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The 10 Things we couldn’t Live Without

December 9, 2012

1)      Ipad


Games, Films, TV programmes, email, internet access. Need I say more !

2)      Mosquito Net

Mosquito Net

It doesn’t matter how careful you are bloody mosquitos get in. When its hot you’ve got to sleep with the windows open and then they just swarm you. We’ve got a mosquito net that we can hang above our bed, tucking in under the mattress so we are 100% protected from the little blighters. Central America wouldn’t have been bearable without it !

Don’t let anyone tell you that the mosquito nets in Seitz windows work. These are near ubiquitous in European built campers and though the nets are great at stopping flies they just don’t stop mosquitos – it’s a common complaint when overlanders meet.

3)      GPS

Garmin GPS

We seriously couldn’t do this without our GPS. You just can’t get paper maps which are detailed enough to drive round the towns and cities but every country in the Americas has decent maps available for a Garmin GPS – although sometimes it takes some looking.

We’ve even found ourselves 100km from the nearest paved road, on a track and the GPS is happily pointing the way.

Just don’t make the mistake that a couple of overlander’s we’ve met have and buy a Tom Tom. All the maps are available only for Garmin and Tom Tom’s are pretty useless in the overland world.

4)      Kindle


Books are dead. Long live E-Books.

Thank god for E-books and the kindle which is probably the best e-reader out there. Although to be honest its got a long way to go to be a truly great device.  The big flaw in the Kindle is that they are damn fragile – just be really careful because the screen breaks far too easily. We would seriously recommend a hard case.

Carrying books on a 2 year trip in the limited space of a truck just isn’t possible. There are plenty of book exchanges around at various hostels but for some reason they all seem to have the same books and most of them are at least 20 years old – Jeffery Archer, Michael Crichton and obscure American Romance Novels.

5)      Sand Ladders

Sand Ladders

We carry two reinforced fibreglass waffle boards which are around 2m long and can be used to give us traction in muddy conditions, help us out on soft ground or even bridge over holes.

They also double as levelling blocks if our campsite isn’t quite level.

6)      BBQ and Dutch Oven


Dutch OvenOur cheapo Walmart charcoal BBQ is looking pretty battered but is still helping us cook up some great dinners when the weather is good. Pesto Chicken and Salmon in white wine are our two favourites.

The dutch oven is amazing – it gives you an oven without taking up the space in the camper. A dutch oven is basically a very heavy duty cooking pot which can be used over a fire – its very important that the lid can be used to place coals on so you can cook from both ways (ours does this very well when inverted).

Our two favourite recipes are without a doubt Empanadas and Chocolate Brownies.


7)      Fake Driver’s Licence

Driving Licence

Before we left home we made some copies of our driver’s licences and laminated them up. When we’re stopped by the police we hand them these instead of our real licences and that way if they decide to hang onto them then its no big deal.

As luck would have it we haven’t had a real problem with the police so far, cross fingers !

8)      Sterling Power ProCharge Ultra Battery Charger


Ok so not strictly an item as we installed it in the truck but this baby rocks. It’s a mains battery charger for the truck that is rated for 90-270v at 40-70hz. If it comes out of a mains socket anywhere in the world this thing takes it.

Our truck is set up at the UK standard 240v so this charger lets us charge our batteries both in the US, Central America and the North of South America where 110v is standard  and also in the South of South America where 240v is standard. It also keeps charging when the power is less than perfect.

9)      Ether


The Beast is a reliable starter. One turn of the key and it starts every time. However when the temperature drops below -5c overnight it becomes a bit reluctant.

The Beast has a special port that the army used to fill up with ether and there is a plunger in the cab which adds the ether to the cylinders for fast starting in seriously cold temperatures. We don’t have the proper adaptor for this so we have spray cans of ether (arrancador in Latin America). A quick spray of this into the air intake and the engine explodes into life.

