Friday, 28 February 2014

It's time!!!!!

Well it seems like it is all happening. Mat finished work today at about 12 noon & we were packed & left blackwater by 3pm. Lots of extras in the car to be dropped off to our shipping container so it all fit but lots of repacking to do before we are ready to go. 

Getting very excited. Still doesn't feel real yet. 

So just a photo of us leaving blackwater. God it feels good to be finished work. 


Posted on the blogger app. 

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Ruby & the Camper Trailer on Fraser Island

Last year we went to Fraser Island for a week, to fully test out all of our gear and set-up before our big trip.  We had heard various things about if you should take a camper trailer to Fraser or not, but we decided to give it a go.  The trailer performed perfectly the whole way and we were very happy with how it went.  The only problem we encountered was when we were driving up the beach looking for a campsite and there was a large group of fishermen on one of the corners of the beach, we had to slow right down to avoid them and veer up into the soft sand up towards the dunes.  As we had lost momentum, we ended up getting bogged.  Luckily we didn't dig down too far, so we grabbed the two pairs of Max Trax off the roof and placed them under each wheel on Ruby.  After a couple of false starts, the Max Trax did exactly what they were supposed to and we were free.

See the video below.

It was definitely worth taking the trailer.  Below was our campsite.

And you just have to have a Dingo photo from Fraser Island.  This cheeky bugger was only about 10 meters from us, when the photo was taken.


Posted by Jess

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Making our "Dream Home" - Camper Trailer Style Part 1

Our camper trailer was just what we wanted, tough, reliable and in good condition for a second hand trailer.  But with everything, there is always some things that just don't seem quite right or don't exactly fit our needs.  As mentioned in our previous trailer post, we were looking at making a few improvements.  Our main areas of focus were the stone guard, the electrical system and the wheels and tyres.  This Part 1 post will focus on the the stone guard and also some work we did on the paint work.

The original stone guard on the trailer was pretty flimsy and we were concerned as to how long it would last.  Our concerns were realised pretty quickly as the first time we took the trailer into the bush, the stone guard supports cracked.  We decided to do a bit of a patch up job with a length of metal wired to the frame to keep it in place while we researched our options for a new guard.

In the end we decided on a Stone Stomper.  Whilst expensive this seemed like a good option to protect the trailer, the drawbar and also the rear of the landcruiser.  We measured it all up, ordered it online and it arrived a week or so later.  Fitting was relatively easy and it looked pretty good and the company was great to deal with. 

So of course we had to try it out.  We decided on a long weekend away to Bulburin National Park about 120km South of Gladstone.  We hooked the trailer up and set off early.  We arrived at the main campground at about 9.00am and it looked okay, but we had heard there were nice spots along the track as well, so decided we had time to explore and try to find a more secluded camp spot.  This was our big mistake!  We starting towing the trailer along the track and soon realised that this wasn't going to be an easy drive.  There had been a bit of rain overnight and the track was slippery with no where to turn around we were committed on a 30km track.  The trailer and car were performing beautifully and while slippery it was all going okay. Until we got to a steep incline, with a gully running through the middle.  We made it to the gully, but didn't have enough traction to make it the rest of the way up so it was time for the winch.  We winched the landcruiser and trailer through the gully and it came out okay, but it did drag slightly, but we were through and as we unhooked the winch we checked the trailer and realised a couple of big holes had ripped in the Stone Stomper.  Not good for a brand new stone guard.  At only about 2 km in to the trip, the day continued to get harder and harder and 9 hours, 4 winches and 3 trees that we had to cut and drag off the track, later we finally rolled back into the same camp we were at 9am that morning.  It was an epic day and really tested our team work in a remote area, but unfortunately the Stone Stomper was in disrepair!  Now it wasn't really the Stone Stomper fault, as we should of removed it from the trailer before taking on that epic track, but it did tell us that it probably wasn't suited to the type of touring that we do.

So it was back to the drawing board, what to do about a stone guard.  In the end we decided to get Lacey's Trailers in Rockhampton to custom make us one, that was suitable for the type of 4WDing that we do. Lacey's were servicing our trailer, so we asked them to fabricate as heavy duty stone guard at the same time.  Our next post will focus on exactly what they came up with for us.

During the times that we had some issues with stone guards, the trailer did sustain some stone chips, as we did have to tow the trailer along gravel on the way home from Bulburin and we also got a few with the flimsy original guard.  So we decided we should give the trailer a touch up coat, to make it look better but also prevent rust forming.  So a wash and clean up, some fine sandpaper and coat of kill rust later, the trailer came up looking just like new.

