Category: Trip Prep

ARB Bumper Install Plus More!

It has been almost three years since the truck pulled out of our driveway in Canada for the last time and started on its journey south. By the time we made it back to North America Lil’ Red had travelled through 15 countries and countless, well… actually about 50,000km of highways, potholed backroads, and washboard dirt roads.  It was time for a little TLC.

ARB Front Bumper Install with ARB Intensity Lights

When our friends at ARB 4×4 USA heard that we were heading up to explore some of the Canadian wilderness they suggested that we add a little front end protection to our truck. We were fairly certain that any stray wildlife would have destroyed the original front bumper and anything behind it so we were stoked to beef up the truck. Sure, it’s kind of like putting lipstick on a pig, but I’m okay with that.

One of the things I wished I had done before leaving on our South America trip was more protective bumper, so it’s better late than never!

First thing to do was clear out some space in the truck and pick up our parts from ARB Jacksonville:

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We didn’t have a place to work on the truck, so a temporary installation at the cheap motel was next. Value Place motel for the win! Oh yeah, don’t wear sandals when you’re installing a bumper. Probably not the safest idea.

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The ARB Bumper comes fully assembled and with plenty of hardware, winch solenoid mount, etc. For the temporary installation I used eight bolts and saved the rest.

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Turn signal lights and required connections are all included. I picked up some ratcheting crimpers from the Advance Auto Parts across the street from the hotel and couldn’t be happier with them. I have been using some seriously sub standard crimpers for years so this was a nice treat.

I removed the existing turn signals, connected the new ARB turn signals, and screwed them into the new bumper. ARB bumper install complete!

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We eventually made it up to our friends house in Virginia Beach and were able to continue working on the truck.  The original grille of the truck had taken a beating and was cut for the Hella Rallye 4000 lights. I ditched that relic, bought a grille for a ’93 Pickup on Amazon and fogged it with some Plastidip. The whole Plastidip craze seems to have taken off since we left North America originally (2013) so I figured that I would jump on the bandwagon and try it out. We’ll see how long it holds up to some abuse. The grille doesn’t fit perfectly since I didn’t buy new (the proper 1993) headlight housing pieces, but it’s definitely much better than what was in there.

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New grille installed! Don’t worry, that’s not our truck making a mess on the cardboard.

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Check out these beauties!

1 – ARB Intensity AR21 Spot
1 – ARB Intensity AR21 Flood
1 – ARB Driving Light Wiring Loom

A couple of ground connections, one to power, and one to your highbeam switch was all that was needed. All required mounting bolts were included with the lights.

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After a day in the shop the front end of the truck is looking a lot different, and I like it. We’re protected in the bush, on the road, have a winch mounting option if we ever decide to go in that direction (which we did eventually!), and the new lights are fantastic. Looks like it’s time to get out in the Canadian wilderness and explore in the dark!  In the meantime we went out to play on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for the weekend.

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Fat Mat Sound Deadening

50 Sq Ft FatMat Bulk Pack

Included in the install kit:

  • 50 Sq Ft of FatMat eXtreme
  • Roller For Easy Installation
  • FatMat Handy Cutting Knife
  • FatMat Decal Featured Below
  • Installation Instructions

First thing was to vacuum the dirt, sand, silt, cookie crumbs, etc out of the upholstery/carpet, remove most of the interior, clean even more, and then add some sound deadener to the cab. This old truck can be pretty loud on the freeway so anything I can do to tone down the noise even a little bit will help. Plus, I’ll be adding a better stereo soon, so improving the sound of that by decreasing road noise is a big plus.

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This 50 sq ft roll of sound deadening was enough to cover the floor of the cab, the doors, with enough left over to do the back of the cab in the future. We removed the rear seats and have a lockbox installed so we left that in place and didn’t add any sound deadener below the box or on the back of the cab at this point.

