How would you prep a vehicle for international travel?

Kiriesh

Adventurer
For the sake of conversation, I dream of packing up my tacoma and either driving through Central America or shipping to South America and exploring once I finish my degree. It seems like lots of users love to lift their trucks and run large tires, run heavy steel bumpers, etc which are phenomenal for off-roading but I struggle to see how it could translate to international travel.

I like dirt roads and remote exploring as much as the next guy but I care less about the difficulty of the trail and more about getting out and exploring. So that begs the question, if you were to prep how would you? I have a ~2.5" OME lift to fix the very under-rated stock leaf springs and 265/75R16 tires, and I feel that puts me about perfect for capability and load capacity. Aside from storage, I question the need for many popular options i.e. enough lights to recreate the surface of the sun, heavy steel bumpers, very large oversized tires in obscure sizings, dual batteries, etc. They all serve their purposes don't get me wrong but I don't think it applies to long-distance travel.
 

WyoCherokee

Adventurer
I concur. I think your set up will be great. nothing wrong with a good solid 32" tire and a little bump in clearance. Less stress on components=less chance of breaking and having to find parts in a foreign country. A good hidden winch mount, maybe a brush guard. a decent rear bumper. I dont see the need for enough lights to illuminate a football field. a good set of driving lights. a set of fog lights and fresh stock bulbs will do just fine. a set of rear back up lights wouldnt be a bad idea. just some cheap tractor lights. If you use your rig as a camp base, dual batteries with an isolator is not a bad idea either. Spend your money on organization, good quality camping gear and cash for travel needs and gas.
 

Gren_T

Adventurer
The KISS priciple works well here, manufactures spend millions optimising their vehicles, some small mods are benificial however almost all the vehicle failures I've seen in north & west africa were due to badly prepped or overloaded vehicles.
Dual batteries come in handy when running aux items like inverters & fridges along with solar panels to top them up these come into their own when your out for longer than a few days.

As for the mirriad lights - you really dont want to be driving after dark in Africa, I can't comment on the southern americas as I've not been there.. yet.!

Something else to think about is vehicle choice - the newer the vehicle the more it will cost for the carnet, the more your basic cost are the shorter the period I can afford to travel for so it makes sense to travel in an older well prepared vehicle.

Just my .2

Gren
 

Recommended books for Overlanding

Dreaming of Jupiter
by Ted Simon
From $16.02
Overlanders' Handbook: Worldwide Route & Planning Guide: ...
by Chris Scott
From $29.95
Lone Rider
by speth Beard
From $19.95
Road Fever (Vintage Departures)
by Tim Cahill
From $6.99
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
by Laurence Gonzales
From $9.99

Kiriesh

Adventurer
I concur. I think your set up will be great. nothing wrong with a good solid 32" tire and a little bump in clearance. Less stress on components=less chance of breaking and having to find parts in a foreign country. A good hidden winch mount, maybe a brush guard. a decent rear bumper. I dont see the need for enough lights to illuminate a football field. a good set of driving lights. a set of fog lights and fresh stock bulbs will do just fine. a set of rear back up lights wouldnt be a bad idea. just some cheap tractor lights. If you use your rig as a camp base, dual batteries with an isolator is not a bad idea either. Spend your money on organization, good quality camping gear and cash for travel needs and gas.
I'm honestly failing to see why I'd even need a winch mount or aftermarket rear bumper. I have maxtrax I take with me of I'm going offroading, and my rear bumper is fine. The reality is that I doubt I'd see much offroading if any at all while traveling through foreign countries. I suspect unimproved roads will be the worst terrain to tackle.

The KISS priciple works well here, manufactures spend millions optimising their vehicles, some small mods are benificial however almost all the vehicle failures I've seen in north & west africa were due to badly prepped or overloaded vehicles.
Dual batteries come in handy when running aux items like inverters & fridges along with solar panels to top them up these come into their own when your out for longer than a few days.

As for the mirriad lights - you really dont want to be driving after dark in Africa, I can't comment on the southern americas as I've not been there.. yet.!

Something else to think about is vehicle choice - the newer the vehicle the more it will cost for the carnet, the more your basic cost are the shorter the period I can afford to travel for so it makes sense to travel in an older well prepared vehicle.

Just my .2

Gren
Good point with the batteries. I always associated them with more usage for lights than anything. I hate driving at night anywhere I'm not familiar with. Especially when its somewhere you're trying to experience, not seeing 90% of the landscape seems like a waste of time and gas. I never thought about the carnet, thats an interesting point. Seems like you'd ideally want to thread the line between new enough to be low mileage and reliable but old enough that you can lower the carnet cost.
 

