by Johan Badenhorst
You’ve made the big decision, and bought a 4×4 for that off-roading adventure. Now you want to fit it out to suit your needs. Johan Badenhorst of Voetspore fame has some ideas – and words of caution.
This where the fun starts. You’ve spent a couple of hundred thousand rand on a vehicle and now you have to make it perfect for your safari. You need to customise it and personalise it — give it some identity.
Hint No 1: Do not buy anything from the stands at a 4×4 show. These exhibitions are designed for women. Everything is so neat and organised. You take your wife there to convince her that all the gadgets are not only nice to have, but actually essential. Normally she is impressed. She likes the hot water shower, the kitchen unit, the awning with its side panels, the double bed stretcher… the list is endless. At a 4×4 exhibition, the stuff you can spend money on is impressive. But beware – you may not need it.
Not for one moment do I suggest that what you see at a 4×4 show is all rubbish, and only there to make you stretch the limit of your credit card. By all means visit these exhibitions and see what is on offer. Speak to the experts, but take your decisions later.
Exhibitors take great care to make their stands look beautiful. That is why your wife will be impressed. The question is, what will happen if it starts raining, or when there’s a gale, or when you travel for a 1000km on a dirt road?
Hint No 2: Start off slowly. First, look at the essentials. What are they? Well, a roof rack, for starters. Perhaps also a suspension system that gives the vehicle extra ground clearance so that you can tackle off-road conditions with more comfort, for both passengers and vehicle. A long-range fuel tank is a must if you plan to venture into areas where you need to cover more than 600km between refuelling stops. And you will definitely need containers for water, either fitted to the vehicle or on the roof rack. So, too, jerry cans and a holder for a gas bottle.
A bull bar is a perhaps a “nice to have”. It is also very expensive, especially if it is air bag compatible.
The reason for the bull bar? To protect you when you hit a donkey at high speed in the middle of the night on the Trans Kalahari Highway. But the question is, what are you doing, driving at high speed in the middle of the night between Kang and Buitepos? The bull bar is also handy if you want to fit serious spotlights, as well as a winch.
Are these items essential? I’m not so sure. They are certainly not part of your first phase in customising your vehicle.
Hint No 3: Learn from others. Drive your vehicle to camp sites where other like-minded people spend their time. Enquire. Find out what works for them and what not. 4×4 people like telling others about their vehicles. This is where you will very quickly find out that a wind up lantern only works in the outdoor shop and on the show room floor.
Hint No 4: Take something special. Is there a meal, a drink or an activity that you particularly enjoy? Make room for it! Perhaps it is an espresso kettle or a perculator for ground coffee — perhaps a hammock. Pack it. One small item can give your trip its identity. But don’t pack the Weber or the smoker. That something special shouldn’t become a schlep, or an irritation — something that drives you crazy halfway through the trip.
And what about the Voetspore plans? We are embarking on our seventh expedition. Are our vehicles 100% ready for a three-month journey? Not really. We learn all the time. But here is what we’ve done to our vehicles:
Old Man Emu suspension
Long-range fuel tanks
Dual battery systems
Fold-up tables on the roof racks
Gas bottle holders
Jerry can holders
One roof top tent
Three ARB 60-litre fridges.
Tyre pressure monitors
High lift jacks
Apart from the items fitted to the vehicles, we also have two dome tents, six chairs, sleeping bags, stretchers, a Richtersveld Challenge braai box, cutlery, gas equipment and personal items such as clothing, toiletries, first aid kit, groceries and so on.
Do we have all the answers? Definitely not. There are many people who know much more than we do. But one thing we have learned over the years is that it is amazing how little you can get by on. If you have a clean bed to sleep in, a plate, knife and fork, mug for the coffee (or wine), a chair to sit on, and a reliable vehicle, you can drive from the Cape to Cairo or – in our case — from Agulhas to Alexandria.