Show Notes for Podcast #5
The 10 Commandments of Overland Vehicle Modification
After a few trips around the world, these are the lessons we have learned (mostly the hard way) about properly modifying your overlanding vehicle for adventure travel. This includes suspension and engine upgrades, wiring changes, payload, and other important considerations for the overlander.
The complete article is available here: https://expeditionportal.com/the-10-commandments-of-modifying-an-overland-vehicle/
“An overland vehicle is not perfect when you have added the last possible modification, but when you have taken the last possible modification away. ” –our adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s famous quote
After a few trips around the world and crossing all seven continents, these are the lessons we have learned (mostly the hard way) about properly modifying your overlanding vehicle for adventure travel.
1) Complexity is the Enemy: Keep the vehicle as simple and reliable as possible, minimizing the number of systems and variables that can fail in the field. Adapt only as required for the vehicle to perform in the environments and conditions expected in your route. Consider the engineering performed by the OEM manufacturer, and how all of the factory systems interrelate. The vast majority of failures we see to 4WDs ae aftermarket modifications, and of those, electrical and engine system modifications are the most prone to failure.
2) Weight is Also the Enemy Keep the vehicle as light as possible, removing heavy items that provide limited value, are purely aesthetic, or are never used. The goal should be to stay under 90 percent of GVWR, which will ensure the best performance in technical terrain, particularly snow and sand. “Stuff” is always a reflection of experience and training. The more experienced, well-traveled, and well-trained the traveler, the less stuff they carry, and the fewer modifications they need.
Nearly everything I have learned about minimalist overlanding has come from travel on a motorcycle. All of the gear I needed for months on the road fit in a few bags, less space than needed in the passenger seat of a traditional 4WD. Less is more.
3) Suspension Performance The suspension system, geometry, and handling with a load are a reflection of proper design. The vehicle must perform just as well on pavement as it does on the dirt. A suspension serves several critical roles, including emergency handling (think avoiding a deer or child that runs into the road), load carrying, and technical terrain performance. Who cares if you can achieve a 1000 in the ramp travel index if the truck rolls at speed on a dirt road. The suspension should also be robust, with quality shocks and durable components. Properly configured, a modern vehicle should be able to manage technical obstacles and also exhibit predictable and safe handling during high-speed dynamic inputs. Remember to tune the suspension to your travel load, including the spring rates and lengths, along with compression and rebound valving. This video shows what is possible with a lifted overland vehicle on 35-inch tires, fitted with a proper suspension.
4) Keep the Engine Stock This is the most common mistake we see with vehicle preparation: dozens of little modifications to the engine, including changes to the ECU, headers, cold air intakes, aftermarket turbochargers, etc. These all seem like a great idea until you need to repair one of those items in the middle of the Gobi Desert or find a replacement belt in Uganda. Certainly, there are proven or even mandatory upgrades that address known failure modes of the factory components, but otherwise, leave the engine mods to the tuner crowd. If the environment you are traveling in demands a certain amount of power (like sand) then buy the right truck with the right engine to start with.
5) Isolate and Minimize All Electrical Modifications Electronics are the bane of all travelers, taking more time and requiring more “fiddling” than any other system. The reality is that most modern overlanders do use and often need electronics to enhance their experience, including digital cameras, GPS units, and tablets to navigate by and record their journey. However, miles of wiring, fuses, and connections are some of the most common failures. As a result, completely isolate all “house” electrical systems from the factory harness and use a dual-battery system and auxiliary battery to protect starting voltage. Spend the time or money necessary to ensure the wiring is 100 percent correct, including quality components, weather-tight connections, and proper fusing. Electronic gadgets are so appealing that they often waste volumes of time and create major distractions to the driver.
6) Use High-Quality Tires with an Appropriate Tread Pattern Tires are the most common failure item on a vehicle as they are always in contact with the terrain. Install a high-quality radial tire (for standard vehicles) in a conservative tread pattern for the terrain you are intending to travel. While the mud-terrain tire might look the part for your trips in the Desert Southwest, it is far from necessary and actually hinders performance. The tread should always match the intended use as should the tire size. There is nothing wrong with a huge tire if the conditions demand it, but the vehicle should still perform appropriately on the road. I needed 44-inch tires to cross Antarctica but only required a mild 30-inch all-terrain tire to drive the Silk Road. Buy a tire with a load rating above your GVWR and look for manufacturers with heavy-duty sidewall construction. Note: The mileage warranty is not necessarily an indicator of tire quality, as long warranties require a harder durometer compound to ensure long life. This often impacts adhesion, wet weather traction, and braking distances negatively.
While a mild all-terrain tire may not satisfy the aggressive look many people want, they work exceptionally well for overland travel in mixed terrain and all desert environments. As a driver, there is the added benefit of increased fuel economy and lower driver fatigue. For our project G-Wagon, we have been testing the Continental TerrainContact with good results.
7) Avoid Roof Loads This is the most common mistake of the new overlander: packing everything and the kitchen sink on the roof. There is nothing wrong with a lightweight roof rack, but having a roof tent, spare tire, and six jerry cans is extremely dangerous. Even a basic understanding of physics will prove why that is such a terrible idea, and those types of loads create a litany of problems, including dangerous handling due to the raised center of gravity (COG), poor technical terrain performance, reduced fuel economy, and potential roof damage. Loads must be as low as possible and as close to the centerline of the vehicle (fore/aft) as possible. If all that gear needs to be on the roof, you probably bought the wrong vehicle. For most vehicles, the maximum roof load should be less than 120 pounds—I prefer less than 70, or ideally, a completely empty roof rack.
8) Self-Recovery Often overlooked, proper training and equipment for self-recovery are critical. So much attention is paid to lockers and suspension that self-recovery is usually an afterthought. In reality, self-recovery equipment and the skills to use it are more important than any other modification and should be the first consideration when leaving the beaten path. The reason for this is simple: everyone gets stuck, even with the best possible vehicle and most experienced driver. There will always be mud too deep, or a rock too large, or sand too soft. A winch can provide control and mechanical advantage that no 4WD modification can match. If your route includes remote, off-highway (off-road) travel, then consider a high-quality winch rated to 1.5 times GVWR, a ground anchor, comprehensive recovery kit with pulleys, line extensions, and related connections. We have also found traction plates/mats/boards to be essential for extreme bog conditions, and we now carry at least four. Mounting a winch often includes a quality bumper, which can also serve to protect the vehicle from an animal strike, low-speed accident, etc.
Our recovery kit evolved over time through trial and error, including a 14-hour stuck along the Canning Stock Route in Australia. Now we never leave home without a set of traction boards.
9) Secure the Load Take the time to secure all loose items in the cab, ensuring that proper lashing points are installed throughout the vehicle. This includes securing all soft luggage and in particular, all hard/heavy items. Even a big bump or ledge on the trail can cause items to shift forward in the cab, impacting passengers, or worse, the driver as they are attempting to clear an obstacle. In the case of a roll-over, those items can kill or seriously injure occupants. Install load mats and ratchet straps to keep items from sliding and bouncing. Watch items that can roll forward along the floor into the driver’s footwell and secure small items with a properly sized center console. Drawer systems can be quite convenient and also improve loading and lashing, but be careful with their weight.
