The Carawagon goes on a strict diet for a Sahara trip.
Recently, I had a graphic illustration of the effect of weight and how much energy is required to shift it. Two friends have new bicycles. Ian, an ex professional racing cyclist, has a state of the art carbon fibre job, so light he virtually has to tie it down to stop it floating away. It cost about the same as a decent Land Rover. Michael, a teenager with a paper round has a very smart mountain bike bought from Halfords for £99.99. It has thousands of gears, front and rear suspension and is bright red. The drawback is that it feels as though it has been forged from a solid billet of Pig Iron. Riding both bikes in turn, it was easy to see how Ian can knock off 80 miles in about four hours, whereas Michael is pretty exhausted after a paper round. Pedalling up hill the weight of the mountain bike and the drag caused by it’s off road tyres made progress very hard work and, it wasn’t much better down hill!
I looked at my Land Rover Carawagon. How much weight was I carrying around unnecessarily? In normal everyday use did I really need two spare wheels and a high lift jack? Probably not, so they came off. I looked at the bench seat in the back. I never seem to have back seat passengers, so that came out. Then came the cupboards. Being a camper conversion I usually carry around a few spare clothes, a sleeping bag and some basic provisions. I removed them and put anything worth saving in a large bin liner, whilst throwing away the rest. Next it was the turn of the dashboard, that tempting storage place for all the junk in life - an extension of the trouser pocket. Out came pen knives, useful nuts and bolts, old sweet packets, padlocks that have lost their keys and some rather nice pebbles off a beach. In all, I probably shaved 100 kg off my kerbside weight. I looked at the tyres. All Terrain’s are an excellent tyre, but I found them all below the recommended pressure. This corrected, a brief road test confirmed that performance was enhanced and there would, inevitably, be a fuel saving and it had not cost me a penny.
This week, however, I am planning what to take on a month long expedition to the Sahara. With my new mantra of less weight ringing in my head, I have pruned my travel list down the the bare minimum. Spare parts will be restricted to a fan belt and a head gasket. The rationale behind this is that too many spares weight a lot and inevitably it will be a part that is not carried that will fail. Leaving these shores with the Land Rover in as good a condition as possible will, I hope, minimalise the risk of a breakdown.
Correspondence with the other three drivers involved will ensure we don’t double up on tools. Obviously the high lift jack has had to go back on, and the rear seat, because it will be my bed. My sand ladders are aluminium and are the smaller, new generation ones. Very effective, but lighter. The plan falls apart when it comes down to the essentials of fuel and water. I will have to take ten jerry cans for fuel and four for water. Fairly light when empty for the long haul across France, but very heavy when full. At least, as both are used the weight will be reduced and for the final leg I should be back to minimal weight and able to fly up the dunes.
There is always a competitive element out in the sand dunes. As part of a team of Archaeologists we are a combined group of about 20 people and employ the services of a local logistics team who fulfil the roles of guides, cooks and desert taxi drivers. They drive an assortment of Japanese 4x4's, most of which have bigger engines than my Land Rover, but will be carrying a vast amount of heavy equipment. My aim this year is to stay as light as possible in the hope of upholding Landy honour. We shall all be heavy at the start of the trip and naturally cautious for fear of breaking something, but in the sprint to the finish, they will still be hampered by the equipment, but I should be running light. My tuned 200 Tdi engine with big AlliSport intercooler should be more than a match for the six cylinder units from the land of the rising sun. There’s a few scores to settle from last year, so ‘Inshallah’, as they say, my next column should bring news of a 1-0 victory to our favourite 4x4xfar!
Despite reducing the weight of everything else, the 12 jerry cans will always be a heavy load.
Weight is a great hindrance to crossing soft sand as this big truck found out crawling up a dune.