Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide, 5th edition

The very first Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide was published in 1998, in association with Land Rover, in a hardbound format with color photos. These first editions now sell for many times the original price.Once Tom Sheppard took over publication on his own, with his one-man Desert Winds Publishing, he opted for a more affordable, soft-bound book with black-and-white photos. But the information contained within remained head and shoulders above any similar publication that followed it. This was due more than anything else to Tom’s background as a test pilot for the RAF, and his predilection for solo travel in the depths of the Sahara—each of them activities that punished carelessness and lack of preparation harshly.  Thus VDEG (“veedeg”), as aficionados refer to it, didn’t simply offer advice on driving techniques, what to pack, and the best camp cot. The sections within also covered vehicle and team selection, vehicle modifications both recommended and not, fuel types and grades, oil viscosities, water, shipping, cooking and food, loading and lashing, communications, navigation, and much more. The same test-pilot attention to detail drove Tom to regularly produce new editions and sub-editions to keep the book current on rapidly advancing technology, leading some of us to tease him about an upcoming “Edition 4.1-6a (3t).” They certainly weren’t done in an attempt to squeeze more profit from the book; Tom could have saved much work by skipping several iterations and few would have noticed. I remember well our first meeting in 2009, after corresponding for a couple of years when I was the executive editor at Overland Journal. While Tom had always been charming via email, Roseann and I nevertheless arrived at his house north of London expecting someone imbued with at least a touch of the Top Gun attitude. Nothing could have been further from reality. We were greeted by a slender man approaching his eighties but thirtyish spry, somehow six feet tall yet at the same time elfin. And he was if anything more charming in real life, and in the comfort of his home bore more resemblance to a slightly absent-minded Oxford professor than a death-defying test pilot; given to exclaiming, “Oh dear,” when he spilled the sugar or forgot to put out cakes with the tea. Roseann fell hard and fast, and he and I developed a lasting friendship in addition to an effortless working relationship.In 2015 I was shocked and humbled when Tom Sheppard asked me to be the co-author of the 4th edition of the Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide. There was good reason for him to ask someone on this side of the Pond: Overland travel had exploded in the U.S., along with hundreds of new products. As well, vehicles were changing and so were recovery equipment and techniques. Tom relied on patience and the simplest tools for recovery on his solo Sahara drives, eschewing complexities such as winches (which would benefit from scant anchor points deep in the dune fields). That 4th edition took the better part of six months for the pair of us to completely revise and update, and for me to add a bunch of information on equipment with which Tom had no familiarity and, in some cases, little desire to have any (50-liter fridges, Tom?). We argued about his atavistic fondness for tubed tires; I lobbied for tubeless tires, plug kits, and Tyrepliers. In the end we each had a say. He let me write entirely new sections on winching and Hi-Lift (and, later, ARB) jacks, which later he also incorporated into his Four-by-four Driving, a comprehensive guide used by military special forces on at least two continents. By the time we were finished, VDEG had grown by something like 50 pages and about a pound. And for the first two months during which Roseann and I were the North American distributors, I did little else but pack and ship VDEGs. Subsequent 4-point-something reprints incorporated the usual worthwhile Sheppard-esque detail updates, but remained similar. Now comes the 5th edition of VDEG. This time, Tom took a deep breath and enlarged both the format and font size, making for easier reading—and, given several updated/expanded sections, also making for a book that now weighs a tick over four pounds. Perhaps even more significantly, for the first time the 5th edition is printed digitally, which has bumped the clarity and contrast in the images noticeably. Despite this, the price has risen just $5, the first price increase in six years.Also—perhaps—significantly, this is a very limited print run. We received just 75 copies; Tom kept the same number for Europe and elsewhere. I always feel justified in boasting about VDEG; after all I was a fan long before I became a co-author. I remember driving 120 miles to the Land Rover dealer in Scottsdale to buy my first copy, and waiting in line while the woman ahead of me agonized over whether she wanted the leopard or elephant tire cover for her Range Rover. The book was worth the wait and the price. It still is.

VDEG Sale

A revised edition of the overland bible, the Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide, is in the pipeline. We don’t know when it will arrive; we do know it will be slightly larger in format, lightly updated, and for the first time in half a decade will have a higher cover price. In the meantime, we’ve reduced the price of the current edition to just $60. Among the dozens of emails I’ve received from previous buyers of VDEG, not one has said, “Not worth the price.” The universal reaction is exactly the opposite—this 600-plus page book includes everything you need to know for a three-day weekend exploration of a nearby park, or a three-month scientific expedition in the Sahara. If you’ve been looking for a perfect holiday gift for an overlander you know, this is it.

