In my previous post on Sleeping Arrangements, I was fairly negative about Roof Top Tents (RTT), citing their detrimental effect on vehicle driving dynamics, vehicle aerodynamics, and also the potential danger of sleeping over 2 metres above the ground at the end of a flimsy ladder.
However, for certain reasons, I’ve now decided to mount a RTT to the top of my Stockman Pod Extreme. Mounting the RTT on the trailer removes all of the above mentioned disadvantages, but keeps all the RTT advantages.
The mounting height is about 1.5 metres above the ground and is barely 40 cm above the top of the trailer load platform. Whilst the 60 kg of the RTT will affect the trailer dynamics, in the case where the trailer cannot follow along, it can be left behind at camp leaving the vehicle dynamics unaffected. The highest point of the RTT is lower than the vehicle roof line, and the selected RTT is quite streamlined, so the overall aerodynamics should not be significantly worse than they already are (considering both vehicle and trailer are pretty much brick shaped anyway).
The most important benefit of fitting the RTT to the trailer is that at just 1.5 metres off the ground a fall is substantially less dangerous. To further reduce the danger of falling, I’ve decided to fit my RTT so that the entry will be from the rear using a set of well formed, large and stable steps. This rear entry concept does have an impact on the method I’ve chosen to fit my RTT to the trailer.
I’ve chosen to use a James Baroud Evasion M Evo, based on good reviews and inspecting the options available at retailers around Melbourne. I purchased my RTT from Outback HQ, and I’m very happy with their customer service.
Following delivery of my Stockman Pod Extreme, the large cardboard box was placed on top and secured for the drive home.
Fortunately there was no further excitement until I was able to crane off the RTT and get to work mounting it.
Firstly the Stockman Pod Extreme RTT Upgrade gas struts needed to be attached to their mounting points in the lid of the trailer. If they weren’t added before the RTT was fitted then the smaller standard struts (which remain) wouldn’t be able to lift the lid with the tent. Adding the heavy duty struts costs some access to the trailer, by reducing the angle of the lid, but it is not significant.
However, with the heavy duty gas struts in place, the lid needed quite some encouragement to close. I needed to juggle ratchet straps to close it down.
Rear Entry Reinforcing
Usually Outback HQ recommends that the James Baroud M sized tents need just two bars, but they should be widely separated. Larger sized RTTs need to have three bars to support them properly.
With the Stockman Pod the Rhino Aero bars are just 1.5 metres apart, which is quite close but not an issue normally. However, as I was planning to use the rear entry of the James Baroud Evasion RTT there would be quite a lot of load over the end of the tent, out beyond the internal aluminium rails integrated into the tent under-shell. This could lead to cracking the outer shell in the worst case.
To provide an additional layer of strengthening to both front and rear of the RTT, I have added full length aluminium beams under the existing integrated rails but extending to the end of the tent shell at both front and rear. This provides full support for sitting on the rear ledge of the tent (when entering or leaving), and also provides additional strengthening for the entire mounting system.
I chose to use 100mm x 50mm x 3mm thick aluminium channel. This is the largest channel shape that can fit between the top of the Stockman Pod Big Top Lid and the top of the Rhino Aero bar on which the RTT would be mounted. As the Aero bar is only 40mm thick, this left 10mm of material on both sides of both channels to provide the end-to-end strength that I desired to achieve.
Overall, this mounting method adds significant strength and security to the whole build. The RTT cannot “lift off” the bars, as the Aero bars are inserted through the channel rails which are tied at multiple points to the RTT chassis rails.
Now the trailer lid can be comfortably opened and closed with the RTT fitted, either stowed or open. With the RTT stowed or even opened, the front tool box can be opened too.
Building Rear Step
My Stockman Pod Extreme is fitted with the plywood storage shelf and two aluminium storage bins, as well as the standard fold down tail-gate. These conveniently provide two large and stable steps up to the RTT. In addition only a low stool or step is needed for the first step up to the tail-gate.
So all that was needed was to turn the top of the storage bin into a large step. This was done with a sheet of 2mm thick aluminium non-slip tread plate, carefully cut, and folded for strength, and fitted across the top of the storage bin. As a side benefit, the aluminium step can be stored in-situ on the storage bin so it takes no space to transport.