10) Quality and Design Over Quantity Contrary to what we see on the web, it is not the truck that defines you, but your experiences. Experiences can be enhanced by thoughtful design and a quality product, but also easily end a trip with a broken aftermarket spring that saved you a few dollars over the proven brand. If price is a factor, then just leave the vehicle stock. We are far better off modifying our vehicle with slow and deliberate purpose than just checking off the list of things we think we “need.” A stock, properly maintained Land Cruiser can easily drive around the world and take on some seriously remote and rugged terrain along the way. So, make modifications only as absolutely necessary, and save all that money for gas, a good camera, and that 20-foot container shipment to Cape Town.
The Entdecker G-Wagen is one of the most exceptional vehicle builds ever produced, a partnership between Unicat and Front Runner using the G-Class Professional model. The roof tent is carbon fiber and the rack aluminum, keeping the roof load below factory limits. The vehicle is stock height and uses modest tires. We have driven this SUV in several African countries, including Kenya and Uganda, and never suffered a failure with the modifications.
Simplicity and reliability is the key to vehicle preparation for long-distance adventure travel.
A final thought to consider: I am often asked how much money someone should spend on modifying their vehicle. My answer is always “the least amount possible.” In fact, we should invest far more money in the actual experience of travel than we ever do on the vehicle. There are fake beadlock wheels that cost more than a few weeks in Baja. Stick with the stock wheels and go get some tacos on the beach (grin).
#5 The 10 Commandments of Modifying your Overland vehicle
Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal, and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and include three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar travels include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @globaloverland
Matthew is a leading expert in automotive adventure. He has extensively explored the world's most-remote places by 4WD, and is considered an industry authority on overland travel. Matt is the only American to ever become an editor of a major Australian 4WD publication, and has over 15 years of competitive auto racing experience. @mattexplore
Hello, and Welcome to the Overland Journal Podcast. I am your host Scott Brady and I am here with my co-host Matt Scott. What are we going to talk about today Matt?
Matt: So today we are going to talk about something really important..maybe some stuff you guys are going to disagree with. We’re going to talk about: The 10 Commandments of Modifying Your Overland Vehicle. Now the key thing there is Overland. Were talking about vehicles that are being modified for travel as their main purpose.
Scott: Exactly. People often think that overlanding is recreational 4-wheeling, there's certainly some fun to be had with recreational 4-wheeling things, but overloading is vehicle based travel, whereas 4-wheeling is a recreational sport and it's important to understand the distinction. We're not really building vehicles to cross Rubicon, if that's what you want to do, that's great, but the Rubicon tends to not be a destination for travel. It tends to be a destination for recreational sport.
Matt: Ya, just rent a jeep if you want to do the Rubicon, you know, I guess the old quote:
“the jack of all trades, is the master of none.” We're specifically going to be talking about vehicles for travel. Lightly modified vehicles that are essentially built to be durable and a little more refined. Because you are going to be spending a lot of time in these things.
Scott: We want them to be simple because we don’t want the vehicle to be a distraction from the experience. We also don’t want to spend a bunch of money on the vehicle either, we talked about this in a previous podcast, we always want to make sure that we're spending less money on the vehicle than we are on the travel itself. So when you go down your expenses at the end of the year, if you spent 4x more on the truck then you did on any of your travels, it might be worth reconsidering: ‘maybe I'm just into building vehicles and thats my hobby’ and that's ok, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that. But if your goal is to really be a traveler, if your goal is to really be an overlander, make sure that delta is different where you are spending more money on fuel and going into interesting places and getting access to that one remote museum or paying that border crossing fee. Make sure that you are spending money on travel more so than the vehicle.
Matt: Ya. Invest into yourself, right? And that can manifest itself in a bunch of different ways. Let's say you only have a week of vacation, well, spend the $2,000 that you were going to, you know, put into a lift kit or whatever it may be and take unpaid leave. Find a new career, teach yourself skills, whatever it is right? If the goal is travel, I think that has to take priority.
Scott: Ya, make that the priority. This article that we are talking about has been on Expedition Portal for years and we recently updated it and that is what Matt and I are talking about today. It's called The 10 Commandments of Modifying your Overland Vehicle. It’s really important to know that the title is intentionally aggressive. It sounds like we are trying to tell you how to do things, and that's not the case. It's more of a way of gaining people attention to be mindful about how they modify their vehicles. So, these aren't commandments, you can do whatever you want, obviously with your own truck. These are the things that Matt and I have learned, many of them the hard way. *laughs*
Matt: Do you remember my first jeep? Working for Overland journal.. Ohhhhhh….
Scott: I remember my first jeep which was totally overloaded. *laughs* and problematic. I remember, ya I put a 289 V8 into a 1953 M38A1 and it ended up being a total disaster.
Matt: 10 years ago I thought the measure of a good vehicle was how much stuff was bolted on. And I quickly learned that the measure of a good vehicle is, kinda almost how stock it is.
Scott: Well, look where it's been!
Matt: Where it's been, I'm more concerned with properly aligned geometry on my suspension than I am with the height of it.
Scott: Ya, for sure..
Matt: I look at AEV for example. AEV does a really good job of kind of getting into this first commandment as we're calling them is that: complexity is the enemy. The original manufacturer of your vehicle put a lot of work into it. I know a lot of these head engineers of these car companies, the testing, the hundred of thousands of miles that these vehicles are proven, you are never going to be able to recreate that at an aftermarket company.
Scott: They are designed for a specific task right?
Scott: Maybe that's the first question that we ask is why are you buying the vehicle you're buying? If you want something that has a good payload that is designed to go around the world, you're going to be looking at a very small group of vehicles. It doesn't mean that you can’t drive around the world in a Subaru, but if you want to cross the Canning Stock Route, or you want to cross glaciers in Iceland, it's not the right vehicle. It would require so much modification to make that possible. Start with the right platform….
Matt: Yes. Start with the right platform, that's going to reduce complexity.
Scott: It will.
Matt: Let's say you wanted to have a 4-wheel camper. Great option, you know.. Everything is all in one, you can ditch it and have your truck back during the week, should you start with a Tacoma?
Scott: It's not the right vehicle..the payload is too low.
Matt: it's probably not the right vehicle.. Because you're going to have to add complexity. You're going to have to add some fancy trick rear spring that's going to support the weight. Maybe some airbags, maybe some shocks that have some insane compression rate on them so you're not bottoming out all the time. Or, you could just throw it on the back of an F150 and be done.
Scott: Or a 2500 Dodge Ram, or whatever that is designed to carry that kind of payload. I think it just comes back to being honest with ourselves about what it is we actually want to accomplish, what we are trying to do and where we are trying to go, trying to travel and buying the right vehicle to start off with. If the goal is to cross the sand dunes in the Altar Desert, then that 2500 Dodge with that 4-wheel camper is probably not the best choice for that either. So thinking about where you want to go and what you want to experience along the way. Some people love staying in cities, small villages, and they need to have a small vehicle. They don't want to camp out every night. Buy the right vehicle for that and maybe that is a Subaru that you choose for that type of travel.
Matt: Maybe it is? Ya..
Scott: But it's really important to start off with the right vehicle, and when Matt talks about complexity, let us remind ourselves that whatever we add to the vehicle is going to be a distraction. It's going to take away money that we could have used for travel, it's going to take away time because we have to install it or modify it, do that modification ourselves or we have to pay for someone else to do it. And then now we don’t know who to fix it ourselves so there are a lot of consequences for anything we add to the car.
