Product Review

Memory-Map

26/07/2015  OK, if there is one thing that I cannot do without on our travels, it’s my Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 tablet. Take that away and I’ve had it; I won’t know where we’re going or where we’ve been.

It’s not used for email, or as a camera, or to play games, though it could do so quite capably. I have a laptop to do those kind of things.

The tablet’s primary use is as a navigation and campsite tool. With built-in GPS, it doesn’t rely on mobile cell coverage and will pinpoint its current location anywhere in Australia, direct from the GPS satellites overhead. To supplement the 16GB device memory, I’ve added a 32GB SD card, and for a little added protection, it’s fitted into a cover. Though it can take a SIM card, I haven’t bothered fitting one, and just connect through a Telstra 4G WiFi or one of our mobiles if an internet connection is needed as we travel; rarely necessary though.

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The tablet sits nicely in a spot on the centre console that was almost made-to-order for it, and stays put except on very corrugated roads or rough off-roading.

The navigation app I use is Memory-Map which is a free download and comes with a standard set of basic maps of Australia. I’ve added to these by purchasing HEMA 4WD Australia (full set), Australian Outback Tracks, and EOTopo 200K, using the in-app link to the Digital Map Shop. Together, these maps provide me with very detailed coverage of every part of the country. The topographical maps are useful to get an idea of the incline of the country coming up.

These various maps were downloaded at home while I had the extra bandwidth to work with; it can take some time to pull down the complete data. The maps download either as a full set first time (haven’t mastered that for the big maps yet) or in chunks of data on-the-fly as you scroll around the map, which is OK but you need to be online to pull these data chunks down. So I pulled all the data down for each map by scrolling systematically around every part of each map – takes a little time for the whole country but that way I knew that I had the total data set in my tablet for all the maps and available when offline or travelling.

Each map is like a layer on an onion, with three or four zoom levels each. As you zoom, you might leave one map of that area and go to a different map of the same area, enabling you to select the one that suits you best. It’s all very seamless.

I been using Memory-Map for three years now, initially on an Aldi android tablet for a 4WD trip to Cape York, and have found it to be very, very accurate. We’d be driving along the Telegraph Track in the middle of nowhere, and the map would show a track coming in on the right just around the next bend…and sure enough, there it was, exactly on the mark. That tablet died last year and I was able to transfer all my maps onto a new tablet via my account at http://memory-map.com.au/.

A nice feature of Memory-Map is that our track is overlaid on each map as we go along, providing a visual record of where we’ve been so far. It also features Route Planning which I haven’t used in three years, and Way Points that I sometimes use to flag upcoming points of interest.

Other really useful travel apps loaded onto the tablet are:
WikiCamps AU – Indispensable for deciding on campsites (updated by users).
Just In Time – Indicates nearby public toilets. Great app for the ladies.
Fuel Map – Indicates nearby fuel outlets and latest prices (updated by users).
Music – Plays music or audiobooks loaded onto the SD card.
Various vehicle diagnostic apps that bluetooth into the Land Rover’s various control units to monitor and diagnose performance and faults.

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra

Categories: Product Review, Trip Preparation - Car and Caravan | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Bob Dustrude’s Quick Buck Saw

8/07/2015  I love a camp fire and will get one up and going wherever I can. Finding suitable firewood can sometimes be a challenge, so to cater for all situations, I carry a small arsenal of gear including a small chainsaw, an axe, and a hatchet. But what I use most is a beaut folding bow saw I got from a mob called Four Dog Stove in Minnesota, USA.

Great name – their website says that where they are located, the old-timers used to measure how cold it got at night by how many dogs they’d need on their beds to keep warm.  Two dog nights are cold. Three dog nights are really cold. Four dog night are bitterly cold.  They specialise in making camping stoves for those four dog nights, but also make buck saws, designed by the owner Bob Dustrude.

The one I got is the 24” Quick Buck Saw, with a nice strong Cordura bag (waxed canvas material) and spare raker blade.

I use this saw a lot. It makes light work of cutting firewood for the Snow Peak firepit. Because of its shape, you get the use of the entire blade length to cut bigger timber, meaning you get more cut for less effort.

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Snow Peak Tent Pegs

16/06/2015  It may sound a little odd, but I’m stoked about a tent peg. I do like something that’s well made, does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and does it well. I need to say right now that I’m not affiliated at all with Snow Peak who made them, nor with the supplier that I got them from, Drifta Camping & 4WD . I just buy their gear because it’s so good. These pegs are made in Japan and individually hand forged and finished. I reckon they’re the Samurai Sword of tent pegs. If you’ve ever tried to hammer a standard tent peg into really hard ground, you’ll appreciate just how difficult that can be. The peg bounces all over the place, doesn’t penetrate the ground very well, and tends to bend along its length. So instead of the peg, you end up using something heavy like a sand bag or a rock, and hope for the best. After seeing the videos on the Drifta website about the Snow Peak Tent Pegs (or Stakes as they call them), I bought some to try them out. And they are terrific. I’ve hammered these puppies into some really hard ground, and they’ve gone in straight and without any fuss. Just as importantly, they easily come out as well when I’m breaking camp. I started off with a few of the large 40cm pegs first, and have since purchased some of the 30cm and 20cm ones as well. These have set me up for whatever peg I might need. All the other standard type tent pegs I’ve had have since been tossed as they were nowhere near as good as these Snow Peak ones. These pegs rule… Snow Peak 40cm Tent Peg By the way, check out my tent peg driver/puller. Serious piece of kit. I call it “Thor’s Hammer”. Just show it to a peg and it’ll jump straight into the ground by itself from sheer panic…

