Saturday, 23 July 2016

24/7/2016 - Ski fields shut due to warm, windy rain! It's .308 shooting time again! :-)

The mountain was shut all weekend due to heavy rain, gale winds and overall crap weather.   Yes, so I wanted to take the van up to mountain skiing, but oh well. Rather I pulled out my .308 rifle and went to the range on a rather windy, gusty day.  It made for some challenging target shooting that's for sure.  The great snow base we had until Friday afternoon, was good.  Now? Unsure! :( 

I love sharp shooting.. It teaches concentration and patience
Borrowing the range sighting scope, but the wind made it wobbly @ 60x

My 420van takes me everywhere fun!

pew pew pew...  

The end result?  Well I did OK considering I was fighting near gale winds twisting each shot.   The unpredictable wind made me accidentally take out the girl, sorry hun!  I got 3 perfect head shots from the zombie on the right. The centre zombie I got well, but the only shot I took at the left zombie was a miss. Darn!  
I brought up two 1L water filled plastic bottles for fun. I destroyed them with 1 shot each. I forgot to record it on video, oh well next time I promise as I know that sort of stuff looks great at 10% speed playback.  Cheers!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

17/7/2016 - 100 yard zombie target shooting practice day w/my .308 rifle & a mate


(Above) My friend Kris, accidentally shot the girl. Bad boy..  



(Above) Three headshots for right zombie. Nice! 



(Above) The range officer got a nice head shot whilst trying out my rifle. Nice one! 


(Above) Gorgeous day out!  Love cruising to local spots like this with my van!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

11/7/2016 - Core advice for solo travellers in a camper van...

I've been reading a lot of information on Twitter and such about people asking if traveling solo in a camper van is boring, dangerous, lonely, etc?   Well I've done quite a few trips alone anywhere from 2 days to 46 days alone and here's my advice:

A) Basic Preparation -this is a basic list for a solo camper van trip. This is not a van design/kit out list or full list.  :)

1) Full Service - Make sure you've done a full service on your van before leaving.. this includes oil change/ fluids change, checking your tires, checking your belts, etc.

2) Cooking Gear - Even if you're to have a big stove in the back of your van, grab a small portable one as well.  There are some days when weather will be shit and you won't want to go outside and cook.  Well you can still cook inside your van, however you'll need to crack a window or two so the LPG gas smell doesn't get you sick.  Obviously when using a stove inside your van during stormy whether can pose risks.  I would suggest having a fire distinguish in your van at all times.  Make sure you also bring enough cooking fuel for the trip.  I use my 2 MSR stoves and on average burn through 1.5 L of LPG fuel very week.   However during colder weather trips, I might burn through 2 L of LPG camping fuel every week

3) Basic Food Stores - Pack a lot of canned food: vegetables, fruit, tuna, etc.  Pack a lot of pasta as well including square Ramen soup things. You can add your canned veggies to it as well as some tuna for nice meal.   The goal here is to have protein and carbs if you're going to be doing stuff outside like hiking or climbing.  Besides pasta and veggies can fill you up quite nice.

4) Water (H2O) - 20 L of water for 3 to 4 days at minimal per person. Make sure you have either a water filtration system or a simple way to purified drinking water out of the stream or lake.  A small trick I've learn is to use bleach to clean water.  Here's a nice PDF that explains it well.  Make it a habit to top off your water supply every two days at least so you're not surprised when you run out.


5) GPS and/or 2-Way two-way 5watt UHF radio - besides having maps which is obvious, you got any some way to communicate with the outside world if you're out of cell phone range and need help.  I choose a Rino 650 to resolve this need.  You can get and UHF radio installed or get a mobile device such as I did.  If you're well-off (rich) I suppose you could get a satellite phone, but they're big and bulky last time I checked.

6) Solar power - I have a 200W solar panel permanently installed on my van roof, however I always carry a spare portable 20W foldout solar panel just in the off chance that my electrical system fails. This portable one also comes in handy when you're going for a hike or camping away from your van for day or two. I chose to buy this one for all of my mobile needs.  With this Goalzero 20W panel, I can charge the car battery, my laptop, camera batteries etc.


