Del Monte Premium Bananas! Well, not in this box.

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“Banana boxes may sound like a joke but I copied the idea from a German veteran whose boxes were on their sixth African outing.” — pg 242 of Chris Scott’s “Overlander’s Handbook.”

On our last camping trip, my wife and I talked about ideal storage containers. We had used some milk crates on one trip only because I was too lazy to move items to better boxes. This time, everything was in an Igloo cooler (I stored it in there to save space in our small city apartment–and I was too lazy to transfer it and we had a smaller cooler for food). Natasha likes something that is kind of open so that she can see what’s in them and was wishing we had used the milk crates. I like that the cooler’s dimensions were better than a milk crate, allowing things to fit better. But, at the same time, the cooler was a bit bulky…

We talked about ammo boxes, Rubbermaid Action Packers, etc. I kept thinking about the brief paragraph in Scott’s book. I always laughed at that suggestion, even though I know that banana boxes are tough and free. They have good handles and coule probably be lashed down fairly easily. Since we can get clean ones at work, I brought one home and we’ll get a couple more to try.

These will be for kitchen supplies and such; the drawer system will still be used for heavier items that don’t leave the truck often (recovery gear, spares, etc.) And when we go to South Africa, we’ll look at dedicated ammo boxes and see if we think that the banana box is better.

Portland’s Rose Garden in Washington Park

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Last Wednesday, we left Seattle in the Land Cruiser and headed south toward Mt. Saint Helen. We found a spot in Cougar Park & Campground right on Yale Lake ($20 for the night, showers, flushing toilets, good fire ring, clean), slept there for the night, and drove into Portland, OR the next morning.

We went to the Rose Garden there in Washington Park. It was the first time we had made it in the summer when roses were still in bloom. If you haven’t made it here, it’s a must see. The rose are stunning and the names are super colourful (like California Dreaming, Neil Diamond, Betty Boop, etc.)

Take a good camera, a macro lens would be best (unfortunately I didn’t have a macro).
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More things to think about on buying a RTT (there is a reason tents are on my mind)

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We camped out of the truck again on Wednesday night near Mt. Saint Helen. It was hot. Muggy. Sticky. Well, for the PNW anyway. Luckily, I have screens that pop into the rear passenger doors; it allows air to flow through and keep bugs out; but even with those in, the interior of the truck was pretty warm.

This brings up the importance of climate and where you plan to use your tent. For us, a tent does have to be able to handle the drizzle that Washington and Oregon can put down. But, because both my wife and I hate heat (and my wife tends to run hot anway), good ventilation/airflow is important. To complicate matters more, we plan on some long trips that have us in varied climates. Cold weather is probably the least likely we’ll see (say, 27*F and below): rain, heat, and even wind will be issues.

But, without being able to look at tents (there are no dealers close by me that have a showroom), we’re not sure which direction we’re leaning. Some tents have a stargazer option that opens the top with a bug proof screen allowing you to see the night sky (and I presume it helps keep the tent cooler).
We’ve ruled out a hardshell tent (for different reasons, I’ll talk about that as we go through the process of buying this expensive item). Any recommendations or tips are greatly appreciated.

Now, the reason I’m really digging into the subject now is my wife and I are headed to South Africa in a few weeks. That means we get to go to many showrooms and actually look at various tents from Hannibal, Howling Moon, and Eezi-Awn. Talking to overlanders there and seeing tents in action will help narrow our wish list.

I have looked into bringing one back with us (the Dollar to Rand is in my favor), but air cargo back (including duties and all that crap on the South Africa side) is about $650. I’m still not sure if it’d save us money doing it that way or not. We’ll see what we find while we’re there…

Taking a crap in the house of wasps (a review update).

Poetry Overland:

Just a quick update on this product:

Originally posted on Poetry Overland:

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(a product review)

“It’s full of bees,” my wife said. We had just woke up and I was starting to get set up took breakfast on the tailgate of the Land Cruiser.

“What?”

“The toilet, it’s full of bees.”

