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Bits of kit we are impressed with

12 - 22 January 2008 (travelling through France and Spain)

So far we have been impressed by the following bits of kit:

Patriot Roof Rack.
Although not the cheapest, the Patriot roof rack just oozes quality, a great, aluminium rack that is solidly built. Its construction is so robust that the drilling of holes here and there, to attach bits of kit, poses no problem to the integrity of the rack and as a bonus it can be used as a viewing platform when on a game drive. We got one that covers the roof of the vehicle, but on reflection is just that fraction too short, and now would have preferred one that came over the top of the windscreen by about 6”or so, providing just that little extra flexibility when storing items in the roof rack.

The Eezi Awn 14T Roof Top Tent.
A great piece of kit, it is a perfect fit on the roof rack, so easy to erect and fold back down and just very, very cosy to sleep in. The 14T comes with the skirt/shelter around the ladder, this has been invaluable in providing shelter from the wind and some sense of privacy; it also provides a warmish and well lit kitchen and, when needed, an ‘office’. The sides go on in seconds, however with both a wheel carrier on the rear bumper and a liftgate on Boris we found the back end of the shelter a waste of time and left it behind. To date, although we brought it, we have not used the front end. We find this abbreviated configuration easy to pack away and quick to deploy. We also left behind the ground sheet provided with the 14T; we are glad we decided to bring with us the grass friendly, open weave and non-slip ground sheet available from most caravan outlets. The ground sheet is a perfect fit, easy to keep clean (the dust etc just falls through the weave), easy to peg down and a doddle to shake clean and pack away. We have used the 2’x1’ piece of half inch ply, intended as the base plate for the bottle jack, to support the ladder and prevent its sharp base from damaging the ground sheet. We also discovered that you can leave almost everything in the tent when folding it up: blanket, duvet and pillows as well as any books, the light, night clothes, etc. The sleeping bags were too much, but compress down to a fraction of their original size, so can be packed away elsewhere. We bought, from Baobab, a sheet of insulating material which is fixed to the board under the mattress using staples; we have no idea if the winter comfort and warmth of the mattress can in part be credited to this, all we can say is that even with temperatures close to freezing, the mattress was never cold.

Lighting. We are glad that we decided against using the ARB 4x4 Adventure Light in the tent. It is a fantastic light, providing us with all the illumination we could possibly want at the kitchen /shelter end of the vehicle, but too bright for the roof top tent. Here we have found that a Sealey catalogue sourced, low cost, 8 watt, single bulb, strip light is just fine for reading, etc at night. Head torches have been invaluable assets when having to wash up after supper in the dark ... most camp sites seem to keep these areas badly lit, if at all ... and when doing anything in an unlit area. We are using a mix of the Petzl Tactikka Plus and the Petzl MYO XP, both are comfortable, lightweight , easy to operate and with an excellent beam.

Electrical Supply. We have the standard overland fit of three batteries (Optima, one red top starter and two yellow top deep cycle) with a battery management system (by IBS). All batteries are in the engine bay, allowing for more storage space inside the vehicle. We are extremely glad that not only do we have a 1000 watt pure sine inverter (WAECO), but that also Julian persuaded us to have fitted a battery charger (AccuMate PRO) which, plus all his wiring gizmos, enables us to hook up at any campsite, use their electricity for anything and everything, whilst charging our own batteries. The hook up plug is accessible externally through a socket in one of the rear side windows now filled in with an aluminium sheet. This has proved to be an invaluable and robust system. The smoke excitement on our first hook up in Spain (see Diary) was due to operator incompetence, not the system or installer! We tried to get all our electrical goods to either run off rechargeable batteries or, where that was not possible, the battery management system via 12V DIN sockets (using campsite power when hooked up). The sine inverter was an extravagance, but will be essential for those (few) items that defied our best efforts and still need 240V.

Water Supply. Thanks to Julian’s ability to find effective, original solutions and fit them, our 80L plastic water tank, sourced from a caravan fitting company, located inboard and strapped down above the rear axle, is filled externally using a caravan filling system fitted into the other blanked off rear window. Water is drawn under pressure (Seagull IV X-1F Water Purification System) and the tap is located in a recessed factory built box alongside the water filler, both are lockable. This tap will be able to double up as our shower; the water dispenser can act as a tap or as a shower head, has a hot water tap and is connected to the heat exchanger (Piranha). The water supply is ideally located for the kitchen area and neither the filtration system nor the plastic tank taints the Perrier like quality of the finished product. It’s a great system!!

Cooking. The aluminium plate on the lower liftgate is excellent for placing the cooker on and preparing the meals. We have gone for a Camping Gaz Camping Kitchen Cooker; it has 2 rings and comes with a griddle. If we are honest about this cooker, the jury is still out: it has no wind shield (but the skirt beneath the roof top tent obviates the need for one) and is bulkier than a basic, no frills 2 ringer (but comes with a good quality, zipped, canvas holdall for storage and we just about have space for it!).The gas supply is a 3.9 Kg bottle of calor gas propane on the roof rack, secured in a (Frogs Island) holder. The gas is piped along the roof rack to the rear where there is a male/female connector, to allow the cooker to be connected. We feel the Calor Gas bottle to be an error on our part, in that refilling this make in Morocco and the Francophone points south may be problematic; in Spain we have bought and found room for a Camping Gaz equivalent and also bought a suitable regulator ‘just in case’. We now intend to have a spare bottle on board throughout, particularly as the magnetic gas level indicator we bought to determine when a refill is needed seems to be useless. For that quick cuppa during the day, we ended up with another Camping Gaz product: the Bivouac. We intended to follow advice and get a Kelly Kettle, but ran out of time and bought the camping Gaz one over the counter. We have concerns over the longelivity of the on board supply of the mini gas canisters, but we’ll see. The Bivouac is a very good cooker, with its own ignition system, 4 sturdy legs, is easy to dismantle and the canister removes for packing it all in the provided bag.

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