Tuesday, November 9, 2010


We chose to drive a 2004 Nissan Xterra with a roof top tent, a built-in storage system and everything we’d need to camp at a hot springs for a week while retaining the ability to pull into a garage underneath a hostel in a crowded “centro.” You can check out our thought process behind going with the Xterra, but the general idea was something small, reliable, capable and low profile. In making decisions about modifications and what to bring, we tried to ride the line between planning for the unknown without packing so much gear and spares that we’d end up breaking the suspension and needing the extra set of springs we strapped to the roof after all!

Check out blog postings labeled Vehicle or scroll down to see our modifications and preparations. For specific gear like the tent, fridge etc, check out the Gear page.

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Which and Why
Upgraded Battery Optima YellowTop Dual Purpose Battery
54 Amp hours. Can handle deeper discharges. Gel battery is more durable on rough roads. Would last at least two days running our Engel 17 fridge while parked or at least 4 when topped off with our 26 Watt Brunton solar panel and charge controller. Check the Gear page for info.
Rear Spare Tire Mount Shrockworks Rear Spare Tire Carrier
Swings away to allow the rear hatch to open. Lockable to keep the tire attached and to provide another layer to go through to get into the back of the truck. The original idea was to be carry two spare tires but we found that the tire with the extra rim I bought on eBay didn’t fit under the car with the new bumper. We’ll rely on fix-a-flat, a tire plug kit and the numerous roadside llanteras in case of a double flat day. Check out our tire changing vid for some fun.
Under Bumper Storage Since the spare won’t fit under the rear of the car with the new bumper, I customized a larger ammo can that can be raised or lowered with the chain and crank. Of course, that is if there’s a hole in the bumper (scroll towards the bottom of this link)…
Improved Shocks No huge suspension upgrade here. Just a fresh pair of heavy duty shocks.
Aux Fuel Kolpin 4 gallon C.A.R.B. Fuel Pack
Mounted under the roof top tent between the side bars.
Under RTT Storage Ammo cans and a modified storage bin that slide between roof and tent. See Aux Fuel link above.
Fixed ladder Gobi Ladder
Mounted on rear door for access to roof tent. Okay fine, you got us, it’s so I can get out to go to the bathroom without climbing over Ann in the middle of the night.
Recovery Strap Smittybilt CC230 Recovery Strap
And it’s even been tested! Check out the story
Traction Aid Colorado TrackPads
Resin waffleboards originally meant for us as industrial flooring. Read more
Folding Shovel Gerber Gorge Folding Shovel 
A shovel seems to be an essential on anyone’s recovery tools list though this one is a little “cute” compared to most hard-core four wheelers. Still, it’d get the job done and should come in handy for other things around camp. This one has a hammer mode which will be nice for awning stakes.
Storage drawers We read through the thread at Expedition Portal and got some good ideas. Check out the full write up on the system we built. Just added a “lockbox” to it.
Interior Bungee Storage The interior ceiling is webbed with 1/4” bungee cord from the hardware store secured to factory hooks and grab handles. Perfect for storage of long, thin items like my 2.5m kitesurfing trainer kite, Washburn travel guitar, a large beach umbrella, and telescoping awning poles.
Locking Lugs Gorilla Automotive 61621 Acorn Guard Locks (12mm x 1.25)The challenge is always keeping track of the keys…
Tamper-resistant License Plate Screws At this point, I have both plates mounted with a variety of security screws, nuts, bolts and allen keys. Yeah, you could get ‘em off but you better bring your full toolkit. 
Locking gas cap Stant 10508 Locking Fuel Cap
Like most of our security measures, only meant to slow someone down.
Immobilizer/Kill Switch One of the best “peace of mind” modifications we did. A simple, “hidden in plain sight” switch that killed power to the fuel pump and rendered the car undriveable. A little harder to figure out than a standard battery disconnect. Read more in my thread on ClubXterra.org.
Club The Original Club Steering Wheel Lock - Red
Sure you can just cut or break ‘em of but it’s extra measure of deterrent.
Fire extinguisher Only you can prevent car-B-ques (and see below re: safety triangles)
Flashlight MAGLITE RX1019 Heavy-Duty Rechargeable Flashlight
You know those big D battery ones. This ones got all the self-defending heft and deterring brightness with an AC and DC adapter for recharging. Mounted on the driver door and ran power to the fuse box. The 16-year-olds with machine guns in Baja thought this was the coolest thing ever, but it took us a while to come up with the vocab word “recargable.”
Toolkit Complete but not overkill including standard and metric ratchets and a hand-drive up to 17mm and 3/4”, multi-bit screwdriver, Dremel multi-tool, misc files and chisels, soldering iron, gloves and safety glasses.
Spares and repairs
  • Fix-a-Flat (truck/SUV size) - 2 cans
  • Mini Air Compressor
  • Tire Plug Kit
  • orange warning triangles (for safety as well as the fact that we’ve heard that some cops will shake you down if you don’t have them)
  • Spare belts – went to Kragen and asked for one of everything.
  • Fluids – 2 quarts of oil, Stop-Leak for radiator
  • Hoses – Multi-size repair kits for hose blowouts
  • Spare headlight bulbs, turn signals – no need to give a cop an excuse to flag you down
  • JBWeld – Hardens like metal to fix holes in gas tanks, etc.
  • The usual wire, duct table, epoxy, seam grip, superglue etc “fix-alls.”