7) Entertainment and gadgets-   let's face it if you're going to be alone in your van for a long period of time, you're going to need something to do so why not have fun with it.  

a) Laptop- If you're writing a blog, bring your laptop and write your blog off-line in Microsoft Word or any other program as such.  If your van has solar power like mine, chances are don't have a nice big house battery for keeping everything charged.  Given that, Bring an external hard drive (the portable kind) with all kinds of movies, documentaries and your favourite viewing pleasures.  You can also use your laptop to play games as well.  Your laptop obviously doubles as a small television set too so if you can find USB TV aerial, you might be able to actually watch TV provided that analog signals are still being broadcasted in your country.

b) Camera gear and GoPro - self explanatory!

c) Drawing pad, pencils and eraser or Painting gear - get creative, while your camera batteries are charging, why not to take up drawing again? Nobody's going to judge you on your work and you may become quite good at it! So whether you have a view of the mountains, a lake or an ocean beach, you might just be surprised at your skill and talent!  If you're feeling really confident of your drawings, take a picture of them one complete and uploaded to your blog when you get online! If you're into painting, I can be really fun too!  Share your passion with other people!

6) Books - how to books, documentaries, adventure guidebooks, novels, sci-fi, etc.    It's worth noting however, that with limited space in your van, you might want to consider buying a Kindle or some sort of e-reader to cut down on space.  Well I personally like reading books old-school style, books can take up a lot of space.

7) Snacks - no I'm not talking about a big bag of Doritos.  While they taste good, they take up too much space.  Eat something healthier like peanuts, Energy bars, trail mix etc.  So before you head off to your great adventure, visit a grocery store or health food store to stock up on the stuff.

B) On the Road:

1) Petrol or diesel -  whether not not you use petrol or diesel, whenever your tank is below 50% fill the bugger up especially if it's wintertime.  Push come to shove, if you're stuck in snow and it's -20° out, you can keep your van running with the heat on and sleep as long as your windows are cracked open.  With a full tank of fuel, your pretty sorted.  From my recollection, my van (which is a turbodiesel) burns about 0.5L/hr idling.  Not too bad!!! However keeping your van running while you sleep just to keep warm as a last resort.

Music/etc - I like listening to audio books while driving on long journeys alone, but that's just me.  Either way, just have a good 4-8 GB of music on your iPhone or iPod or MP3 player ready to go. You should organise your music BEFORE you depart on your trip! Be careful of listening to your new age music during darker, gloomy weather. It might put you to sleep!

Breaks/Enjoy - taking breaks while driving!  If you plan on driving 250kms in one day, take at least 2-3 breaks while driving. One of which should be a good 30 minutes for lunch.  If you're really tired at lunch, eat lunch and take an hour nap. Nice!    Or take a nice 30 minute walk around a lake for lunch. Then come back and hit the road again!  If you're tired, then make a quick instant coffee to wake you up!  


Meals - Since you're primary task is to drive and you obviously need to eat, my advice is to make several stops and eat a small meal each one.  Generally speaking on my driving days, I like to eat 5-6 small meals in this order.

Breakfast - banana, coffee, porrage
Meal 2 - apple, water, trail mix
Meal 3 - lunch- tuna sandwich, apple, water, trail mix
Meal 4 - energy bar, trail mix, water
Meal 5 - apple, water, trail mix
Light dinner - ramen soup with canned veggies

Distance - how far should we drive each day? Many people don't plan on this.  Well I do is I take a laminated map and with dry erase markers, I draw potential paths to where I want to travel.  I try to limit my driving in warmer weather for shorter distances because I personally don't drive well under hot sun.  When you reach your destination/campsite for the night, I take a permanent marker to mark where I driven from/to that day.   The general advice I gave it is, the more challenging the driving is, plan on doing less driving. I try to limit my driving to just 200kms per day unless I am in a rush.