A guide to recovery jacks, for the beginner . . . or procrastinator

A few years ago I was helping lead a group trip along the Continental Divide, when one of the participants badly sliced a tire on his Tacoma on a back road in Wyoming. Roseann and I were riding tail gunner, and as we pulled up the driver had already chocked the wheels, retrieved the factory scissors jack, and placed it under the rear axle. But he was failing completely in his efforts to raise the axle and tire, straining mightily but futilely on the crank handle. Why? Because mounted on the back of the Tacoma was a Four Wheel Camper, which was in turn loaded with water, food, and supplies for a two week trip. We stopped, I got out my four-ton hydraulic bottle jack, and we effortlessly lifted the truck and swapped the tire.With very few exceptions—such as the superb Italian-made hydraulic bottle jack supplied with solid-axle Land Rovers for some time—factory-supplied jacks are designed to minimal specs to lift the vehicle, on pavement, just high enough to change a tire. Load that vehicle up with bumpers, winches, roof racks, camping gear—or a camper—and you might find that jack whimpering under the load. Actually it would be you who were whimpering.If you want something that can handle a tire change on a loaded vehicle, as well as recovery duties—for example to lift the vehicle off a high-centered situation, or to shovel substrate under a bogged tire, or insert MaxTrax—you need to step up the game with something rated to at least half to two-thirds the GVWR of your rig. And then you have a major decision to make: Do you want to lift from up top, via a bumper or slider, or from below, via an axle or the chassis?The advantage to a bumper jack is, first, you don’t have to crawl under the vehicle to lift it—nice for staying clean but also possibly critical if your 4x4 is buried right to the axles in sand or mud. Or water. Disadvantages? First, your vehicle must be equipped with sturdy, recovery-capable bumpers front and rear—and preferably with rock sliders as well—that will accept the jack’s tongue. Second, to lift a tire off the ground with a bumper jack to change it you have to cycle through the vehicle’s full suspension travel first, which can mean a foot or more of wasted elevation and leave the vehicle precariously tippy. Finally, bumper jacks tend to be heavy and bulky.The axle/chassis jack is compact (with the understandable exception of the Pro Eagle here), doesn’t waste lifting height to raise a punctured tire, and with a few accessories can perform a variety of recovery tasks. But access to the underside of the vehicle is mandatory, and bottle jacks in particular tend to have limited lifting range—often only six or seven inches unless you buy a double-extension model, which will increase that by another four or five inches. Still paltry compared to the 30 inches or more of a bumper jack.My suggestion: If you mostly need a sturdy jack for tire changing and occasional recovery work, look at the chassis jacks here. If you like to challenge yourself and your vehicle and frequently find yourself a bit buried, consider making room for the Hi-Lift or the ARB X Jack. Hi-Lift jack ($100 48” all-cast) How many products survive a century virtually unchanged? Yet the antediluvian Hi-Lift still scores points in this group with its low price, rugged simplicity, ease of refurbishment, and versatility—it’s the only product here that will also function as a clamp or a (very slow) winch. The Hi-Lift’s 4,660-pound rating has become the de facto standard for competitors, and in this group its range of lift is second only to the ARB Jack. Downsides include the Hi-Lift’s 29-pound mass and jam-prone lifting mechanism (the latter usually rectified with a dousing of almost any lubricant, including, according to my nephew, Keystone Light). Also, while proponents always bring up those “clamping and winching” functions, the number of times I’ve done either except to demonstrate it is exactly zero. (On the other hand, I once successfully sleeved a broken tie rod with a Hi-Lift handle and a bunch of baling wire.)To lift a vehicle by a bumper with the Hi-Lift, you must raise the lifting tongue—along with the entire lifting mechanism—up the main beam to the height needed. Thus if you’re using the common 48-inch model and your bumper is 36 inches off the ground, you’re left with just a few inches of travel (since the mechanism can’t go all the way to the top).The big red flag in the Hi-Lift’s manual of arms, as anyone who’s used one knows, is what I call the ZoD: the “Zone of Disfigurement” circumscribed by the arc the handle makes. Let your head stray inside this arc—whether you’re raising or lowering—and you’re asking for a broken nose or jaw if you lose your grip. When lifting a heavy vehicle—especially if the operator isn’t heavy—it can be difficult indeed to apply enough force to accomplish the task while simultaneously staying out of the ZoD. And lowering a load takes exactly as much force as raising it, so don’t let down your guard just because you’re letting down the vehicle. Losing control of the handle while lowering can trigger a feedback loop that results in the handle slamming against the beam and rebounding wildly, ratcheting the vehicle down all on its own. I know experiencedbackcountry drivers who wouldn’t leave home without a Hi-Lift, and equally experienced backcountry drivers you couldn’t pay to carry one. Over the years I’ve migrated between both camps, so I’ll be no help—except to slyly point you to the product below.Bloomfield Manufacturing is here. ARB JACK ($833) Think of the ARB Jack as a Hi-Lift that went to a very expensive finishing school. The coarse mechanical mechanism is gone, replaced with smooth and powerful hydraulics—my 115-pound wife can lift the entire loaded rear end of our 70-Series Troop carrier. At one demo I gave at the Overland Expo using the front of an FJ40, a lifelong Hi-Lift user walked up and gave the handle exactly one pump, said, “That’s all I need to see,” and headed for the ARB booth. There’s zero possibility of face-altering kickback—let go the handle and it simply sits there waiting for you to get back to work—and lowering is quite literally a one-finger operation via a little red lever. While a Hi-Lift can only lower the vehicle in increments of an inch, the ARB can gently ease it down millimeters at a time. In another sharp contrast to the Hi-Lift, to adjust the lifting tongue of the ARB Jack to bumper height, you only have to lift the tongue itself to the appropriate slot on the aluminum body, leaving the full lifting range of the jack intact—up to 48 inches. One quirk: Once the weight is off the ARB Jack when lowering, it does not drop