Matt: Ya, I mean.. Scott, I think you’d agree, erroring on the side of being OE, not making modifications that can’t be fixed wherever you may be going. Not adding a very obscure tire size that means you're going to be waiting for tires for two weeks in Ecuador. Just thinking of the entire picture right? When you add a larger tire size to your vehicle people don’t necessarily know all that it affects. I mean, you're going to be changing your braking distance right, because if your Land Cruiser came with a 31” tire, your braking distance, your stopping distance is going to be based around that. You're going to be putting more strain on your U-Joints, more strain on your transmission, because it's not going to be in the right shift zone, the cooling capacity. Every action has a reaction, right, that is the law of the universe, it also applies to vehicles, so keep that in mind. You know, for me.. Weight is just the biggest thing, right? On an overland vehicle.. I guess this is our second point.
Scott: It is.. Point number 2: Weight is the Enemy.
Matt: Ya, when we talk about cargo capacity, and I do think that term is almost misleading, that's actually the vehicle's capacity. That means if your 4-Runner which I want to say is around 1500lbs, thats 1500lbs of cargo capacity, that doesn't mean the stuff that goes in the back. That means the stuff that goes in the front seat, passenger seat, the fuel tank. All of those things are not included. So your 2 American males, 200lb each, there's 400
Lbs. Now you're down to 1100lbs. Let's say you have 10 gallons of water. A gallon of water..is 8lbs..
Matt: Ya, ok so.. We're just going to call that 100lbs. Then you start talking about fuel that is 7lbs and you have a 25gal gas tank.. I'm going to stop doing math here.. But it adds up really quickly.
Scott: It adds up really quick.
Matt: Then you start talking about your 200lb sliders, and you put bigger tires on it which means you have nowhere to carry your spare, so you have to put this 250lb rear bumper on. Well you did a rear bumper so you have to do a front one. And all the sudden your payload capacity is that of a very petite ham sandwich. So keep that stuff in mind. I don’t know, as a traveler I guess I would rather fill that with Rose or something. *laughs* you know stuff that you're gonna enjoy in camp.
Scott: Or, the ability to pick up some hitchhikers as you're going along. I remember stopping and picking up these Tarahumara Indians in Copper Canyon. I was driving a sportsmobile van that was a 1 Ton capacity. Plenty of payload to carry additional people and still have plenty of space. So starting off with making that decision I'm not going to overload my vehicle past 90% of the gross vehicle weight. Which means you gotta have a little bit extra. What if your vehicle that you are traveling with your travel partner has another vehicle and the vehicle breaks down in the middle of the desert and you need to move them over to your vehicle. Do you have the room for that? Do you have an unloaded, open roof rack to take their equipment? Those are all consequences of us overdoing the vehicle. We have to remember that so much of this comes from a place of insecurity, and I don’t mean that people are insecure so they are overbuilding their vehicles to compensate, which i think that is probably true in some cases. It's actually this insecurity that if I break down I want to have everything that I could possibly have or if I run into this really obscure situation in Africa, I want to be able to overcome it with the one widget that I brought along. The reality is, those things don’t typically happen. There's normally locals driving around in their own Land Cruisers that can pull you out. Or the whole village will come over and help push you out.
Scott: Or they’ll hook up oxen to the front of your car. I mean that's part of the adventure is getting stuck. Part of the adventure is having issues that you may be able to solve everything all at once. So making sure that you don't overplan and over build the vehicle is a key to adventure.
Matt: Ya, you don’t need to carry the portable welder to fix your frame when it fails if you don't overload your vehicle and your frame does not fail.
Matt: right that self deprecating cycle of .. you know..
Scott: The only time that I needed a welder, and I mean needed a welder, was in the middle of Antarctica and that was because there was no other way to fix it. If you are in the middle of Africa, I guarantee you that the next village has a welder. And it doesn't mean that no one should never bring a welder, we're not saying that. We are not saying that no one should ever put 35’s on their vehicle, do what works for you. Just make sure that everything is with intention. That you are doing only the modifications that you really need to accomplish your goal.
Matt: A lighter vehicle is always going to be better to drive. It’s going to stop better, it's going to get better fuel economy, it will handle better. Just be considerate of where you are investing that weight.
Scott: And I think Matt and I, one of the things we've benefited from is the fact that we have traveled off of motorcycles. I didn't change my whole outlook on vehicle weight and payload and what I actually needed to bring along with me, until I had the motorcycle. Until I traveled across South America on a motorcycle, I didn't have a winch with me. I didn't have a recovery kit. I had a very small tool kit, and essentially all of the stuff on my motorcycle could fit in the front passenger seat of the vehicle that I drive everyday. I had nothing with me and you know what? I was able to go through Peru, Columbia, Ecuador and all these other countries without a problem. You just don’t need that much stuff. I think those that are maybe dealing with the “stuff addiction” or this “too many modifications addiction,” take a trip in a stock vehicle, to take a trip on a motorcycle ..
Matt: Rent a car and fly somewhere..
Scott: Exactly. See how it is to travel with nothing or almost nothing. I think you’ll find it pretty liberating.
Matt: Ya, I mean.. I don't know. Stuff kinda weighs you down.
Scott: Yes! It does!! Literally!! *laughs* and figuratively
Matt: I think comfort has a lot to do with it, right? I mean I know in our Jeep Gladiator build: “Oh wow, we could have hot water..” Ok well that's going to be 200lbs between the heat exchangers and the water pumps, the custom tanks you're gonna have to make or you just stay in a hotel every once in a while.
Scott: Ya, or you bring along a little solar shower bag..
Matt: One of those Nemo Helio things. You know there's always a different way of looking at it. Again, we are assuming this is a vehicle based on travel. I think one of the biggest hit or miss things people get is suspension.
Scott: For sure.
Matt: That's our next commandment. It is very complex and it is so easy to mess up. Again we've previously talked about complexity and how manufactures spend all this time on durability testing. Well a lot of that testing is related to the suspension. A vehicle is bad if it doesn’t handle good. Again, taking some of that OE knowledge and being mindful and respectful of it.
Scott: Understanding that there is a tolerance and a great example for this and it's probably the best one to lead off with an independent front suspension. The amount of total travel cannot be changed without, typically some modifications. There's a total amount of uptravel and a total amount of down travel. When people lift an IFS truck, what they are doing is they are robbing the down travel to gain up travel and also to gain additional ground clearance. So it's really important to recognise that you are not actually improving the total suspension stroke of the vehicle you're just robbing Peter to pay Paul. That comes with real consequences, it comes with the ability if you lift it too much you can’t bring it back into alignment. Then you have tow issues and you have higherware issues and camber issues as a result of that. So understanding the vehicle you buy and what is the tolerance it has for a suspension lift. Even the Arctic trucks that we used to cross Greenland and Antarctica, they only had a couple inches of suspension lift. The rest is accomplished by a lot of body trimming. Even the arctic truck guys recognise that once you get those CV axles at a specific angle, they fail. Especially with a 44” tire. So, understand what the limits are of your specific vehicle, and typically I have found if i keep the lift between 30-50mm, maybe with a jeep wrangler or a full size truck you can get away with a little more, if you're on a solid axle vehicle but I typically like around 50mm of total increased lift. That allows for a slightly larger tire and a little more ground clearance that makes clearing technical obstacles easier. That's what I got on my Mercedes G-Class 50mm everythings all within factory spec and it drives great down the road.