Obviously, the wooden school chair photographed is not a permanent solution. I will get a work step or stool that can be used to provide one or two steps up to the tail gate. The tail gate makes a safe stoep to leave boots and mud before stepping up into the RTT via the storage bin step.
To exit the RTT it is just a matter of sitting on the edge of the tent shell and your feet naturally find the top of the storage bin step, and you can stand up (preferably holding onto one of the tent roof struts for stability), before stepping down to the tailgate. It is even possible to sit on the storage bin lid when putting boots.
I would also point out that the aluminium storage bins are 2 metres long, and are contained within a structural case. The storage bins are designed to hold well over 100 kg of items. The step could be used with the storage bin extended by over a 1 metre (rather than just the depth of the tail gate, about 40 cm). So, the step is quite strong and overall using this rear entrance to the RTT is much safer than the standard folding aluminum ladder.
As discussed in the Curb Weight post, I decided to purchase a custom built Stockman Pod Extreme for Going Bush. I took delivery of following a short delay because I asked to add Rhino Rack Aero bars and upgrade the lid to support a roof top tent.
This is a short note to cover the adjustments that I made to the standard Stockman Pod Extreme product, that do not appear on their options list.
To use the drawbar to carry light weight items such firewood or rubbish, added 4 D-ring tie-down points welded to the inside of the bar. This will enable the load to be secured on the top of the drawbar, and therefore not need to pass under the bar where the tie-down strap could be cut or scraped on a rock. The tie-down points are also set up enough to allow a PVC or steel pipe to pass through them, potentially allowing a hammock style carrier to be created for smaller items.
I added a gusset between the frame and drawbar. Stockman have never seen a case where separation was a problem but, since it was easy to do and it made me happy, it was done.
Water Tank Bash Plate
The Stockman water tank is 6mm thick poly roto-moulded plastic and it is very tough, well able to withstand blunt trauma from rocks and other material. It is also located much higher than the tow vehicle ground clearance. So there is little that can go wrong.
But to prevent damage due to sharp objects, such as branches and sticks, I’ve added an aluminium bash plate to the underside of the water tank. This is not to prevent normal impacts from being absorbed by the poly plastic tank, but rather to prevent a sharp object from penetrating the plastic. The concept is like lightweight medieval chain-mail used to prevent cutting and stabbing, rather than full plate armour.
Suspension Reinforcement Bracing
Triangulation gussets between the suspension hangers and the spring mounts was added as per the CruiseMaster installation recommendation. Prior to my build this was not being done but now it has become standard practice for Stockman to add the triangulation reinforcement bracing.
Hayman Reece Recovery Points
And finally, the standard D-ring recovery points were replaced with Hayman Reece 2″ hitch points. This allows recovery straps to be connected to the hitch point with standard hitch pins, rather than using a shackle. Also each Hayman Reece hitch can support other accessories, such as a vise mount for example. Using two hitch points allows recovery forces to be shared onto both side of the frame, and allows the trailer to be guided more accurately for a reverse recovery.
I’ve pitched a camp to test that I’ve got all the required things. The lists are great, but they don’t necessarily match completely with reality.
It is still a few months before my vehicle and pod trailer are going to be available, so my old station wagon is serving as the test mule. I loaded everything in and transported it to the camp. It took two trips as I’m minding an extra dog, and have to allow space to transport dogs rather than equipment.
Of course the weather doesn’t play nice, and it is raining continuously as I try to set up the camp. And, since I’ve pitched camp about 80m from the closest approach, everything has to be carried in through the rain.
The first job is to work out where the table, and cooker work best. I’ve decided to put the table into the middle of the gazebo space, and then use one side for cooking, and later the other side for sitting / reading / writing. Putting the kitchen in the far corner allows me to empty water, coffee dregs, etc onto the grass, and keeps the inescapable ants away from the tent.
Very happy with the old Primus stove. I’ve inherited many pieces of my kit, including the tent, cooker, and quite a few tools and whatnot. So it is the first time that the 1970’s stove has been used in a long while.
Similarly, my Terka Tent from Czechoslovakia also looks to be performing well. It hasn’t been out of the bag since the early 1980s. Yet, after standing in the rain all day, it still looks to be fine inside. But time will tell.
