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Designing the Perfect Roadtrip

North to Alaska
This week's Bootsnall 2012 Indie Travel Challenge is to design the perfect roadtrip.

I thought his would be right up my alley but then I saw the questions they asked.

Who’s with you in the car?
I might just be in trouble here. I'm going solo on this adventure.

What snacks are in the cooler?
Definitely in trouble. I haven't even thought about this yet.

Adding jerry cans to the
swing-out bumper

One thing I have been focusing on is gear.

This is interesting because when I reflect on past roadtrips and what made them memorable - the equipment had little to do with it. The best trips have been spontaneous and simple. Riding in the back of a pickup truck to a music festival in Malawi, borrowing a completely underpowered compact car to see temples in India - these trips didn't involve extensive planning or preparation, at least on my part.

Yet when it came time to design my own perfect roadtrip, gear was a primary focus.

I enjoy fiddling fiddling with gear.  Everything I own has been modified in some way.
That tendency has been unleased on my trip planning with a vengeance. Modifying my vehicle, customizing electronics, choosing the survival and comfort gear I will carry - these things have taken time away from traveling.  Time will tell if it was worth it.

Tearing apart the interior for the 4th time
For entertainment I have 250GB of MP3s on a small Android tablet mounted to the dash. A simple head unit sends signal to an amplifier that powers four speakers in the front and a sub built into the rear quarter panel. To help get un-lost I have a GPS navigator and SD cards with maps from the Open Street Map Foundation.  To power everything reliably, I have an upgraded alternator, a second group 31 battery on an isolator and solar panels.

The vehicle itself is an older 4wd with a mechanical Diesel engine. I have a hi-lift jack and some basic recovery gear along with two spare tires, an air compressor and some basic spare parts.  I have the tools on board to disassemble most of the things that might need disassembling.

Packed and ready to roll
I built a sleeping platform into the rear which I covered with a foam mattress from Ikea.  Next to the platform is a Norco 12v refrigerator.  This is full of film and sometimes delicious beer.  Under the platform I keep the kitchen, which I can slide out onto the tailgate whenever I want to use the stove.

 If things turn out just right - all this material junk and time spent on gear will enable an uninhibited and free-wheeling journey.

Like the equipment, the location is really just a means to an end.  While I'm planning to travel through Mexico, Central  and South America, if I lived in the other hemisphere I'd be planning for Africa or Asia.  I love Latin America but it is just the setting.

To me the perfect roadtrip is one where spontaneity rules.  It is flippant around the beaten path.  There are mishaps.  The top or the windows are often down.  New friends are made and old ones made better.  Cultural boundaries are crossed.

I have no idea how to design a trip like that.


  1. Great setup, I am with you, it is all about the gear and the planning. In our overland vehicles space is always an issue so planning ahead will save you some head ache.

    See you on the road!

  2. Thanks. It's been a trip just getting the vehicle built (& rebuilt & rebuilt).

    My alternator just got finished so I should be able to install it, the solar panels, pack my gear and start driving again ... finally!

    Maybe we'll cross paths on your way back up :)

  3. Love the article, I prefer to travel solo like yourself and see what adventures come my way. Also, looks like you've built yourself an ultimate road trip vehicle. Way jealous!

    1. Thank you. I'm still working on Betsy. Time will tell how well this all works out.

      So far (North America) it's been good although parts availability & the diesel learning curve has been a challenge.

      I think Latin America will be the real test.

      Whenever people tell me they are jealous, I ask myself, "would I do it again?" We'll see have to see about that :)