Gadgets/Batteries
Remember to charge your batteries/gadgets while you're driving. Also remember to record your driving with your GoPro or video camera for those special spots.   

C) Down days:

These are the days that we should look forward to especially.  If you plan yourself out well enough, you'll found a great place to park your van with a fresh water supply, hiking trails, great views, protection from the wind, and with some solitude (if that's what you're looking for!).   Try to stay there at least 2-3 days!


Music/etc - one thing I use is my Bluetooth portable speaker.  I plug it in to my 12v house battery (attached to my solar panel) and I'm unlimited power for my music needs.  Every day the sun goes down and my house battery is fully charged from the sun. Or if you're like me, most the time I prefer not to listen to music, but rather I like to listen to natural sounds like birds, the wind, and rain falling. It's soothing...

----> Leaving your van -  Eg. If you found a great spot by a mountain on a lake, go for a nice hike, bring your camera or drawing pad or painting gear.  Or bring your paper notepad and write some notes for your blog.  When you pack a day pack, pack a nice tuna sandwich, trail mix, a banana, get some water. Prior to going for really long hike of course, make sure the weather is going to cooperate. Don't be a dummy and get stuck out of the bush 10kms away from your van and get hypothermic; learn how to read the weather and pack accordingly. If you think the weather is going to be shit, then don't go.  If you go, then don't forget to bring your camera too!  Whenever you leave your van, make sure you lock it and enable the alarm system. Close all curtains as well!   Yes people can rob your van in the middle of the bush.  Don't forget your sunscreen and a light rain jacket either!

----> Hanging out in your van - If you're going to be hanging out at your van all day, you can go for a swim and in the lake or in the ocean. If you have the proper soap (as in hemp soap) you could take a bath in the lake with soap without fear of killing any fish.  Speaking of fish, if you're into fishing and have your gear, go for it; as you might catch tonight's dinner!  If you're just exhausted for any reason take a nice long nap in the middle the afternoon; leave your van door open while your van protects you from the dangerous UV rays. Or while on your van, you can update your blog the last two or three days of your trip while it's still fresh in your mind.    If you're hanging out in your van all day, you can also wash your clothes in the lake using the same hemp soap that you just took a bath with.  As many of us know, the limitation of van camping means that we have to wash our clothes whenever possible.  So if you're parked up by a nice lake on a sunny warm day, washing your clothes and hanging them out to dry is it smart move.

Nighttime - If the weather permits, try star gazing and/or star photography!  It's fun and if you're as lucky I am here in New Zealand, you'll have a nice clear sky filled with stars!  If you're not hitting the road tomorrow, then stay up late and enjoy the show!   If the weather is bad, use that time to stay warm in your van to update your blog, read a book and/or watch a movie on your portable hard drive.  Remember to charge your batteries/gadgets every night while you are not planning on driving that next day! 


Meals - When you're not driving for a few days, your options for meals are much larger (pun intended).  You can have a nice big breakfast with your eggs, bacon, and bread. Don't forget the orange juice and coffee too!  You'll have heaps of time to wash and dry your dishes. Same goes for dinner too, Took a nice big meal you deserve it!  My recommendation for lunch, keep it simple and small and have plenty of snacks in the middle such as trail mix & fruit. Don't forget to drink a lot of water too!

Maintenance - as hard as it may seem to imagine, you may need to use your down day to fix something on the van and/or air it out from being wet inside.   I was like keeping my van fresh  smelling because in small spaces, even the smallest of bad smells can seem huge. Open up your van's rear door and all of the other doors, and let the wind blow straight through.  Take out your sleeping bag, unzip it and hang on your van so it can air out as well.   Clean your van out as there is nothing worse than a nasty dirty van. A general rule of thumb is that the smaller the space, the easier it is to get dirty or unorganised.  If you're going to be outside under the sun for a lot of the day, make sure you use your sunscreen and drink a lot of water.

If you're going to have to fix something, this is the day for it.  Now I am mechanically inclined, but definitely not a mechanic.  I can probably change the oil on my van, change a tire, top off some  fluids, fix some wiring wiring issues and other minor things, but that's about it.  The more mechanically inclined you are, the better you will be off you will be while road tripping alone.