free like the Hi-Lift; there is still a considerable amount of hydraulic resistance. You need to keep the red lever pressed and really lean on the jack to compress it. A separate compression-release button (suitably guarded to avoid inadvertent activation) would be a handy future modification. The ARB Jack is 15 percent lighter than a Hi-Lift, and only 36 inches long in its carrying case. The sealed mechanism won’t jam in dusty conditions, and the base even has a clever cutout to facilitate breaking the bead on a tire. What’s not to like? I just hope you were sitting down when you saw the price. If you can rationalize—and afford—the difference, I will say that the ARB Jack is hands down superior to the Hi-Lift, and, while accepting that this aspect is in large part a function of the user, a far safer one as well. Also check out the ARB jack base, which smartly accommodates either the ARB or Hi-Lift jack foot. One caveat: ARB recommends the Jack be stored upright to protect the seals. I store mine upright at home, but carry it horizontal in the vehicle. So far I’ve had no issues.ARB is here. Safe Jack Bottle Jack kit ($269) There may be more versatile jack systems around, but none that also fits in a .50-caliber ammo can. The 27-pound Safe Jack “Sergeant” kit comprises a six-ton hydraulic bottle jack, a flat (chassis) and a curved (solid axle) lifting attachment, and three extension posts, one of them adjustable. Other Safe Jack kits, from “Private” to, yes, “General,” include fewer or more extras (all of which are available separately).The range of extensions allows you to lift from an axle, the chassis, or a bumper, as needed. Its compact size limits the included jack to six inches of lift; however, as long as the post is compatible, you could pair the Safe Jack attachments to any bottle jack you like, such as the double-extension model I already owned. My Safe Jack kit hasn’t yet met a vehicle it couldn’t lift. A suggestion: Have a blackmsith make you a “wheel claw” similar to the one Tom Sheppard had made and carried in the Sahara for decades (configured for a specific wheel type), and your bottle jack will easily lift one wheel to allow the insertion of a MaxTrax or other recovery mat.Safe Jack is here. Tom Sheppard’s bespoke folding wheel claw lifts one wheel for insertion of traction mats. Surplus M998 scissors jack ($75) and Agile Off Road chassis adapter ($90) Gotta love military surplus. The heavy-duty (3.5-ton) scissors jack configured to lift the front or rear A-arms of the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle—Humvee to most of us—is available by the score on eBay with case, ratchet handle, and extension rods, for around 75 bucks. Add Agile Off Road’s reversible billet-aluminum adapter and it will securely support your non-combat vehicle at either the axle or chassis. A reversible ratcheting handle means you don’t have to crank in a complete circle in a confined space—a brilliant idea—and as long as your truck weighs less than an up-armored HMMWV this jack will lift it easily to a height of 20.5 inches with the adapter in place. A generous 7 by 12-inch base plate ensures support in Middle-Eastern-theater sand, or any other kind. The lifting post on the jack has a bit of wobble built in; Agile Off Road recommends tack-welding this to increase stability. However, I used it as is and had zero problems. I now carry this setup permanently in my FJ40.Agile Off Road is here. Pro Eagle Off Road jack ($440) A floor jack with off-road tires—why didn’t someone think of this before? Take a two-ton hydraulic floor jack—the easiest way ever to lift a vehicle on a concrete driveway—add solid axles and burly composite wheels, and you’ve got an all-terrain floor jack. The Pro Eagle rolled over my gravel driveway effortlessly, and lifted the entire front end of my FJ40 in a sandy wash without digging in more than a couple inches. Given the fat tires plus a full-length underbody “skid plate,” it shouldn’t sink in any substrate that doesn’t have a current. Pop on the adjustable extension post for a full 26 inches of lift height. I certainly wouldn’t carry this bulky, 52-pound jack for field duty in the FJ40, but if you’ve got a full-size truck or Sprinter (there’s also a 3-ton version) or are traveling with a group, it will make any recovery a breeze. And, of course, at home it’s an excellent shop jack (I sold my old standard floor jack). One operational note—like all such jacks, the lifting pad moves through an arc as it rises. If you employ the extension, and both the jack and vehicle are held stationary by the substrate, the extension can wind up tilted significantly at full height. Plan ahead. A full-length bottom plate prevents sinking even in sand. Pro Eagle is here. ARB X Jack ($270)Some of the jacks here are easy to operate; some are difficult to operate—but only one is effortless to operate. Situate the deflated X jack under the chassis of your 4x4, hold the inflation cone over the exhaust pipe or connect an air compressor to the Schrader valve, and the expanding bag will lift up to 4,400 pounds up to 30 inches in the air.Truck buried to the bumpers with no way to get a bottle jack or Hi-Lift underneath? All you need is four inches of scooped clearance for the X jack to slide underneath. Stuck in rocks with no secure base for a bumper jack? The X Jack molds itself around virtually any substrate, and the hard rubber “teeth” on the bottom help prevent slippage. Included is a thick square of guard material to protect the already-stout envelope, but it’s best to remember this thing is still a heavy-duty balloon, and keep it away from bolt ends and hot exhaust pipes. I’ve seen two punctures resulting from (extremely) careless placement, although the envelope can be patched effectively with the included kit.Another possible issue with the X Jack is compatibility with your exhaust opening. The jack’s connector is a simple rubber cone, and if your exhaust tip is rectangular you might not be able to achieve a tight seal, critical for inflation. In that case an air compressor will work, but it’s much slower—the X Jack likes a lot of volume and low pressure, the opposite of what most compressors produce.Finally, remember that at full height your vehicle is supported on air inside a flexible casing; expect a bit of squidginess.But then, you wouldn’t get under a vehicle supported only by any if these jacks, right?ARB is here. A final note: None of these jacks should be employed unless the vehicle is securely chocked. Among the best of that breed I’ve seen are the Safe Jack nesting chocks. One is slightly smaller than the other and so fits inside when folded, yet the pair is substantial enough to serve as chocks for winching duty.