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I expect that this could be difficult to install when it’s cold out and the material is stiff, but I did it in Virginia Beach when it was 95 degrees out. The material was very easy to get into the tight corners. We found some spray on carpet cleaner and went to town with the Shop Vac on before reinstalling the carpet/seats.  Once we hit the highway there was a welcome reduction of road noise and for once, Ashley and I didn’t have to yell to talk to one another.

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Basic Maintenance

You know what I love about being in North America? The abundance of auto parts! During the first time in AutoZone after returning from South America I must have spent an hour in the store just walking down the aisles one by one. In my distant past I never really liked spending money on maintenance parts, but after spending a year where it was difficult to find parts in the first place, let alone spend plenty of money, I’ll never take the easy access of parts for granted again.

I also couldn’t believe how inexpensive everything is! Chile stands out as the most expensive country for parts. For example, anything you buy there that you can buy here seems to cost 2 to 3 times as much. Huge importation fees and 19% tax adds up quickly!

So, being back in the good ol’ US of A I thought it prudent to replace our radiator. The last replacement started leaking (run ins with some brush and thousands of kilometers of washboard roads seem to have taken a toll) and had been “repaired” by a Latin American “radiator shop” a couple of times. It recently started to slight leak again so I just wanted to replace it.  I expect a copper rad or full aluminum radiator would be a smarter choice for longevity, but at least this replacement only cost $110 and comes with a warranty. While I was at it I put on new upper and lower hoses, coolant, and belts and then kept the old ones as spares. Cheap insurance.

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Another thing I had to replace was our idler arm. Fancy that, the aftermarket replacement from Peru didn’t hold up in the long run. I think it’s worth looking at the Total Chaos idler arm next time, but for now I went with the Duralast part from AutoZone. How could it not last with a name like that I brought my torque wrench all of the way from BC to Argentina, but the first time I had to use it was in a driveway in Virginia. A little penetrating fluid and pickle fork made quick work of the swap.

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Timbren Off Road Active Bumpstops

“The Active Off-Road Bumpstops enhance bottom-out resistance while delivering smooth engagement and disengagement of your vehicles axle. Designed with a progressive spring rate to absorb additional energy and return the axle in a more controlled style than your OEM bumpstops.”

Well, that sounds like a great improvement over stock bumpstops. So I expect they’ll be an even better improvement over… well, no bumpstops. As you can see, the OEM bumpstops on our truck were long gone due to a combination of father time, PNW rust, and thousands of kilometers of washboard roads.

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Instead of using a factory-style bumpstop I wanted to try out these new Timbren units.

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Look at how complete this kit is!

The Timbren kit includes all of the parts to replace your U bolts and spring plates. This is a great kit if you want to flip your U bolts and install some bumpstops at the same time.

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I disregarded the instructions and most of the included parts. As usual, since we’re living life on the road I was in a bit of a rush to get these installed (we were mooching a driveway from our friend’s parents) so I chose my own mounting method and decided to ignore the Timbren engineers who wrote the manual. Don’t fret, I’m keeping the U bolts and spring plates along with the rest of the hardware for a future install.  Also note:  Made In Canada (just like us!)

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My quick and dirty installation turned into quick and clean when I decided to hose off the Patagonian mud, knock off the rust with a wire brush, and then paint what I could with some leftover black VHT chassis paint. I used a little bit of 3M undercoat in the wheel wells as well.

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LC Engineering Header and Pro Flow Exhaust System

The last bit of work we did to the truck before leaving on our cross Canada trip was to install a completely new exhaust system. LC Engineering shipped us one of their Street Headers, a Pro Flow Exhaust System, and a new Magnaflow catalytic converter to replace our old hacked on exhaust and wake up our little 22RE.

LCE STREET HEADER KIT 4WD DIRECT-FIT 22R/RE 1985-1995

PRO FLOW EXHAUST SYSTEM 22R/RE/3VZ 2WD & 4WD 1985-1995 PICKUP

When I saw this big brown truck pull up beside the house it felt like I was a kid at Christmas all over again.

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Remember when the engine compartment used to look shiny and new? I think I’m going to have to spend a little bit of time and use a couple cans of Gunk to get it cleaned up… eventually.

