Geeking Out On The Authentic Jerry Can

A female British factory worker welds a copy of a Wehrmacht fuel can in 1942 I’ve written several times on this site (here, for example), and in articles elsewhere, about the original Wehrmacht “jerry” can, now the NATO can, which I still hold to be the best fuel container on the planet. Now someone, specifically a Scottish bloke named Calum, has significantly out-geeked me with a 30-minute documentary (and commentary) on the Wehrmacht fuel can and its subsequent adoption by the British—as well as its inexplicable subsequent cheapening by the Americans as the Blitz can.There’s stuff in here even I didn’t know. For example, the above screen capture from the film shows that in 1942 the British were already in production with outright copies of the Wehrmacht cans they had found abandoned in the deserts of North Africas. I found the whole thing fascinating; I’m sure you’ll find at least some of it so—and the opening vignette is hilarious. Hat tip to Graham Jackson for finding this.Jerry can history

Trail Turn Assist, the Rivian “Tank Turn,” and other environmentally destructive tricks.

During my test of the new Ford Bronco—a vehicle I liked a lot—I tried out its Trail Turn Assist feature, as you can see demonstrated in the video above. TTA drastically shortens the turning circle of the vehicle by applying the brake to an inside wheel, essentially dragging it through the turn. Of course, in a normal scenario you wouldn’t be initiating a 360-degree turn such as in my demonstration above, conducted in a heavily used wash and cleaned up afterwards. Its utility would be negotiating a tight maneuver when, say, a boulder threatens the outside corner of the vehicle, or a drop-off threatens the entire vehicle. However, there’s nothing to prevent an owner engaging it simply to show off how tightly he can reverse course. And no matter how briefly one engages it, it will impact the trail. My approach to driving, or to teaching someone to drive—as with all instructors I know—is, at all times, to try to minimize or eliminate wheel spin, which causes both a loss of traction and control and results in degradation of the surface, particularly in places where multiple vehicles are likely to lose traction. And wheel spin while the vehicle is stationary does more or less precisely the same thing as a locked wheel while the vehicle is moving: It wears away at the substrate, increasing erosion.I’m not going to claim I would never use TTA if I owned a Bronco, but I would be extremely reluctant to do so.As potentially damaging as TTA is, it pales before the much-hyped “Tank Turn” the much-hyped Rivian electric pickup can accomplish. By powering both wheels on one side forward and both wheels on the opposite side backward, The Rivian can essentially spin in place. The resulting destruction of the trail is easy to see in the videos produced by the company itself. Look at the bird’s-eye view of the video still: Nice, huh? You can see the entire sequence here. The Tank Turn “feature” has actually been delayed for an unknown period after the Rivian engineers recognized several issues—including the fact that when the turn is enabled, traction is completely lost. Thus if an owner were to initiate it on a slope, the vehicle would immediately begin sliding downhill.Rivian will undoubtedly warn that the feature is only to be used on a “closed course,” just as they say for their “Drift Mode,” designed for “advanced drivers wanting to drift their R1T on a closed course.”Wink, wink.Sadly such hypocrisy is by no means limited to the Rivian company (see here). Every truck maker loudly proclaims adherence to Tread Lightly practices, while producing advertising material expressly promoting the exact opposite. There are certainly those consumers who are responsible enough to eschew aping the ads, but there are tens—hundreds—of thousands who are not. I see the results every single time I head out on a trail, and it has been getting exponentially worse. Blame it on what you will, but there has been an unmistakable increase in self-centered behavior on public land in the last half decade or so. More litter, more driving completely off trail, more hooning on the trail. These are not the type of people who will respond to a friendly lecture. Yet they are the ones who will scream when severely damaged trails are shut down by overworked and underfunded public lands managers. Short of funding a sniper division in the BLM, I really don’t have a solution.

