside. Dice onions and tomato, thinly slice cabbage, and cut limes into wedges; place fresh ingredients to the side in separate bowls. Combine remaining milk with two eggs; mix thoroughly and set aside. Fill a shallow plate with ¼ inch of flour, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

To acclimate yourself and guests for Baja’s trademark dish, pull a few cervezas from the cooler, fill two bowls with guacamole and salsa, and open a bag of tortilla chips. Begin your south of the border culinary adventure

Fill skillet with 3/8 inches oil, add one drop of water. Preheat oil until water boils off the top (signaling the oil is ready). One at a time, dip fish fillets in the egg mixture. Give them a good roll in the flour and place in the skil-

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Pull your catch-of-the-day from the cooler, rinse and slice into strips (about the size of a roll of quarters).

let using tongs. Repeat process until there is no more real estate in the bottom of your pan. Cook each fillet for 90 seconds, or until golden brown on the bottom. Turn over and cook for an additional 60 seconds—again, until golden brown. Remove from skillet and place briefly on a paper towel to absorb dripping oil; then on a slightly warmed tortilla. Add small amounts of freshly chopped veggies; douse with white sauce, and add a squeeze of lime and Tapatío to taste. Serve three at a time. Rice, refried beans, tortilla chips and salsa are appropriate accouterments. Grab a cerveza and feast on a true south-ofthe-border delicacy. Don’t forget the sandy beach and Baja sunset.


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CLASSIC KIT

Christophe Noel

The Svea 123 A staple of backcountry travelers for five decades.

A

This classic Swedish camp stove might be the perfect addition to your kit—even if you never need to thaw the engine of a Cessna 180.

weathered and stained wooden crate is pulled from a dark corner shelf in the attic. Dusting off the lid reveals the hand-written words “Camp Gear.” A cool brass object is removed from within, held up to the light, and carefully examined. “Hey, it’s my old Svea 123 camp stove. I wonder if it still works?” It’s a scene that has been played out in many attics over the years. For half a century, people have been “discovering” their dingy, dented, and seemingly obsolete Svea 123s from boxes, closets, and long-forgotten rucksacks. More than just the discovery of a onceprized piece of camping gear, these reunions usually unleash a rush of adventuring memories. Though some of these recollections may have corresponding burn scars, that’s just another quirky part of the Svea 123 experience. And does it still work? Of course it does! Now in its 56th continuous year of production, this elegantly simple hunk of brass and steel is a refreshing antidote to the doleful innovate-or-die mentality that has permeated the modern world. Virtually unchanged since its debut, it is timeless in nature, and still available at your local backpacking shop (provided you don’t have one hidden in your attic). Though many of the stoves in use today are several decades old, they are more than kitschy relics destined for a curio shelf. Not only do they still work, people love to put them to task. For some, the soundtrack to a proper camping trip is the crackle of a campfire. For others, it’s the sputtering roar of these classic bits of history. The chronicle of the Svea, and the modern camp stove in general, began in Sweden more than a century ago. In these northern latitudes, mechanics would commonly awaken frigid oil-burning engines with kerosene blowtorches. One such torch-wielding mechanic was a hungry visionary by the name of Frans Lidqvist. He realized the true potential of the blowtorch, and used it to heat his lunch. This led him to build the world’s first camp stoves, and an industry was born. Within a few years, an entire selection of Swedish-made stoves were being offered by companies still dominant in the outdoor industry today: Svea, Optimus and Primus. The “modern” version was introduced by manufacturer Sieverts Lodlampfabrik in 1955 and enjoyed immediate success. That success can be measured in the number of imitation stoves from Taiwan and Overland Journal Fall 2011

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the USSR that rapidly appeared on the market. The beauty of the design, and perhaps the reason why it was so easily copied, is its simplicity. With only one moving part, it is nearly indestructible and extremely reliable. Enthusiasts of these bits of culinary history love them because they never fail to light—not that the 123 is necessarily easy to light. One simply needs to understand how it works. The unique feature is the lack of a pump. The fuel, four ounces of white gas in the unit’s base, is pressurized by heat from the burner, and reflected onto the tank. You don’t have to be Prometheus to master the operational requisites, but you certainly need to practice. Lighting methods are varied, elaborate, and some even bizarre. Many call for eyedroppers, toothpaste mixed with rubbing alcohol, or small coffee straws. Perhaps this is where the memories of burns and scars enter the picture.