Categories: Product Review, Trip Preparation - Car and Caravan | Tags: , , , , ,

Bush Fly Remedy

16/06/2015  Bush Fly Remedy
A bloke we met at West Leichhardt Station, by the name of Noel, put us on to a sure- fire bush fly remedy – “Natural Rosemary and Cedarwood Oils in a Crème” by Nature’s Botanical .

He’d been using it for years and swears by it. Its original use was to keep flies away from horses eyes, but became popular with riders as well. We picked up a jar at a saddlery in Mt Isa, and I believe some camping stores might also be stocking it.

All that’s needed are three small dabs of the crème along each arm and two or three on the face. No need to rub gobs of it all over. Flies might still buzz around you but will no longer land on your face. It smells pretty good too, a bit like freshly polished furniture.

While it’s not cheap, a little goes a long way and no price is too much if it keeps those bloody flies off.

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Snow Peak Fire Pit

6/06/2015  One of my favourite bits of camping gear is my Snow Peak fire pit that I got a couple of years ago from Drifta Camping & 4WD. I love a camp fire and have one going every chance I get, so we’ve used the fire pit a lot in our travels. Not only does it work well, it’s also a good looking bit of kit and I’ve had people coming over to find out what it is and where I got it from.

It’s well constructed from good quality stainless steel and very tough. I reckon it’ll be a family heirloom that our kids and then the grandkids will use. It’ll definitely outlast me.

The fire box sits up off the ground, so it won’t burn the grass and I’ve been able to use it in places where only enclosed fire containers are allowed. The first picture below shows the cooking grill removed and on the ground while I get a good bed of coals going.

The whole thing cleans up quickly which is great, and folds flat and packs into a heavy duty canvas bag that I tuck away in the footwell behind the driver’s seat when we travel. It’s a little beauty and I love it.

“I travel light. But not at the same speed.” ― Jarod Kintz

Categories: Cooking - Photos, Product Review, Trip Preparation - Car and Caravan | Tags: , , ,

Kimberley Kruiser – Stone Stomper

31/05/2015  The places we intend going in the Kruiser, we’ll be striking gravel roads of varying condition. I fitted a Stone Stomper rock guard to protect the front of the van and back of the car from stones and rocks thrown up by the tyres.
20150513_094751As each Stone Stomper is made specifically to the dimensions of the rig, I had to supply these to the company so it would be right for our car and caravan set up. (While measuring it up, I tore a muscle in my lower back and was laid up for a few weeks! Crazy how things happen…)

When the box arrived, fitting it was very simple and took about thirty minutes, thanks to the very detailed fitting instructions that came with it. It’s made of strong truck mesh with thick vinyl sections where added protection might be needed (such as under jerry cans), and attaches to the two front corners of the van, two points under the storage pod, and then to six points on the retaining bar that is bolted to the Mitchell Bros tow hitch on the car.
20150513_095018When unhitching at camp, only the six clips at the vehicle are released and I fold the Stone Stomper back under itself and clip it to the front corners of the van. This keeps it up off the ground and out of the way.
20150513_095031I’m very pleased with it. It’s well made and should work well to protect the van and car.

Categories: Product Review, Trip Preparation - Car and Caravan | Tags: ,

Kimberley Kruiser – New Off-Side Awning

13/05/2015  In our travels, we only set up the large awning if we intend to camp in a spot for a few days. While it’s an excellent piece of design and is very sturdy in winds, it’s a bit fiddly to put up and take down, so for short stays we tend not to bother with it.

While we were back home recently, I had a canvas awning made-to-measure, to provide rain and sun protection for the off-side windows of the van. The awning has a rope edge along one side that fits into the sail track on the edge of the tropical roof, and is supported by four extendable aluminium poles and guy ropes. We’ve just set it up for the first time. It was very quick and easy to do, and does an excellent job of keeping the elements at bay. During rain, we can now leave both banks of windows open for ventilation, or just the off-side ones if the large awning isn’t set up.

When we camp, we try to face the van South-North for optimal solar power generation, so the off-side of the van is generally exposed to the western sun. I may have another canvas panel made up that will lace vertically between the two rearmost poles to prevent solar heat radiating through this section of the caravan wall to the fridge and freezer located directly inside. Still working on the design…

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Categories: Product Review, Trip Preparation - Caravan Outside | Tags: , ,

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