This is way easier than lighting a fire under the engine – something some overland truck drivers have been known to do !

10)   High Power WIFI Aerial

WIFI Antenna

For those occasions when you’re just too far from a WIFI signal to logon. This aerial not only pulls in those weak signals but finds WIFI that just isn’t close at all. It means that you can get WIFI from in the truck much more often that otherwise and you don’t have to go and find an internet café. Ours is a 007GTi NextG USB-Yagi antenna (snappy name I know).

Some form of WIFI extender is an essential purchase for overlanding.

11)   Thermometer

And one more for luck –

Ok I admit it, I’m obsessed with the temperature. In the both the truck and the camper we have a digital thermometer which gives us internal temperature and then at the touch of button gives us the outside temperature from a sensor on the roof.

I check this at least 10 times a day (probably more).

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Marek permalink
    December 9, 2012 11:02 am

    Great list, thanks. Could you be a little bit more specific on where to obtain maps for the Garmin? I’ve read about – is that what you use? Thanks.

    • December 9, 2012 11:19 am


      I am working on a post on GPS and maps. I will include which map we have used for each country and where to get them.

      Open street map is a great start though.


      • Marek permalink
        December 9, 2012 11:42 am

        Excellent, looking forward to it. Thanks.

      • December 9, 2012 8:51 pm

        We’ve met so many folks on the road with a GPS, but they never use it because they couldn’t figure out how to download the maps. I’ve even offered to give them a map tutorial but they figure they’ve made it so far without…

      • December 11, 2012 5:14 pm

        My hat is seriously off to anyone who manages without a GPS but I still think its crazy !

  2. Hans & Anja permalink
    December 9, 2012 5:16 pm

    are reading tour email Posts almost every day and they make us more happy everytime. In less than à year we will be following your track.
    As for us, we will be delighted with your Garmin stuff. We already have one but are looking for others.
    Enjoy your trip and keep on posting,
    Hans & Anja Netherlands.

  3. December 11, 2012 8:53 am

    Remember me? My family and I met you in July of 2011 in Hallo Bay, Alaska. Amazing to see how far you have gotten. Mikel, California and the Netherlands.

    • December 11, 2012 5:11 pm


      We remember you guys. That time in Hallo Bay was one of the highlights of our trip – but there have been many others in the last 35,000 miles.

      Great to hear from you,


      • mikel978 permalink
        December 12, 2012 10:31 pm

        How much longer till youre done?

        Sent from my iPhone

  4. Frans Degrande and Martine permalink
    December 23, 2012 11:11 am

    Dear Mark and Sarah,

    it is a very long time since we met on the parking lot of the visitor centre of Dawson City in summer 2011 and the day after at the border on the top of the world highway.
    Since that day we are following your travels and your information was up till now very important for our travels.
    We like to wish you a merry christmas and all the best for 2013!

    We read about your gps and are disappointed. We have a Tomtom and till now we found all the maps we needed but… for central America we didn’t. Do we have to change to Garmin to obtain maps for central and south America?
    What is your advice? What gps and type do you have? Where did you find all your maps?

    please let us know something,

    again, thanks for you blog that leaded us safe down to Tepic in Mexico.
    Be safe

    Frans and Martine from Belgium in de yellow and white MAN truck

  5. Expat42451 permalink
    December 28, 2012 6:59 pm

    Thanks to you all for the great blog and the great help!!! I am currently in Lima Peru- came to South America 6 months ago with only a backpack. Am in process of buying a 4 x 4 here (probably a late 90’s diesel Prado, will know more after the visit to the taller this coming week) to continue the trip– tired of buses, and at 61 years old, toting the backpack! When it started to look like this all might happen (the change form buses to a truck of my own) I started doing online research and yours was the first site I came to from Google. This is just great information. I have done a bit of overlanding before in Mexico and Central America but not in a number of years. Happy New Year and hope to meet you in some remote place but most of all thanks for the excellent timely information!!!

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