Matt: Yes, I mean.. do you need any more?? Ya it's a complicated thing. Long travel in an overlanding right now, whatever overlanding has become, long travel has become really popular. I love a good go fast truck. I like going fast, it's very fun. But it has such a small place I guess, you know when it comes to actually traveling. I don’t want to service heim joints.
Scott: And also, what's the rush.. Aren't you on vacation? *laughs*
Matt: What's the rush.. Were not saying that these things are bad, were not saying that these things are bad products or anything.. Just do you actually need it. If what you're trying to do is you're trying to camp and tackle really technical trails, I mean.. Thats 4-wheeling. I guess we're going to make that call. Do you need the triple bypass King shocks? Now listen, need versus wants.. I want those, I have them on my truck but I also recognise that when I eventually drive this thing to South America, or were actually talking about driving across Russia. That means I have to find a place in Mongolia to rebuild my shocks. If I would have put a Billstein or some kind of OE quality shock in there I could invest that time into experiences. That's honestly what I would rather do.
Scott: The suspension is important and the one thing that I do tend to modify most often on my vehicles. I want to have enough fluid capacity in the shock absorber to be able to handle long distances of corrugation. So that is something to be mindful of. It doesn't mean that you need triple bypass, it doesn't mean that you need long travel. But you should be aware of the diameter of the shock itself, how much fluid capacity it has, what's the quality of the seal, the diameter of the shaft, how is the valving constructed. Is it constructed in a way that favors a heavier load or in a way that the rebound and compression valving is that for comfort. If it is adjustable, what's the service life of that adjustable feature. A lot of the adjustable features on shock absorbers get gummed up and corroded over time and they don’t work..
Matt: If you live in the northeast and adjustable suspension would be terrifying..
Scott: Ya, it's a real problem. I do like to have a little bit more fluid volume in the vehicle and that can typically be..
MAtt: I mean what did you have on the expedition 7 trucks?
Scott: We just did Old Man Emu
MAtt: And did you have a single failure? Or have to service it at all?
Scott: Not a single failure and we didn't have to service it.
Matt: There ya go.
Scott: I mean nearly 100,000km in the vehicle I drove and the other vehicles had upwards of 70,000km as well. This is the Canning Stock route crossing Australia, Africa, driving the length of Ruta 40, Argentina . These are heavily corrugated and oftentimes technical terrain and we never had a single suspension failure. But again, 50mm was the suspension lift that we installed.
Matt: I think one of the biggest things people overlook is spring rate. If you're going to have a very heavy vehicle, you're going to need a spring that can handle that so you're not just compensating with a big shock. I see a lot of people do that these days. I know a big King shock is a beautiful thing and it can mask a lot of other shortcomings. Make sure that you're actually getting the right spring rate. I think that is something that Old Man Emu does really well. THey have several options. On my Land Cruiser I had 6 or 7 different options. I don't know if I necessarily see people considering that these days. Maybe they just don't have the options? Because there's really nothing legally in the US that says you have to accommodate
Scott: There isn't. I think it is important and then recognising that as we lift the vehicle it changes so many other things. It changes the roll center, the center of gravity, it changes the way that the vehicle dynamics work on the whole because youve now changed the angles of the drag links, the angles of the radius arms, and all of that can start adding additional issues like vibration. Especially on a 80 series you can get front drive shaft vibrations that start to become a factor as well. Just be aware of the fact that there is a very small tolerance actually that you can lift or modify a vehicle before it starts to have a bunch of other negative effects. So consider a lift if you need it for the terrain you like to travel on . I like to travel technical routes and about a 1.5’ lift is all I've really needed for what I've ever done.
Matt: Again guys, invest in yourself. Get trained by a qualified, certified, 4-wheel drive trainer. You would be amazed at the places you can take a completely stock truck. That's one of my favorite things to do is to go to Moab. Get a manufacturer to give me a completely stock vehicle and it works great. You drive a Range Rover up a waterfall in Poison Spider next to a guy that just spent $20,000 modifying his JK just so he can walk up it easier, and it's just that very smug smile that you can give.
Scott: Totally! Or even the Rubicon trail. It was probably 2007, I was working for Jeep and I was testing the new Liberty that had a more square shape, and they wanted me to take the LIberty across the Rubicon. I was like: “alright.” And they said: “its stock.” And I said: “Is there any way we can put some factory sliders on that thing?” And they were like: “Oh ya, we’ll send those.” And of course they did not send the sliders. I still remember driving into Rubicon Springs, in a bone stock Jeep Liberty, that had just done the same trail as everybody else. It's not because I'm some 4-wheel drive guru, that's not the point. The point is that these vehicles are extremely capable and if you drive slowly and you get a spotter, and you gain some skills through additional training, it's amazing where a stock vehicle will go. There is a lot of fun in driving a stock vehicle.
Matt: It's a chess game.
Scott: it is!
Matt: It's one of those things you taught me a long time ago. You're talking about a spotter. If you have a partner that you travel with. I mean whoever is driving or spotting, or vice versa, I know with Laura and I, half of the gnarly photos I have of my truck she's the one driving. Make sure everyone in the vehicle knows how to spot. That everybody knows how to drive. Because I will take a stock or poorly modified vehicle and a great spotter over a bad spotter and a JK on 40’s or something.
Matt: We were just on the Rubicon, in stock Gladiators, with the Jeep team a month or two ago now. It's an interesting perspective to do a trail in a stock vehicle. Then to get off the trail and you have keyboard warriors telling you that 37’s aren't enough. Like, you guys are going down the Mojave Road. You are going to Alabama Hills and posing for photos. You don’t need any of this stuff.
Scott: You don’t.
Matt: Again, tell me you want it, and I'm not going to say anything, but tell me you need something and there's probably a reason that you don't.
Scott: There is always going to be a reason you don’t. There is always someone who's done it in a way less capable vehicle.
Matt: Ya, I don't know that gets me off more than the check writing does.. Soo.
Scott: I mean how many times have we been in some remote place in Africa and you think your totally hardcore, youre in low range in your G-Wagon and here comes a bunch of locals pushing a Toyota Turcel up the hill.
Matt: I drove the majority of the Paris Dakar course in Morocco,(23:54) in a rented car. That's like a Czch designed Morracan built Toyota Corolla. It wasn't that good, but it did it and I had the experience and if I spent the entire time trying to modify trucks, save up enough money to have this item to go do this thing, just go do it!
Scott: Just go do it.
Matt: Keeping the engine stock..
Scott: Ahh yes, we’re at number 4 on the list and this one tends to be the most contentious because people love horsepower. In fact there's a couple things that we've recognised throughout the years that people love. People love power, they love things that transform like a roof tent, they love that. Because it's also like a treefort at the same time. It’s pretty amazing the things that harken right back to our childhood. Like, what i really want is a treefort on my vehicle. Its pretty funny..*laughs*
Matt: I'm failing to see the problem..*laughs*
Scott: Keeping the vehicle stock is really key. It doesn't mean don't change anything. FOr example, the famous motorcycle Kawasaki KLR 650. Probably one of the most commonly used motorcycles used to ride around the world. There is an issue with the engine that needs to be addressed called the Do-Hicky-Mod. You go in there and you remove this factory plastic chain tensioner and you replace it with something more robust, and then you never need to replace it again. It doesn't mean that there aren't things that need to be modified on your motor potentially, but it's really important you do it only when absolutely necessary. If someone says “oh my vehicle is underpowered.” It usually means your vehicle is overloaded. If you say your vehicle is underpowered you may need to have a gearing change. Or you just bought the wrong car for the application that you need. If you live in Leadville, Colorado. You need a specific kind of vehicle..