There are chocks . . . and chocks (I needed the latter)

Inadequate . . . Now and then it’s good to be reminded of the laws of physics.A few weeks back I conducted a training weekend for a lovely couple who had recently purchased a very well-optioned Sportsmobile. They wanted to become familiar with its capabilities (and theirs), to learn recovery techniques, and especially to learn the use of their winch, an accessory new to them both.We spent the first day, Friday, driving and marshaling, and I think hugely improved the confidence of both of them, in addition to opening their eyes as to just how capable a Sportsmobile can be despite its size. Saturday was winching day. I’d picked a dead-end bit of trail where we wouldn’t be in anyone’s way who happened to pass. It was a hill steep enough to actually work the winch, but not so steep as to be intimidating. The Sportsmobile was equipped with a Warn 12,000-pound winch and synthetic line. For an 11,000-pound vehicle that’s marginal if one applies the standard one and one-half times GVW formula for speccing a winch’s capacity, but we discussed ways to ameliorate this by running out more line and, especially, rigging a double-line pull whenever possible.The only trees available were both marginal in size and behind a barbed-wire fence, so I set up my FJ40 as an anchor, facing down the hill at the top of the slope.It was then I realized I’d forgotten my set of Safe Jack chocks, the substantial ones I normally use for winching. All I had with me were the smaller folding chocks I keep in the vehicle for tire-changing duty and the like. No problem, I figured—I set the folding chocks in front of the front tires of the Land Cruiser, and we lugged a couple substantial rocks to put in front of the rear tires. I was in low range, reverse selected, engine off and parking brake pulled out stoutly.The first, single-line pull proceeded without drama. The winch did not seem to be working over hard (although I remarked that it was one of the loudest winches I’d ever heard). So we re-rigged for a double-line pull, running the Sportsmobile’s line through a 7P recovery ring linked to one of the 40’s front recovery hooks, and back to the Aluminess bumper of the van. I stood to one side and directed while Emmett sat in the Sportsmobile’s driver’s seat and operated the winch remote. He began to spool in and the van crept slowly up the hill.For about five feet. Then a front tire happened to hit a bit of a rock ledge I’d failed to notice, perhaps eight inches high. The Sportsmobile came to a halt—but the winch, of course, didn’t.Even as I was raising my fist to give the “stop!” signal, I turned to see my 40 pulled gently but inexorably over the folding chocks, which collapsed as if they’d been soda cans. Behind them the rocks in front of the rear tires had held, but were themselves being dragged with the vehicle.The winch stopped, and I signalled Emmett to apply the brake and shift to park, then let out some slack in the winch line.The Land Cruiser had only moved about eight inches. Had we for some reason continued to power the winch, it would simply have kept on being dragged slowly across the ground; there was no chance of it careening out of control. Nevertheless, it was a good lesson in the force an 11,000-pound vehicle and a roughly 24,000-pound-equivalent double-lined winch can put on a 4,000-pound vehicle, even on a moderate incline. The math is pretty simple. These would have been better. From Safe Jack. What could I have done differently? Having the larger and sturdier chocks might have made a difference, as might using big rocks instead of the little chocks. Even putting the rocks we used in front of the front tires, and the small chocks under the rear tires, might have made a difference, as the front of the Land Cruiser was being pulled slightly downward in addition to forward. However, a more secure option would have been to daisy-chain the 40 by its back bumper to the base of one of the trees on the other side of the fence with the endless sling I had on hand, then pull forward until the sling was tensioned, then chock.A good lesson that there’s no such thing as “enough” experience, and there’s never a time to stop learning.For much more on the forces involved in winching, please read this.

An Exhaustive Toyota 70-Series Land Cruisers Resource List

Our own 70-Series Troopy camper, which we drove around Australia and Tasmania, then across southern Africa before shipping to the U.S. This week I was doing some extra research on “technicals”—the converted pickups, usually Land Cruisers or Hiluxes, used as mobile gun platforms by insurgents across northern Africa, the Middle East, and the ‘Stans—for the blog on my author page (here). While doing so I chanced upon this site at tanks-encyclopedia.com. It comprises the most comprehensive library of information on Toyota’s 70-Series Land Cruisers I’ve ever seen, anywhere. Additionally there is a huge section featuring both images and video of technicals in action. I’ve not covered a tenth of it yet and I’ve learned things I didn’t know I didn’t know. Highly recommended as a bookmark if you have the slightest interest in the vehicle, whether in its civilian or military role. (If you don’t, you might gain a new respect for it.) This is what happens when you mount an EC90 90mm cannon to a 70-Series pickup, then fire it at 90 degrees. Technicals used as rocket launchers are often lost to fire. It’s not hard to see how.

Can we admit the spare tire on the bonnet was a dumb idea?