As stated above this is not a complete advice list for solo camping trips/expeditions, but you get the idea...



Wednesday, 6 July 2016

6/7/2016 - Major modification - Rear open diff conversation to L.S.D. (Limited Slip Diff)


It's been a while since I have had a major modification done on my van.   The only thing I thought I could've done more was to add a hot tub (which wouldn't fit anyway), a diesel heater, an electrical water heater or completely swapping out my rear differential to a locker or limited slip diff.   

My rear axel off and naked! 

The hot tub idea is not going to work obviously!
A diesel heater?  Perhaps I don't quite need it now since I have good insulation and -9c down sleeping bag.


I did however Think long and hard about swapping out my rear open diff to get a locker installed.  I looked at the pricing and it was far out of my price range.  So I look into getting a limited slip diff, but the problem is there are no factory ones available for this van. So G Guy Motors started doing research on where I can get one. Farther north up in New Plymouth, there was a Delica L400 which was recently totalled from an accident or something.  The L400 shares the same chassis as my van, less the rear limited slip diff. 



G Guy Motors had this LSD tested and it was in perfect working order. The supplier mailed down the LSD and the work began my van. The cost of the part was about $450-500, however once install it will provide a lot more traction in my current rear open diff.  Now I'm not mechanic but I can tell you it looks very impressive.


I'm looking forward to taking this off-road especially taking it off road in the snow.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

27/6/2016- Getting exciting for my winter ski/snowshoe safari 4WD expedition

This photo was found Google images & not mine.  I will take more and
better ones for sure!

New Zealand's Southern Alps are arguably the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world.    In early August this year, I am departing on an 18 day solo ski, snowboard, photography & Southern Lights 4WD expedition.    One of my primary goals is to ski a total of 9 days in Queenstown and Wanaka, but moreso to explore the less explored vast areas of snow-covered Milford Sound, Mt Cook National Park and the Lake Tekapo regions.

Later this week, I am getting a major overhaul (upgrade) on the rear diff (differential) for my 4WD systems. I am getting it upgraded from an open diff to a LSD (limited slip diff) which will greatly increase my already good traction on snow, rocky and slippery terrain.   The 4WD experts doing this work suggest perhaps up to 50% increase in efficiency and traction especially when in running in 4WD low gear ratio mode.

With the very high ground clearance on my van added in with a LSD 4WD system, I am very excited to get on the snow and remote mountain roads.   Life is good...follow me on this blog or my Twitter page:

@NZ_420van

Monday, 20 June 2016

18/6/2015 - Winterised water tanks and temperature


OK so I am getting prepared for my 3 week long solo ski expedition/safari this winter.   Considering that I will be driving over snowy potentially and dangerous areas at cold nights and that water is a necessity of life, I don't want to risk having my 40L fresh water freeze up on me.   My van has both floor and window insulation both, but the only heating source is myself (human body created heat).   Given this, I want to be sure my water tanks won't freeze when I am not in the van.

I went onto E-bay and found a nice battery-free small thermometer/humidity gauge.   It only cost $4.00 delivered from Hong Kong. Score! With my leftover super glue and velcro from prior internal modifications, I was set.  First the water bottles were fully covered by a warm baby blanket.

A warm baby blanket fully surrounded by a strap for my 40L water supply
Step 1 - Velcro on the side of my book shelf

Step 2 - opposite velcro on the thermometer




Step 3 - Mount the thermometer
Done!!!!!
One other benefit of having a thermometer/humidity gauge is that I can tell when whether is changing. This is a side effect from my meteorology training as as pilot.   If you can read the weather, then you can safely traverse the roads as well.  Wicked!

Friday, 17 June 2016

17/6/2016 - Twitter account

OK OK, so I am just finally getting my Twitter account going from when it was created in 2010.  You can follow me via the hashtag:




or going directly going to my Twitter account at:

https://twitter.com/NZ_420Van

Cheers