Jnich77

Director of Adventure Management Operations
I would spend my money on recovery gear and comfort, not the rest of the expo farkle that people drag around with them.
 

kpredator

Adventurer
international travel

weight is a enemy,stay pretty much stock.
have good tires and compressor,plenty of fuel and water.
and good sense will take you far.
 

robert

Expedition Leader
Look at the average vehicle in most countries you think you may want to drive in- they're typically stock small trucks and small sedans. Yeah, they get beat up if the roads are really bad but they tend to overload them, drive them on roads that folks here think require 4wd, do minimal maintenance, etc.

Unless you plan to do a lot of off-roading, you can probably buy whatever you want and make the trip without incident. A quick look at the wikioverland shows folks traveling in all sorts of vehicles. Personally I'd go with an upgraded suspension (you already have that), a standard sized tire that's not too big, dual batteries (because having your battery die is inconvenient), fix or replace anything questionable, you want the vehicle as reliable as possible and that usually means close to stock unless you have high wear items such as a high mileage water pump or parts that are known to be weak, and then comfort items. Examples for me would be the shell on the back of the truck to carry my stuff and sleep in and a decent sounding stereo system with plenty of music and audio books.

It's generally recommended not to drive at night in most other countries and that's good advice in my experience, if for no other reason than the fact the roads tend to be poorly lit. Sometimes it can't be helped and I do recommend at least some driving lights to compliment your headlights, which should be in good shape, and some reverse lights because the stock reverse lights on the Tacomas suck.
 

1leglance

2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
Funny this topic should come up as I have been thinking about a rig to buy & leave in various places while I fly home.
The thing to remember is when you read other folks stories about travel through North, Central and South America is that the worst they usually face is:
#1 Topes (giant speed bumps)
#2 Pot holes
#3 Sandy beaches and off track campsites
#4 Camping when possible which is becomes much less often the further South you go, especially as cheap as hotels/hostels become.

So this means I am not really even looking for 4wd unless I really want to do alot of beach camping, dirt exploring (much less common the further south you go).
But what I do need is:
High Clearance
Sleep inside to better deal with rain.
Not too big a tire in case I need replacement along the way....29-33 max
Soft suspension with enough load cap....increasing stiffness to increase load is a terrible combo on long journeys
Basic camp kitchen for beach camping but honestly I have found food to be so cheap when I travel on previous Mexico, Central & South America trips I would not cook much.
Dual batteries & solar maybe if I am beach camping but since you expect to drive every couple of days at least then this isn't a huge thing.....and yes batteries are sold all over the world.
I agree with the air compressor, tire repair kit and basic recovery stuff.
Basic tools, electrical bits and multi-meter for just in case and any special tools your rig might requre like axle sockets and such....but keep the wgt down.

Lastly no Carnet required in the Americas.

So that means I am looking at inexpensive SUV's that get decent mpg like Montero's, inline 6 Cherokees, Grand Vitaras, Honda Pilot, and such.
Small enough to get around anywhere and large enough to carry basics for 2 people.

I love the idea of driving a week or two, fly home and work some then fly back and continue the journey.
 

rayra

Expedition Leader
Reliability.
Reliability.
Reliability.
Carry essential spares. Bulbs, belts, fuzes, even a shock or two, if you are using something aftermarket / upgraded.
Multiple forms of navigation.
Translation book / software.
Water supply and treatment.
 

KSatYVR

New member
I'm setting up for South America too and have most of my kit dialled in except the air compressor. Wondering what type of air compressor the group would recommend for airing up tires. I would like something that doesn't take all day to air up the tires and an air compressor that won't let me down in the middle of no where. Please give suggestions of manufacturers and model and pricing. I also don't need something large and heavy but I am sure I will need to air down and up a few times on the trip.
 

InterFJ

Explorer
For the sake of conversation, I dream of packing up my tacoma and either driving through Central America or shipping to South America and exploring once I finish my degree. It seems like lots of users love to lift their trucks and run large tires, run heavy steel bumpers, etc which are phenomenal for off-roading but I struggle to see how it could translate to international travel.

I like dirt roads and remote exploring as much as the next guy but I care less about the difficulty of the trail and more about getting out and exploring. So that begs the question, if you were to prep how would you? I have a ~2.5" OME lift to fix the very under-rated stock leaf springs and 265/75R16 tires, and I feel that puts me about perfect for capability and load capacity. Aside from storage, I question the need for many popular options i.e. enough lights to recreate the surface of the sun, heavy steel bumpers, very large oversized tires in obscure sizings, dual batteries, etc. They all serve their purposes don't get me wrong but I don't think it applies to long-distance travel.
Steel bumpers are not just for off roading, they are protection on the road and the trails. They also can store recovery equipment and you will need (and want) auxiliary or driving lights once you are on your trip. A rear dual swing-out steel bumper can give you two spare tires, water tank, or storage tin, which would serve you well for international travel. It is added weight, but I will take reduced MPG versus not having the right gear and equipment with me when traveling internationally.

