The Turtle V – Update #8 – The Camper Wrap-up – 2019

July 12, 2019

So there you have it, The Turtle V and its Tortuga Expedition Camper. If you have seen The Turtle V blogs #1 to #7 2019 on our website, you now know more about this vehicle than anyone has ever asked or wondered.

Ultimate Vehicle

If we are talking about the ultimate overland vehicle we need to be clear about the word ultimate. According to Merriam-Webster it means something that cannot be further improved or refined. Let’s keep that in mind.

At just over 13,000 feet in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan we enjoyed the morning sun and took the opportunity take a hot shower and to dry some clothes. No laundromats in sight here.

At just over 13,000 feet in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan we enjoyed the morning sun and took the opportunity take a hot shower and to dry some clothes. No laundromats in sight here.

 

Designing your own Camper

Designing your own camper is a can of worms and can be very frustrating, time consuming and expensive. We know!! We have built, modified and traveled in five Turtles and two project campers built for Ford and Dodge. There are lots of mistakes to make. Unless you have the luxury of time to experiment as we have had for the past 48 years, there are some things to think about.

First you need to decide where you’re going and for how long. Will you be visiting National Parks, taking weekend trips to the beaches of Mexico, or driving around the world? If the former, do you really need four-wheel drive, a winch, and locking differentials? Is it going to be warm and sunny where you’re going? Your personal level of comfort is critical. The second consideration is who you are traveling with. Will it be just yourself and a companion, or with two kids, a cat, and a dog? These factors will influence both camper size and equipment needed.

The Aksaray-Sultanhan is the largest Caravanserai along the Silk Road in Turkey.

The Aksaray-Sultanhan is the largest Caravanserai along the Silk Road in Turkey.

 

German Ideas

We learned many tips from German camper manufactures like Unicat, Langer & Block and Alustar, after visiting their factories, and from fellow travelers at events like the Africa Fest and the Safari Club meeting in Germany. For example, custom cabinets were sized to fit what would be stored in them. A file cabinet is a great convenience for organizing trip information and documents. Compartments just the size of the Pelican cases we use for camera, computers and a major First-Aid kit maximize use of space. All drawers for food, cooking utensils and clothing are on full-slide ball-bearing tracks with positive marine-style steel latches. Space is always critical. Our 10” dinner plates fit perfectly on a 10 1/2” shelf. A larger 15” or 18” shelf would be a waste of space! CAD design is helpful. Using CAD, when you move the kitchen sink it tells the bed and the window if there is still space. Bathroom? Where do you put a 3ft X 3ft X 6.5ft space in a small camper, just for occasional use? The Germans figured this out too. Use the doorway! It is a space that is always there. Good for a roomy shower or a Porta Potti that slides out on tracks.

As we started down this amazing set of switchbacks in Kyrgyzstan, we could imagine a string of camels coming up heavily loaded with the treasures of The Silk Road.

At 15,272 feet in the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan, our ATS turbo made our 7.3 Power Stroke engine think it was at sea level. The barometric altitude compensator on our two Eberspacher heaters worked perfectly.

 

Level of Comfort

Next to determine is your level of comfort—a very individual matter. You may be content curling up in a sleeping bag on the ground, crawling into a pop tent, or climbing up to a roof-top tent. Those are all fine choices, but they relate back to where you are going, for how long, and ultimately the weather. Can you be comfortable for five days of pouring rain in Ecuador? How does a roof-top tent feel at -60°F in Siberia? How does anything feel at 135°F in the desert of Turkmenistan? At such extreme temperatures, and they are not that difficult to find, the advantages of a well-insulated hard-side camper become more obvious. While we love to meet and mix with the locals wherever we camp, when the mosquitos are buzzing in your ear and the locals are watching your every move, there are times when it’s nice to go inside and close the door.

The high grasslands of Kyrgyzstan near Lake Song-Köl gave us unlimited perfect campsites.

The high grasslands of Kyrgyzstan near Lake Song-Köl gave us unlimited perfect campsites.

When I began outfitting the first Turtle in the early ’70s, a 1967 109 Land Rover seemed like the perfect choice. There were specific goals to be met. Most importantly, my traveling partner and I needed to sleep in a comfortable bed in any weather. That requirement does not change for a week in Baja or a year in Tajikistan. We also needed to be able to go to the bathroom. Not necessarily the most important thing…but it will be if you can’t. Are you happy behind a bush with a shovel or a portable toilet seat, (a luxury if you don’t like to squat), or a toilet seat over a plastic bag and small trashcan? Maybe a step up to a Porta Potti is preferred? The bush works really well provided there are bushes and not many people around. The plastic bag in the trashcan for inside the camper is an excellent solution—we used this for years. It should be noted that it’s a lot easier to get rid of a plastic bag than it is to find a place to dump 5 gallons of poop. Use a pee jar at night! Privacy you ask? If you are traveling in a small camper for a year and cannot go to the bathroom in front of your partner, you may have a bigger problem. Don’t forget to include a bathing option: a solar bag on the roof, sponge baths, a dive in the ocean with sea-soap or Joy detergent, or a real hot shower inside or outside your camper. Be aware that you need to plan on how you will handle personal hygiene before you stink.

Umpqua National Forest, Utah. Welcome to our living room on the road.

Umpqua National Forest, Utah. Welcome to our living room on the road.