As I’m minding an extra dog I had to build a bivouac for her. Using a cheap tarp found in the local supermarket pegged out with 1/3 under and 2/3 over, a piece of 10mm insulation board to get her off the ground, and her own blankets from home, I was able to make her a dry and warm place to sleep.
I’d forgotten how slow it is to get things done. In a house there’s hot water on tap, and boiling water from an electric kettle, and food straight out of the refrigerator. Living in the outdoors, things are not so time efficient. To make a coffee requires preparation, and cleaning up. A choice has to be made as to whether to clean up first, and have cold coffee, or to enjoy the coffee, but then have the chore of cleaning up after the relaxation of consuming the coffee. Similarly, preparing toast, making tea, or any other process around the kitchen needs extra steps that either add time, or reduce the “enjoyment” value of the activity.
Over the weekend the weather got better and better, and once things had dried out the ease of doing everything increases. Fortunately, as it wasn’t too windy, the gazebo provides 9m2 of living space protected from the rain. So, it seems that at least in still weather the gazebo is a valid alternative to a vehicle awning.
Proving to myself that there is no real benefit to a vehicle awning is a big thing. Vehicle awnings are expensive, are heavy high on the vehicle, and they increase fuel consumption because they rely on having a roof rack to mount them. They also force you to limpet yourself to the side of your muddy or dusty vehicle and they need to be closed before the vehicle can be moved.
I used some extra guy ropes looped through the gazebo frame and anchored to the ground, to hold it very stable. The gazebo roof is only held onto the frame with Velcro. Should a strong wind gust take the nylon roof off, the frame will remain tied down. A piece of nylon material floating or flapping about won’t do any damage, and will probably come back down to earth quickly as it has no form holding the wind. Alternatively, attempting to hold a 9m2 “sail” to the ground in the face of a strong wind gust is a pointless endeavour.
I am pretty happy with the kitchen set up. The stove, and substitute Engel refrigerator are easy to use, and effective. I purchased some wicker (plastic) boxes, which I used to store 1. Food, 2. Crockery, 3. Pans and Utensils, and 4. Cleaning and Utility products. These are much easier to use than plastic shopping bags (which would have been the temporary alternative), yet they’re not perfect. The issue is juggling them from the ground (in the rain), to the 5’ Lifetime Table or the top of the Engel. If I build a kitchen storage in the back of the Rubicon, then that may solve the juggling of containers, but it may create an issue where things are hard to access. Another alternative is to organise the boxes by process or task or by frequency of access, rather than by topic as I’ve done now.
For the sleeping arrangements, I’ve got it generally right, but I’m still not totally happy. The combination of the stretcher and mattress makes for a very warm and comfortable bed. However, the way I’ve organised the YHA Bedsheet together with antique woollen blankets is uncomfortable. They slip around on the mattress, and become tangled quite easily. One very pleasing accident with the YHA Bedsheet is that the pillow slip serves to hold the pillow from slipping off the end of the bed. As the stretcher has no “head” this can happen easily, so it is very useful that the pillow is retained by the sheets.
As I’ve prepared the bedding into a rolled swag, with an 6’x8’ tarpaulin outside the self-inflating mattress, sheets, and blankets, the idea of storing everything together has worked well. The plan is that having all the bedding rolled together will allow the bed to be dropped anywhere and used, and stay dry until unrolled even if it is carried in the rain.
Because the Engel refrigerator is very heavy, as an exception I used a handcart to move it from the vehicle to the camp site. And, because I had it with me I was also able to use it to move the 12V battery, 20l water containers, and other heavy items. A handcart is not something that I’d previously considered taking along, but now I think if there’s space then it will come with me. It will be useful for moving water, firewood, and many other backbreaking tasks.
I didn’t bring a broom. I should have. A hand brush is useful to sweep standing water, meat ants, and leaves off the ground tarpaulin, and to clean the tent and generally around the site. But I think that a broom would work better and be much easier on the back.
I’ve taken some pictures of the things that worked, to remind me what comes with me.
Stadium Seats for chairs are very comfortable, and weigh nothing. They can be used anywhere. The handcart is a very useful addition. Not sure about collapsing water containers. Sure they’re easy to store and keep handy, but they’re not easy to use when half full. So, it is best to transfer their contents into a “working” container. The kettle was used more often than any other utensil. Hot water is essential.
