Hello Douglas, your project is the one who make dream of a trip like this. I read several times the way you built your project and is my inspiration. I agree with most of what you expose, and you had the experience I was looking for. I am really honored to read it from you.
And another question would be, as you traveled mostly with your wife, that size of camper would be ideal for a 4 adult team? Or I would need another type of set up for that?
And again thanks Douglas, I am very pleased to finally meet you.
The requirement to sleep four full-size adults without using some sort of pop-up roof or tent is a challenge.
Here's a flatbed camper, modified and extended to include two bunk beds in the rear. Note the two "porthole" windows to the left of the door. The advantage of bunk beds is that they give people a little personal/private space in an otherwise shared/public area.
The camper belongs to forum member Bob Lynch. The construction of the bunk bed extension is by Xtreme Campers of North Carolina. You'll find a description of the process involved in modifying the camper in this thread:
Lots more photos here
Here's the plan as Bob conceived it
I think our truck's overall length is as long a vehicle as you can, in general, easily get around in the areas you are headed. You can get it through the small villages and tight market towns. Anything longer and you will face some real physical dimension challenges.
As such, you won't have any longer of a payload than ours to work with in any configuration and in order to have that much payload you will be limited to the forward control/cab-over chassis design.
If the four adults are two couples, and they will sleep together, you will have more flexibility with the floorplan design of the camper.
If they are four individuals, then four bunk beds would be the primary option. I am not aware of any commercially available floor plan that has that configuration, but one of the series builders could probably create it for you. It may cost additional and it would probably be more difficult to sell.
The primary design space trade-offs you will make in a camper of that size will be a dry or wet head (meaning with or without a dedicated shower stall) and permanent / temporary berths (meaning beds that you do or do not need to set up and take down every day).
For full-time living, permanent berths make a big difference in your day-to-day life. Needing to assemble/reconfigure the camper between sleeping and non-sleeping mode can be disruptive and, at certain times, such as illness while needing to travel, very challenging. We've never met anyone overlanding full-time with a non-fixed berth who didn't want to get a vehicle that had a fixed berth. It doesn't sound like a big deal, and it doesn't look like a big deal on the showroom floor but it can become a big deal if you are doing it every day of full-time living.
A dry head, one with a dedicated shower, can also make a big difference in day-to-day life. A dedicated shower stall also makes a great wet locker (a place to hang wet clothes).
Where you are going you will experience heavy rain. Where are you going to hang all the wet clothes when you come in the camper? If it's a wet head, how do you use the bathroom when it's full of wet, dripping clothes? That scenario is no big deal if it's a month-long adventure. It can become very taxing if it is your full-time home for six months, to say nothing of a year or two.
For your purposes, which go beyond most tourist-type overlanders, you will have greater storage requirements, both internal and external. When you are considering vehicles and camper boxes, think very carefully about the size, shape and volume of your gear, such as ladders, sturdy tripods, etc. Your needs for gear, especially for a team of four, will be more than a typical overlanding configuration.
You'll also need significant amounts of fault-tolerant data storage and a viable data network at your basecamp site. At the end of the day, each of you will probably need to do both professional and personal media and data management. There will be reports to fill out, logs to keep, media to edit and catalog, and personal diaries and correspondence. A reliable technology infrastructure for your data is critical. A big part of that is a process and supporting systems/technology for getting the data off the rig and to another physical location, e.g. mailed back to your office/home/sponsor/etc.
On a personal and team level, having comfortable, dry, warm/cool, ventilated work areas is extremely important. Sitting in the cab of the truck with your laptop balanced on your knees is not a sustainable, full-time, long-term productive scenario for research and documentation.
Where will the team members do this work, especially in the evenings after a long day in the field?
You will also need to have enough tools, parts and a viable work area necessary to repair and maintain all the mechanical, electrical, etc. systems on the vehicle(s) and your expedition gear. While anything made of metal, wood, fabric or leather can be quickly repaired in most villages and any market town, you will have specialty gear and systems that you will need to maintain and repair on your own.
Where will you do that work?