One, two, three... ignition

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Lighting the 123 requires a small amount of fuel to be placed in the priming cup—a recessed area in the center of the fuel tank. Igniting the fuel (carefully) will warm the tank and burner prior to the valve being opened. Once the fuel is warmed and pressure builds in the tank, you’re ready to unleash a 4,700 BTU flame. This is where the burn-scar potential becomes a concern—and might explain why your dad only has one eyebrow. Although it is very rare, and there is a pressure relief valve on the filler cap, it is possible to overheat the tank. Doing so will force fuel through the pressure valve creating a twofoot-tall squirting inferno, which some call, “the tent burner.” Priming hazards aside, these stoves have a tremendously loyal following. The first audiences to fully embrace the Svea 123 were climbers who praised its compact size, efficiency, and performance in low temperatures at high altitude. With a burn time of nearly an hour on four ounces of fuel, it made for a light and fast solution for swift mountain assaults. Legendary climber and founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, once wrote a review of the Svea in a popular outdoor magazine. He said it was the best stove he had ever used. The little gem has been dispatched to the highest peaks on the planet, and countless climbers have shared Chouinard’s opinion. Overland Journal Fall 2011

Tom Cochran, an iconic American climber and friend of Chouinard, had one of the more interesting accounts. Cochran, along with two other climbers, had designed an ambitious, mid-winter expedition in a remote section of the Wind River Range, Wyoming. The plan was to access the area in a Cessna 180 fitted with skis. Knowing they would be leaving the plane in sub-zero temperatures during the expedition, they packed a few extra stoves. The idea was to use three units to preheat the oil, battery, and the engine itself. Returning to the Cessna after seven days on the mountain, they fired up the 123s and went to work. Within no time, the Cessna thundered to life. Unfortunately, the plane was helplessly mired in snow and wouldn’t budge an inch. However, the century-old method of using stoves to heat engine components worked perfectly. Since acquiring the Svea brand in 1969, Optimus of Sweden has continued to manufacture the 123 in its classic form. While the stoves of today retain the design and character of their predecessors, there has been one unfortunate change. The words “Made in Sweden,” which were proudly engraved on the top of the fuel tank, have been eliminated. As is often the case, the latest generation is made in Asia. This might explain why many refer to their trusted stoves by year—as they

would a vintage Series I Land Rover. It is also why so many owners take great care to protect the timeworn patina. Like wrinkles on a weathered face, it speaks to their age, These beloved campmates not only provide warm meals, as they did for Frans Lidqvist a century ago, they have a tendency to rekindle dusty memories of backcountry adventures. The next time you find your way to the attic, or pass by that old rucksack in the corner of the garage, peek inside and look for the dull glow of brass. You might find the only stove you’ll need for the next 56 years.

Above: This is a stove my dad and I used on countless trips into the deep backcountry in the high Rockies of Colorado. It really does have a superior feel to the Asian made stove. The engraving alone is pretty cool on the Swedish made stove. The windscreen doubles as a pot support. Vintage stove is shown without windscreen.


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Continued from page 128

who could not stop talking), that we realized we’d made a big mistake. I can assure you that during extended hours of lion watching, one has a lot of downtime to think about things. I leaned over to Anna and said quietly, “Do you realize that our temporary import permit (custom papers) from South Africa says that our vehicle is from Botswana?” Silence… Hmmm, I’ve visited many countries, but don’t remember buying a 4WD in Botswana. “Dang” she broadcasted loudly (she used a different explicative that means, uh, “dung”). And it was not a small deposit of common cow dung…this was big dung… elephant dung. The problem was that our trip from Europe through Africa exceeded the allowable time, and the Carnet de Passage of our 1991 Mitsubishi L300 4x4, our home for the past several years had expired… again… and I’d not requested a renewal on time. See what I mean about finding trouble.

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Departing Zimbabwe to South Africa, we found ourselves on the Limpopo River Bridge, the neutral zone between the two nations. Without the Carnet de Passage, we could not pass beyond the South African Customs parking lot, nor could we return to our beloved Zimbabwe—which was beginning to suffer the significant impacts of a long and forgotten dictatorship. We were in no man´s land with no way out. A solution presented itself, a disgustingly simple and tempting one. You see, there were two old Defenders from Botswana also waiting for entry to South Africa, and one of them had the exact same license plate numbers as our Mitsubishi from Spain—and in the exact same order. Hmmm? Oh no… Oh yes… It would be too easy. The customs employees did not even lift an eyebrow to check the vehicles, to be sure that the information given matched our car. Four days later, watching the most boring “wild” lions on the planet, we realized that my special ability to get into trouble was alive and well. The genius that drives one to find quick solutions, to take the easy route around unexpected situations, was in motion. The idea worked like a well-oiled machine… temporarily. Our epiphany at that “elephant dung” moment was that we had crossed the line. If we were stopped by the police, we would be in big trouble. There was only one solution. We had to go back. Anna drove back to the border wearing her best, innocent-goodwhite-girl-from-Botswana face. She returned our temporary import permit without issue and slipped through South Africa customs. She was again on the bridge, in no man’s land without papers. She found an out-of-the-way spot to park next to the river while I assessed a new plan that would not lead us to more problems. Basically, I had to figure out a Plan B for our sneaky Plan B—that normally means going back to Plan A. But, the idea of getting a new carnet was discarded. It could not be done. Only our smooth-talking traveling acquaintance Butch could manage such a feat. Butch, an Australian biker, was re-issued a Carnet de Passage from the Automobile Club of Jordan (ACJ)—not based on a money guarantee or security, but merely on the good faith of people. He rode into the ACJ on his Soviet motorbike, said he would bring the bike back (with his best lost soul smile), and received his papers. It was Overland Journal Fall 2011