Tent pole box with stone chips

Electronics box with stone chips

Draw bar before and after.  Outside rails with stone chips, middle rail re-sprayed.
We used White Knight Rust Guard Hammered Finish and it matched the trailer paint perfectly.

We think the results speak for themselves and it was definitely a worthwhile afternoon job.

Tent pole box re-sprayed

Electronics box and draw bar re-sprayed

Don't miss our next post, were we outline the new and improved stone guard and some other improvements we have made to the trailer.

Not long to go now, time is flying. I have finished up at work and Mat only has until Friday, wow it is all happening, it is really going to happen!!

Posted by Jess

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Homemade canvas camping gear bags

In the preparation for our trip I have made a few bits and pieces to make sure that we protect our camping gear, including the items themselves and the items getting packed around them.

We carry 2 billy's with us.  As you know, as soon you place a billy on the open fire and coals, they get black very quickly. The problem is that black soot, rubs off on everything else in your camping kit!  I have made the below bags, to both protect the billy and also the rest of the camping kit and car/camper trailer, depending on where you pack them.

As you can see they are a very simple basic bag, but they do the job really well.  The canvas was purchased from a fabric store when it was on a big special and only cost $6 a meter, which is very cheap for canvas.  I used extra strong cotton and double stitched all the seams.
I also made a bag for our table.  Our table is a square plastic blow moulded table, which like all of these types of tables, folds up with the table surface on the outside, which does make it prone to get dirty and also marked when it is packed.  To keep the table hygienic and clean, it definitely needed a bag.  As the table is pretty solid and while it is not heavy, its not light either.  The table came with its own handle. I decided to incorporate the tables own handle into the bag design, so I didn't have to sew handles into the bag itself and therefore didn't need to reinforce the bag too much and it also made it easier to sew.  I used the same canvas and thread and double stitched the seams.  I used stick on Velcro tabs across the top of the bag, which I then also sewed to make them strong.


Posted by Jess

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The search for our "Home Away from Home"

With our choice of vehicle settled, we embarked upon what would prove to be a more complicated journey; choosing a Camper that would meet our needs, but not destroy the budget. The basics of what we wanted were simple enough, we wanted a Camper Trailer rather than a caravan or pop-top, it needed to be simple, durable, and provide enough living space and storage that we could comfortably live out of it for a year or more. While finding a trailer that fit all of these conditions was very easy, the real challenge was finding one that we felt was right for us.
We started off looking at trade shows and at showrooms where there is usually a number of makes and models on display and comparing with an open mind is easier. Overall it was clear that we had dozens of choices to make in terms of fit, finish and quality of the campers on offer. The first big choice was soft floor or hard floor. In an ideal world we would have both preferred a hard floor camper, they are easier to set up, keep the floor dryer when it rains, and tend to be in a rear-fold configuration, which we prefer for the times when we will need to squeeze into limited space in caravan parks and national parks where camping is defined by bollards and logs. A rear fold tent means that you can set up in the same footprint at the width of the access road in, and in our experience provides more flexibility with choice of location. However, when we started to look at the mid-range campers in our price range we found that many had comprised build quality elsewhere on the trailer to incorporate the hard floor option, and that in some cases the floor was of extremely questionable durability as a long term option.
Set up for the very first time at Blackdown Tableland, completely standard in the condition we purchased it.
 As a result we started more and more to focus on soft floor campers. The compromise in choosing a soft floor meant that we would have to accept longer setups, and more fiddling to get the tent just right at a camp, but it almost meant that the overall quality of the trailer and included accessories was in general higher. After looking at several models at a couple of local camping shows, we found ourselves frustrated, that in most cases the models we looked at that either had inclusions that we weren’t interested in (like fridges, showers or other accessories that we already had) or that they were foreign made budget versions and were of dubious construction or quality.
Set up in the bush at Goodedulla National Park
 At the same time I had been keeping an eye on the local trading post and classified sections hoping that something would come up, there had been one particular trailer that had been advertised for a few weeks, that was well inside our budget, but was 6 years old, as a result we had kept discounting it as we assumed that it would have seen plenty of work and would be worse for wear as a result. However with a few hours to kill on a Sunday morning we decided to take a drive and have a look. When we arrived, it became obvious that our prior assumptions about an old trailer and wear and tear were mistaken.
The trailer tracks extremely well behind Ruby, even when you have to bypass an obstacle!!
 The trailer was a 2007 Trackabout Overlander. We rang Trackabout to enquire about some details, and were informed that model had been part of a short production run of campers that had been discontinued due to lack of numbers being sold. The trailer was in perfect condition, with new wheels and tyres (which matched the 76’s stud pattern and size!), pristine canvas and not a mark on the trailer body or frame.