I would venture to say that no single automotive feature is as widely recognized across the globe as the spare tire on the bonnet of a Land Rover. The Rolls-Royce “Spirit of Ecstacy” winged lady is certainly in the running. Some might mention, say, the tail fins of a ’57 Chevy. But it’s certain more people have seen that spare tire in person, from the streets of London or New York to the dirt tracks of Kenya or Australia or Nepal.But, honestly, it was a really dumb idea.Let me hasten to say that it was much less of a dumb idea as originally configured, with the skinny 6.00 x 16 tires and 5-inch wide wheels standard on Series 1 vehicles. But the arrangement still made raising the bonnet a pain, reduced forward visibility, and presented a challenge in getting the spare off and, worse, getting a potentially muddy punctured tire and wheel back on without scratching or gouging the paint or the Birmabrite itself. Even the 6.00 tire on this Series I blocks forward vision. With modern wheels and tires—even so modest a fitment as the 235/85 x 16 tires on our 110—near visibility is significantly hampered. Topping out on a steep climb with nothing but a BFG filling your field of vision is not fun. And lifting the bonnet is a genuine heave for anyone not stout of tricep. Even the modest 235-section tire on our 110 is a problem. I might also point out that, horizontal on the bonnet, the tire is much more exposed to UV degradation from sun exposure, and to heat from the engine. Finally, I’ll point out that in the event you are rear-ended in your Land Rover, the ramifications of that tire breaking free and coming back through the windshield are not pleasant. And with wider modern tires it gets a bit ridiculous. Advantages? Well, er . . . let’s see. It’s quicker to access and doesn’t get as dirty as a spare tucked under the rear chassis. It eliminates the “complexity” of a swingaway carrier, as on the Series Land Rovers’ primary competitor, the 40-Series Land Cruisers. And adding a swingaway carrier on a Series Land Rover is an easy way to obtain two spares for journeys fraught with tire hazards. But really the spare should have been mounted on a swingaway to begin with—perhaps with an optional second spare on the hood.Anyway . . . it sure does look cool.

