Skilpad

Overland vehicles range from small to very large trucks with a washing machine, kitchen sink and TV included. Overlanders will go to great lengths to convince you that their choice of vehicle is best. And so do we! 

In planning the vehicle we deliberately decided to stick to the dimensions of a Defender 110 and to maximize the available space, rather than to fall for the temptation and go for a bigger vehicle.

Landy at Bahia Lapataia near Ushuaia, Argentina. Furthest south you can drive on any continent

We have a 2007 model Land Rover Defender with a 300Tdi engine. In South Africa these vehicles are known as the “Kalahari” model. It now has 180 000 km’s on the clock. Not the most powerful nor the most modern vehicle around (a bit of an understatement), but it is simple to maintain and has no electronics. And to answer your question before it is being asked – no, it has not let us down yet. And yes, we have heard all those Land Rover jokes, each one of them!

The vehicle has been extensively modified to serve our overlanding needs but it still remains small enough to be maneuverable in heavy traffic. Our nickname for the vehicle is “Skilpad”, for obvious reasons (tortoise in English).

Camping lake districts, Argentina

Hanlie at her favourite kitchen, note the power input on the left for when we are in campsites where power is available.

One of Hanlie’s prerequisites was the need to be able to plug her hair dryer in when she feels like it. 2 Plugs are available – either from mains or from the 1000 Watt inverter.

On the right hand side of the vehicle is the easily accessible toolbox.

A shower rail fits over the toolbox and lifts up on a gas strut when needed. We have a tarpaulin that attach to the shower rail with velcro. The rail also doubles up as a washing line as shown on the photo.

At the rear is a small fold out gas stove plugged into a gas cylinder bolted to the rear of the vehicle. The original stove imported from Europe packed up and the one shown is a Chinese model bought for a few bob on the market in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The pink straps were used as a temporary measure to keep the stove in place when folded up. The 50 liter National Luna fridge / freezer combination is fixed to the floor of the vehicle where it can be reached easily. The green fold-up bucket has been serving as our garbage bin over many years travelling in Africa and now in South America. Below the rear door is the highlift jack and to the left a water tap connected to the water tank fitted behind the left rear wheel.

This is a view of the cockpit. Notice the GPS and the Ipad loaded with Maps.me in front of Hanlie. We have found that 2 navigation systems are absolutely essential and over time Hanlie has become very proficient in her Navigation skills. The 2 USB plugs for charging the Ipad and the Iphones are essential when driving for hours on end. Above the windscreen is a shelf where stuff that we need to get to quickly is stored. You will notice the strap from a binocular hanging to the left of the rear view mirror.

A birds-eye view of the interior while we are travelling, not very neat, but that is how it mostly is! Remember we actually live and sleep in the vehicle for months on end.

We have chosen to retain 2 seats in the rear, not very comfortable and a bit cramped, but 2 additional seats are invaluable when there is a need to accommodate passengers. Between the seates is a self-made box for storing odds-and-ends while on the go. This is an absolute necessity, one cannot believe how many small everyday items must be at hand while driving. We also have a safe hidden away between the two front seats.

A birds-eye view of our “cupboard”. Although quite narrow, the ability to hang some clothes on hangers is a feature that we really recommend to anyone planning an overland vehicle, it works brilliantly.

Light weight drawers made from metal sheeting and covered with carpet provide most of the storage space. On the floor is a rubber sheet glued onto 3mm sound proofing material. This makes the inside easily washable and assist in insulating the interior.

The photo below shows the rooftop tent when lifted up. The bed is accessed from within the vehicle through a flap that folds up. This is great as it allows one to dress inside the vehicle while standing upright. The bed and mattress is quite comfortable, the only disadvantage is that the canvass sides do not provide much isolation when it is really cold. Lifting and lowering the roof only takes a minute.

A flexible solar panel has been fixed to the roof and there is an ostrich awing mounted to the left hand side of the vehicle. On the roofrack are our packpacks, a hiking tent, sleeping bags, a few spare oil, diesel and air filters for the Landy and some odds and ends.

A great feature is that the “sleeping platform” can lift up to the extent that one can walk upright inside the Landy from the rear to just behind the front seats. We use this often when it is too cold to sit outside or when it rains.

An overland vehicle will always be a compromise, and so is ours. We have chosen to stay small and within the contraints that this imply, we are very happy with our Landy.

It is 13 January 2017 and we are celebrating Hanlie's birthday in a pristine environment while wild-camping below Glaciar Exploradores, Chile. Our Landy has made this possible!

A great thanks to Alu-Cab in Cape Town for the rooftent and the 2 side boxes, as well as to Gerrie from Traveltops in Centurion for the ingenious interior layout and optimisation of space, as well as all electrical fittings and wiring.