Vehicle & equipment
We used the Michelin West Africa and Michelin Southern Africa maps, and a more detailed map of Morocco. Other than that, the Rough Guide to West Africa has pretty good regional and town maps.
West Africa - Rough Guide - good but ours was a bit out of date (new edition due April 2008)
West Africa and Africa - Lonely Planet - basic, not much detail so not very useful if you're driving.
Fooprint Namibia + Footprint South Africa - excellent, of course.
Sahara Overland by Chris Scott - excellent information about the Sahara + routes with GPS points for off-road tracks. You can download up-to-date information from www.sahara-overland.com/updates, which also has a useful forum.
Africa Overland - Bradt - some useful information.
Working in the Wild - Land Rover's manual for Africa
- wet wipes
- mosquito repellent (put it on before dusk) + decent mozzie net
- water filter (we could carry 80 litres of water, added chlorine then filtered it)
- solar shower (one of those black bag things)
- GPS (just a basic one - the roads aren't that complicated)
- some kind of outdoor light - we had one of those duel fuel burners but the mantles kept breaking so not really suitable.
We had a duel fuel stove but camping gas seemed to be available.
Much of the vehicle preparation was already undertaken for our previous expedition. More can be learnt on www.overlandtooz.com.
For this trip we replaced all the coils and dampers with fresh OME parts. I wanted something slightly heavier duty on the rear than the intermediate springs used previously. In the end, went with intermediate plus helper springs - the idea being that post expedition we can take the helpers out and have a much better ride when not loaded up (we're running 1 tonne at front axle and 1.5 at rear axle when fully loaded). Also replaced the bushes with polys and installed a new steering damper. As a result, the vehicle now rides much better and is considerably less tiring to drive (having to constantly correct the ceaseless meanderings of worn suspension components is exhausting enough just driving 2 hours down the M5).
The other big cause of vehicle fatigue (particularly in a Defender) is noise. To damp down the engine and gearbox noise, have fitted Wright Off Road kit to the cab, which on paved roads enables at least a half-way spoken, rather than shouted, conversation.
To slightly counter this, we have fitted mud terrain tires - 265/75R16 Cooper Discoverer STT's. Actually, the tire drone on the paved roads is only slightly more than the all terrains we were previously running and quite acceptable. Gone with the Coopers over the ubiquitous BFG's mainly on their excellent reputation in Austrailia, particularly with regard to puncuture resistance (although, my track record on writing these things suggests that we'll now get half a dozen flats in the next week!). The mud terrains are going to be essential to keep us going through the tropics with their attrocious roads and apparently ceaseless wet conditions.
The other bit of kit fitted to help contend with these conditions and provide traction on demand has been a rear diff lock. Now, these aren't cheap, and as one friend put it "will only get you further into trouble!"; but with the reports of the road ahead and knowing how easily one can completely lose traction on even a tame Devon greenlane, it seems like a necessary investment. Again, we've gone with the Aussie market and fitted an ARB compressor and diff locker. One important consideration with the ARB system is its manual engagement - this is far safer than some of the auto lockers out there which can seriously alter the handling charateristics of your vehicle unbidden and potentially with serious consequences. An added, and already much appreciated, benefit is that we now have an air compressor not only to engage the difflock, but also to reinflate our tires. If you've ever had to reinflate 4 tires in 40 degree heat with a footpump before, you'll know exactly how glad of this we are.
As we needed to replace the dual batteries, we went with the recommended Odyssey PC1500. Compared with the popular Optima's that we'd previously used, these have a greater amp-hour capacity and substantially more cold-cranking amps. They are deep cycle batteries, so will happily run flat powering ancillaries (don't use your starter battery for this, for obvious reasons), and are reputed to be extremely rugid, proven by various military applications.
In support of the dual battery system we have also fitted a 50W solar panel. This is not so much of an essential, but practical experience has taught us that in hot environments the fridge will happily discharge the auxillary battery in a day parked up. And of course, this is where you most want the fridge (and other components) to keep running. But, naturally, if its very hot there's usually plenty of sunshine, so the solar panel should complement the system very well. If my schoolboy physics calculations are correct, the 50W panel should recharge the battery at sufficient rate to keep running indefinately - or at least for extended periods if the sun shines and we're not parked in the shade.
- sand ladders