Meet OunTravela – Overlanders & Overland Guidebook Writers

In the middle of the pandemic – while stuck in the Netherlands – we got a beautiful present sent by mail: an overland guidebook of Kyrgyzstan. It got us itching to get back on the road, but it took another couple of months before we could return to Central Asia, and even longer to be able to cross into Kyrgyzstan. We are overlanders who always travel with guidebooks. I try to find something in English as well as in Dutch, because, interestingly enough, they may focus on very different aspects of a country. In Central Asia we have much loved the Bradt Guides, arguably one of the best guidebook companies (but that’s for another blog post). However, as any overlander knows, the regular guidebooks are focused on backpack travel, hopping around the world – or a country – in a bus or train. Large parts of these books don’t serve the overlanding community. There have been a few initiatives in terms of overland travel guides, but – as far as I know – they are all in German or French. And so we were thrilled to receive this beautiful Kyrgyzstan Overland Guidebook. It’s exactly what overlanders are looking for. In short: A selection of the best trailsGPS waypointsAerial images, giving an overview of the trailsGreat photosThey offer additional information, e.g. on how to contribute to local communities and outdoor adventure opportunities (hiking/horseback riding) Kyrgyzstan is book #2. They previously published an overland guidebook on Ladakh and #3 will be published this spring, on Georgia (in the Caucasus, not the USA…). Who are the people behind this book? We were lucky enough to meet Victor and spent a couple of evenings gorging on Korean food in Bishkek (the capital of Bishkek). His enthusiasm is contagious and so it’s with great pleasure to share an interview with them here. Enjoy! Recommended Books on Overlanding (click on the images to look inside) Products from Amazon Tell us a bit about who you are and where overland travels have taken you Hi, we’re Olivia & Victor! We are both authors, photographers and publishers, but above all we are whole-hearted, adventurous humans passionate about travelling off the beaten track. Adventure, human connection, nature: that’s our vibe! But it wasn’t always like this. Just three years ago, we were living a conventional life in France: Victor as an engineer and Olivia as a vet. Against the advice of our relatives, we left a cushy, well-paid job that wasn’t fulfilling us to live our dream : bring together other passionate travellers like us, and to let others discover what you will never see represented in the mainstream media. In recent years, our travels have taken us to Central Asia, the Middle East and the Caucasus.  What is OunTravela about OunTravela is the union of our passion for overland travel. We wanted to create the travel tool that didn’t exist and that met our needs as overland travellers: a practical, interesting and inspiring guide book. OunTravela is our publishing house, but it is much more than that. It is a community of travellers and a travel philosophy.  Do you know the movie Avatar? When he was younger, Victor was a big fan of the film, so much that he used to speak the na’vi language with his best friend. OunTravela means “to go in the opposite direction” so it perfectly represents our vision and philosophy of travel. To get out of the flow and the classic tourist circuit to discover the underrated wonders and forgotten paths of our world. What lies at the core of overlanding for you? In our opinion, the core of overland travel is taking your time, exploring and creating human connection. By travelling for a long period of time and being autonomous, it is easier to explore remote areas by benefiting from a privileged relationship with the local population. The notion of time is very important if you want to immerse yourself and live at the rhythm of a country and experience a totally different culture. The longer you stay, the more time you will have to explore what the country has to offer. Check it out: The Landcruising Adventure Comforters Collection What inspired you to start publishing Overlanding Guidebooks? To be honest, we have never liked using classic travel guide books like Lonely Planet. Our travel philosophy is mostly based on improvisation and exploration. We like to spend time discovering a country and its unexplored treasures. Then one day we had the idea to create a book that could help other travellers with the same philosophy. Any anecdotes to share in challenges you ran into when working on one of your books The biggest challenge we faced this year was to carry out our plans despite the pandemic. In May 2021 we were ready and excited as ever to discover and explore Tajikistan with our Landcruiser that we had stored for the winter in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. We shipped a new roof tent, solar panels and other equipment from France. We were ready for a beautiful expedition of several months.  One month passed, then two, then three and despite our best efforts, we could not find a way to cross the common border between these two countries. We thought of going through Uzbekistan but at that time we were still not sure about the Uzbek-Tajik border. Within a few days we decided to leave everything here and start over in a new destination: Georgia. Only one week after this decision, we were owners of a Mitsubishi Pajero 2 and two trail bikes (Yamaha 660 XTZ Tenere and Royal Enfield Himalayan) bought in Tbilisi, capital of Georgia.  How lucky we were to end up in this amazing country. It was the best decision ever! How do you decide for which country/region you’ll make a guidebook? The destinations we promote are not very well known and largely underrated. We look for destinations with wide open spaces, where it is possible to explore and create an authentic connection with the local population. We take care to choose places where it is safe to camp in the wild. We also aim to promote rural tourism and the development of nature-friendly outdoor activities such as horse riding, trekking and climbing. Ladakh and Kyrgyzstan are for sale. When can we expect overland guidebook #3: Georgia (Caucasus)? It’s quite funny because our first two books were published in 2020, the year of the pandemic! But that didn’t stop us from believing in our project and putting all our energy into it. EXPLORE LADAKH and EXPLORE KYRGYZSTAN are available on our online shop in English and French. After more than 4 months of exploration in the country, we have just returned to France and are already working on the book EXPLORE GEORGIA. We hope to publish the book in May 2022 before the summer! And so many books are to come : Mongolia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Namibia, etc.  What makes your overland travel guides stand out from other guidebooks? Designed like roadbooks, and illustrated with a multitude of maps and photos, our overland guidebooks are both tools and guides for independent travellers who wish to discover, understand, and explore a new destination. We offer in our guidebooks a selection of small, unexplored trails, to discover by van, 4×4, bike or motorcycle. Our books are not standard tourist guides. They have been designed for travellers searching for adventure and authentic experiences. Instead of classical stops and by-the-book itineraries, we offer our readers an original format allowing them to create their trip by themselves. With a perfect knowledge of the terrain, they can improvise their way, guided by what they fancy or who they meet, fully independently. What tip(s) would you like to give to overlanders when planning and/or going on their overland trip? Travel planning should not just be about listing the must-sees, but about understanding the terrain you are going to explore, in terms of geography, culture and history. This is something we tend to neglect when we are younger, and yet it is what will allow you to have a better understanding of what is around you, to respect it and to enjoy it.  That’s why we’ve tried to make the chapters about culture and environment in our books more accessible and enjoyable to read.  Our second piece of advice is to trust your intuition and allow yourself some improvisation. These are for us the best ingredients for a successful trip. Do you have books to suggest to overlanders that may inspire them on their travels? We are big fans of photography and love to discover the documentary work of great travellers or reporters such as Matthieu Paley, Roland and Sabrina Michaud, Kares Leroy and others more known as Sebastiao Salgado or Steve Mc Curry. In terms of novels, we recently read and liked Ella Maillart’s book, TurkestanSolo: A Journey Through Central Asia, which tells the extraordinary journey of a single woman in the early 20th century.  Blog posts about Books Where can readers follow you? All images: @Oun Travela Check it out: The Landcruising Adventure Lightweight Sweatshirt 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 Overland Travel Guides:

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.

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