In my experience, you will find that the more time you spend thinking through a typical day, and the more you test the gear, systems and processes required to accomplish your goal, the better. I also think you will find that, again, while anybody can put up with just about anything for a short time, a longer expedition, especially one whose goal is research, will reap many rewards by ensuring that your living and work spaces are conducive to accuracy and productivity.
I wrote two books and countless essays and blog posts sitting at the dinette table in our Fuso. You don't need much, but you need it to be a work space that is productive, e.g. 12VDC and 120/220VAC power, network, broadband, GPS antenna, sat phone antenna, etc.
Also, a tip from the sailing crew world: To ensure team happiness, it is critical that every member of your team have some personal space that is off-limits to anyone else. It doesn't have to be a big space, but it needs to be private and inviolate. So, when you're thinking about compartments and storage, be sure to allocate a small, closeable, secure storage area for each team member.
Columbia and Ecuador are 120VAC. Peru is 220VAC. Bolivia is mostly 220VAC. Design accordingly.
Nice to meet you as well.
Where are you located?
I am very glad that our experiences provided some inspiration to you.
Please let me know if we can be of help to you in any way. We've got quite a few contacts in that region, so we can probably provide some referrals.
Last edited by dhackney; 04-27-2012 at 11:04 PM.
Hello again Douglas, all those questions you ask are the same I have asked myself. You are giving me great tips in planning my project. I live in Venezuela, so I only have to cross Colombia, to get to Ecuador and then Peru and Bolivia. There are FUSO and Isuzu NPR here but not 4X4. I am reading your BEV project again, making some points to ask you later. And, of course, watching your pictures to keep my project coming.
For example, is it too tiring or uncomfortable to drive a cabover such as Mitsubishi FUSO for long perdios of time?
Last edited by MiguelVicente; 04-28-2012 at 01:37 AM.
Most of the archeological sites are connected by market town roads, or, at worst, chicken bus roads. Those roads may be single lane shelf roads, but they don't require 4x4. All the chicken buses are 4x2.
Once you get to the village that's closest to the site, you will need to change to a burro, or, at best, a HiLux, anyway. No medium sized truck can get down the tracks that lead to the remote non-tourist sites you'll probably be documenting.
The dirty little secret of full-time overlanding is that the interesting places in the world are connected by market town roads. Some require you to go down a chicken bus road for the last leg. All the trucks and buses on those roads are 4x2.
More than a few overlanders I interviewed circumnavigated the world and never engaged their four wheel drive for themselves (a few used it to tow others out of sand, etc.).
4x4 is useful if you seek out places that require it, but those places are often just that, a place to demonstrate the need for 4x4 rather than a place you'd go to otherwise.
The vehicles you see here on ExPo are heavily skewed to the U.S. market, in which overlanding mostly means 4x4 camping. That's a very different paradigm from the global definition of overlanding.
Of the vehicles that are actually out there overlanding around the world, the vast majority are European 4x2 vans. You don't need 4x4 to go overlanding, especially where you are headed.
For your mission, as stated, I don't think you will need 4x4. By the time you would need 4x4 you would already be on a track too small for anything but the HiLux. For the remote sites you'll need to get on burros anyway.
Considering your location, I recommend you find a used Argentinian Mercedes chassis Caravan/RV around 8 meters in overall length. It will be a very durable chassis that you can get repaired using locally available parts.
When we were there, the prices were very low and used units were relatively plentiful.
If you need to, you can reconfigure the interior to support four bunk beds, dedicated work stations, etc.
That will make a great base camp vehicle.
Pair that up with a used Toyota HiLux diesel 4x4 that you can buy locally and you will have a perfect combination for your expedition.
For recovery, you may want to put a winch on the HiLux, but on the camper all you'll need is a European truck tow bar & pinion, which the Caravan/RV will probably already have.
Find a shorter version of one of these:
Things to do, in order of priority:
1. Air seat. If you are contemplating traveling with a spouse or significant other, don't drive a kilometer without replacing the passenger seat with an air suspension seat. You may be able to modify one from an over-the-road/18 wheel truck to fit. You can find the details of the seats we used on our build site. I don't know if those are available in your market or not.