Matt: You want something with forced induction..(25:49) Trust me.
Scott: That's right! You want a supercharger or a turbocharger. You want something that addresses an environmental consideration. But for the most part keeping the engine stock is critical because if you need to get it serviced somewhere, the only change you got, because if you got that triple bypass super ECU with a double turbocharger.. Like, how in the world do you get that fixed? In the middle of nowhere.
Matt: Yep. and the answer is you don’t.
Scott: Now, you've done a couple things to your 80. Tell me about what you've done.
Matt: ya, so you know, I wanted to do some things right. So Land Cruiser 1HDT engine that's in my 80, factory fitted. I want to say from the factory it ran 6-8lbs of boost. Very, very modest. Now that motor would run for ever and ever on that. But the same block, the same head, there's probably a few small changes. In a Yanmar Marine diesel engine, for example, that same engine runs at 24psi constant. Marine engines run at a certain RPM that's what they are designed for that's great. So I ended up looking to Australia where they have data of thousands of these things being sold. I put an aftermarket turbocharger on it. Now, it's the same style of turbo, the same size of turbo it came with. I want to say its a CT26 Toyota Turbo. When that engine was designed in the late 80’s, as something that came out in the early 90’s. Those technologies available to them were drastically different than the ones that are available today. So we’re talking about a different billet spinny fidget wheel in the middle that supposedly creates more boost. We ended up doing a top mount intercooler from a company called HPD, as well and it actually wasn't just made in a factory in China or something, it was made in Australia. It's a very good intercooler. And that turbo is from G-Turbo and that transformed the vehicle. Now, I walked into that knowing this is going to decrease the longevity of this engine. But I went through things like bearings, and made sure the valves were in spec. I made sure to replace all the seals, I replaced all the associated seals in the intake because I knew I would be running a higher boost. If you have a balloon that is only used to being blown up so much over time and then you put an extra 10lbs of pressure in it, maybe it pops. So, keep it stock. Make sure it's serviceable I guess is the big thing right?
Scott: I guess that's the key really. Because if you did have that turbo go out on you in South Africa, you could go to a Toyota dealership and order a replacement stock turbo..
Matt: yes, they could just drop one right in right.. And my intercooler had no modifications. The vehicle I took off the cross over pipe to put this thing on. I have the parts sitting at home, you know, it's easy. It's great.
Scott: An intercooler is not a mechanical device, it's just..
MAtt: Ya, it's just a holistic thing, I could have not put the intercooler on that particular vehicle but then my intake temperatures would be higher. My exhaust temperatures were higher.
Scott: for sure.
MAtt; you just have to know what you're doing. And there are exceptions to the rule. 5-10 years ago, if someone said: “I'm going to do a cold air intake.” I'm like, why? You're going to have this obscure filter that you can't service. And while I do not have cold air intakes in any of my stuff, there are some interesting companies coming out with stuff now. I want to say SNB Intake There's a few others that do a fully sealed holes from the factory location but maybe is increasing the filtration element. I think some of those things are ok.
Scott: I think they can be fine. You just want to be able to service them in the middle of nowhere. When your in inner Mongolia and you need to order a part, the turbo company is like “oh man, we don't have any of these on the shelf.” Or they send you the wrong one because they use a different one the nxt year. The key is serviceability and reliability. If the modification is not likely to affect reliability, it's probably worth considering. Can you service it in the field? Do you know which parts to order? Or can you use factory parts in its stead? Then I think that it's fine. Again, none of these things are hard and fast rules but in general we want to be really careful in modifying the motor.
Matt: I would be very hesitant, on an international vehicle to add an aftermarket supercharger or an aftermarket turbocharger on there if the vehicle wasn't designed for it. On my Gladiator I struggle with that one because that car needs another 50 or 60 horsepower after it's been built. But I also realize that maybe that all the sudden becomes more of a 4-wheeling vehicle, right?
Scott: right.. Or you decide to keep it in North America where you have cell coverage and you can get things fixed. You did change the gearing though, did that fix most of the problem?
Matt: Ya i just came from a Ford Raptor and want more power.. Lets me honest *laughs* The cool thing with the gearing is I was able to use it as close to factory as you could get. Dana Spicer who obviously makes the Dana axles that are underneath it. THey had 488’s off the shelf, I mean, quite literally the same gear, different ratio. Same testing process, same manufacturing, same line. I try to look for that kind of stuff.
Scott: I think that's a good idea. Companies that have good warranties and a strong reputation. Do some research on the products you're looking to purchase. What are other people talking about? There's plenty of groups on facebook, hop on the forums on various sites.
Matt: huge resources, obviously Expedition Portal. Use the vehicle specific forums and groups.
Scott: It makes a huge difference in making sure you're not diving into an issue. What do we got for number 5 here Matt? We got isolate and minimize all electrical modifications.
Matt: I think the things that actually scare me the most, when I'm shooting a custom vehicle feature or shooting the breeze with someone at a tradeshow, is the inevitable birdsnest of wiring that takes palace. There is zero excuse for bad wiring in 2019. We have SPOD, we have Switch Pro, we have companies like Ford and Jeep that are building in device switch management at a factory level. Again, on my Gladiator, I can choose from 4 switches and I can go into the screen and do I want to do a momentary switch, do i want it to be a latching switch, to be able to select it even if the vehicle is off. This is easy, right? This is the easy thing in today's world. Watch that wiring, I mean, how many vehicles have you seen burn down..
Scott: oh ya. We’ve seen videos on YouTUbe recently of vehicles catching on fire because of improper wiring. One of the things people most commonly make the mistake of is that they don't fuse the right end of a wire. They’ll connect it to the battery and run it 10’ along the frame, then it will have a fuse by the compressor. That's too late man,you want the fuse at the powersource so that way if the insulation gets chafed through and it starts to arch against the frame, that it doesn't catch on fire, melt and catch the whole vehicle on fire. That the fuse blows at the powersource, which is the battery. It's also important to isolate the house systems. Now when I say house systems, that's anything you have added after the vehicle at stock. So that's going to be a solar panel, a battery system, GPS units, subwoofers any of the stuff that you add after the fact. Water pumps and all of that should be isolated to the house system so that the way that the stock vehicle wiring and the stock battery starting power is completely isolated and not affected by those other sources. And you need to be able to disconnect the two. So if you have problems with the house systems you can just, either with a mechanical switch or with a dual battery system with a disconnectable switch, you need to be able to isolate those two so you can always preserve starting power. So I think fusing is really critical, making sure that you isolate the house system is really critical and I think the last thing that is often overlooked is plan this stuff out from the beginning. It doesn't mean that you need to buy everything right off the bat, but plan it out from the beginning. Sit down with someone who is knowledgeable about vehicle wiring and think about all of the systems you might want to put on your vehicle and plan from that from the very start. That way you have the right number of positions of a fuse block. So that way when you have, and you run wiring through the firewall you do it all at the same time. Even if that wire is not connected to the fuse block, if it's terminated in some type of insulation, run all of that wiring at the start so that way you're not putting wiring on top of wiring on top of wiring. It's all loomed properly (35;30) it's all protected, properly isolated from hot sources, like the exhaust or a turbo in the engine compartment. It's shocking the amount of wires that I see just laying on top of an engine in people aftermarket installations. Plan that stuff at the beginning so that when your systems grow and become slightly more complex, that you've already considered that from the start.