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Usually I like to use PB Blaster, but this Liquid Wrench that was on sale did the job of making sure I didn’t break any hardware when removing the old parts.

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Performance parts… oh wait. The old exhaust had been cracked and “repaired” a few times in Latin America so I was stoked to have a chance to replace it.

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I just wanted to give this little LC Engineering Street Header a hug when it arrived (so I did). I’m weird that way though.

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The new LC Engineering Pro Flow Exhaust System

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LCE Street Header vs. Stock Manifold

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The installation was straight forward, fit the truck perfectly, and I haven’t had to deal with any exhaust leaks. The header and exhaust has now been on the truck for about 15,000km and it still looks as good as it did when it was installed, albeit there is more dirt and mud on it now.

The little 2.4L pulls much harder in the higher RPM range (3000RPM and higher) with the new header/exhaust. The engine was rebuilt with a slightly more aggressive camshaft (with an advertised duration of 260 degrees) and it seems to work really well in combination with the free flowing exhaust.

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After all of these kilometers I realized that I really should have listened to the advice I got from the guys at LCE Performance. Their Pro Flow Exhaust system comes with a very small Magnaflow muffler that sounds wicked… but it has a serious drone on the highway. They said that a Flowmater would be a better bet, but I decided to learn the hard way I guess. Since we’re back in the land of long highway drives to get to a trailhead, the drone started to wear on us and it was time for a change.

I ended up buying a 2.25″ Flowmaster 60 Series (for a quieter version of my favourite Flowmaster sound!) and a Dynomax resonator (to help tone down the drone even more). I figured this would be a nice compromise between an aggressive exhaust note and ear drum comfort while cruising.

Flowmaster 60 Series 953460
Dynomax Race Series Bullet 24234

Once the snow stopped falling I was able to get the camera out for a little exhaust sound clip.

 G2 Axle and Gear 4.88s and Longfield Axles

Well, our first break down just happened to be in Canada and only 100km outside of Toronto.  We had a rear wheel bearing failure that ended up taking out the driver side axle at the same time.  Luckily we had a couple of sets of G2 Axle & Gear 4.88 ring and pinion gears and installation kits sitting in the truck since Florida so this failure was a great time to upgrade!  I overnighted a pair of Longfield Axles from North Shore Off Road in Vancouver to replace the busted stockers.

The biggest surprise of all was that Toyota Canada saw that we had a breakdown and invited us in to help with the repairs in their headquarters shop.  Dream come true?  Definitely.

Before long we were all buttoned up and back on the road.  The combination of the LCE header/exhaust and the new 4.88s have made a world of difference in terms of drivability on our fully loaded 116hp pickup.  Time to get out for a little exploring!


The South America Gear List – What Worked and What Didn’t

Another Update to The South America Gear List: Our Complete Overlanding Gear List can be found HERE.

Update: After spending a year in South America and beating on our gear we wanted to give an update on how our stuff held up.  It is definitely a sign of good quality piece of gear when you use it every day (and use it hard) and it keeps in good shape.

After 11 months of working in Vancouver we only have one more month to go before we step on a plane, jump into our truck, and hit the road for a year of travel.

When we first drove away from Vancouver in October 2013 we didn’t have maps, guidebooks, or even appropriate outerwear.  This bit us a few times when we didn’t know where we were going and the navigator and driver had a brief disagreement (yikes!), or when we were freezing in jeans and a couple of hoodies at the top of Volcan Acatenango.  We learned a lot from our first 8 months on the road and this is shown by what we’re packing this time.

For a great overall gear list make sure to reference Life Remotely’s Packing List.  You won’t need everything that they needed, but it’s a great reference to see if you’re forgetting anything that may be important to you.  We had forgotten to include a first aid kit before reading their list.  Duh!

Disclaimer:  You don’t REALLY need any of this stuff to hit the road and have fun.  We had a blast and didn’t have any of this the first go-round. 

