Since the beginning of Overland Bound, we have followed and been inspired by the journey of Karin-Marijke and Coen of Land Cruising Adventure. When asked what they like most about Overlanding, the answer was simple.
“Freedom. Tossing the coin.”
Not “a” coin, THE coin. In life. Karin-Marijke and Coen turned away from the rat race in 2003, and have been traveling the world in their Land Cruiser ever since. We asked them technical questions about their rig and equipment, what their strategy is to outfit and explore with maximum efficiency, and what their most memorable moments were during 13 years of trekking.
Whether you’re seeking inspiration for your first Overland excursion, or you’re a seasoned Overlanding pro, read below to learn more about how Karin-Marijke and Coen approach their long term overland adventure.
What’s the Year, Make, Model, Mileage of Your Rig?
We drive a 1984 Toyota Land Cruiser BJ45, which is commonly called a Troopy in Australia and a BushTaxi in Africa. Ours has the famous 3B diesel engine which is a no-nonsense, straight 4 without a turbo. The Land Cruiser has a total mileage of 400.000+ kms, of which about 240.000 were driven by ours.
“The Land Cruiser has a total mileage of 400.000+ kms, of which about 240.000 were driven by ours.”
During our first 3.5 years on the road, from the Netherlands to Vietnam (via, among other countries, Iran, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, South East Asian countries) we drove an average of 64 kms/day. Over the past 9 years, during our continuous travels in all South American countries, this became even fewer: an average of 50 kms/day.
This has a couple of reasons: In South America we get visas that allow us a much longer period of time to stay in a country (at least 3 months, contrary to Asia where it’s often 1 month (excluding extensions)). This has allowed us to stay in places, rather than having to move on, which is our preferred way of life/travel. And, not unimportantly, while we lived on our savings during the first 3 years, we since then work, selling our stories and photos to magazines, which simply means we need so spend time behind our laptops and at places with WIFI.
“We lived on our savings during the first 3 years, we since then work, selling our stories and photos to magazines.”
What Modifications Have You Made so Far?
One of the previous owners had used the Land Cruiser on a trip [I assume the Scandinavian countries considering the insulation and external heater]. As a result we bought it pretty equipped and needed to make only some minor adjustments. Luckily for us, as we had little time and little budget. I’m not going to give you the list as you can find all that on our website:
But I can tell you that after 12+ years on the road, we recently modified the interior. Not that these changes were mandatory, we did perfectly fine without them for years, but they’ll make our lives a bit more comfortable. Among these issues were:
“After 12+ years on the road, we recently modified the interior”
- Less clutter in the car, mainly by storing and packing things more efficiently and by making better use of the space available. This meant throwing away unused stuff and making sure the middle section of the car is empty. Over the years we have replaced chunky, low-quality products with high-quality ones that take up less then a quarter of the space. For instance the Kermit chairs:
- Building drawers, as well as ways to access empty areas between the insulated walls and the body of the car.
- Installing an integrated water system.
- Installing a new electricity system. Until now we had a mixed bunch of batteries, solar panels without a controller, and a 30-year-old fridge. It worked, sort off, but now we knew what we needed and wanted, and had the money, we could buy two good batteries, a solar panel with a-state-of-the-art controller and a new fridge all tied in together. Stay tuned, as we’ll be talking more about all that – with loads of photos – on Land Cruising Adventure:
When we left we had no budget to get the OME Safari kit we wanted, so we bought 1, new OME front leaf-spring pack instead and inserted 1 leaf into each pack in the existing set-up [which was already a mixed bunch]. During our trip we replaced numerous broken leafs. After having gained more knowledge about the subject, but also about our own, custom-build vehicle, which warrants its own attention, we finally got it the way it should be (since 2012, approx.).
The current suspension still is an adaptation of various standard options as we learned that there is no such thing as one standard. We have to adapt most things to our (the car’s) needs and wishes.
“An adaptation of various standard options as we learned that there is no such thing as one standard.”
Front: heavy duty TJM leafs and shocks. We took a few leafs out as it was too stiff for our taste.
