DrivenDirt.com recently got a chance to interview Blake Boyce from DrivenDirt.com on his overlanding rig, equipment, what he feels is the best overland vehicle and modifications. A must read for anybody interested in overlanding and expeditions.
How long have you been into overlanding, off-roading and expeditions?
It all started with a bicycle when I was just a boy. I completed a 136 mile “overland” trip with a group of young cycling/camping/outdoor enthusiasts. I was intrigued by every aspect, logistics, meals, equipment, and the preparation of ourselves physically and mentally for the journey. So, I’ve been interested in expedition, overland travel for 20 years, but things really took off when we made the move out west (from Wisconsin) 6 years ago.
What has been your favorite trip location or destination?
I have favorites regionally, that said, I absolutely adore the Sierra Nevada Mountains(central California, western Nevada). Beginning at the desert floor, action packed with switchbacks and constant terrain changes while climbing thousands of feet in elevation. At every crest, a breathtaking view. If you time the trip just right, be prepared for a snowball fight in shorts and a T-shirt.
What do you think is the perfect vehicle to start with as the base for the best overland vehicle?
Jeep Cherokee XJ. Our first purpose built rig was a 1989 XJ, rattle can OD green. These small SUV’s of yesteryear are a great package of equipment, reliability, and affordability. They offer ample interior storage space, shelter from the elements, and a tried and true power plant. I wheeled that XJ on 32” tires with a Lincoln locker right along side built JKU’s on 37’s. They’re just awesome little rigs.
What do you consider to be the top three modifications or add-ons to a vehicle for overlanding, which you cannot live without or you do first?
Food, water, shelter. Start there, go out have an adventure and learn.
Hot dogs, a few gallons of water and a sleep system(inside the rig or tent and bag etc). From there you’ll learn what you want to do, where you want to go, and modify your rig/kit to adapt accordingly.
Top 3 vehicle requirements,
- A/T All Terrain tires at a minimum. Street tires just aren’t durable enough for the back roads and some of the highways at this point.
- Lockers or lights next. This will be up for debate and will be dependent on where you want to go. Do you want to go further and traverse more difficult terrain to gain access to the most remote, beautiful places? Go with lockers first. Are you taking the family down a few fire service roads and staying at an established campground? Lights might come first.
- Med kit, tool kit and at a minimum, a YouTube university degree in how to use these items. How to change your tire, clean and patch up a wound etc.
Do you prefer gasoline/petrol or diesel powered vehicles for overlanding and why?
Double edged sword, both have their pros and cons. Parts availability takes the cake. Here in the USA, one can repair a petrol/gasoline powered vehicle in the parking lot of most auto parts stores. Modern diesels are still too new to have parts readily available and the older diesels are simply less common. I chose the 4.0L gas engine in our 1998 Jeep TJ for its simplicity, reliability, torque, and parts availability.
Do you prefer a pickup truck type overland vehicle or a closed SUV type vehicle?
I prefer an SUV for the shorter wheelbase. While the storage in the bed of a truck is great, they are just too big for where we like to travel. We truly enjoy the raw, taste the dust and smell the exhaust experience. We’ll rip the top off the SUV, throw some half doors on and its perfect.
Do you prefer fixed drawer systems for packing and storage in an overland vehicle, or rather removable and stackable bags or containers?
Drawer systems are a commitment, physically and financially but they are the epitome of efficiency. The less time spent in set up is more time spent doing what you love. Drawer systems take the cake and can store it too.
Do you prefer soft storage like bags and pouches or hard storage like chests, trunks and boxes?
Both have their place. Bags will form to odd shape places, such as, floor pans or rear window cut outs. Cases are great for exterior storage, provided they have a functional seal to keep the dust out. We use a combination of dry bags and cases in our load out.
Do you prefer a flip open type tent, or popup type?
Flip open with an annex is our favorite sleep system/living quarters. The flip open offers a larger sleeping platform, functions as an awning and with an annex you gain the ability to stand up. The ability to stand up putting on pants is a simple pleasure that often goes overlooked.
What is your go-to recipe for a meal on an overland trip if you do not want to think too hard about what to make to eat?
Carne asada tacos. Prep the protein in a marinade at home, pack some fresh bell peppers, onions, and a package of tortillas. It’s a quick and easy preparation, all in one cast iron pan so its speedy clean up as well.
Carne Asada Marinade:
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- ½ orange, sliced
- ⅓ cup lime juice
- ⅓ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ bunch cilantro, stems cut off and leaves chopped
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
- 2 teaspoons salt
Do you prefer flood-type lighting to cover everywhere close to you, or long distance throw type lighting so you can see a mile or more ahead?
We use both. I swapped the stock Jeep headlights for a high powered LED with great throw. On the A pillars, we use flood LED’s for ditch lights to broaden our forward perspective along with underbelly “rock” lights to illuminate the immediate surroundings.
Do you use yellow/amber auxiliary lighting on your overland vehicle or white, and why?
I chose multifunction RGB’s for our auxiliary lighting so we can adjust to our needs per the situations requirements. White is great when you need to see just whats going on down there, but white light is the bat signal for every crawling/flying creature in the wild. We switch between white on the trail and amber/red light at camp. The same principle applies to interior lightning. The red/amber will preserve your night vision and still provide enough light to go about your business.
Do you prefer to rather have some extra stuff you don’t use but might need during an overland trip or rather as little as possible and make do with what is there and rather stay minimal or light?
There is a delicate balance when is comes to your gear. Convenience vs comber some. Pack the on demand hot water heater or bring a kettle and rocket stove? Staying light is important, but efficiency takes precedence. For example, we carry cast iron cook ware. It weighs more than their aluminum counter parts but we save in water consumption and time during clean up using well seasoned cast iron. It’s taken a lot of R&D to dial in our kit to be minimal and efficient.
Do you pack any vehicle spares for overland trips, and if so, what are they?
Yes, spare tire, U joints for the driveshafts and front axel shafts, serpentine belt, electrical(fuses, wire, connectors), along with the proper tools to complete the repair.
Do you like trailers for overlanding, or prefer to keep everything mounted to or on the vehicle itself?
Trailers are great to bring along all the extra gear that you don’t necessarily need and base camp seems like a great idea but in our experience a trailer is more of an anchor than an asset. We sold our trailer and keep everything on the rig.
What do you consider essential parts of your recovery gear?
Winch, static strap, snatch block, and a few shackles. We use steel cable on our old Warn M8000, with proper weight rated metal shackles, 30 ft static strap, 6 ft bridle or tree saver, and a shovel. I’ve used a shovel in recovery more often than any of the stated gear.
What is in your bug out bag?
We recently swapped our bug out backpacks for a micro survival kit. The micro kit contains, nutritional bars, 550 paracord, tarp, trash bags, reflective blankets, and a fire kit. The contents of this micro kit along with the quick detach med kit on my drivers seat, my EDC items(fixed blade knife, multi tool, etc) and most importantly, the skills to use the tools effectively, we have what we need to survive.
Anything else you would want to add?
Throw a dart at the map, pack the necessities, and head out on an adventure. Test your rig, test your gear, but most importantly test yourself. Once you’ve done the planning, filled up the tank and nervously drove all the way out there, take a moment and realize you’ve done it. You are self sustainable, made it all the way out here all on your own. Overlanding provides a unique opportunity to travel through yesteryear and appreciate the simple tasks we take for granted all while casting your gaze upon vast natural beauty. It’s a humbling experience, I’d highly recommend.