Introduction written by Chris Collard. Published at Overland Journal Magazine, Gear Issue 2015.
Four of the world’s most experienced overlanders share their top picks for don’t-leave-home-without-it gear.
Pablo Rey and his wife Anna live in a four-wheel drive Mitsubishi Delica L300, and I was anticipating they’d have a completely different set of favorites than Simon and Lisa from 2Ride the World, who “live” on a pair of BMW R1200GS bikes. Their responses, however, were somewhat of a revelation. That is, whether we live at home and travel when we can, or live on the road and shower when we can, there is a common thread. We covet gear that helps us eat, sleep, and communicate better – equipment that keeps us warm, protects our bodies, and gets us where we want to go. We also gain an emotional attachment to, and personify inanimate subjects of our affection. For example, to garner a name like La Cucaracha, Pablo Rey’s Delica L300 most assuredly played dead more than once. Or maybe it received this moniker because it has evolved over time and simply won’t die.
The rules were simple. Our chosen pros were limited to submitting the six items that rose to the top. I hope you enjoy the results.
© Pablo Rey
The Right Travel Partner
When you find the ideal partner to travel to the ends of the earth with, you have found the most difficult piece of gear of all to attain. While travelling alone can be enjoyable, it is always better when you can share the emotions and surprises of the road at the exact moment they occur. For me, that partner is Anna, a woman who doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty with motor oil, one that defends you in the midst of a fight, and knows how to repair a flat tire. Unfortunately, you won’t truly know if your partner has these qualities until you get on the road and things get difficult. If they do, you’ll know you’ve found the right travel companion. They will not only be your girl (or guy), but also your partner and pal.
On a long overland trip, your vehicle will adopt the personality of an extra team member. You talk to it, listen to it, pat it on the backdoor, and look after it when it gets sick. You’ll even find a slightly derisive nickname for it. After 14 years of living adventures together over some of the worst roads on the planet, and sharing some of the most dreadful fuels, our 1991 Mitsubishi L300/Delica 4WD, which we call La Cucaracha, deserves our unconditional loyalty. Although I dream of never giving it up, I imagine that one day La Cucaracha will want to retire to the centre of a Spanish travel bar, like an old grandpa ready to share his overlanding stories to those who dream of starting their own trip of a lifetime.
Samsung Galaxy Tablet
Tablets are the Swiss knife of the modern traveler. With one 7-inch gadget as thin as half a paperback, you can access the Internet, listen to music, and travel with your own private library. You can watch movies, take pictures, find your GPS coordinates on an offline map, plan your next route, take notes and write stories, scan documents, find the cheapest fuel station near your location, play Pac-Man or Minecraft, watch TED presentations, download tutorials about how to play the harp, to identify trees and stars, and learn to tie knots like Popeye. It is impressive. We prefer the Samsung Galaxy tablets because we can add as much memory as needed with a micro SD card.
Espar Hydronic D5 SC
Cockroaches don’t like cold weather or altitude. To help ours overcome its rheumatism, last year we installed an Espar Hydronic D5 SC. This engine pre-heater is a truck driver’s favorite, perfect to warm the cabin in freezing temperatures and to avoid premature wear on the engine after many cold-weather starts. We also use it to have a hot shower every now and then. Although it was costly, it paid itself at the end of 2013 when the Arctic vortex hit us in Louisiana, leaving a thick coat of ice around the van. After 10 minutes running the Espar pre-heater the engine started as if we were on a warm beach in the Yucatan.
During the first 6 years of our trip around the world we had several severe breakdowns in remote places: in the Sudanese Sahara, 800 kilometers from a reliable mechanic (northern Kenya); at an elevation of 4,600 meters in the Bolivian Altiplano; and on a lost salt pan of the Chilean Andes. At the beginning of 2006 we installed a secondhand engine and started adding a dose of Pentaflon Ceramica every 20,000 km. I don’t know if it is magic or good luck, but this ceramic-Teflon miracle additive, which is manufactured in Spain, has protected our engine and helped to keep it healthy for the last 200,000 kilometers and three continents worth of bad roads. Additionally, since that time we haven’t had any serious oil leaks. For a long-haul overlander, that is a wonderful thing.
Swiss Army Water Bag
Switzerland might have one of the best-equipped armies in the world. The country is always politically neutral and their troops never go to war. Instead they invest their money testing and developing products than can be adapted to a traveler’s daily life. Their 20-litre rubber water bags are durable, can last for several years, don’t require installation, and have a hand hose attachment that can be used as a shower. Another bonus is that when they are empty they can be easily stored without taking up valuable room in your vehicle. We used our first one as an extra water reservoir while crossing Africa, and found our second bag in California. Not bad for 14 years on the road.