With another trip to Drifta HQ on the calendar I thought I would write up how we got to this point, in particular I am referring to storage and organisation within the LandCruiser. From weekend warriors to remote reconnaissance trips, our needs have evolved, and I am sure everyone can attest to the trial and error of packing their vehicle. A mission in ergonomics and Tetris, to carry what we need, when we need it.
We stepped out of a diesel Forester into the 76 Series so whilst the capacity increased, we were accustomed to the wagon space. What changed dramatically was the length and style of our trips, we upgraded to the LandCruiser because we wanted to go further, see more and tackle farther away lands. And it was this experience, not only living exclusively out of the vehicle for an extended period of time but also, touring or overlanding for a longer distances where we learned our biggest and personalised lessons. After several weekends and little weeks away, we endeavoured to tour outback NSW, Innamincka and then return via QLD, then Grafton, so a well rounded circuit.
For this trip, we opted for a double sized air mattress inside the Oztent RV3, having only used 5cm hiking mattresses prior this had proven a very comfortable upgrade and we thought it optimal for our tour which would include some of the longest drives in our record. This required protection, so we purchased a MSA rooftop bag, canvas and weatherproof it had lots of straps to secure its contents. We kept the mattress, small camping pillows, our Oztent camping chairs, and bucket in this rooftop bag. Its size allowing the Oztent to be tied down along side it and room for us to traverse the roof rack when needed.
Inside the LandCruiser, our optimisation for travel was sparse. Black Duck canvas seat covers protecting the velour, Toyota rubber floor mats for the carpet, map pocket on the visor and a dash mat. Everything else was down to…. ergonomics and Tetris.
Given only the two of us, and the rooftop bag, there really is a wealth of room available, but its not about the capacity, but rather how it’s used; we would soon learn. It’s worth noting that whilst keenly away that every respected traveller installed a drawer system in their vehicle, I was adamant that my organisation warranted no ply and marine carpet enhancements……
At this point, we were using an icebox and small Waeco fridge combination to carry our sustenance. We also needed to carry water and fuel in jerrycans. This combined with food, table and clothing and other essentials fulfilled our itinerary.
With the flatbed of the wagon’s cargo area, these items posed no real quandary. I have a plethora of ex-army ammunitions crates, neatly labelled which had worked well for our previous trips. This is where Tetris is played.
Unlike our weekends and short weeks away, this trip was different, as we meant for it to be. We wanted to explore, we had our plan but it was fluid. And like that we needed to be unpacked, packed and moving if we were going to cover the ground we intended. This is where ergonomics is played, and lost.
Probably the rooftop bag was the first hassle, so many straps and the noise if one strap was loose was annoying to us, this combined with the airbed’s lack of cooperation probably didn’t help its case.
Second was the icebox and fridge combination, whilst ideal 99% of the time, and definitely with a proper working fridge, their performance on this trip just didn’t justify the use of space. We outgrew our fridge, almost immediately, although predictable; frozen or frosty on the bottom, warm enough on top for vegetables and dairy hopefully surviving somewhere in the middle. The icebox offered little service outside thawing meat and Luke warm drinks, and with the reliance on ice, we weren’t as confident in the outback warmth as the east coast.
This inevitably lead to the ergonomics of the rear storage, with the crates and such all neatly available, we were still hyperextending our knees packing and unpacking, and well – unpacking and repacking grew tiresome in itself too. And the damned jerry cans, heavy and irrelevant in our travels with the Long Ranger fuel tank, I suppose I thought the v8 would drink more than it actually does…..
We were not camped for days on end reading books and eating our fridge empty in the outback sunshine. We were pitched mostly only overnight and exploring day to day, unpacking and repacking; we needed another level of organisation to accommodate this.
Ugh, we needed drawers.
Hesitant as I might have been to give up the Toyota Hiace sized storage we had available in the back of the 76series, I am now a a happy convert, as long as they are built to suit and built to perform to your personal needs. It must be half the fun as overlanders and campers, also entertainment of those around you who can appreciate it, the journey of preparation is a learning curve. We all, for the most part – refuse to listen to others fully until we have our own Uh-Huh! moment.
The 6 week trip into South Australia that followed our inevitable drawer build from Drifta in Gloucester NSW was almost too easy. Despite some lessons learned about spice jars. (Try not to leave these loose in the drawers during steep inclines and descents of the Flinders Ranges 4wd tracks, else risk it locking your drawer from the inside.)
The slide out table is hilarious in its superb simplicity. Whilst rarely making it out to stand on its own legs, this bench proved to be the camp kitchen to end all camp kitchens. Its drawer is the kitchen drawer – camp oven, pans, dry goods, cutlery stove, fuel, utensils, cleaning. Whilst the larger drawer under the fridge holds the tools, spare parts, etc, etc.
We opted for the horizontal drawers for two reasons. The fridge and the pup. Our beloved travelling companion needed pride of place to see out the window on our road trips. Our fridge/freezer, also as deserving, is a National Luna and is quite tall and skinny, so a MSA dropslide was required.
Despite being told this umpteen times, the real estate gained by the drawer installation was immediate, added by the embedded water tank too. The ergonomics and organisation surpassed my expectations but also raised them. I’ve now become somewhat finicky about the organisation within the drawers, and worse – about the organisation, or lack of, for that which is not, or cannot be packed in the drawers. Mum could only dream this would one day extend to my house……
It’s this psychological problem, and the logistics faced by subsequent trips that has lead to the next phase of organised chaos…
We have years long retired the large airbed and roof bag for functioning single air mats or the swag and the bulky Oztent chairs for smaller Snow Peak chairs, we even traded our duffle bag for a suitcase style Drifta weekender bag for better access and organisation of our intimates and flannos…….however, the organisation of these items, our sundries and food in the cabin, ever the fine art of a needs basis with minimal rattling or movement over rough terrain.
It’s funny how the phases of camping come full circle, for us it was minimalist, then heavy luxury, then convenience and now, I think, a premium level of subjective minimalism, convenience and quality. I want the cake and to also eat it. I want to enjoy every aspect, for me – camping is about shirking suburban responsibility rather than relinquishing comfort and enjoyment. I go camping to avoid the backlit and breath in the starlit. This path to childlike freedom with all the toys is a circle.
Reminiscing aside, I learned on our Northern Territory trip that I wanted that organisation extended and levelled to a fine edged point of my camp knife. Neatly packed food in storage bags on top of the drawer system or on the back seat was not it. First Aid kit jammed behind my seat, underneath aforementioned food bag wasn’t it either, particular when you need it. My 30-something year old temper for discord has a micro fuse length, or maybe even a Piezo igniter….. Like my emotions, I need my haul to be compartmentalised.
The next phase is pretty exciting for us, because its happening now, and next week, and will no doubt continue its evolution after that too, without regret. But nevertheless, I am looking forward to verbalising whatever it is we come up with, collecting all the scraps of paper and notes on design ideas, both fantasy and mandatory next week, and even more so, the chance to test it out, learn and write about it of course.