2. Acoustic lining. This product will be available in your market. Go to a local car stereo shop and buy the adhesive acoustic mat material. Take apart the cab (remove the seats, floor liner, head liner, trim, etc.). This job will take you about an hour. It really comes apart very quickly. Apply the acoustic mat to all of the interior areas of the cab metal. You will not believe the difference. Our cab came out spooky quiet. It's much, much quieter than a U.S. market full-size van, for instance. It is a bit bizarre to be sitting on top of a diesel engine that you can barely hear run.
3. Aftermarket shocks. We used Bilsteins. If I had it to do over again, I'd modify the truck for dual shocks.
4. Custom spring packs. You can probably find this capability/product in the truck repair neighborhoods of a major market town or any medium sized city. Once the truck is built and completely loaded for travel, go to a flat truck scale and weigh each corner of the truck. Find a shop that repairs truck springs. Have them add or remove leaves in your spring packs to optimize each spring pack to each corner's weight. If you can find a shop that can make custom spring packs, have them build spring packs that consist of many thin leaves rather than a few thick leaves. That will make a dramatic difference in ride quality.
Question: Do you have a research grant or a sponsor for your expedition?
Last edited by dhackney; 04-28-2012 at 02:37 PM.
If you are in Venezuela, you may wish to contact the Expo member known as Tucan Viajero. He has/is just finishing a trip from Caracas to Cuzco and back.
To add to Doug's excellent comments, I will predict that cold and altitude are far more important to a Venezolano than the brand of truck you use. This argues for good, warm sleeping accommodations.
And, when in trouble, two vehicles are better than any one vehicle, or winch, or any other recovery tool.
ĦQue tenga buen viaje!
Certified Expo Poseur - Lives on Paved Road
Hello eveyrone, as I am reading the thread, I am rethinking the project based on your opinions and suggestions, as more experienced than me.
I have to evaluate a trwo or three vehicle option, because two more friends are thinking of doing it, on their own fields. As Douglas stated, the problem of comfort for long staying living and working, with private areas is going to be hard to figure out, but then again, it is an expedition, not a luxury vacation.
ALso, serviceability in those countries, and my own. Japanese trucks and land cruisers are the rule, for spare parts and repairs.
And having read a lot on Douglas Hackneys BEV project and experiences, makes many things clear to me.
Keep sending suggestions, they are great leads...
Thanks to you all..
Equipment that works great at sea level often won't work great over 6k feet in altitude. This is especially true for anything that mixes air with any other chemical or substance.
- A turbocharged motor may still work OK under power, but may also exhibit strange behavior at very high altitudes when using the exhaust brake (our Fuso smoked under exhaust braking at ~15k ft).
- You may need to adjust the air / fuel mixture on stoves, furnaces, etc. We had issues with our furnace ignition at high altitudes.
- Any non-turbo motor will need the air / fuel mixture adjusted, be rejetted, etc. For instance, our small motorcycles didn't run all that well at very high altitudes with the stock jetting and our diesel generator's air filter was too restrictive.
The high country can be very, very cold at night. A well insulated, hard-wall camper is a much better solution in those conditions, especially when the wind blows strongly (which it does often).
You will drive through and camp at some very high elevations.
Please note that you will not be able to test your gear at those heights until you get there.
Be prepared to adjust equipment as necessary and improvise when you need to (I ran the bikes with their chokes partially on, removed the air cleaner on the generator and adjusted the furnace igniter and air/fuel mixture).
Be sure to check all of your electronics to ensure that it can operate (safely) at the altitudes in the high Andes. You may find that some components, e.g. displays, may not be certified to work at those altitudes.
Bring spare, property sized for high altitude carburetor jets and other parts so you'll be prepared to adapt your equipment when you reach high elevations.
Note the altitude in the upper right corner of the display - > 16k ft. - you will be driving and working at these altitudes for extended periods:
Last edited by dhackney; 04-29-2012 at 04:27 PM.