If you are staying on paved roads the whole way, sure you could go minimalist but if you've spent any time driving in Central and South America, the best places to visit are the hardest ones to reach, and sometimes the paved roads are ****tier than the dirt ones.
 

sg1

Adventurer
If you drive a Tacoma be careful not to overload. A full second spare is heavy and the weight is at the worst possible spot, the rear. There are lots and lots of tire repair shops in Latin America. I had a second spare in Africa but decided against it for SA. In my 4 years in SA I had 5 flats so far and 4 times the next tire repair shop was so close that after adding some air with my compressor (an essential part) I made it to the shop without even changing the tire. But keep in mind that these shops sometimes use very basic and crude tools and might damage alloy rims. I use steel rims which can be hammered back in shape. I had to do it twice. If you think you absolutely need a second spare take the tire without rim. Weight is your worst enemy. You will have thousands of speed bumps and potholes and the roads will be VERY steep. All this puts a lot of stress on your clutch or transmission, brakes and suspension components and every pound of weight makes it worse. 265/75R16 is very popular in SA and a perfect choice. Lift looks cool but is useless at best. It does not add any clearance under the differential but adds aftermarket parts you will not find in SA. Forget about additional lights. Unless you are completely reckless you do not drive at night and if you are crazy enough to do it there is often to much traffic for high beam. If you are halfway sane you look for a safe spot to spend the night well before it gets dark. IOverlander usually has enough options.
Stefan
 
Last edited:

Recommended books for Overlanding

Into Africa
by Sam Manicom
From $25.52
The Total Approach of Getting Unstuck Off Road: 4WD Self-...
by Robert Wohlers
From $59.95
Crossing the Congo: Over Land and Water in a Hard Place
by Mike Martin, Chloe Baker, Charlie Hatch-Barnwell
From $25.95
Adventure Motorcycling Handbook: A Route & Planning Guide
by Chris Scott
From $10.09
Cycling the Great Divide: From Canada to Mexico on North ...
by Michael McCoy, venture Cycling Association
From $9.99

jkilgore11

Adventurer
As for the compressor, I have had great results with Viair and ARB. I currently have the Viair 450P. Sold my old Jeep with the ARB installed. The Viair portable can be used for both rigs and airs up quickly. 35's on the truck and 33's on the Jeep.
 

Kiriesh

Adventurer
I suggest one spare and supplies to fix a tyre yourself. Its easy skill any legitimate expo-guy should have.
My tire plug kit lives in my truck I never leave home without it :)

I'm setting up for South America too and have most of my kit dialled in except the air compressor. Wondering what type of air compressor the group would recommend for airing up tires. I would like something that doesn't take all day to air up the tires and an air compressor that won't let me down in the middle of no where. Please give suggestions of manufacturers and model and pricing. I also don't need something large and heavy but I am sure I will need to air down and up a few times on the trip.
I've used both ARB and Viair compressors, I've been happy with both brands and have had no issues.

If you drive a Tacoma be careful not to overload. A full second spare is heavy and the weight is at the worst possible spot, the rear. There are lots and lots of tire repair shops in Latin America. I had a second spare in Africa but decided against it for SA. In my 4 years in SA I had 5 flats so far and 4 times the next tire repair shop was so close that after adding some air with my compressor (an essential part) I made it to the shop without even changing the tire. But keep in mind that these shops sometimes use very basic and crude tools and might damage alloy rims. I use steel rims which can be hammered back in shape. I had to do it twice. If you think you absolutely need a second spare take the tire without rim. Weight is your worst enemy. You will have thousands of speed bumps and potholes and the roads will be VERY steep. All this puts a lot of stress on your clutch or transmission, brakes and suspension components and every pound of weight makes it worse. 265/75R16 is very popular in SA and a perfect choice. Lift looks cool but is useless at best. It does not add any clearance under the differential but adds aftermarket parts you will not find in SA. Forget about additional lights. Unless you are completely reckless you do not drive at night and if you are crazy enough to do it there is often to much traffic for high beam. If you are halfway sane you look for a safe spot to spend the night well before it gets dark. IOverlander usually has enough options.
Stefan
I'm still on the fence about the second spare, some like yourself say its no issue at all, others swear by the added safety. It's nice to know 265/75R16 is popular. I run cheap alloys, so while I don't necessarily care if they get esthetically damaged, thats a good thing to keep in mind.

I definitely wouldn't call my lift useless, I don't know about you but stock with 265/75R16's I was getting some pretty moderate rubbing even after removing my mudflaps. It definitely adds clearance under the front differential, I'm not running a diff drop so it helped my approach angle. My factory rear leaf pack was such a joke that a weekend worth of camping gear was enough that I was hitting my bumpstops pretty often if the road was rough. The new leaf pack has helped that considerably. On top of all that, my cornering is much more stable and I have considerably less front end drop with heavy braking due to the stiffer front setup.

I completely agree with the lights, they look cool but I would never use them.
 
Top