Rear: heavy duty TJM leafs and shocks. We swapped some of the smaller leafs for a main VW Amarok leaf. This seems to work just well for our vehicle, which is loaded 24/7 and weighs around 3 tons.
Ah yes… tires. If you want to have a lively campfire conversation, bring up tires… A very hot topic.
In short: we left with tires that were ridiculously extreme mudders that increased fuel costs and were noisy. Through experience we’ve come to the conclusion that when we need new tires we pick:
- NOT a particular brand.
- Skinny 7.50R16.
- As many plies as possible, at least 10, preferably 14.
Why? Read my post on it:
We can comfortably sit, work, cook, have dinner and sleep inside. We have had friends sitting with us inside playing boardgames. We’ve also had travelers who slept in the back of the car while we slept in the rooftop tent.
Having said that, we love to be outside, where we extend our camp with chairs and a little table. We recently made an awning that slides into a narrow aluminum rail [European camping standards] on either side of the Land Cruiser.
“We love to be outside, where we extend our camp with chairs and a little table.”
The bathroom is outside. While we have a tupperware box (KM) and a plastic bottle (Coen) to use at night for a pee, we have a shovel to dig our toilet in nature, and we shower with a ten-liter shower bag attached to the outside of the vehicle.
“We have a tupperware box (KM) and a plastic bottle (Coen) to use at night for a pee.”
If there is no privacy, a shower means a sponge-down inside the vehicle.
Our Toyota is an all 24volt system and so all the main items are 24 [lights, starter, winch, fridge] or multi voltage [all the LED lighting]. Some items use 12volt, so we have a 25amp 24/12 dc/dc converter. And for the use of various 220volt equipment we have a 300watt dc/ac inverter.
We have two starter batteries which are separated by a diode bridge [I have a more modern electronic Cyrix relays but still have to find time to build it into the system] between the alternator and the second set of two AGM household batteries. On the roof we have a 195Watt solar panel charging via a MPPT controller.
As to the high beams, I want to say that, yes, they are handy when you need them, but be realistic: how often are you using those lights? We hardly ever drive unknown terrain in the dark.
When we left, I bought 4 used lorry lights and we used them, if I remember correctly. Over the years they have been replaced by Hella Jumbo 320 lights thanks to very good friend who provides us with Hella goodies every once in a while.
On the rear of the truck we have Hella’s 6LED work light, which is only 18Watt but gives a ton of light.
“I am smitten by Hella’s flexible spot LED navigation lights”
As to interior lighting: I am smitten by Hella’s flexible spot LED navigation lights. We have 4 of the latter on the inside walls of the car, placed in such a way that we can pull them outside through a window, which allows us to reading or cooking outside as well without needing head lamps.
If you’re interested, I wrote about Hella on our website as well:Hella Lights
The inside of the Land Cruiser has a storage department on both sides, accessed from the top and – recently – the lower parts can be opened with a drawer. The set-up is a wooden frame with lids, on which we can sit. With a third piece in the middle the entire section can be made into a bed.
On top of the Land Cruiser we carry a green box. This is for stuff we hardly use: e.g. winter clothes when traveling in hot climates and the other way around, as well as trekking gear.
We love our hi-lift and shovel. We used both of them quite a bit when stuck and the shovel is handy for digging toilets in the bush as well. We used the first winch that came with the car twice and it gave up on us. We haven’t used the new winch yet, and neither have we used the Maxtrax sand ladders, which are relatively new to us too as well.
“We love our hi-lift and shovel.”
We did a blog post on recovery as well:
- Warn XD9000 24v.
- Strap and tree protector.
- 2x snatch blocks and D shackles.
- Small, slow HD air compressor.
Our main security is making sure nobody can look inside the Land Cruiser when we park it. We glued Velcro around the front side windows so we can attach curtains very quickly. The Velcro doubles for mosquito netting. The front window has our former kitchen roller curtain—very quick to deploy.
“Our main security is making sure nobody can look inside the Land Cruiser when we park it.”
The second thing is making sure all our important stuff isn’t lying up for the grabs.