Defender 110 and Land Cruiser Troop Carrier: Unobtanium No More

Once unobtanium on U.S. Shores, these two expedition legends can now be had—for a price. Are they worth it? By Graham JacksonImages by Graham Jackson, Brian Slobe, and Jonathan HansonThe images are ubiquitous, in National Geographic, in Geographical, on CNN and BBC, even on the web on Overland Expo and Exploring Overland: two of the most iconic and aspirational expedition vehicles in the world; the Land Rover Defender 110 Station Wagon and the Toyota Land Cruiser 75 Series Troop Carrier (Troopy). Both come from the same generation, the Defender started production in 1983 (yes, I know, it wasn’t named “Defender” until 1990, but it’s the same vehicle) and the 70 Series (J7) started production in 1984. From that time they became common sights in videos and news reports from the furthest, most adventurous parts of the world. Every wildlife documentary seemed to have a 110 lurking in the background and every natural disaster video report seemed to have a 70 Series on hand. These two vehicles became legends in short order.But for the longest time neither vehicle was available in the USA. Sure, in 1993 Land Rover imported 500 federalized Defender 110s, which now fetch staggering prices on the used market—a testament to the pent-up demand for this vehicle. Mining companies have imported 75-series Land Cruisers, but they are not road legal and spend most of their lives as workhorses underground, where the incredibly tough conditions means no other vehicle is adequate. Why neither Toyota nor Land Rover took the effort to bring the vehicles into the USA as a major model for sale to the public can only be answered by the penny-pushers and spreadsheet drones at either company. However, examples from the golden era of these vehicles (mid-1990s) have now reached the 25-year-old mark, making them eligible for private import into the USA. The question is, are they worth it? Should you find a Defender 110SW or 75 Series Troopy and import it into the U.S.? Would either serve well as an overland or expedition vehicle here? Since I own both, I think I can offer some insight. To be clear, I am referencing only the specific models mentioned. Obviously there are other Land Cruisers and other Defenders, and both marques have massive followings of experts who will call me out on any transgression, so let’s define what we are talking about: In my opinion, the golden age for these vehicles was the 1990s, and the best of the best were the export models, which is what the UN and aid organizations typically got. For Defenders that means, at its base, the Rest of World (ROW) spec 110 Station Wagon with the 300tdi diesel engine and 5-speed transmission, in white. There are ROW spec pickups, 90s, 130s and 3-door 110s as well, but here we are looking at the Station Wagon, the 110SW.  For the Land Cruiser, choosing a spec is even more murky; the J7 line has two model groups, five wheelbases, many body variations, and twenty-two different engines! Here we are looking at the HZJ75, the ‘heavy duty long wheelbase’ with the 1HZ inline 6 cylinder engine and manual 5-speed transmission with the enclosed or ‘troop carrier’ body—also in white. See the chart for specifics. AnalysisLet’s get this one out of the way: They are both gorgeous. Something about the boxy appearance and the utilitarian stance; they exude confidence and capability even when parked. They are vehicles you cannot step out of and not look back at; like your ultimate crush, they command the eye. I put that solidly in the good list, because their legend is in no small part due to this. If you don’t find your eyes drawn back to the opening picture of this article, then . . . well, I’m surprised you read this far.The rest of the “good” category pertains to the very utilitarian aspect that makes these vehicles excellent for expeditions and overlanding. Tom Sheppard and Jonathan Hanson have a fantastic comparison of the features in the Vehicle Dependent Expedition Guide, and I’ve included some in the chart here. Both are at the top of the range of available vehicles in terms of payload, in volume and weight, for their size. The Defender can carry a staggering 41 percent of its GVW as payload (with the heavy duty suspension installed), and the Troopy isn’t far behind at 30 percent, while the Troopy has a cavernous load bay at 87 cubic feet compared to the Defender’s at 77 (both with rear seats removed). As great load carriers, they lend themselves exceptionally well to expedition work, capable — with tried-and-true four-wheel-drive systems and suspension — of carrying the load over unforgiving terrain. The 110 has the more comfortable and compliant coil springs coupled with full-time four-wheel-drive, while the 75 has leaf springs and part-time four-wheel-drive with locking hubs—and, in many available examples, factory-optional cross-axle diff locks front and rear. The Land Rover’s fuel capacity is 21 gallons; the Troopy boasts dual tanks carrying a total of 47 gallons. Both come with five-speed transmissions.Far from sport-utility-vehicles, these are just utility vehicles. No automatic transmissions, no driver aids like stability control or ABS—these are vehicles that have to be driven. They do not handle particularly well on the road, they lean excessively in corners when driven fast, and demand attention. But this is also an advantage. The lack of complex systems and sensors means that field repair is easier, and reliability is better. And no, I’m not going down the Land Rover reliability rabbit hole; Defenders are extremely reliable when cared for well.  