Navigation:  Skobbler GPS, iOverlander, National Geographic Maps, Delorme inReach Explorer and Lonely Planet Guidebooks

We started using the Skobbler GPS app (search GPS Nav) on our iPhone 4 partway through our last trip and loved it.  It requires no mobile carrier and is dead-nuts reliable.  Spend the $10 for the app and the unlimited world maps and never fight with your significant other ever again!  (You can always blame the GPS lady together if you don’t make the proper turn because, “…she didn’t give us enough warning!”)

Update: In Peru we switched over to the Maps Me app just for fun.  It works just as well as Skobbler but lacks the routing ‘to and from’ option.  In reality either app would be suitable and effective.

Sam from Song of the Road is my hero for starting the iOverlander project.  This changes everything and we’re forever grateful.  We can’t wait to use the app to view nearby campsites, wild camping areas, and spots to fill up our propane tank.  We’ll still use the tried and true method of talking to real people we meet and getting recommendations from them, but iOverlander is like a giant safety blanket of campground database goodness.

Maps.  We used novelty maps found in visitor centres en route last time.  They weren’t always to scale and they definitely didn’t show all of the roads, but they were free!  Paper maps are invaluable for planning and discussing routes with others so we stepped it up big time and bought maps of all of the South American countries.  Legit!  There are a few types to choose from, but we went with National Geographic Adventure Maps since we had heard a couple of good reviews.  The maps don’t have to be perfect, but having something to spread across the hood of the truck and write notes on is too enjoyable to miss out on.

Update: We mainly used these maps for a general overview and planning.  They are great if you have a route planning session with a fellow Overlander and want to write notes or circle destinations.  By the time we reached Chile and Argentina we didn’t really use the paper maps that much but were glad we had them.

We have always travelled with The Lonely Planet Guidebooks so we grabbed one for each country we’ll be travelling through.  These things are HEAVY, but after being frustrated using PDF versions on the last trip we’ll deal with the extra weight this time.  There’s nothing like reading, making notes, and dog-earing a real book.  Honestly, a lot of things in these books don’t apply to the average overland traveller, but the country’s history, details of the tourist attractions, and hostel list (when there’s no place to camp) come in handy.  Sure, we’re still known to ignore all the guidebooks and do things our own way, but the more information you have at your fingertips the better.

Update: Again the Lonely Planet guides were great for a general overview and for taking notes.  We used the Trekking in the Patagonian Andes guide quite a bit and ripped out the pages and stored them in Ziploc bags for multi-day hikes.  The Trekking Guide is a bit out of date but most of the information is accurate and the sections regarding the flora and fauna were quite interesting and detailed.

Various National Geographic road maps and Lonely Planet Guidebooks with iOverlander app south america gear list

Additionally, inReach Canada has provided us with a new DeLorme InReach Explorer Two Way Satellite Communicator to help navigate the deep backroads and to communicate with friends and family for those times when wi-fi is non-existent.

person holding Delorme Explorer InReach Garmin two-way satellite communication device with GPS coordinates south america gear list

Sony Alpha A6000 Mirrorless Camera

Richard shoots with his Canon 5D Mark III and doesn’t have a problem with it… except for the fact that it’s heavy, bulky, and an obviously expensive camera.  We previously wrote about The Best Camera For Overlanding and how the best camera is the one you have with you.  Unfortunately we missed photos because we decided we didn’t want to carry around the Canon or because Ashley didn’t want to deal with the giant DSLR.  Sure, we also have our iPhones and GoPro Hero 2, but we wanted better quality images for not a lot more money.

Our solution was to to hock some of Richard’s backup DSLR camera gear on Craigslist so we could buy a new Sony Alpha a6000.  It’s small, produces great images, and is easy to use.  We’re looking forward to getting out in the mountains and trying it out!

Update: The a6000 is a perfect little camera for the size and price.  We shot some video with it and were really impressed with the image quality.  For photos, in the end Richard carried his Canon 5D Mark III on every single hike we went one.  Totally worth it for the still images the full frame camera produces.  If we didn’t have the DSLR, adding a couple of nice lenses to the Sony would be a great option to add to your South America gear list.  