Matt: again, on our most recent build for example. I was lucky the Land Cruiser actually came with a factory dual battery system. So all I had to do was add a solenoid that disconnected those two at a certain voltage. With the Gladiator, I ran one single I want to say it was a 4 gauge or 8 gauge wire. Ran that all the way back to the AT Summit (36:20) that's on the back, I ended up not fusing it. I ended up going with a high amperage circuit breaker. Now what i really like about that and I want to say that's from Blue Sea systems (36:33) who also made the fuse block, if the vehicle is sitting for a while, i know that all my factory wiring is fine. Again, companies spend a lot of time on this; they don't want vehicles burning down. I literally press a button and that entire house system is isolated. It doesn't have any drain in the battery, it's easy. It's also a nice way to reset things, just spend time on wiring.
Scott: It's really critical. And I think it's probably the source of greatest frustration for most overlanders when it comes from modifications. I see people fiddling with electronics 9 out of 10 times their GPS isn't getting power or that their iPhone wont charge, or the auxiliary lights wont turn on. Its’ 90% of the time something related to electronics, and it's usually because 12v seems like a black art and people just kind of throw it in their vehicle and it does take time and some thought.
Matt: and they don't realize, it's actually really simple, right? You want to wire the most amount of stuff with the fewest amount of appropriate connections. Keep it simple, go from there.
Scott: Make sure you have a wiring schematic that you prepare at the same time. Keep it in the vehicle with you at all times, take a picture of it with your phone so that you’ve also got a digital copy of it. So you know what color of wire goes here and does this. That way if you need to isolate that or trace it back you can actually do that. So create a wiring schematic at the same time. Talk to a friend that's an engineer or someone you know that knows how to do that, and that will help you .. but it's really important that you've got that with you in the vehicle.
Matt: and just one last thing, make sure your fuse block is accessible. That was something I was really impressed with. When I was going to get the Gladiator camper, I intended to just bury my fuse block someplace in the back and when I picked up the truck. AT Overland had actually built a bracket and everything for my fuse block. All I have to do is pull off this panel with no tools and I can visually see every fuse, every wiring connection, it's really nice. I don't have any wiring issues and if I do, it's very easily fixed.
Scott: It makes a huge difference. Ok, so we’re on to… everybody loves tires. Yes, tires.. We have number 6 on our list. Use high quality tires with an appropriate tread pattern.
Matt: so, let's just address the elephant in the room.. Mud terrain tires.
Scott: they look great on a vehicle, they really do and I think that's why people buy them. 99% of the time is because they look the part.
Matt: you can make the argument I’d rather have more traction than less traction. Some people say it’s like a race car, you want the stickiest tire possible. I don’t know that I agree with that, especially for travelers.
Scott: Well a mud tire doesnt work better in Moab than on all terrain. And a mud tire doesnt work better than all terrain in sand. It does not work better. Every terrain has a different requirement and mud tires are designed to work in mud. They Are designed to have a high void rate so they can evacuate the mud as the wheels spin. That high void rate means you have less rubber on the terrain when you're in Moab, and you have less rubber on the terrain when you're on asphalt. WHen you're trying to stop in wet conditions, mud tires typically don't have siping (40;16) That affects ice performance in addition, so, mud tires really are the glam solution but most of the time you don’t need them.
Matt: If you live on the east coast as compared to where we live in the southwest, I get the argument for a mud tire.
Scott: totally. Ya, if you live in a muddy environment, if you live in Alaska, you're going to have mud tires, absolutely. If you want to go anywhere.
Matt: You need them. For people that are traveling, for people that don't live in muddy areas, I mean, I haven't owned a set of mud tires since I left miserable Illinois. Some of these new all terrain tires, I am a big fan of the Falken Wild peaks. What came on the Gladiator stock, they're quiet, they're snowflake rated, I think that's a big thing for me. Having recently moved from Colorado, there are a lot of times passes are restricted if you don’t have winter tires. Oregon and Washington, a lot of those places, you are not going to find snowflake rated all terrain tires. They are super sketchy in the winter. I remember the Trek Discovery that Land Rover lent us for quite a while. I remember having that thing slightly off camber, in typical rain, slush base with snow on top. You had to see through that tire which I'm sure was great for mud. But in the snow, oh my God.. that was.. That was not a fun experience to be in. You want durability, I think is the biggest thing, I guess that iconic overland tire that you see on Defenders and whatever is the Michelin XZL
Scott: yeah. That's right behind us on the Defender right now. Literally 5’ from Matt right now..
Matt: ya, very durable tire, but a horrible tire.
Scott: they are, I mean the first time I did a wet traction stop with those things, I saw my life flashing before my eyes. They do not work in wet conditions, they do not work in ice, they barely work in snow; it needs to be powdery and loose snow. They work great in mud, they also hardly ever, if ever get punctures and there's a lot of reasons for that. But I run those tires on this vehicle because they are the appropriate tire for the vehicle.
Matt: They look right. I mean you're not buying a Defender for driving dynamics.. That little bit of noise you pick up from the tire is thrown out the window.
Scott: I think it is important to remember a modern all terrain is a very different tire than 20 years ago. They have so much more technology in them, they typically have siping so they work better in wet conditions. You can also buy some all terrains with a higher void rate, they call them often times a hybrid tire now. So if you look at a Duratrack for example, these are a hybrid mud tire all terrain. If you need something with a higher void rate because you do tend to operate in wet or muddy conditions you may want to consider one of those. An all terrain will give you longer tread life and it will also give you better performance on dry rock and in the sand. You are going to end up with much better stopping distances, and be a much safer tire overall for the traveler. So we tend to recommend that people look at all terrain. BF Goodrich, KO3, Cooper all make some great tires. Continental just came out with some really great all terrains, i'm running them on the Mercedes.
Matt: the terrain contact.. They are a cool looking tire. Again, the all terrain tires are going to last longer too. You know if you are driving parts unknown, how many times do you really want to change your tires. And on top of that, tire size is super important for overland vehicles. You know.. Guess who doesn't have 37” in stock?
Scott: most of the world.. *laughs*
Matt: Most of the world. Guess who doesn't have 35” in stock? Most of the world. Guess who doesn't have obscure tire sizes that allowed you to have the largest tire on your particular vehicle maybe due to brake set up and needing to run a larger wheel. Probably not in stock right? Stick to available tire size. You can’t predict that. I don't think either of us have regular tire failures.
Scott: No. I had my first flat tire on a trip just this last year in Australia.
Matt: ya, i have had one flat and i took my mom for a little drive in her Lexus GX when she was visiting in Colorado where we used to live and got a flat tire on one of her Michelins, and had to change a flat tire. That was it. You can't rely on that right, because you could be in Guatemala driving through a roadblock and they just burned a bunch of pallets and you run over a few nails, you can't predict that. So you always want something that is an appropriate size that can be replaced, appropriate tread pattern if you are in Guatemala.
