Your Land Rover modifications depend on how much stuff you need for your choice of African Travel.
Basically your travel plans, comfort needs, off road expectations, and of course your budget determine the modifications. Some people shell out tons of money for a frame up rebuild; $150,00 plus. Others add a few extras on old stock vehicles; $12,000 – $30,000 including the vehicle.
Whatever you do, here are the essential modifications. Hopefully I can get into the details later. Patience!
Long Range Tanks for Water and Fuel
Expanding the volume of your life line fluids is the most important Land Rover modification for OVERLANDING. You need enough capacity for long hauls and back country where good clean supplies may be scarce or non-existent for a week or two.
You will have to anticipate your own needs. What we carry is 80Lt of water spread between an on-board tank, a jerry can, and 4-5lt jugs. This lasts the 2 of us 8 to 12 days depending on the heat. It’s enough water for drinking, dish washing, and a sponge bath every couple of days. Don’t even think about washing clothes… Well maybe underwear & socks. ;-})
170Lt of Diesel is also contained in our expanded main tank, two built in spare tanks, and a jerry can. Our range is from 1000Km in deep slow sand to 1900Km on tarmac or tight gravel. A benefit of the Land Rover is the nice 9Lt/100Km. The monster Toyota engines use more like 14Lt/100Km.
So determine your range and capacity before you set out.
Power. Your third lifeline “fluid”. A dead battery is no fun. Especially when you want to run your important stuff like the fridge, phones, computers, camera equipment, head lamps, night gear, GPS, & Satellite phone. Or even dangerous if you’re in the middle of nowhere, Right?
Proper sizing of the alternator, vehicle batteries (yes extra batteries to run the stuff) and a duel battery charging controller is critical. The key is how much current your stuff pulls. Margrit’s large laptop for her video editing is a current hog. 4 time more than the fridge. So be careful.
Often camps have 220v power points to give the batteries a rest. For us this requires 3 extension cords totaling 50 M to meet most situations.
Solar is tricky, expensive, and only boarder-line useful. Our 19 watt 4 amp panel running for 8 hrs in perfect sun is the same as running our engine for 25 minutes. This 8 hours gives maybe enough to keep the fridge running 24 hours and a bit of stuff charging in hot weather.
BEST; always charge your stuff while you drive using a 12 volt to 220 transformer.
Beefed-up Suspension Etc
With the extra weight you carry for Overlanding, the suspension gets stressed especially in higher speed cornering and bouncing through the bush. The Emu Old Man Suspension and others have been designed specifically for these conditions and the upgrade is highly recommended.
I expected a hard truck ride but they are surprisingly smooth in all conditions. Our Landy is extra heavy. Air bags were added to assist the back springs. Here they call them Air Springs.
A friend broke his roof welds with too much on the Roof Rack. Have also seen others with broken springs or bouncing down the road.
So evaluate overall balance and weight.
There’s lots of hype on tread design for sand, mud, gravel, all terrain, etc.
But we found there is definitely more to consider. BF Goodrich All Terrain T/A is our choice. They are terrific for wear and tear. Thorns have not been a problem. Sidewalls are tough. And their brilliant in most traction situations except a bit marginal in mud. Only been in mud twice the last 2 years but that may change heading for Kenya.
Presently 40,000K on the tires with almost half the tread left with not flats. Fantastic, don’t you think?
I was shocked, however, to find they chip when heavy loaded and traveling at high speeds on sharp gravel, i.e. Namibia. But it doesn’t seem to be a problem so far.
Deeper (not deep) Water Modifications
Unless you can keep the water below the hubs (good luck) you need to consider;
– Cooling fan clutch is required. The stuff literally hits the fan flooding the engine but also breaking the fan as it tries to become a propeller… bad news again!
– Snorkel; this means you can have the vehicle submerged all the way to the bottom of the snorkel inlet… WRONG!!! The snorkel is mostly to provide fresher air on dusty roads and keep good air going to the engine on river crossings. But don’t consider them watertight.
Sure there are lots of other fun gadgets and protective gear (rock rails, bull bar, spot lights, winch, dif/steering covers, 12 inch lift with BIG tyres) but the above are the important necessities.
Stay tuned for an article on essential gear.