Sony A6000 mirrorless camera south america gear list

Marmot Never Summer and Ouray Sleeping Bags

What do you mean random comforters from our old apartment aren’t going to keep us warm?  Most of the time this wasn’t a problem, but when we hiked a volcano or were camping at high elevations we were cold.  Honestly, we packed some t-shirts and shorts last time because we’re heading to Mexico.  Mexico is warm right?  Beaches, sun, tequila…

That was all fine and good until we hit Patzquaro at around 7000ft and frost formed on the truck overnight.  We bought a great Mexican blanket that kept us a little warmer, but for our trip to South America we’re also bringing Marmot Never Summer  and Marmot Women’s Ouray down-filled sleeping bags.  These -18C bags have kept us toasty for Canadian winter camping so we should be good to go for much of our trip south.

Update: These sleeping bags are one of our favourite purchases. They held up very well and kept us warm in the Bolivian Altiplano (in below freezing temps), Patagonian Andes and in Ushuaia.  They loft up nicely and pack down small.  We carried them on our multi-day treks and they are fairly lightweight.  During our journey across Canada they didn’t disappoint and kept us warm in the Kootenay Rockies at freezing temperatures.

man in orange Marmot Never Summer sleeping bag beside women's ouray sleeping bag south america gear list

12V Heated Mattress Pad

Sure, we’re Canadian, we picked up some good Icebreaker wool socks, have our warm sleeping bags, and layers of outdoor gear, but Ashley still runs cold.  For this, we’re taking a chance on a 12V Heated Mattress Pad.  We’ve heard from camper and roof top tent dwellers that these work wonders to preheat your bed on a cold night.  Time will tell how well this works, but we have dreams of preheating our mattress and sleeping bags while driving to a campsite and slipping into warm sleeping bags on a cold night.  Mmmm…  luxury!

Update: This Mattress Pad worked wonders in cold temperatures.  Basically we would fire it up for about 30 to 60 minutes before we went to bed and the heat warmed up the down in our sleeping bags.  Make sure to layer up your bedding — the pad worked the best placed underneath our sleeping bags with a thick mat, rug or blanket overtop of the sleeping bag to keep the heat in.

Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody

Our first thought was to pick up a couple of down-filled jackets, but we ended up purchasing two Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoodies instead.  These synthetic insulated jackets are great for sitting around camp or packing for multi-day hikes.  We went with synthetic because it’s durable and resilient.  Down jackets require you to be a little more careful in wet weather etc and we know ourselves well enough that living in a truck we’re not easy on gear.  These shouldn’t require any special care and that’s what we like to hear!

Update: These jackets ended up holding their own.  They took quite a beating and look just as good as the day we bought them.  One thing to consider though, they weren’t warm enough for certain parts of the Andes like Bolivia, some high-altitude areas of Peru, and Southern Patagonia.  I would recommend purchasing a thicker down or synthetic jacket for those areas, especially for outdoor activities such as cooking, hanging out at camp, doing dishes, etc.

close-up of women's blue Arcteryx Atom LT Hoodie jacket south america gear list

ARB Awning 1250 and Awning Room 2000

We seriously lucked out with the great weather throughout Central America. Unfortunately we’re expecting a little more rain this time around so we wanted to improve our camp life situation when the regular sunshine turns into liquid sunshine.

ARB USA hooked us up with a 4ft long ARB Awning 1250 that we’re going to mount off the back of the truck. Not sure how much fun it will be bringing this on the plane, but at least it’s not 6ft long!

We also picked up an ARB Awning Room for our existing ARB Awning 2000 so we can have a little “indoor living space” as well.

Update: We were definitely glad we mounted the awning off the back of the truck for some protection from the sun or rain while digging things from the bed of the truck.  Unfortunately we didn’t use the Awning Room much, mostly due to the fact that we weren’t in one place for long enough to set it up.  

Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket

Cold, wet, hungry.  We have heard that you can be two out of three of these and still be in a good (or at least, decent) mood.  To make sure we avoid the “wet” part we invested in a couple of Patagonia Torrentshell rain jackets.  Just the name inspires confidence!  They’re not a super high-end Gore-Tex hard shell, but they are 100% waterproof and didn’t cost an arm and a leg.  So far they have been proving their worth in rainy Vancouver!

Update: These jackets failed miserably.  My zipper was very difficult to do up and caught in the fabric constantly, the colour bled through the material, and they were super unhelpful in the rain.  Obviously they aren’t Gore-Tex but we came back soaking wet through our clothes and wondered what the heck happened.  We returned both jackets to the Patagonia store in Santiago, Chile and exchanged them for some other items.  I exchanged mine for a black down vest (which I love) and Richard exchanged his for a t-shirt and some long johns – both great items.

green Patagonia windbreaker jacket with Sony A6000 mirrorless camera south america gear list

As an alternative, Westcomb hooked us up with some super legit rain jackets (Fuse LT Hoody for me and Apoc Classic for Richard) made in our home province of British Columbia.  These jackets passed the test with flying colours (namely Blue and Red).  The women’s fit like a glove, slim in the waist with a slight flare at the hip.  The hood is huge, which I love (so all my hair can fit and potentially you could fit a helmet under it if skiing/snowboarding).  There is a fleece liner around the face and the wrists.  The material inside is very soft and you don’t get that gross rain jacket sticking to your skin thing happening when you wear them with a tank top underneath.  Along with the sleeping bags these jackets were one of our favourite pieces on our South America gear list.

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man wearing Westcomb windbreaker shell Apoc jacket in rain

Nemo Helio Pressure Shower

Cleaning sucks.  So we picked up this Nemo Helio Pressure Shower to not only clean us, but to act as a kitchen sprayer to wash dishes.  Luis from Lost World Expedition gave us this awesome idea when we met him at the NW Overland Rally last year.  Sure, Luis was using some pesticide spraying device (that he probably purchased new) filled with water but essentially it’ll do the same thing.  Camplife has never been so easy!

Update: We loved the Helio and used it mostly for beach days and washing the sand off our feet.  We hardly used it for washing dishes for some reason, maybe we just got lazy.  We still think it is a great purchase though and hopefully we can get motivated to bring it out during our cross-Canada trip.

Helio pressure shower by nemo equipment

LED Light Strips

These LED strip lights are going to get installed in our tent for sweet sweet night reading in roof top tent.  We should have enough to shed some light under our awnings as well.  We’ll use these generic connectors to connect the lights to our house battery.  We stumbled across the Adventure Parents post about this and loved the idea.  Let there be light!

Update: The LED Light Strips remain uninstalled at this time.  Woops!  [note about awesome christmas lights]

BlueSea USB and 12V Charger Sockets

Seriously, you can never have enough outlets to charge all of your electronic junk.  We have a couple of Kindles, our iPhones, and camera that all use USB connections for charging.  We’re going to add a Blue Sea Systems Dual USB Charger Socket and Blue Sea Systems 12 Volt Dash Socket to our dual battery system.

Update: We used these every single day.  #worthit

Jetboil Flash

Here’s the truth, on the road sometimes the only reason we need to boil water in the morning is to make delicious coffee.  Instead of having to haul our Coleman stove and 10lb propane tank out of the truck every morning we now have the option to use our small Jetfoil Flash burner.  Score.  The faster and easier it is to get caffeine in us the better!  Also, we’re hoping to spend some time backpacking in the Andes, so now we have a portable cooking system for that as well.  Double score.  It’s still unknown how easy it’s going to be to get fuel for this bad boy in South America, but our fingers are crossed!

