In preparation for our overland journey from Cape Town, South Africa to Vladivostok, Russia we have been accumulating gear that will be employed to make the journey easier, safer, and more secure. The following is a first impression look at four products which will be put to the ultimate test on the world’s longest possible overland route (if we are able to cross Syria and the Sinai). We will review this gear again midway through the journey and again once we reach the other side of Russia. We are minimalist by choice and necessity and only use gear which is essential and of a very high quality.
Spot X and Trace
The Spot devices both use a GPS satellite system to transmit data to and from a satellite network essentially providing global coverage. Unfortunately for us, there are a few blank spots on the coverage map, namely the Horn of Africa and parts of Central Asia. We will just have to be careful there.
The Spot Trace is a satellite tracking device which, so far, is simply awesome. I am paranoid about my Land Rover, our home when not suffering through lockdown in Southern Africa. The Trace device is charged up and well hidden in the Land Rover and I receive email alerts when the vehicle is moved, I can then use the Spot app on my smartphone to track the vehicle. Think about that for a moment. Imagine your vehicle is stolen and you are able to direct the police to the exact location in the thieves backyard! Imagine the vehicle is hijacked with your loved ones inside and you are able to rescue them by tracking the vehicle. Yes, please.
The Spot X is a two-way satellite messenger that includes an SOS button which will have the helicopters dispatched to your location where you or another member of your expedition can be extracted and given potentially life-saving medical assistance. Used daily the Spot X can be used to send text messages to friends, family, or for business. Not only do we plan to drive across vast and potentially dangerous territories, but we will also be heading out on foot to hike some long, beautiful trails and the Spot X will provide us with the peace of mind we need to push ourselves that little bit further.
Both the Spot X and Trace were delivered in high-quality packaging and are impressive units, very well made and sturdy, intelligently and logically assembled, the Spot X qwerty keypad is small but individually elevated for easy typing. Service plans must be purchased for both units and may include emergency recovery plans. The good news is that at the time of writing there are huge discounts on both units if purchased directly from the Spot website.
Spot X $200 | Spot Trace $50 | www.findmespot.com
Halite Waterproof Luggage
Halite is a Norwegian manufacturer of high quality, military-grade luggage (and by military-grade I assume they mean a 20-year-old grunt can’t break them). We were looking for a flexible solution to our roof rack storage needs. Yes, a couple large aluminum boxes might have been a good option but the shape of metal boxes is inflexible and the boxes have a single-use, a good piece of luggage has a few uses. We chose the Void 110 in the blue Blazer color and the Kraken 140 in orange Flame. These bags are large enough to swallow a ton of gear including chairs, wetsuits, camera gear, spare boots, winter jackets, and other large bulky items which would otherwise clutter the camper interior and the bags can be compressed to offer less wind resistance (on the rack of our already square Defender).
The Void 110 (liter) is made of “bombproof” 1000D Cordura Nylon with a water-resistant coating. The half-moon opening offers a lid which can serve as a mat of sorts where you can stand and change clothing or remove a wetsuit, this bag combined with the QuickPitch USA shower cubicle is the perfect combination for any surfer. The bag features numerous handles and comfortable backpack straps as well as a large exterior pouch and daisy chain webbing to attach gear to.
The Kraken 140 (liter) is constructed using a combination of 840D High Tenacity Nylon combined with 1000D Cordura Nylon to be as tough as nails. The high tech materials combined with a latching waterproof zip system ensures that this bag is entirely waterproof. The bag boasts an air valve and a Halkey Roberts oral inflation system which essentially means you can inflate the bag by mouth, handy when your ferry has sunk and you are floating in the ocean with only your Kraken bag. We chose the high visibility Flame color just in case this worst-case scenario ever happens to us. The Kraken is completely waterproof and therefore dustproof – to test we inflated the bag as much as possible and then lay another heavy bag atop it for two days, the Kraken remained entirely inflated, impressive. The duffel comes with comfortable high-quality shoulder straps, carry handles, daisy chain webbing, and is built with a wing system which allows full access to the compartment.
Both Halite bags are exceptionally well made and we have very high expectations. I have purchased a plastic sleeved steel cable to secure both bags to the roof rack and prevent theft.
The Kraken 140 from $500 | The Void 110 from $150 | www.halite.no
Sawyer Mini Water Filter
Our primary water filtration system is a Lifesaver Jerrycan which, while robust and reliable, is too large to take on hiking trips and it is always a good idea to have a portable back up filtration system. A bit of research revealed that serious through-hikers rely on the Sawyer Mini water filter as the unit is small, lightweight, efficient and can filter 99.9999% of all bacteria and has an absolute filtration level of 0.1 Micron, which we will assume is sufficient. The Sawyer Mini tube contains hollow fibre membrane, much like the Lifestraw, which actively filters water which can be drunk directly through the Sawyer Mini from a water source, attached to a drinking bottle, used inline with a hydration pack or used to fill a drinking bottle. This little wonder is said to be capable of filtering 100 000 gallons of water and can be cleaned by using a syringe to backwash and rinse the internal membrane. We will discover how user-friendly the Sawyer Mini is, it may become part of our daily routine or we may only use it when hiking. At a mere $20 this filter in a no brainer, my only regret is that I bought only one.
Read our comprehensive water filter review here.
Sawyer Mini Water Filter | $20 | www.sawyer.com
Redarc Battery Charger and 52mm Dual Voltage Gauge
Redarc is an Australian electronics manufacturer that has earned a reputation for high-quality products, the type of gear used by the pros. We are as low tech as can be, our cockpit does not resemble a fighter jet and we like it that way. We do however need to charge laptops and cameras, run a water pump, and LED lights in the camper. The BCDC1225D is a 12V 25A in-vehicle DC to DC battery charger which allows us to charge the auxiliary battery from the solar panels and the alternator simultaneously. This unit is smart – it features built-in Green Power Priority which will select solar input before adding more load to the alternator and is suitable to most battery types between 75 and 200 AH (Amp Hour). The tech is award-winning and the unit is very well made and looks impressive in the box. We are upgrading our solar system for the journey north and will soon install a new solar panel and the Redarc charger and the 52mm Dual Voltage Gauge which will take some the mystery out of our electrical system. The gauge itself is a good looking unit in satin chrome with 13 select-able backlight colors which will allow us to monitor the charging performance of both the main and auxiliary battery and multiple alert levels of red or amber lights and an audible beep to alert us if the voltage is below 11V or above 16V. I hope that beep can be muted. Nirvana is a system that does what it should and does it very well, I expect this electrical combination to ensure that the power goes where it should and keep our expensive batteries happy, healthy and fully charged (provided we supply the necessary current).
BCDC1225D Battery Charger $382 | 52mm Dual Voltage Gauge VVA $187 | www.redarc.com