I was initially dubious that such an old trailer could be in such good condition, and crawled underneath looking for evidence of a re-spray or other cover up work. It was pretty obvious that unless the trailer had been completely stripped and professionally re-painted that this was the original paint! When I asked to owner what he had used it for, he explained that it had been used for summer caravan park camping, and the occasional hunting trip, and that its off road use had been limited to gravel driveways and lawns, Bonus! 

The kitchen was a stainless steel slide out version, and had an electric water pump and 3 burner gas stove and there was a large water proof storage box on the drawbar. The spare was in poor condition, and would need to be changed ASAP, and there were a few superficial marks on the floor that would need some attention. As an added extra, while the trailer was a soft floor the tent was also a rear fold, ticking one more box on our with list!
There were very few accessories with the trailer apart from a single poorly wired deep cycle battery, and an awning that looked to have been hardly ever used. This was a good thing for us, as it meant we had a lot of scope to add and modify the trailer to our needs.

Finally came the most important part; price! The asking price was well within our budget (only half of what we had been willing to pay for new fully kitted out version), and it was obvious that the seller had been stuffed around a few times before and was keen to get rid of the trailer, so after a short negotiation we came to a very good price and paid a deposit. We would have to wait a week to collect it, and we needed to sort out payment, and the seller needed to have a safety inspection and gas compliance check done. There were a couple of little hiccups in the inspection process, that were eventually sorted out (the seller didn’t get the right inspections done the first time), but its safe to say that we were very keen to get the trailer into the bush for the first time and try it out.
Fully set up with the awning up as well
 As with the process with Ruby, we decided that we would build the trailer up over time, and use it enough so that we were sure about our needs and wants before committing to big additions or modifications…a pretty good excuse to take it camping!!
I will detail the modifications we have completed on the trailer in our next post.
Posted by Mat

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Packing light

As we are planning to travel for at least a year, space is at a premium. Packing light is very important both from a space & weight point of view. So we have been trying lots of different ideas to ensure we only take the things that are really required. 

A lot of my focus is on the cooking side. As you have seen I have posted a few recipes all ready. I love to cook both at home & whilst camping. So I have been thinking about recipes. I have lots of old favourites that I can cook by heart & don't need a recipe. But I also love cooking new things as well. 

We have bought a few camping recipe books over the years & tried out a few recipes or they have given me ideas to put my own spin on something. But it's not really practical to take all of these recipe books with us, both from a space point of view & also making sure they don't get damaged. 

So what to do???

I decided a good idea would be to take a photo of the recipes I was keen to try out with the iPad & store them electronically. Space saving to the max!!! 

See a few examples below from one of my favourite camp cooking recipes books Australian Bush Cooking by Cathy Savage from Boiling Billy Publications. 

Posted by Jess on the blogger iPad app.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

The Making of Ruby - Part 3

The Making of Ruby- Part 3

A lot of thought and planning went into the outside of Ruby to make her fit our needs, but just as important for a touring setup was the interior of the car. These are the modifications that make the most difference to a cars usability, when it is going to be lived out of for a year or more.   

As Ruby is a 76 series Landcruiser the interior is already fairly simple and functional, however there were a few key things that we decided to do in order to improve storage functionality and space.  Top of the list was a set of roller storage draws in the back.  When looking into this we had a couple of key requirements.  We wanted a drawer set that sat flush across the entire cargo area of the car, this meant that as well as a set of draws, the storage system would also need to incorporate inserts on the sides to fill the odd shaped spaces left by square sided draws.  Secondly we would need the draws to incorporate some type of fridge slide, to enable easy access to our Engel fridges, and finally we wanted to include a cargo barrier at the back of the draws to separate the luggage area of the car from the rest of the cabin.
Outback drawers
There were several brands of draws that would have met all of these requirements; however there were a couple of things that led us to choose Outback brand draws in the end.  Firstly the latches and handles on the draws were the best quality we saw.  The handles are large and strong, and after 2 years in the back of the car we have not had any issues with dirt and dust making them stick or hard to use.