Update: Another one of our favourite purchases.  We literally used this Jetboil every day in Patagonia and whenever we ran out of propane in our large tank.  We brought it on hikes and treks and it is lightweight and packs down well.  It boiled water like a champ and took no time at all.

jetboil flash cooking system sitting on table beside pour-over GSI coffee south america gearlist

Overland Empire and Exofficio Clothing

It turns out that these companies were paying attention to the last trip and saw that Richard didn’t seem to change his clothes (i.e., even when a dog ripped the sleeve on his favourite shirt he just turned it into a sleeveless t-shirt!).

Honestly, we’ve been following Overland Empire since we started our trip.  Their ethos, design and style resonated with us from day one so we were stoked when Mark contacted us.  We’re beyond excited to be working with them as OE Ambassadors!  Go check out their site and join the empire.

What do you think of when you hear Exofficio?  Underwear, that’s what.  Their Exofficio Men’s Give-N-Go Travel Underwear are said to be odour-resistant and moisture-wicking.  Exofficio hooked us up with a few pairs these along with some pants and shirts that should work a little better than old jeans and cotton hoodies we were rocking before!  Thanks again!

Update: All of our clothing held up well, and that is saying something since Richard wore his Exofficio shorts and pants literally every day and beat the crap out of them.

green and black overland empire branded hats caps

 Kahtoola Microspikes

We’ve been using these Kahtoola Microspikes for the snowy/icy hikes in BC and Washington all winter.  These are the perfect lightweight and inexpensive alternative to snowshoes or crampons.  Looking forward to trying these out on the snowy Patagonian Andes!

Update: We didn’t even unpack these bad boys.  There wasn’t enough snow to need them.

man wearing Kahtoola microspikes on a hiking boot in the mountains with snow south america gearlist

Now the only question is, how are we going to fit all of this gear on the plane?

Now we want to hear from you!  What is on your South America Gear List for overland travel?


Drawers and Sleeping Platform Build – Upgrading the Truck Living Situation

Richard

We have been using our simple plywood platform and Rubbermaid totes for the last 10 months on the road.  This worked fine (for the $60 it costs us) most of the time, but sometimes it got totally out of control organization-wise and nothing was ever easy to access.  Also, we realized that sometimes we really don’t want to haul everything out of the back of the truck just to make a snack or find the stove to brew some coffee.  Most of all though, we will need a place to sleep  indoors due to the very windy weather that Patagonia is famous for.

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After 10 months on the road we looked at the ARB Outback Solutions drawers and ARB Fridge Slide, but had trouble finding anybody in Ecuador that had anything in stock or were willing to give us a quote.

This made it easy to move to the next option.  The plan was to have a local carpenter build us a drawer and sleeping platform.  At $25/day for skilled labor we thought that Ecuador was the best option for this. Well, the first carpenter came back with a quote of $950 and a two-week build time.  Umm… WTF. Obviously that wasn’t in our budget.  I don’t know what he was planning on building, but it better have been freaking amazing.

We were forced to move onto the third option, which ended up being the best and only option for us.  It was time to build this junk ourselves.  Luckily we were in Ibarra, Ecuador where we found a plywood store that could cut out the pieces we needed.  I sketched a quick design and gave them a list of pieces we needed cut.  We had a day to wait before picking them up so we went to the hardware store.  Since I brought my 18V DeWalt drill we just needed to pick up a pile of woodscrews, hinges, and some glue.  The hardware store also happened to have some heavy-duty drawer slides we could use as a fridge slide.  Sweet.

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We wanted to have the main drawer on slides of some sort so we bought rails (1.5”x1.5”x1mm square tube) to mount to the drawer and 12 heavy-duty casters for those to ride on.  The following day we picked up all of our 15mm (5/8”) plywood and then started by tearing out all of the old stuff from the bed.  After a quick sweep of 25,000km of dirt from the bed we started piecing together the jigsaw puzzle.

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Now we have a nice low sleeping platform for when the wind is too strong for us to pop the rooftop tent. The 6ft drawer slides out nicely and we can access the necessary items without hassle. Also, Ashley can now actually see inside of the fridge by pulling it out to the edge of the tailgate.  Not too shabby for less than $200 and a day and a half of work in a campground in Ecuador 😉

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