“They wont bother you,” I said and shrugged.

She popped out of the tent a moment later, “I can’t do it. Not with them in there.”

One of the purchases that we made to make camping out of our Land Cruiser easier was a privacy tent and a portable toilet. The tent itself came from Privacy Pop-Up. It isn’t super heavy duty, but the quality isn’t poor either. The toilet is just a smallish toilet seat on folding legs. It catches your waste in a bag (yuck) or you can dig a hole under it (better) and then cover it all up when you’re done.

I will have to evaluate…

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Roof Top Tent shopping: considering size

The one thing that seems to be the hardest in picking the perfect roof top tent for us is deciding what size to go with. Most of the tent companies list their tents as 2-person, 2+, 3, 3+, etc. But what does that mean for our comfort?

I’ve started by looking at measurements for mattresses; (Wikipedia’s article on mattress includes a chart of international measurements for them). We sleep on a Queen at home, which is 60in x 80in (152cm x 203cm); the cargo area of the 100 Series measures around 50in (127cm) wide. Having these measurements helps me visualize how big the tent’s mattress will be in comparison to beds that I’ve slept on.

For example, the ARB Simpson III tent is 55in (140cm) x 94.5in (240cm). Natasha and I think this is a good minimum size; we really wouldn’t want any more narrow than this and anything with a mattress over 72in (183cm) long will be prefect.

I suggest that if you’re in the market for a roof top tent, start by deciding what the minimum mattress measurement you need to sleep on; once you have that down, you can start deciding on what type and features you want…

Next time, I’ll talk about what we’re thinking in terms of brands and styles…

Changes to my blog: a more focused approach

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I set out for this blog to be both about poetry and overlanding: two of my favorite things. I’m as happy writing and reading poetry as I am working on a truck or driving my favorite backcountry roads. Also, I would let other things of my life slip in too: owning a business, fishing, etc.

My initial plan was to set up a website using WordPress as a platform and setting up clickable tabs so that you could hide whatever content you didn’t want to interact with and read only want you wanted to. But this seems clunky.

What I’ve now decided to do is use several social media platforms to my advantage:
This blog will focus mainly on trip reports, gear reviews, modification to the truck, and other outdoor activities.

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Poetry and literature will move to Tumblr; follow me here for quick book reviews and thoughts about writing, my manuscript, and the writing group that I’m putting together with another writer. Right now, it has a few pics of trucks and that type of thing, but that will quickly change as I post about literature there.

The truck, The Iron Kitten as we call it, will get it’s own Facebook Page. Click on the link and follow it there! That page will center around the build out of the truck and overlanding or camping trips with it. Our plan is to have it ready for some big trips (like a drive through the South) here in America and then ship it to South Africa for African adventures.

If you like Instagram, I’m there too; but, that piece isn’t focused at all. It is pics of whatever I see and find interesting. It’s also named Poetry Overland.

Of course, I’ll cross pollinate all them when it makes sense to do so. These changes will help me focus on the things I do and be more prolific as a blogger, writer, poet, and weekend wrencher.

Thanks! Hope to see you soon…

Essential equipment: the shovel

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Not a sexy piece of kit, that’s for sure, but the shovel is a necessary tool for camping, off roading, as well as overland travel. Yes, it’s important for recovery of a stuck vehicle. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of digging out axles, frame, or undercarriage bits by hand.

A short shovel with a D-handle and round point is perfect. You can get pretty far under the vehicle with one and the D-handle allows you to use both arms in scooping. The round point means it’s versatile in other camp chores: I find myself using it to clear fire pits, suppress my fire, dig toilets, heap more coals onto the potjie, etc.

When I wanted to by one, I started by looking for a Made in the USA shovel on Home Depot and Lowe’s websites. I then decided to drive up to the True Value in our neighborhood and found that they carry Bully Tools. I picked up a Model #82510. It’s really well made, USA manufactured, and the extra bonus is that True Value’s are locally owned.

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Like my Hi-Lift, it stays permanently with truck. I wouldn’t do any travel into the back country without one on board…