And finally, the Australian bush just loves to come home with you. This “little” guy was hitching a ride in the cutlery container. He joined with the meat ants roaming around the campsite, and mosquitos swarming everywhere, making this camp a 3 of 6 wildlife expedition. Fortunately no scorpions, or snakes. And no centipedes.
From the previous discussion on Curb Weights I’ve selected a method to transport sufficient water, fuel, supplies, and equipment to travel in the bush. But, I also need to examine how best to sleep given the impact of common environmental influences in the bush.
There are a number of sleeping systems provided by the vehicle and system for going bush. The below images try to indicate these in context.
I’ve found many options are possible. Six major options are indicated above, related to the previous discussion on curb weights, and they are discussed following some basic environmental considerations.
Roof Top Tent
The environment of Australia plays the major role in determining the best sleeping system. Let’s talk about the environmental aspects of sleeping.
There are no bears, lions, or other large predatory mammals in Australia. The wildlife is much smaller, more intimate, and loves nothing more than a warm bed to snuggle into during the cold desert nights.
Keeping the local wildlife away out of your bed, and out of your boots, is an important consideration for where your bed should be.
The Dry Creek
When selecting a flat smooth camp site it is easy to believe that a dry creek bed is a good place to spend the night. Unfortunately bush creeks are subject to flash flooding, and the storm which causes the flood may be a great distance away. It may not even rain where you are.
While the flood waters will not be as extreme as shown here (Todd River, Alice Springs, Northern Territory), it is very possible that a creek bed campsite can become subject to anything from a trickle of water to an active flowing creek during the night.
The Gibber Plain
The term “gibber plain” is used to describe desert pavement in Australia. It is a desert surface covered with closely packed, interlocking angular or rounded rock fragments of pebble and cobble size. Desert varnish can collect on the exposed surface rocks over time.
Gibber is located across of much of central Australia, and in the desert you’ve a choice of sand dunes, bull dust, or Gibber plains on which to make a camp site. So, remember to take a rake.
Ok, now we’ve got some of the environmental preamble out of the way, let’s look at the options for sleeping comfortably.
The swag or bed-roll is the traditional method of rough camping in the Australian bush. It is basically a canvas tarpaulin with a mattress inside. They’re quite warm and they’re also waterproof. It zips all the way up so it covers your head, and you have the canvas for a rain cover. The swag is useful for any of the options for carrying the equipment, and can be used in good conditions even when other alternatives are available.
The swag is the choice of bedding for a swagman. A swagman was a transient labourer who travelled by foot from farm to farm carrying his belongings in a swag. The term originated in Australia in the 19th century and was later used in New Zealand.
Swagmen were particularly common in Australia during times of economic uncertainty, such as the 1890s and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Many unemployed men travelled the rural areas of Australia on foot, their few meagre possessions rolled up and carried in their swag. Their swag was frequently referred to as “Matilda”, hence the song Waltzing Matilda, based on Banjo Paterson’s poem, refers to walking with their swag. Typically, swagmen would seek work in farms and towns they travelled through, and in many cases the farmers, if no permanent work was available, would provide food and shelter in return for some menial task.
A swag is quite the romantic holiday experience for backpackers, but it is not going to protect the quality of your sleep from gibber plain cobbles, local wildlife, or flash flooding. So its use case is limited to good conditions, and it shouldn’t be relied upon in bad conditions (if you want quality sleep). Score here is 0 from 3 environmental points.
Tents are the next option to discuss. They can protect you from local wildlife, provided they are always properly closed up and are in good condition. They will protect you from bad weather and some water flow. But inside the ground will still be rocky and uneven if camped on gibber cobbles or other rock formations. So let’s say the tent scores 1.5 from 3 environmental points.
Roof Top Tent
The Roof Top Tent would seem to address all of the failings of a normal tent. Placing the tent up high, with a flat bed and mattress, removes all of the environmental issues and scores maximum 3 points.
However, the RTT has a fatal flaw. Every time you go up to bed, or get out of bed, you have to climb a 2m high ladder. This is not an issue 99 times from 100 times, but if you’re sleeping in it for a year the chances are you’re going to slip at least 3 or 4 times, and one of those times (in compliance with Murphy’s Law), you’ll break your leg, and that fall will occur in the middle of the Simpson Desert.
From that safety issue alone the Roof Top Tent has a complete veto, in my opinion.