We added two pin locks with 4-winged keys, which you see normally in doors in houses.
But, truth be said, security is not a big issue for us. We have felt safe throughout our travels and have more faith in trusting our gut and using common sense that elaborate (expensive) security measures. Not having a lot of valuable stuff in the first place obviously helps not having to worry about stuff getting stolen. Of course our laptops and camera are valuable, but more in the sense that they carry our work – losing them would mean losing work (of course we make regular back-ups). Other then that, what’s there to worry about losing some pots and pans?
“Truth be said, security is not a big issue for us. We have felt safe throughout our travels and have more faith in trusting our gut and using common sense that elaborate (expensive) security measures”
Electronically the car has been secured with a main switch, cutting off the power from the starting batteries.
When we left we had an old paper map of Europe. It was by no means detailed enough for proper exploring, but we were quickly rolling (5 days) on to Greece, where we bought a local map.
We have been using Nelles starting in Turkey as well as ITBM maps, but have become ambassadors of the Reise-Know-How maps since we started traveling in South America, nine years ago. We really like them.
I think in Iran or Pakistan I dug out my old eTreks and used it to track our routes. In South America I have used the Garming eTreks and the gpsMap60CsX until last year, when I changed to a second-hand iPhone with Maps.Me. I think this is a good way forward.
We are not using a phone and depend on WiFi internet, which has worked for us just fine.
The Toyota came with a stainless-steel high-air intake. This in combination with the standard oil bath air filter makes it a winning combination.
The thing we noticed is that most of the custom-modified or installed stuff tends to break or is inferior to the standard Toyota solutions. We have de-installed previous goodies, among which the external Webasto coolant heater. We also modified the air intake so it would not break anymore.
“Most of the custom-modified or installed stuff tends to break or is inferior to the standard Toyota solutions”
Despite knowing this, we did modify one thing in the original system: the exhaust. It normally makes a bend under the frame before it crosses diagonally under the car. This bend is very vulnerable and sits too exposed while off-roading, especially in rocky terrain.
In Brazil, we put the exhaust over the frame, and recently, in Venezuela, we eradicated the whole diagonally piece. We now have a short exhaust on the side and a ton of space under the Land Cruiser which we since have used to install a 100-liter water tank.
The same goes for the standard solution on the LWB Toyotas, where the spare tire sits under the rear of the car and you need a small winch to bring it down. I got very frustrated by the fact that every time we needed to use the spare tire, it would take forever to free it up from dirt and to get the little winch going by half a can of WD40.
In Bolivia we bought an original spare-tire hanger from the 40 series which is placed on the rear. We used the space underneath to place a second fuel tank (in Bolivia) as well as a water tank (in Venezuela).
We rough camp wherever we can; it’s our favorite way to spend the night, preferably in nature. After 12+ years on the road we have our camping gear pretty much nailed down to the basics, but keep on adding or changing stuff as we go.
We use a Coleman 424 dual-ring stove that has a very high heat output, which we can use for the Coleman oven as well. Read more about it on our website:
We have two stainless-steel pans to boil water or to make oats, a pressure cooker which we pretty much use for everything:
And a small frying pan which we hardly use at all.
“After 12+ years on the road we have our camping gear pretty much nailed down to the basics”
We have Kermit chairs, and a small bamboo table, and recently made an awning.
What Process Did You Go Through Selecting Your Rig?
We posted a question on a Lonely Planet Forum (note this was 2003; no Facebook and other social media yet). They suggested a Land Cruiser and one from before 1987. All mechanical, can be fixed anywhere, they said. So that’s what we bought.
What Influenced Your Overland Vehicle Choice?
When Karin-Marijke didn’t want to travel with me on my big Honda motorcycle I thought of setting off in a Citroen 2CV [my first car, yeah you Google:- )], or a VW Westfalia. Something with character. We seriously looked into a Land Rover Series as I really like their look. But when we saw and drove the BJ45, we were sold instantly.
An important issue was to keep it simple. The more complex (e.g. electronic), the more can break, and the more difficult to solve it / get it fixed.