Both the 300tdi and the 1HZ are stalwart expedition diesel engines that run on mediocre quality fuel, though the 1HZ is more tolerant. Both have simple mechanical fuel injection and can run on only one wire to the fuel solenoid if required — no computers to get in the way. But that also means they are not clean engines. They will pass 1990s emission standards, but nothing better. The 300tdi is a bit cleaner since it has a turbo, while the 1HZ will serve as an extremely good black fog machine at elevation. Neither are powerful. At 111 HP for the Land Rover and 129 HP for the Toyota, they accelerate slowly and cruise the same way. We will come back to this point later. Toyota’s ultra-durable 1HZ six-cylinder diesel has been in production for 30 years. Land Rover’s 300tdi is exceptionally fuel-efficient. Luxury appointments are sparse, as are electronics. No electric motors in seats, no electric windows; sound systems that are barely able to drown out the noise of the engines and the road. They are not vehicles to drive with one finger at 85 mph while sipping a latte, texting friends, and jamming to tunes. The 75 does have tilt steering and optional electronic door locks, but no remote key fob. The 110 doesn’t even have those bare luxuries. Air conditioning is the one “luxury” shared by both, though some would argue it is a necessity (and it’s only optional for the 110SW). There are no speed sensors and interlocks to stop you shifting the transfer case while on the move and no backup sensors or cameras to help those who neglected to learn how to park or use mirrors. No clutch interlock to stop you starting the engine with the clutch engaged. Again, this speaks to their utilitarian drivability which is also one of their strongest assets. These are not nanny vehicles that assert “safety;” they are vehicles that demand attention, demand driving, and reward you in that you can start in gear when bogged in soft sand, or switch to high range while on the move so long as you double de-clutch. Stock tire sizes are the same, at 235/85R16 (760R16), one of the most common light truck sizes in the world. Pretty easy to find almost anywhere. Given the simple non-electronic mechanics on both vehicles it is very easy to get them repaired.The load bays on both models are spacious, sparse and square. Nothing better for building out a living space or a load system for any expedition. Unhampered by plastic trim, carpeting and  cup holders, they are blank slates to build up and make your own.  Both vehicles lend themselves to camper conversions. Which leads us to the two features that makes both of these vehicles so exceptional yet have nothing to do with Toyota or Land Rover. It is the massive aftermarket support in accessories and the equally massive community of owners who are willing to help wherever you go. Because of their highly customizable and modular nature (by design), it is very simple to make a 110 or a 75 your own unique expedition rig. From pop-tops to long-range fuel tanks to water tanks and interiors, to suspensions and underbody protection, both models have excellent support in this regard. The internet is filled with fantastic examples of beautifully outfitted vehicles. This also means that it can be very challenging to find one that is unmolested or even close to stock. But don’t mistake all my praise to imply that either vehicle is perfect out of the box. One of the reasons that they have such massive aftermarket support is that they are, by all counts, mediocre when stock. Expedition vehicles are a collection of compromises and the 110 and the 75, in stock form, are exceptional in that they are completely un-exceptional. It’s like getting the highest quality blank notebook, with the finest acid-free paper and the most beautiful leather cover, case bound, that will last forever. But it is still a blank notebook until you put a few stickers on the outside and then fill it with stories and paintings of your travels to the  most remote and beautiful parts of the world. So . . . are they good for the USA?In a word, no, I don’t think they are. But that speaks more to the culture and circumstances of the U.S. than it does to the vehicles. In this country most people get very little time off, and distances are so great that a good portion of any overland adventure is going to be highway time. Neither of these vehicles is good at that. With a comfortable cruising speed of not much above 65 mph, both demand patience; with solid axles and archaic steering geometry, both demand constant attention. Many, many people have purchased a Land Rover Defender after falling in love with the safari image, only to sell it when they discover it is not a modern car, lacks anything close to a creature comfort, and requires diligent maintenance. If it is expected to be a mode of travel for family vacations, strife and frustration are often the result.With that said, if you are a person with plenty of time who is happy to cruise at 65 mph and enjoy the scenery—and to be fair, there are quite a few who can and do (looking at you Maggie McDermut)—you might live happily with either of these vehicles, and will enjoy looking back at it every time you park and get out. When modified in any of the hundreds of variations possible, up to and including pop-tops, cabinets with sink and stove, hot shower systems, awnings, and more, once in camp they are the equal of any more “modern” vehicle.  Cabinetry turned this Troopy into a mini motor home. Finally, of course, if you ever do have the opportunity to ship your Defender or Troopy overseas to Africa, Australia, or South America, you will be driving one of the premier choices for extended exploration in the remotest regions of the planet. It will be a notebook in which you can write your own adventures. If such a vision inspires you, I cannot recommend either of these vehicles highly enough. Graham Jackson is the long-time Director of Training for the Overland Expo, and a founder of 7P Overland, a professional four-wheel-drive training and equipment-supply organization. Their website is here.