Fridge slide built into the drawers on the right and the MSA fridge slide on the left

 Secondly we could include a roller top on the draws, this meant that we could have a fridge slide but still keep the top of the draws flat as a storage area when we don’t have the fridge in the back.  However as we started to plan for this trip it soon because apparent that one 40L fridge would not be enough cold space.  Unfortunately when we asked Outback if we could simply install a second roller top in place of the original fixed draw top, we were informed that we could not without buying a whole new draw unit (which would have cost over $1000 all up).  As a result we installed a MSA fridge slide for the second fridge.  This unit has worked well so far, but we have noticed that it is prone to becoming hard to slide when it gets a bit of dirt and dust in it and requires constant cleaning to keep it working.  

The outback until also incorporates an easy to install half height cargo barrier that has made both the rear and central storage areas easier to use.
Outback cargo barrier

In the rear passengers area of the car it soon became obvious that the rear seats were taking up valuable space and were unwanted weight.  After confirming QLD Transports rules on the removal or rear seats (you can temporarily remove seats from a vehicle in QLD as long as the change is not permanent.  We were also advised to keep the seat belts mounted and to carry the relevant QLD transport guideline with us in case we were questions by Transport Authorities or Police) it was a simple matter of removing 2 bolts and un-clipping the seats to take it out in one piece.  This has given us heaps more space and removed approximately 40kg of unwanted weight from the rear of the vehicle.   We also added a piece of rubber matting cut to shape to protect the carpet in the rear passenger area.
Rubber matting on the back floor

Closer up of rubber matting - the seat belts are still installed
In the front of the car there were also a couple of things we decided to do to make the car more user friendly.  Firstly we installed a top shelf from Outback interiors.  This has been one of the best modifications we have made to Ruby.  It makes use of otherwise useless space in the car, and allows for items such as mobile phones and wallets to be put up out of the way, where they wont accidentally fall out of the car.  The shelf also incorporates 2 very good LED map lights that have proved handy when trying to find items in the car at night. 

Front seat interior

Outback roof shelf

Lastly we added a set of Genuine Toyota canvas seat covers and Sandgrabba floor mats.  We have had these in our vehicles previously and have been impressed with their durability.  The seat covers give a snug fit on the seats and look good. There are other more heavy duty canvas seat covers available, but we have found that the Toyota ones have a softer material and are not as slippery, making them better for long days sitting in the seats.
The Sandgrabba mats have been great for protecting the carpets in Ruby and making cleaning the footwells out a breeze.  Sandgrabba make floor mats to fit specific vehicle modes as snugly as possible. Ours have withstood many camping trips and days out 4X4ing and still come up looking like new after they have been vacuumed and wiped over.  Our only issue with these is that they would be better if they had a deeper dish in them to catch a little more dirt and mud, but as long as you empty them regularly they will last for years and keep your carpet's looking like new underneath!
Sandgrabba Floor Mats and Toyota canvas seat covers
Other than a few electronic additions and gadgets (which we will cover in a later post) this concludes our alterations to Ruby’s interior. 
Posted by Mat

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Camping Nachos

A lot of the time when you are camping you feel like something comforting but easy to make for dinner.  You might of had a big day sight seeing and just want to get back to camp for a cold beer and easy dinner.  Camping Nachos is ideal.  You can make them as simple or as gourmet as you like.  The day that we made these, we kept it very simple, both in the ingredients and the cooking method.  A lot of the time we would do these in the camp oven, to brown the cheese on top, but this time we just warmed them in a foil tray, on the fire grate over some hot coals.  These are great for an easy dinner, lunch or an awesome afternoon snack.  I might do a gourmet version for you during our travels :)

Nachos on the fire grate warming up

The cheese just starting to melt

Camping Nachos
Serves 2

- 1 tablespoon of oil
- 400g grams of beef mince
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 packet of nacho seasoning
- 1/2 cup of water
- 1 packet of corn chips (we like flavoured ones)
- 1 cup of grated cheese
- 1 jar of salsa (we like the hot one)
- 1 tub of sour cream (we always use low fat)
- 1 foil tray (we used disposable for easy clean up)

- Fry off the onion and mince in a little oil until browned.
- Add in the nacho seasoning and fry off until aromatic (this really increases the flavour by frying off the spices)
- Add in the water and let cook down for about 5 minutes until thick and water has evaporated off.
- Places the corn chips in the bottom of the foil tray.
- Scatter the cooked mince over the top and then top with grated cheese.
- Place foil tray on the fire grate over hot coals, do not place over a hot flame or it will burn.
- Keep an eye on the nachos, you want them to warm up and melt the cheese but not burn.
- Once the cheese is melted remove from the fire, top with the salsa and sour cream.
- Enjoy! We ate ours directly from the tray, while enjoying a couple of cold beers.  It is always great to have less washing up when camping!!

Ready to eat, YUM!

Posted by Jess