Scott: In most of the world you are looking at a 16” diameter wheel. All of Africa, Australia, Europe you're going to find 16” wheels. It is also becoming more common to find 17” in various places. But they tend to not be the larger diameter tires. Even in the middle of Mexico you can find a 255x65x16 tire which is nearly a 32” tall tire, you can find those all over the place because that's what a lot of hte GM vehicles came stock. So just making sure you are not getting a super obscure wheel, super obscure tire, or if you do make sure that you plan in advance and have tires available for you in a country, in the future. Don't get into Argentina and be like you know I should probably change my tires and expect something to happen quickly. You may need to order those well in advance.
Matt: ya, exactly…
Scott: Now this is another elephant in the room for sure. So this is number 7: Avoid roof loads. This one gets the most reactions out of anything other than the motor changes. That’s because people want to put stuff on the top of their car. Its like this giant canvas, like a magnet that invites: fuel cans, max tracks, roof tents, an innumerable amount of things. WHy is all the recovery kit on the top? *laughs*
Matt: why is the heaviest stuff in the worst place?
Scott: and that's because it seems like not only is it a place to flash some cool gear, but it also seems like a really convenient spot to stick things that you don't typically use. Those heavy items do not belong on the roof. Most vehicles have a roof load maximum rating of 120-140lbs. Which is literally just a roof tent. Just a rack and a couple minor accessories like an awning etc. It isn't until you get into the 200 series that you find a 200lb+ payload for the roof, and the new Defender has a 360lb.
Matt: really significant, they designed that with a roof tent in mind. Which is really cool.
Scott: and that's the highest roof load rating that I’ve ever seen for a standard SUV. Just think of basic physics. Once you start to add that stuff on a vehicle that is lifted already, and you add 200lbs to the roof, you’ve significantly impacted center of gravity, performance on the trail, if you need to do an emergency lane change at speed. All of those things, it's going to come back to bite you. Then it also affects fuel economy. It affects wind noise. All of those things are going to be affected by the heavy roof load. So what I like to recommend is, put a rack up there, absolutely. Maybe put a roof tent if you really like sleeping in roof tents. But other than that keep the rof empty. I like a rack because you may need to move equipment from another vehicle, you may have another vehicle in your party that breaks down and you’ve got to move some equipment from your own vehicle uptop, from thiers uptop in order to get people out. For the most part, go with an empty roof rack. It'll do you good service.
Matt: I have to think that is great advice too. I have gone through several iterations of this where I’ve put a lot of junk on top. I’ve just found that, why people put high lift jacks on their roof racks I have no idea. You know .. that is 80lbs in the worst absolute place that you can put it. What I use roof racks for the most, and why I completely agree having an empty roof rack is firewood. You don’t want to put firewood inside your vehicle. Your talking bugs and grime , whatever you do who cares but.. I don't know when I'm camping in the middle of nowhere I often find that firewood doesn't come in neatly cut, predetermined sized bundles. Sometimes you have long sticks, sometimes you have big logs, whatever. Throw it up there, you're done. Not a popular opinion, but ya. It's also great for solar and awning. That's all I have in mind: awning and solar.
Scott: I think roof racks have their palace, I like to sleep up there every once in a while. If it's beautiful weather and I don't want to set up a tent, I will just sleep on top of the rack. I’ve definitely run roof top tents on vehicles that have the payload capacity for it. Because of convenience sometimes. I do use roof tents on occasion, but I always make sure that I am under that 140-150lb total weight capacity because it really does have an impact. Now that we’ve talked about the roof, just basically avoid them. Think long and hard before putting anything on top of them.
Matt: definitely stick to one of the new modern roof racks. FrontRunner, Easy On. They are aluminum and lightweight. Easy to attach accessories to when you need them. I always keep a few I bolts on my rhino rack roof rack(50:40) for example. So you can just tie stuff down.
Scott: It's a good place to stick something like MaxTrax, where you want to be able to get access to them. Which brings us to number 8. Self Recovery. So one of the things that is a reality of keeping our vehicles near stock, or more stock and less modified, there's a chance we're going to get stuck more often. Which I actually think is a bonus, I actually enjoy getting stuck. It makes for great stories.
Matt: I hate it.. And I enjoy it *laughs*
Scott: You learn something new everytime and you learn something new about the people you travel with . You end up with some great memories to share decades later, So self recovery is something we actually have to plan for with our vehicle modifications. That could be a 12v vehicle mounted winch, it could be a high lift with a recovery kit, if you have a very unlikely event to have to get recovered you can use a Tirfor style winch (51:40) which is another hand winch. For the most part you want to start off with, do i have a good shovel, do I have a good recovery strap, and typically I recommend traction boards at that point, and full disclosure for the audience, Matt does import and sell the Max Tacks. I happen to use them and have used them for a lot longer than Matt has been selling them, but it is important for us just to disclose that. But traction boards, especially from a quality manufacturer is what you should be looking for because they perform a lot of service when it comes to recovery. The vast majority of my recoveries that I have completed in recent years has been easily solved with a set of traction boards.
Matt: ya, you know I mean traction boards just make everything easier. I guess it's a bit of a challenge because everybody thinks they are going to be selling something, but I honestly haven't been in a situation whether I am winching, using asnatch strap or whatever kind of extrication of vehicle where Max Tracks have not made that a little bit easier. All your trying to do when you're getting a vehicle unstuck is your trying to free stiction. Stiction is when as a kid you put a glass under water and you fill it up with water and you turn it upside down and try to get it out, and it doesn't want to come out. The same thing is happening to your vehicle underneath: Mud, water, or sand, if all these different surfaces that are kind of keeying together to prevent your vehicle from moving forward, sometimes traction boards are really simple. They give you enough traction to lift your vehicle up, which is the key thing, it breaks that stiction, and then forward.
Scott: there's a couple things I like about them. I can remove them from a vehicle and put them in a different vehicle. If I come across a vehicle that is stuck and I don't want to drive closer because I am going to get stuck I can take the traction boards off and I can walk to that stuck vehicle and I can help others. If I'm feeling a little sketched out about who's stuck, maybe these people are going to sue me if I try to pull them out with my winch, I can be like: “hey I got these things, you might want to use those.” And it kind of removes some of that liability as well. I do find that they provide a lot of support even in difficult stuck situations where it requires a 12v winch. That could be building a road under neath. I remember being stuck for twelve hours in the middle of the Canning Stock, and we used 12 traction boards to get out. We literally built a road of Max Tracks underneath the vehicles to get out. And that's because we broke winch lines, we broke winches, and we were down to one functioning winch and 12 Max Tracks. And that is eventually how we got all of the vehicles out. We have to start with anything vehicle recovery related requires training. Now training is not necessarily something you have to pay for. Find your local club, another overlander with a lot of experience and someone that you trust and have them start to teach you those skills. Vehicle recovery is very dangerous. There's a lot of components to it, they have high energy, it could be the 9,000lbs that winch can pull or significantly more than that if you are doing vehicle to vehicle recovery you could be using a kinetic energy recovery strap or recovery rope. All of those things have a lot of energy and dynamics to them amd require training. So again, we talked about this in the beginning but make sure you seek out a great trainer, International 4-Wheel drive trainers Association, guys like Bill BUrke, people like Overland Experts. Make sure that you get some training with these devices before you go out in the field. Because remember we are trying to make the vehicles light and simple which means they are not always going to have all of the gadgets that makes it less likely that you get stuck. So if you have the stuff you need in order to get a recovery done properly and you have the training for it, that is usually all you need.