The stretcher bed, cot, or camp bed is an option to uplift quality of sleep in a tent, under a swag, or anywhere there is no full mattress available. The stretcher bed adds environmental points to the tent and also to the swag by lifting you above gibber and minor water, and protecting against most of the wildlife issues (except mosquitos).
The Experts agree that if there’s space available they would never go bush without a stretcher bed. The combination of tent and stretcher bed scores the full 3 environmental points.
While the trailer, and specifically the pod trailer, is not designed for sleeping, it can be used as an alternative sleeping platform in the case of bad weather, when the gibber or bull dust is too thick to sleep on the ground, or when there is no need to set up a tent.
Pod trailers can be optioned up to become a full soft-floor camper, but that is not the intention of this discussion. The goal is simply to point out that, as an alternative, the bed of a pod or box trailer can be used as a base for a swag or bed roll, instead of using a stretcher bed, and it scores 3 environmental points for this purpose.
Perhaps, the best option is to fit a RTT to the top of a Pod Trailer? This would avoid the fatal safety issue incumbent in vehicle mounting, and score the maximum points.
Sleeping indoors, while in the great outdoors, is the epitome of comfort. Having a clean, dust proof, wildlife proof haven at the end of the day will provide the best possible sleep quality. But, of course this does come at some expense, and the issues covered in the Curb Weight discussion apply. Scores 3 environmental points.
Going into the Australian Bush requires the intrepid traveller to carry substantial supplies of water and fuel, as well as the normal requirements for living off-grid for extended periods. This is quite different to the norm in international overlanding where fuel and water is usually available in small towns, and is due to the very (incredibly) low population density of the Australian Bush. The population density of the Australia’s Northern Territory is 0.16 people/km2, about 1/100th of the density of Argentina with 17 people/km2, or 1/25th of Botswana with 4 people/km2, for example. So the purpose of my lists is to estimate the weight required to travel with some comfort across long desolate desert tracks, before the required fuel and water supplies are added.
Whilst my lists remain incomplete they are a useful tool to establish the the total equipment and supplies budget, and then contemplate the best method to carry everything. My current calculation shows that the normal total mass estimate is around of 575kg, including fuel and water. A rough breakdown of the categories is below.
Recovery Equipment – 50kg
Vehicle Spares / Consumables – 20kg
Tools – 30kg
Camping Equipment / Tents / Tarps – 90kg
Battery & Electrical – 50kg
Refrigerator / Slide – 45kg
Cooking Utensils – 20kg
Computers / IT / Camera – 20kg
Clothes / Blankets / Linen – 30kg
Food – 30kg
Unclassified / Toys – 20kg
Adding to the items above, is necessary to carry water sufficient for 20 days. And fuel to bridge the longer distances between services.
Now that might look like I’ve budgeted to carry a lot of stuff, but the idea is not to load up to 100% capacity before departure. But rather the calculation is intended to to allow room for growth as over time, as stuff tends to accumulate, and trophies and memorabilia will take up their share of space too. Nobody likes to climb into a vehicle and have their stuff fall out on the road because everything is packed to the roof.
So, I’m going to estimate that a total payload budget of 600kg will be sufficient. How can that payload be effectively carried across sand and rock over thousands of kilometers?
Carrying the Payload
As a starting point, the Jeep Wrangler JL Rubicon 2 door is the chosen vehicle for going bush.
From the 2020 Wrangler Specification, the Rubicon can carry a maximum payload of 1322lbs, or 600kg, in the 4 door version. The 2 door version has similar mechanical specifications but weighs about 100kg less, but I will assume that it can’t carry a greater payload than the larger 4 door version. Maximum braked towing capacity for the 2 door version is 1497kg. Let’s have a look at some of the options for carrying 600kg with a 2 door Rubicon.
In the above images I’ve considered some alternative solutions for carrying 600kg payload (in green), and the maximum usable axle load (in red) for the vehicle. My alternatives include:
Bare Vehicle – everything inside the vehicle
Roof Rack – 450kg in vehicle, 150kg on roof (and outside)
Roof Top Tent – 500kg in vehicle, 100kg of RTT (and outside)
Box Trailer – 200kg in vehicle, 400kg in trailer
Pod Trailer – 200kg in vehicle, 400kg in trailer
Teardrop Camper – 200kg in vehicle, 400kg in camper
The Wrangler 2 door is a very small vehicle and, although it is probably the most capable 4WD available “off the showroom floor”, loading it up to the maximum payload will make a very uncomfortable origami that would need to be unfolded at each camp and then intricately repacked each morning. Additionally, as the maximum rear axle payload is about 1000lbs, or 450kg, the available payload would be limited to less than the maximum vehicle payload, as there would be no way to share the weight to the front axle.