Overlanding for a Better World – Meet Alveto Expedition

You overland around the word for a number of years, you observe and learn, and then decide something to do good, that’s what Try to Give Back is about – a better world. This, in short is what Aldo and Vera’s overland journey is about. As many of us they set out with a simple idea: to get out there and see something of the world in the most independent way possible, by car. The world is a wondrous, marvelous place in many ways, but has some serious issues, pollution and poverty among them. Aldo and Vera decided to do their share in making our planet a little bit better and started Try to Give Back. No need to repeat here what they’ll be telling you themselves in this extensive, inspiring interview. Check them out, get caught by their enthusiasm and join the cause. Tell us a bit about yourselves and how you got to live a life on the road It all started with a simple question:  “What’s your dream?” I asked Vera on one of our first dates. She replied, “I love to travel and I would like to go one day to explore Asia, backpacking for about 6 months but in a very simple way and on budget, not as tourist but as traveller, going off-the-beaten path, learning about new cultures and traditions, trying the local cuisine and meeting with the locals. Would you like to do it with me?”  My answer was straight forward, “Off course, no problem”. Vera thought I was joking but the following week I took her to the bank where we opened a joint bank account. We agreed to put money aside directly from our salaries on a monthly basis and started saving for our future adventure trip. Few years passed, we got married and life went on but the small account continued to grow and we started to seriously think of leaving everything behind and to chase our dreams. From a backpacking trip to Asia it became an overland journey around the world. At first we thought of a camper, spacious and comfortable, but we quickly gave up on this idea, as we wanted to get to remote places, which would mean a lot of off-road. After reading about a famous German Overlander, Gunther Holtorf, we got inspired with the idea to buy a 4×4 vehicle and to transform it into a mini home on wheels.  We choose a Toyota Land Cruiser  for its legendary durability and its off-road capabilities. Also we thought that at some point we would have to ship our car to a next country or continent and the safest way to do this is via cargo container and our Land Cruise Prado would fit perfectly in a standard 20 ft container. In addition, we travel on a budget with minimal expenses so we needed a low-consumption engine, preferably diesel, strong and reliable. And beyond that, when you are many years on the road around the world, you will inevitably need some repairs and a Toyota Land Cruiser has the advantage of being a global model, with spare parts that can be found almost everywhere in the world. We used to live in England and in 2016, in part due to Brexit, we decided it was time to make the big change and embark on the craziest adventure of our life. We sold out everything we had, from our beloved motorbike a Suzuki Bandit 1250 down to all our household items, and off we went without looking back but only forward, one mile at the time.  Did you plan from the beginning to make it a full time existence, or did it start e.g. as a 1 or 2-year plan? What has your route been so far? And what’s next? Initially we thought that we would  travel around the world for up to 2 years. Later we understood that we didn’t take into consideration many important factors like: the best time and season to be in each country, container shipping times and the complications it may involve, the visa process, documents for the car and the requirements to enter in each country and so on. So we knew that if we really want to visit each country at its best we would have need much longer than 2 years. During the past  5 years we drove across 5 continents and visited  55 countries, totaling around 200,000 km. We are planning to cross all 6 drivable continents and visit between 80 to 100 countries. We started our trip in England making our way through Europe and eventually we crossed the whole of Russia from West to East as we always wanted to drive the Trans-Siberian Highway.   In 2016, more Asian countries followed: South Korea, China with the famous Great Wall, India visiting the Golden triangle route and Taj Mahal, Nepal – trekking to the Everest Base Camp – Thailand with beautiful islands, old Buddhist temples and exquisite tropical fruits, Malaysia with the orang-utans, Cambodia with Angkor Wat, Indonesia with the Komodo Dragon, Bali and the volcanic Java Island. Interviews In 2017 we reached Australia, which we explored for a few months. The trip was followed by the longest shipment for Toto: 60 days in a container from Australia to South America. While our Toto’ was inside a container we took the opportunity to visit New Zealand. Upon arriving in Uruguay we drove south to Ushuaia, the most southernmost driveable point on earth, made a U-turn and drove all the Way up to the Arctic Ocean in North America, passing through Argentina and Chile exploring Patagonia and visiting some of the most incredible landscapes in the Andes: Torres del Paine, El Chalten and Perito Moreno.  Many countries further, Canada marked the end of the Pan-American adventure when we reached the Canadian northernmost drivable point at the end of the Dempster Higway in Tuktoyaktuk. Here we soaked our feet in the icy cold waters of the Arctic Ocean. Recommended Books on Overlanding (click on the images to look inside) Products from Amazon By the end of 2019 we were back to the USA and crossed 28 of its states, which was a huge achievement for all three of us. 2020 Brought a sudden change in the whole world for all the travellers. The global pandemic instantly imposed major restrictions, which got us caught us in Miami, Florida. In March 2020 we the plan was to ship our vehicle to South Africa and finish our journey driving back to Europe crossing the African continent and passing through Middle East but due to the coronavirus we found ourselves stuck in Florida for 3 months. When the borders re-opened we shipped our Toto back to Europe and spent about a year in Italy, doing some repairs and a total maintenance of our vehicle. A few months ago we entered Greece, passed through Bulgaria and entered Turkey a couple of days ago, which we are planning to see for the next month and a half.  