Matt: and if you don't have the training for it just stop. I mean honestly if you're stuck in sand or mud or whatever, what's the worst that can happen if you just walk away. I always stress to people that I talk to, let your heart rate come down. People get very, very stressed out in recovery scenarios and it leads to …
Scott: you feel embarrassed or whatever ..
Matt: ya the ego or whatever. Just like, chill out. Take a second to breathe and calm down and evaluate the situation. And use common sense.
Scott: come up with a plan and talk about the plan with the people that you are with. Make sure that the non essential personnel are outside of the recovery area so they don't get injured.
Matt: and don't put a snatch strap or a dynamic strap on anything that isn't rated. If you don't know what is going on, then don't do it. Then nothing worse can happen. I always stress to people never, ever, ever, ever put a dynamic snatch strap on a tow ball. It turns into a cannonball. People die from that every year. Whenever we're talking about this stuff, I always bring this up. I feel personally pretty strong on it.
Scott: A tow ball is used for towing. Towing a trailer. It’s not used for anything else. Pull that draw bar out of the 2’ receiver, if that's all you got. Pull that out and slide the strap in there and put a cross pin in for the recovery, that's still not necessarily ideal, but it is a lot safer than looping a strap over a tow ball.
Matt: or a cannonball and putting 8,000lbs of force behind you
Scott: ya, not a good idea. Alright so were on number 9. Securing the load. So this isn't really a modification, but it is something that requires mindset. We often see this in the field is that people, especially after they have been traveling for a while, the back of the vehicle becomes an explosion. That explosion of stuff, that is not secured, just thrown in the back of a vehicle, can become a projectile if you get into an accident. It can also lead to a lot of frustration it can lead to unnecessary damage to the vehicle, to the interior of the vehicle. It can damage critical pieces of equipment that you brought with you like your camera for example. WHen that pepecian case falls on your camera and breaks the lens of the lens mount. All of those things and again Matt and I have learned the hard way. Making sure you secure your load properly which means you have to have rated lashing points within your vehicle, if they don't have that make sure you add them. Make sure that you don't have stuff just loose. Once you get into an accident these are major projectiles.
Matt: I find that there are 2 major violators of this. One you just said are cameras. I have literally had cameras fly into my windshield. That would hurt if all of a sudden you were doing 70mph and stopped. People for some reason throw these bow shackles, these D Ring shackles in the side stretchy pockets that are in their back seat or somewhere. That doesn't contain that. THat becomes a missile. I've seen photos, I've talked to people who have had that go through their windshields. You want to make sure that even the smallest things are secure. You just have a plan. How bad would you feel if, someone pulls out in front of you and your just trying to avoid an accident and your drawer system becomes unhinged and traps a kid in the backseat or something. You have to have thought with these modifications.
Scott: ya, and again, as travelers we have a responsibility. We have a responsibility for the people that are with us. So, If you've got your loved one with you and they don’t know how all this stuff necessarily works and you haven't tied things down and they get injured, that's on us. That's our responsibility to be mindful of that. Also those things that are loose can end up trapped underneath the brake pedal or trapped underneath the accelerator, they can disrupt the driver while they are driving. Just keep this stuff secured properly and it will also make for a more comfortable and relaxed trip for everybody. ANd this leads us to number 10. It's our last talking point.
Matt: ya, I call it the buy once, cry once mentality. Quality and design over quantity. Man, where do you start with that one.. ? It's something that I have lived my entire life by. I’m not saying I go out and automatically buy the most expensive thing, there's a lot of cases where the most expensive thing is not the best thing. Do your research and figure out not only what works for you, but what is actually going to last. I see this as a very dangerous thing in overlanding right now. I feel overlanding 5 years ago had a really strong sense of buy once cry once. You had a group of people that were actually using this stuff and traveling and they really saw no other choice, they couldn't afford to buy something 2 or 3 times. And I think these days, man, I see it on Instagram all the time and I'm not trying to vilify Instagram or influencers, I have a lot of good friends, really dear friends, at least I call them influencers. Scott you're probably an influencer…
Scott: I hope not..
Matt: But what I'm getting at sometimes people do things just to have a look. Something I pay attention to are these chincy plastic chinese recovery boards. They break the first time you use them or they fade and they bake in the UV, why are you putting that on there. LED light bars, ya you can get them for $20.00 from China now, I think they're quite useful if you're stuck in the Sahara desert and you're trying to collect moisture in a survival situation because they are horrible. They blind the person sitting behind them more than anything. You know, do your research and if you're on a budget the odds are you probably don't need a lot of this stuff to travel. If someone can do it on a motorcycle without the refrigerator, without the roof rack without the tent without all the stuff you can do it in a car.
Scott: Ted Simon traveled around the world for 10 years off the same motorcycle he left with. Most of the bags and back then had you couldn't buy them from Touratech at the time, he built them himself. It's just really important to acknowledge that if we're going to buy something, it should be extremely high quality and we should be intentional about it. We should only buy one thing at a time. Be incremental in your purchases. Just going in with a credit card to the local 4-wheel drive shop and build me an overland vehicle, is probably the worst way that you could go about it.
Matt: Ya, you can do that at 4-wheel parts now, and they're going to throw a variety of stuff they have rebranded from alibaba, and I'm not going to say it's going to fail but..
Scott: a lot of times those things do fail and results in disappointment. If you think about North american overlanders, we are lucky if we have 2 weeks off a year. So if we are on our one 2 week trip down to Baja and half of the stuff that we bought that's cheap or not reliable or that's not durable fails, it takes away from that experience. They end up in the garbage bin and maybe and maybe we could have gone 3 weeks if we had not bought any of it. So I think if we summarize, it really brings it all back to modify as minimal as possible. Be very intentional about the things that you change, If you can do a bunch of trips without any modifications at all. Find out what you actually need. If you're worried about getting stuck, or breaking down, go with others. Go with other people and they can help you out if you have trouble. A stock Tacoma can go around the world three times without any modifications. THrow a backpack in the back seat and off you go. Spend that $30-40,000 that people will spend on that truck and actually go and see the world.
Matt: you could travel the world for $40,000. That would include all of your shipping. You could circumnavigate the northern hemisphere, including seeing all of Europe. Including Taking a little side trip down to Morocco, going into Mongolia. You could do all of that for $40,000 and you will have something that will change your life. I think that starting off by saying I’m not going to modify my vehicle unless it's absolutely necessary is the right place to start off with. It doesn't mean that modifications aren't useful, they can be. And you might also just say” “Scott, Matt.. I really just want this widget on my car.” And that's cool, we totally get that. But people that make the argument that they need it, instead of want it. That's where we find the fallacy. That's where we find the limitation in the argument. Start off with things stock. Keep it simple. Buy the right vehicle to begin with and then youre ready to go.
Matt: it's not that hard right? Just stop messing with it.
Scott: *laughs* and that's difficult. Again, spend more money on the experiences then you do on the truck and you're well on your way to overlanding adventure.
Matt: and to contradict myself, if it makes your experience better, then by all means go for it you know. Just don't go overboard.
Scott: that's right. And simplicity and reliability is the key in vehicle preparation for overland long distance travel. Keep it reliable. Keep it simple and go have fun out there. Thanks everybody for listening. Really appreciate it.
Matt: see you guys,
Scott: see ya.