In my opinion only way to carry 600kg on a Rubicon is to distribute the weight onto both axles by using a Roof Rack.
By adding a roof rack, and possibly also side racks for fuel and a rear rack for tools and fuel, it is possible to distribute the weight onto both axles, and also increase the load volume of the Rubicon sufficiently to reasonably store the maximum vehicle payload.
The cost for roof rack system consists of a base rack of around A$1,000, guard rails at around A$500, and then vehicle specific mounting kits from around A$400. Accessories to mount shovels, high lift jacks, jerry cans, or gas bottles can be added for around A$200 per item.
Adding a roof rack will increase the loading on the front axle and especially the rear axle up to the maximum design rating of 3100lbs, or 1400kg, and will increase the tire load affecting both sand driving ability and the tire wear characteristics. Axles, wheels, and tires will be running at maximum load constantly. Adding a lift-kit to balance out the spring compression will not resolve this loading issue, and it is likely that the vehicle may end up being over-weight from a legal (insurance) perspective.
Using a roof rack will also significantly impact the dynamics of the vehicle. Adding up to 100kg onto the roof and 50kg to the outside of the vehicle will increase the overall pitch and roll as the track pushes the vehicle around. It will be very uncomfortable, and may actually become unsafe as the maximum approach and departure angles are reached.
On road, which will be the majority of the kilometres travelled, fuel economy can suffer by 10% and up to 25% according to some reports. Where tens of thousands of kilometres are at stake, and fuel is both in limited supply and expensive, it is best not to use a roof rack if there are better alternatives.
Roof Top Tent
The roof top tent suffers from the same dynamics and fuel economy issues as the roof rack, and it is also of very limited application being purely a place to sleep. If a roof top tent is fitted then the top of the vehicle can no longer be used for storing equipment.
A roof top tent costs around A$,5000, but considerably more can be spent if desired.
With the issues associated with roof top tents being the same as with roof racks and offering no other advantages, it is better to seek alternatives.
Many people have realised the benefits of an additional load carrying axle when travelling around Australia. The typical steel box trailer in the standard 6’x4′ or 7’x5′ single axle configurations lives in most suburban back yards, and has been making the journey to the summer camping holiday since forever. It has become more common recently to add off-road suspension and hitch components to make the box trailer capable of serious expeditions.
The typical suburban box trailer costs around A$1,500, but the vehicle must have a trailer hitch which can cost up to A$2,000 to install, depending on the vehicle. An off-road trailer with uprated suspension and chassis typically starts around A$5,000, but specialist camper trailers can be substantially more. Some fully fitted off-road box trailers cost upwards of A$60,000.
The design and registration of box trailers typically focusses on a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 750kg and their Tare is typically 250kg, in the best case, leaving a payload capability of 500kg. If our total load can be distributed between vehicle and trailer then we can load the trailer with 400kg, leaving a margin of 20% remaining, and reduce the vehicle load to 200kg.
The load in a trailer is carried with a low centre of mass, so that the dynamics of the tow vehicle are not affected, and having the additional loaded trailer axle reduces the wear on the vehicle axles, wheels and tires.
However, towing a box trailer does not come for free. There is an increase in fuel consumption to be expected from towing. Depending on the size of the load carried and the amount of wind drag created by the trailer, the increase in fuel consumption may be up to 10%. This is significant, but it is much less than if a similar load were on a roof rack. And, as we now have a greater free load capacity it is possible to carry up to 100l of extra fuel as needed.
An important advantage to using a trailer is that it can be disconnected from the vehicle and left behind at a camp site, or trail head, when its contents are not needed. Through this method most of the payload associated with living does not need to accompany the vehicle on a difficult 4WD trail. This minimises the chances of breakage or damage to the payload.