Our future plans are visiting Iran, Middle East and eventually enter Africa, driving it from North East to South and West. What makes you home on wheels Toto special for you? During all those years of traveling Toto proved to be the best choice of the vehicle we made for this trip. It has been our little home on wheels for the past 5 years and together we travelled in snow and ice in temperatures as low as -27 °C (-17F) in Canada to as high as + 50 °C (+ 122 ° F) in Australia. We drove through deserts, mud, rain, across sand and gravel, and crossed rivers. This included driving from -86 meters below sea level in the Death Valley in California and over 4900 meters above sea level in the Andes in South America. It is not just a vehicle for us, but a loyal companion that took us all around the world and to some very remote places. Car Specifics – Toto, a RHD Toyota Land cruiser KDJ120 Prado from 2004 mileage: 200.000 milesfuel consumption: 25miles x gallon avg.preference of tires: Coopertires, 3 set of tires to date: 1)  Mud terrain Discoverer STT Pro  2) All terrain-snow Discoverer AT3 4s  3) currently All terrain ST Maxx Modifications Interior: Self made bed frame 6ft x 4ftLeisure Battery 120amp50 lt Fresh water tank with 12V hot water systemBluetti Poweroak AC50s Powerbank + SP120W solar panel100W dokio Solar Panel26 lt Dometic FridgeColeman Dual fuel StoveJetboil minimo Exterior 1.5 in lift kit Ironman 4×4SnorkelCustom-built Roof rack with 420W led light30lt Jerry CanCustom-built 8mm Aluminium Skid Plates13.500lb Rhino Winch on hidden mountRacor fuel prefilter 10micron with water separatorAPS Transmission coolerCustom-built Breathers Extension kit What’s the best thing you packed and what’s the stupidest thing you brought (and ditched)? The best thing we brought with us is our Jet Boil, Coleman Cooker,  and a warm sleeping bag.  The stupidest, I guess, were lots of unnecessary and useless clothes that we donated or sent home. Our home is not just the walls that surround us, the whole planet Earth is our home” is the quote on your homepage. How did this conviction come to existence? Did you ‘always’ feel this was the case, or was it something your learned during your journey? This is what we understood to be true since we started traveling around the world. Everything in the natural world is interconnected and every action has a consequence. Before our journey we were living in our small world and didn’t know what was happening outside of it, caring only for ourselves.  Traveling around the world opened our eyes to so many things we didn’t think about or knew. We started appreciating even the little things that before we had taken for granted. We have seen so many miracles of nature and realize how fortunate ‘we’ (all human beings) are to call this marvelous planet our home. There is no other planet similar to Earth for thousands of light years away.  The saddest thing we witnessed, is how people are intentionally destroying the most precious thing we have: our life and future on this planet. If mankind does not realize very soon what we are doing and where we are heading to, the human race doesn’t have hope to survive on this planet.  Overland Vehicle Choice – the Discussions: @ALVETO Expedition We will eventually contaminate all the potable water, the breathable air, our land, will end up having more plastic in the oceans than fish, wild animals will be extinct and exterminated, our ecosystems destroyed and all of these will trigger the severe consequences of a climate change on us. It’s already in front of everyone’s eyes: natural disasters happening more often and always worse than the previous year. That’s why we decided to open our own charity organization and do anything possible to make a change.   Through our videos on YouTube we show how beautiful but at the same time how fragile our world is, trying to raise awareness about environmental concerns. With the revenue generated from our videos we do charitable actions like: plant treeshelp animal sanctuaries and marine conservation projectsbring aid to poor communities in need.   We are still a small community and charity, but we are hoping to grow in the next few years during our trip to Africa and participate in bigger projects.  Let’s talk about your initiative Try to Give Back. How did it start? What is it about? What are your goals and how to achieve them? Some of the highlights of our time in Mexico was swimming with whale sharks while wild camping on a beach in Baja California.  Here, we got extremely sensible of the waste and pollution problems when seeing people throwing their garbage bags out the windows of the car while driving (which we also found to be common throughout the whole of South-America). We were so devastated and angry, but soon we realized that feeling this way wouldn’t help in sorting out this problem.  That’s when we decided to found our Charity Association and  contribute in giving something back to our planet. This is how we came up with the name TRY TO GIVE BACK.  We decided not to use/buy plastic bottles, plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, etc anymore, and to be careful with the consumption of water and energy. We adopted a flexitarian diet, which consists in drastically reducing our consumption of meat and fish while mainly eating fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Alternative Water Filter Systems (click on the images to look inside) Products from Amazon We calculated the amount of carbon emissions that we produced during all those years of traveling and started to plant trees regularly. Additionally we decided to make videos on YouTube about our journey to show how beautiful our world is, but also how fragile it is. We send messages of sustainability and show the other side of the coin, and the true reality of what’s going on around the world. Our main goals are to raise awareness about the environmental concerns, sustainability, pollution and animal welfare. We aim to inspire people to take action and care of the only house we have –our planet.  