“An important issue was to keep it simple.”
In a way I feel it was a blessing we didn’t have such an extensive source of information as you have nowadays on the internet. It’s easy to feel that you ‘need’ so much before you can travel, all this fancy 4×4 stuff, recovery gear, fancy security systems and what have you. While you could argue that we set off very naive (which we won’t dispute) without having a clear idea of where we were going and in that respect weren’t prepared, we still like what we did and we would do it again.
If this is a place to give any tip it would be: don’t be too prepared, let alone over-prepared. Allow yourself to learn as you go, including everything that concerns your vehicle. There are cars and workshops all over the world and with a bit of improvising and goodwill you’ll get very far.
What Are 3 Things That You *Really* Like About Your Rig?
- The classic look that brings smiles all around. It turns heads around in any street in any country in the world.
- The sturdiness/trustworthiness. It is a 30+ year-old veteran and we make it work hard everyday of the year while fully loaded. Things might break or stop working, the engine and all rolling stuff just keeps on chucking along.
- Thanks to an additional layer of about 25 centimeters all around the bodywork (the dark-brown layer of the body work) the inside of the car gives enough comfort to live in.
What Would You Add or Improve?
We just did an overhaul so right now we’re fine. But I can imagine, in the distant future that we might change the roof into a pop-up system.
Rooftop or Ground Tent?
Rooftop works for us. But we can sleep inside the Land Cruiser just as easy.
When Did You First Hear the Term Overland?
I think on the road, when we heard about those organized overland trips to Asia and Africa. That we were overlanders ourselves we learned only after years on the road, I think.
What is it About Overlanding You Enjoy Most?
Freedom. Tossing the coin.
Longest Trip Completed/Planned?
Ours is a continuous one that started in 2003, as I mentioned in the beginning. We’re now on our way to the Far East (Korea/Japan).
What are Some of Your Trail – Travel Repairs?
- Hammering the air intake into place after it got smashed by a tree on narrow trail.
- Fixing a tube after two blew up within 10 minutes (we carry only 1 spare).
- Tying a broken exhaust so it stayed in place, more or less, until we reached a workshop.
- Fix a leakage which turned out to be a broken water pump.
- Fixing the starter- knowing how to start without one is very helpful.
- Fixing a leaking rear brake cylinder – knowing how to drive without breaking is helpful as well.
- Fixing a clutch slave cylinder – knowing how to drive without clutch is a great skill too.
What Else Should We Know About Your Rig?
Nothing, now you know all there is to know.
Tell Us One Time When Your Rig Saved You
Ha, one story? We have loads. Some of the best stories will be told in Karin-Marijke’s book that will soon be published. Stay tuned by subscribing to our newsletter:
Other Comments You’d Like to Share?
I don’t know if this is the right place to talk about money, but I’d like to say something about this. You can spend tons of money on your rig and equipment. And, obviously, opinions vary (apart from the fact that the choice of vehicle and equipment may depend on where you’ll travel and when you’re going there).
Everything you have can break or get stolen. That just brings headaches. To have as little as possible simply spares you all that.
A fellow overlander, who didn’t have a lot of money, said that with every expenditure for his car or equipment he and his wife deliberated: “We can spend, say, 50 dollars, on equipment X, or on an additional, say, 5 days of travel. What is more important?” In most cases they chose the 5 days of travel instead of the equipment.
“Everything you have can break or get stolen. That just brings headaches. To have as little as possible simply spares you all that.”
The ultimate choice, of course, depends on each individual and we all have our own arguments. There is no one ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. But I do think this perfectly sums up a way of weighing your options when discussing whether you ‘need’ to by a winch, hi-lift, the best outdoor clothing, the most expensive head lamps, etc. Maybe a shovel will do, the shorts and t-shirts you have now, etc.
When meeting overlanders you’ll learn that ‘everybody’ has made changes during their travels. Nobody started with all the perfect stuff. Better not spend too much money to begin with and do so along the way according to what you learn along the way.
“Hope to see you on the road!”