This past weekend we drove the truck and a car down to Kulmbach. We dropped the car at Taubenreuther and headed into the Czech Republic for some cheap down hill skiing, cross country skiing, swimming, and sauna action; great food, great accommodations, and great prices. I like the Czech Republic. It was considerably colder there, and the mountains were covered with dense pine forests, branches supporting pounds of snow snatched from its drift to earth. The roads were clean and smooth, and the border checkpoint a thing of the past. After a short stay from Saturday night until Monday morning we headed back into German and dropped the truck at Taubenreuther GmbH, but not before some excellent service. We were introduced to the lead technician, Juergen Teichert, who turns out to be a very knowledgeable man who has supported various races across North Africa. He and Bernd (marketing) walked us through our proposed list actually, and sincerely, discussing the pros and cons of each item and where we could save money. I had gone overboard with a few items, and they helped us dial in what we needed for this trip, and what would and would not do the job. I found the service and sincerity refreshing and honest. We left our truck in their capable hands and have since headed back north, but I continue researching, questioning, and analyzing.
Maybe it’s my military background, but I like to take a layered approach to my preparations. I figure the better prepared you are the further you can go, and the further away from civilization you can travel. Look at vehicle mobile and foot mobile. There is a huge difference (literally) in what you can carry on your back and what a truck can carry, but you are likely to both drive and walk. If you are truly prepared then you can leave your vehicle and walk to safety – why? Just in case of a catastrophic mechanical failure outside of range of communication; the no-comm plan. Good communication is necessary, but it can and will fail – even sat phones. Water, food, and shelter are most important, fire, communication, first aid, and then the ability to repair your gear. I always carry a survival kit of the basic essentials. These items can vary a bit depending on your environment, but there are tricks to getting by sometimes – for example, if you didn’t take the time to learn about local vegetation then you can do the edible plant test – avoid plants with milky sap or hairy appearance. Rub a small piece on the inside of your forearm and wait 30 minutes. If no rash take a small piece and chew it and spit it out. Wait 30 minutes, if not sick then take a small piece and eat it – wait 30 minutes if not sick then consume with caution, as you may not have reached the right dose to effect your body. Carry a water collection device and the ability to transport water. A good knife with a locking blade (two locks rather than one) or a fixed blade knife – large enough to cut small pieces of wood or branches (so a little weight), but still legal and easily carried. Food – fishing line and hooks and good knowledge of snares and deadfalls. Get a small copy of say, The SAS Survival Manual, and carry it as well. Fire – get one of the striking flints made now. You can start a fire with little skill with one of those, but practice a bit first. Dress appropriately for the environment; bring good shoes if you plan to wander off the path, and a sewing kit to repair your clothing. Learn to make shelter or pack a poncho or thermal blanket in your kit. This should all easily fit into a small pouch or container that you can carry on your body.
Now that you have these items look at your vehicle. Food, and water are still a priority, but now there are more options available for carrying it. You can get the ready-to-eat meals for an emergency and keep one or two stashed somewhere, then get a fridge or cooler so you can hold food for longer periods and keep it fresh. Carry a large water container – depends on where and how long. The amount depends on your fitness and the environment, you should be drinking two sips of water every 15 minutes. You can survive on less, but since you aren’t carrying the water you might as well have enough. 5-gallon water jugs are good, Nalgene bottles, 1.5 liter bottles in the fridge, a 20l jug in the floor or a 50l on the roof. I can tell you that it isn’t necessarily true that you’ll need a lot more water in the dry desert or humid jungles than you’ll need in a cold place, but on average just sitting around that is true. You will sweat a lot more and lose water rapidly in the heat, but if you are working hard in the cold you will also dehydrate quickly, especially if you are not staying warm. Bring a fishing pole and tackle box if there is nearby water. Fishing is always an easy way of getting some food and water if you need it. You can cut the fish open and drink the water that pools in its body, or just eat it.