The entire world has to change, lead a more sustainable life style. Our governments need to adopt severe laws and regulation in protecting our ecosystems and environment. A lot of people are ignorant and many don’t care at all even though they are well aware about climate change and the natural catastrophes.  It will be very hard and difficult to achieve our goals. We know that we won’t save the world, but at least we will do our part and will try to leave this world a bit better than we found it.  We will not give up and continue making videos on YouTube to raise funds to implement our charitable actions. How do you find or select your charities and how do you go about having those trees planted? We are not supporting big charity organizations unless we really know what goes on behind closed doors. Unfortunately, many big name organizations spend most of the donated money on wages, accountants and marketing. Furthermore we discovered that there is a lot of corruption and falsity, especially when we started to do deeper research about the charity organization when trying to found ourselves.  When we look for an organization we look at their accounts, how the money is distributed and what is the percentage of money donated that is actually used and invested to do charitable actions. We look into their past achievements, successfully completed projects, as well as scandals and the reason why they happened. We are trying to work with small organizations that we can visit personally. Us being a new small organization, we know very well the struggles and difficulties they are facing. Other than monetary donations we prefer to act in person. Recently we brought dog food to a dog shelter in Greece, we bought the food and carried it there ourselves (rather than giving money to the shelter). Regarding trees, we are working with Trillion tree campaign which is backed by the UN. It is the most ambitious project of reforestation in the world. They have many and different types of projects all around the world. Anyone can choose the organization he/she is willing to work with, the type of tree planted, the number of trees, and where to plant them.  Thanks to the donations and our YouTube revenue we planted 2175 trees in Africa in the past 6 months. We supported a couple of reforestation projects that are GPS tracked and that we are planning to visit in person upon reaching the African continent. In addition, Vera owns several hectares of land and when back from our trip, we are planning to grow trees to cover all the surface of that land. On our website: https://www.trytogiveback.org anyone can find detailed information about our projects and achievements. How do you receive donations? Do you work with companies, sponsorship, or it is about individual donations? We mainly rely on the revenue generated from our videos on YouTube, which is 100% for our charity.  Our community on YouTube is small and and doesn’t generate a lot of funds, but we are hoping to grow and reach a larger audience. As a consequence we will receive more visualizations and generate more funds to do charitable actions.   We also rely on direct donations through Patreon, Paypal, Liberapay and the donation page on our website. We are very grateful to all the people who have already donated money, the positive feedback and trust we have been receiving on a daily basis. This is encouraging to keep working hard.  Accountability is always a big issue with charities. How can supporters see what you did with their donations? We are very transparent with our followers and audience. Try to Give Back exists to Give Back – not to take from. We don’t pay ourselves any wage or salary. On our website we have a page dedicated to our work and achievements  and each time we are doing a new action, we make sure to update our website and share it through our videos on YouTube documenting it. We have registered our charity in UK with HMRC, we have a Charity Bank account, a Charity Constitution and are in the process of registering our organization with the UK Charity Commission.  Furthermore we make our yearly accounts public for anyone to see.  Apart from contributing to your charity, what can Overlanders do on their travels to Give Back to the Planet? Ghandi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  The change needs to start with you. On our website you will find information regarding each environmental problem as well as the solution to solve it. No one is too small to take action and everyone’s action can influence others to change. Some tips: – Eat a diet with little or no meat or fish at all – Don’t use single-use plastic – Avoid buying unnecessary things – Repair something when broken  We wish for the people to acknowledge the environmental problems in order to become part of the solution. Live the kind of life you want to live just avoid unnecessary waste in every aspect of life: water, food, electricity, things and so on.  We dedicated a full video about our change since we started traveling overland and on how we became more sustainable. Check it out here. Where can people follow Alveto Expedition and Try to Give Back projects? ALVETO Expedition: Try to Give Back : WebsiteInstagram All images @Alveto Expedition Check it out: The Landcruising Adventure Zipped Hoodie Collection Get the News Would you like to stay in the loop on all things Landcruising Adventure? Sign up for our newsletter and get the latest news No spam, rare enough so as not to annoy, and easy to unsubscribe from. More on Overlanding

Bad Ass Converted Military Communication Vehicle! The JaYoe Nation Video

I had the pleasure to meet Matt from the the JaYoe Nation YouTube channel at Overland Expo East. If you are into adventure, overlanding, cycling or just about any other travel related activity be sure to follow this guy! Matt is incredible! He has climbed Mount Everest, run marathons, ridden a recumbent human powered trike half way across the world, and is now building an Overland Van to drive across the globe on a very similar route to me. Truly inspiring and a blast to watch his videos.

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