 

Purified water

The next critical consideration is a reliable source of purified water. This concern in developing countries isn’t just bacteria, but more importantly, viruses. Though there are all kinds of water filters and purifiers available, the term “purified” is often inaccurately used. Don’t be fooled!! Sickness from bad water can ruin your trip or even your life!! The most practical solution we found is to chlorinate the water in the water holding tank, then filter out the chlorine and dead bacteria and viruses. We installed the Everpure dual-filter Superchlorination/Dechloination system we have used for many years. The Everpure system uses a method suggested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Most towns and cities use chlorine to purify their water, which is why it can often taste like a swimming pool. Everpure recommends 1/6 once, (5ml), or 1 teaspoon to each 10 gallons or 8 drops per gallon in your tank. Chlorine, common bleach, is available all over the world. (Don’t use the kind with soap or lemon flavors. Swimming pool service stores are an optional source.) It’s not always an exact measurement because sometimes we have to guess how much water is left in the tank. There is a small test kit if you are worried. A little more doesn’t hurt. The chlorine kills bacteria and most importantly, viruses. This system allows us to fill the tank from any source: a river, lake, irrigation ditch, or village well.

The old trails leading into the interior of Baja California always lead to surprises.

The old trails leading into the interior of Baja California always lead to surprises.

 

Cooking

Cooking is another important component of a well-designed overland camper. Eating is essential to your health. Aside from the cute little backpacking stoves that are designed for, well, backpacking, you have choices with regard to fuel: diesel, kerosene, unleaded gas, alcohol and propane are available everywhere in the world. Electrical induction stoves might work if you have a generator and big batteries. (You may need to change all your pots and pans.) Diesel stoves have obvious advantages if you are driving a diesel truck, but we highly recommend you try some diesel stoves at home for a few days before you decide. We did! We recommend propane; maybe little disposable cans for a short trip but a 20 lb tank for longer adventures. In case you never thought about it, the whole world cooks on propane, otherwise known as LP. It is important to understand that LP stands for—Liquid Petroleum. Yes, it is a liquid and we can find it and refill our Manchester LP tanks anywhere in the world using a local adaptor, purchased at a hardware store, and a local exchange tank. 

As we started down this amazing set of switchbacks in Kyrgyzstan, we could imagine a string of camels coming up heavily loaded with the treasures of The Silk Road.

As we started down this amazing set of switchbacks in Kyrgyzstan, we could imagine a string of camels coming up heavily loaded with the treasures of The Silk Road.

 

Storage

From a vehicle standpoint, you have to look at all of the above to determine how much storage you will need. If the goal is to see how far off the beaten track you can get and still be comfortable, it shouldn’t be too big to go where you want to go. Choosing a vehicle with an appropriate gross vehicle weight rating is key—adding bigger springs or stiffer shocks to a low-GVWR platform is not necessarily the answer. The brakes and frame of a vehicle were designed by expert engineers for the rated GVW. Dual rear wheels are not a good idea. They plow sand, mud and snow, and they will pick up big rocks and cause tire failure.

Following part of the infamous Hastings cut-off in Nevada, a mistake the ill-fated Donner party made, we drove through a slice of history.

Following part of the infamous Hastings cut-off in Nevada, a mistake the ill-fated Donner party made, we drove through a slice of history.

 

Fuel

Lastly, you must consider the type of fuel. Gasoline is available everywhere. Octane and quality varies. Diesel has always been the preferred choice for overland travel. Newer diesel engines require ultra-low-sulfur fuel and diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), which will pose a problem in third-world regions. I suggest starting with an older 3/4- or 1-ton American diesel pickup with the weight capacity you need that will run on any diesel fuel. There are millions of used trucks out there and the aftermarket companies offer products that will make them stronger and more reliable. You can scroll through the companies on the Suppliers page on our web site, https://turtleexpedition.com/suppliers/, for some answers. Take the thousands of dollars you save and use after-market products to improve the reliability of an older vehicle.

Our weeklong camp on the Sea of Cortez was idyllic. No we’re not telling exactly where it was.

Our weeklong camp on the Sea of Cortez was idyllic. No we’re not telling exactly where it was.

 

Building The Turtle V

The goal in building The Turtle V was to create a vehicle that was comfortable and reliable, and a camper that was big on the inside and small on the outside. Did we succeed? For our kind of travel, which is living on the road, (not off-road but sometimes very bad roads), and exploring the remote regions and cultures of the world, the answer is absolutely! Is this the ultimate Overlander? It is a work in progress; check with us after we’ve driven around the world a third time.

If you are thinking about building your own camper or buying one, the previous seven blogs should give you food for thought. If you want to see some of the previous four expedition campers, you might find some answers on our vehicles page or at https://expeditionportal.com/the-trail-of-the-turtles-thirty-five-years-of-learning-and-mistakes/

If you’d like to see a few more pictures of The Turtle V on the road, browse through the blogs on our website that cover our most recent 40,000-mile/26-country/two-year expedition around the world, following the Silk Road or check out https://expeditionportal.com/world-nomad-the-turtle-v/

If you just want to know more about us, you might find some information at https://expeditionportal.com/32806/

A remote camp on the Pacific of Baja California gave us an evening light show and almost a double rainbow.

A remote camp on the Pacific of Baja California gave us an evening light show and almost a double rainbow.

 

4 Responses to “The Turtle V – Update #8 – The Camper Wrap-up – 2019”

  1. Thanks Monika/Gary! Always great pictures and info. Just got back from British Columbia; after a month on the road. Did the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route with friends. Was prepared for the wet weather along the Oregon Coast (Boy Scout Motto- “Be Prepared”. LOL! I can only “stuff” so much in a two door Jeep Wrangler!! But, all went well. Learned a lot from you guys. Keep the lessons coming; I’m willing to learn more!! Take care guys. Thanks

  2. My overlanding heroes! Thanks for the years of inspiration! Cheers!

  3. Hi Steve: Thanks for your nice note. Sounds like you had a great time in the Northwest. Someday, we have to team up again or at least get together for a camp-out barbecue on Lake Tahoe…..

  4. Thanks Fernando. You make us blush! Looking forward to the day we cross paths again even if its I-80! Happy travels, Monika

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