not likely that this approach would work in capitalistic Spain, the country of our vehicle’s origin. Somehow, I had to convince an official employee from the Real Automovil Club de España (RACE) who had issued my previous carnet, to authorize the Automobile Association of South Africa to issue a new one (my third)—and this needed to be based on a bank guarantee linked to an expired carnet which could not be verified. It was not complicated, but it was complicated. I had to rely on my charismatic personality, on people’s faith that I would do the right thing (I’d not impressed myself in that department so far). I had to call in the cavalry, enlist the help and protection of all saints from all religions, and add some desperate intensity to my words. Spending hours on the phone with various offices and officials became my sport. I started with the patient and humble approach, but I have to admit the intensity in my tone was growing as the days dragged by, and a cache of emptied telephone cards began accumulating in my pocket. I could no longer take NO for an answer. I had to rescue Anna from no man’s land and I needed to do it soon. Feeling desperate, I needed to make more calls, send more emails, get more people to take notice. I needed to convince government employees whose only notion of adventure would be a luxury seven-day, all-inclusive, organized lodge stay in the Masai Mara. Not likely. My last card to play was to push the mass media button. It seems that journalists and the mainstream media have an affinity for stories of hapless souls in distress. Innocent Spanish girl abandoned in African no man’s land would make a good headline. I got on the wire, pouring hundreds of press releases into the black hole of the Internet ocean. I never knew which press release landed in the right hands, but five days later, authorization for a new Carnet de Passage arrived. It is possible they simply got tired of fielding my calls, or deleting my persistent emails. I suppose it is difficult to ignore people who pursue a cause with such passion, determination and intensity—but Anna and our Mitsubishi home on wheels would be set free. I’ll probably act with slightly more discretion the next time I’m presented with a lion in a gazelle-skinned suit. Maybe sniff for the scent of elephant dung? We’ll see… For the moment we were free to go. And what happened during those five days in no man’s land? I have no idea. You’ll have to ask Anna.


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TAIL LAMP

Pablo Rey

Five Days in No-Man’s Land 128

The Easy Way Out… or Plan B for a foiled Plan B

I

have a special ability to get into trouble. This has been routinely verified during the last 11 years of my trip around the world. Anna, my partner during this time of adventures, has suffered through this unique attribute by my side. Let me say something important before going on. This trait is not something learned, it is innate, something you are born with, and one that you carry for the rest of your life. It is also one that lends to finding yourself in situations without provocation. When someone asks for my overlanding CV (curriculum vitae), I always say, “In two months time on our trip through Africa we survived two breakdowns in the middle of nowhere. One of them in the deep sands of the Sudanese Sahara, the other one beside Lake Turkana, 500 miles from a decent mechanic.” Then I keep silent for a few seconds, as if the story is over, before revealing the cavalry. I continue, “In that two months we also suffered two robberies, one crash, a runaway from the transit police in Addis Ababa, and being accosted by two men on a motorbike, armed with rifles, who wanted us to pay for a cow they said we killed. I also got a little angry with a military man who was pointing his Kalashnikov at me. Then we had to run away from 30 men, who were drugged with khat and dressed in loincloths, that had encircled us Overland Journal Fall 2011

on an isolated road near Lalibela—they also wanted money. And there was the time we crossed the border between Ethiopia and Kenya, apparently illegally, and we were detained at the police station of a small town where no one could speak English (we could not speak Amharic, either). Least I forget being detained by police again for sleeping at the gate of a national park without paying the entrance fee.” Such an array of experiences for only a two-month timeframe— Thus went our introduction to Africa, a bit of unexpected pleasure on the wild side. Consciously or subconsciously, this is what you are looking for when you embark on an overland trip across the Dark Continent. I don’t particularly go looking for these troubles, they just happen to find me. I do know people who glide through their travels without so much as a flat tire. And while these “adventures” must be my fate, I must admit that I may have provoked a few—just slightly though. Most of the time when you face a problem, finding the solution may be a challenge, but it can almost be fun (ok… maybe more “fun” in hindsight). But there are some moments when you just want to hit your head against a wall. It was in Kruger, South Africa, while waiting for a lion pride to do something interesting (climb a tree, tell a joke or eat a nearby Jeep driver Continued on page 126


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Overland Journal Fall Issue 2011