The box trailer has several disadvantages. Firstly, the load is carried open and unsecured, and secondly, the payload is subject to dust and sand from both the vehicle rear wheels and the environment generally. Whilst Australia is generally safe, for piece of mind, it is best to keep valuables and equipment hidden out of sight when the trailer is left behind. So box trailer loads are usually covered by a tarpaulin or load cover. This adds to the soft security of the load, and helps to prevent dust and sand ingress, but it is time consuming to wrap and tie down the load each morning.
There are many advantages to using a simple box trailer to carry the payload, but it would be more ideal if the box trailer load could be covered by a solid lockable lid to secure the load and mitigate dust and dirt ingress.
Recently advances in plastics technology have enabled the creation of large roto-molded polyethylene structures, and companies have started to produce off-road “pod” trailers using polyethylene tubs and lids jointed like a clam shell and sealed with a gasket to produce an effective dust seal.
Typically these pod trailers incorporate all of the advantages of the box trailer, adding in the tare weight saving of a dust resistant plastic tub and sealed lid, and the aerodynamic efficiency of a smooth load top.
Many pod trailers can carry a payload of 750kg to 810kg, with their GVM being 1250kg with trailer brakes. An extreme off-road pod trailer can cost from A$13,000, and customisation and options can be added to increase the suitability for long distance expeditions.
With an appropriate off-road independent suspension, hitch, and trailer brakes, a pod trailer can follow behind a vehicle on all but the most difficult 4WD tracks. And where necessary the secure lockable pod can be left behind at a camp site or trail head.
Moving up from the box trailer or pod trailer solution, it is possible to consider a teardrop or square drop camper. The key advantage of the camper is that the question of sleeping arrangements is answered by a permanently made bed. At the end of a day, or when weather is bad there is a lot to be said for a ready-made bed.
A teardrop camper is usually a significant Tare approaching 900kg, and they can usually carry at least 400kg and up to 800kg in payload. They can easily accommodate the 400kg we need to carry. However the camper GVM will certainly be approaching 1,900kg when fully loaded. This is about 1 Tonne more than a box or pod trailer.
Teardrop campers range in price from A$50,000 and up to around A$100,000, making them potentially more expensive than the tow vehicle.
Besides the large GVM of the teardrop camper, there is a cost to transport the volume for a bed and “sleeping space” around the country. The cost comes in increased the form of increased drag and increased fuel consumption from the larger box, and in reduced space to store camping equipment, unless the potentially dirty equipment is transported on top of the clean made bed.
Conclusion and Decision
Following on from the discussion above, I have decided to go with the pod trailer solution. Although using a trailer will close off some of the more extreme trails and options, such as parts of the CSR, the flexibility to leave the pod and equipment safely behind at the campsite, and have the small tow vehicle remain relatively unmodified (no heavy duty springs, or body lifts, etc), together with the other points discussed above, make the pod trailer the best value for money.
Really, I should be doing better than this. With a background in Agile Methodologies and Waterfall Project Management, using lists is positively Neanderthal in comparison. Yet, here I am. To get things done, and to remember what needs to be planned and done , I’m writing lists.
About a month ago I asked a good friend whether he’d be interested to join me in the bush for a while, since it had become obvious the only other interested co-traveller was our family dog. His response was, “Would I like to have a copy of a mutual friend’s 23 camping lists?” To which I just laughed. I mean 23 lists… come on. How many lists to you need to leave the house for a few weeks?
I didn’t think about lists for a while. But then after consuming another 20 hours of YouTube suggestions and recommendations for overlanding or international expeditions, I could no longer hold all of the thoughts and ideas in my head. And then I realised that this mutual friend has the right idea. Put it on a list and then it is managed. Putting it on a list doesn’t get it done, but it does get it reviewed every time the list is examined.
One month into this, I’ve established 11 lists for going bush. At this stage I’ve written no lists of destinations or activities, but rather focussed entirely on what I’ll need to make sure that being out bush won’t be life threating, and will be mainly enjoyable.
So here’s my “TOP 11” List of Lists for going bush.
Vehicle – accessories and upgrades
Recovery – how to recover from vehicular stupidity
Tools – fixing things that fail
Spares – consumable items for vehicles
Camp Equipment – portable lifestyle
Cooking Utensils – to eat healthily
Camp Consumables- not quite food, but related
IT / Photography – toys related to bush activities