The truck, if you really want to be self-sufficient should have at least a front winch that will pull a minimum of 1.5 times your fully loaded vehicle, but to really get out of a mess you’ll probably have to double the line with your snatch block. If you have a stronger winch then you’ll be good. Seemingly way overkill, but we had 24000 lbs. winches on our G-Wagons. No need to worry about enough power there, but you can use the winch for other things than just getting unstuck (pulling things down or out of the way, logs to crevices and deep water/channels/wadis, etc.).
Fuel and fuel capacity – Extended range tanks are nice but need protection. If you bust a hole in one you basically lose all of you extra fuel. If you put them in jerry cans it is more work, but fuel of varying qualities can be separated and you can filter it as it goes in. You can also filter fuel into a large reserve. Having more fuel means you can go further. You’ll have to understand how the extra weight will affect your vehicles performance.
Spare tires came in handier than any other gear (besides heavy guns) that I have carried on a truck. We argued over run-flats because of their weight and decided on regular bead lock tires. We had to change flats a few times, but practicing with your gear makes it an easier task. Spare wheels can also be used to anchor the winch in soft sand or mud if there is no tree or stump available, and a rimless spare can be lashed to the front as a bulbar of sorts allowing you to ram other vehicles with no damage to your own front end.
Other gear includes the, some would say obvious, High-lift jack as it can be used to lift for tire changes, and to get wheels out of ruts, shift the tire patch to a nearby rock or other surface, or as a come-along, etc. Spare fuel filters or a pen that can be used to bypass the fuel filter if you really need to get moving right this minute. Snatch straps are also necessary, and if you travel with a buddy you can rig one to the front and one to the rear then wrap them around and hang them with clevises to the mirror then your buddy can drive by and hand you his through the window and you attach it to yours – his rear to your front and just keep driving and no one has to get out to rig up for the tow. You can spend the money for a tent or sleep in the truck or on the ground. In Africa, having slept on the ground there at Sevuti, I can say I personally prefer a night in a RTT as far as anxiety goes. Though things usually leave you alone I almost got stepped on by an elephant and had hyena cackling 10m outside the tent at night. An axe is good for cutting firewood and also cutting trees and branches out of the way. A compressor is good to have to inflate your tires when you get out of sand, etc. We had systems under the hood controlled from the cab enabling tire inflation and and deflation on-the-move, but I don’t think that is necessary unless you plan on doing weapons runs in Sudan. Straps are a must for tying down gear so your head doesn’t get smashed or you don’t lose it, and a spade so you can dig yourself out. I don’t know. I’m still trying to make the transition to normal life, so I may be overdoing it here, but I must say I felt quite comfortable and confident knowing we had all of this stuff, and you can purchase items of high technological design to cut down on the weight. In addition to all of this we carried M2 .50 calibers with extra barrels, 240G with extra barrels, M19, M4s, ammunition, rucks (bergens for you Brits), optics, radios and not much else. I never had a problem getting anywhere, including up crevices in the sides of cliffs. I found that more important than the gear was knowing how to drive the truck in what conditions, knowing (from inside the cab) where your diffs and transfer case are (for rock crawling), understanding the tire patch, picking a good line or route, understanding approach angles, and knowing when to stop and think rather than just gunning and going for it (there is a time for that as well). All this said this is what I have approved for the build:
Koni Raids, 70mm lift, extra heavy coils, castor kit, new brakes, belts and fluids. A newew steering damper, 166l auxiliary tank, bulbar with 9500 lbs winch, rear steel bumper with wheel carrier and jerry can holder, full roof rack with roof top tent (RTT), jerry can holders/water holders, a 50L water tank, 360 degrees of lighting (LED), portable compressor, two drawers in back, 70l fridge, fridge slide, fridge cover, a dual battery system, shovel, 152cm HiLift with cover, HiLift bumper and rim adapters, tire patch kit, recovery kit including snatch strap, winch cable extension, shackles, snatch block, and blanket for the cable while under tension, underbody protection, a snorkel, X-Trax II, and 300w inverter.