Overland Preparation: Jessie Inside Out

In Jessie and I, Travel by David47 Comments

Jessie in her natural habitat. Trona Pinnacles, CA.
Click the image to see a larger version.

For a truck as relatively small as Jessie (a 1993 right-hand drive diesel Land Rover Defender 90), she holds a lot of gear, which is a good thing as the trip on which I set out at the end of February will take me 10 months of on-and-off driving to complete and will take me through almost every possible weather condition. I’ll be traveling coast to coast through rainforests, deserts, mountains, prairies; almost every kind of geography North America has to offer except tundra. Sometimes I’ll be in cities, sometimes small towns, other times in the middle of absolutely nowhere, so while this is no expedition, I’ve needed to prepare for a certain amount of self-sufficiency.

Without boring you with an exhaustive packing list that details toothbrushes and spare eyeglasses and how many USB cables I have, here’s what Jessie’s carrying, inside and out. I guess I don’t need to tell you I don’t travel light.

Western Mountaineering down sleeping bag
MEC overbag for use as a summer sleeping bag
Black Diamond lanterns (1 large, 2 small)
Black Diamond Headlamps (2)
Coleman 2-burner propane stove
MSR cookset inc. pots, utensils, plates, bowls
2 x MSR 10L Dromedary bags for water storage
2 x Large Kathmandu travel towels
Assorted Kitchen goods for cooking and cleanup
REI foldable kitchen sink
3 x Nalgene Bottles
1 lexan french press for coffee
1 PETT Portable toilet for leave-no-trace camping
1 12v Cooler
1 MSR Zing Tarp
1 MSR Mutha Hubba Tent
1 Hammock
2 REI camp chairs
1 REI roll-top camp table

1 ActionPacker with a week’s worth of freeze-dried meals, clif bars, and dry foods
2 ActionPackers for all of the kitchen stuff, except the stove

3 pairs blue jeans
2 pairs light nylon hiking pants
4 Filson long sleeve shirts, cotton.
3 Patagonia short sleeve shirts, cotton
2 merino wool t-shirts
5 pairs Icebreaker underwear
5 pairs Icebreaker socks
2 Icebreaker merino wool sweaters
1 Patagonia Retro Fleece jacket
1 Patagonia Down Parka
1 Patagonia rain jacket
1 pair Patagonia rain pants
Hats, gloves, BUFF bandanas
Merino wool long underwear (top & bottom)
1 pair Blundstone boots
1 pair Asolo technical boots
1 pair Keen sandals
3 dress shirts just in case I need to impress someone. ๐Ÿ™‚

All these fit into 1 ActionPacker (for Rain and Cold) and 2 small MEC duffles.

2 x Nikon D3s bodies, 9 lenses
2 x chargers, 5 batteries
1 Hasselblad 500 c/m
1 Canon G9
2 x GoPro HD video cameras
2 x 64 GB SanDisk CF cards for each Nikon body
2 FW800 CF card readers
3 Pocket Wizards, 2 strobes, gels, etc.
1 Aquatech water housing with Canon 5D and 17-40/4.0
2 Gitzo tripods, 1 Gitzo monopod
1 Manfrotto Magic Arm

All this, except tripods,ย  fits into 3 Pelican 1650 cases, 2 of which also hold a Kiboko bag with the gear inside.

17″ and 13″ MacBook Pro laptops
10 harddrives
EyeOne Display calibrator
Medium Wacom Intuos4 tablet
Assorted cables and dongles, etc.
2 HyperMac batteries
1 iPad, usually mounted to the dashboard so I can sing along with Josh Ritter and Mumford & Sons as I drive.
1 iPhone and a ludicrously expensive monthly phone bill
1 Virgin MiFi

Some of this fits into a large Patagonia messenger bag, some of it into my fourth Pelican 1650 case.

Other Stuff
1 ActionPacker for personal stuff, medication, toiletries, laundry soap, etc.
1 ActionPacker with spare parts for the Land Rover
1 ActionPacker with miscellaneous bits and pieces that in normal life would go in my office. Envelopes, pens, spare Moleskine journals, folders for receipts, a couple novels I’ve got no time to read.
1 Think Tank Retrospective 30 satchel, my primary working bag when I’m shooting.
1 Timbuktu Doctor Duffle for weekend trips.
1 North Face Base Camp Duffle, L, rolled up tight, for international travel.

Land Rover
1 Large First Aid Kit
1 Fire extinguisher
1 Hi-Lift Jack
1 full-sized matching spare.
1 Gerber camp axe
1 fold-up shovel
1 tow rope
1 tool kit
1 set charge cables
1 inverter hard-wired into auxiliary battery to charge electronics
1 spare inverter
2 Atlases
Garmin GPS

The top of the Defender is my home, an Autohome Columbus Variant, the Large one, mounted on Thule racks.

Corwin and Jessie. Pinnacles, CA.
Click the image to emBiggen.

I’ll discuss security and logistics in future posts, both of them significant concerns that took a little planning, but that list should satisfy the curious. As I have time I’m happy to reply to comments and questions.


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  2. Excellent! I have one of those. Actually, it’s a Land Rover Defender with tent atop. And it’s in South Africa… but I know the life. And love it.

    Thanks for being my muse…

  3. Jim – I chose the Columbus Variant because it seemed better in winds, as it has some directionality to it. So far it’s been great. I’ve not heard of the Air Borne, will have to check it out. Apologies for the short reply.

  4. Like everyone else, I’m jealous. I have two questions about your Auto Home (which I never heard of until I saw your reference). 1) how does it do when up in strong winds? 2) Why did you choose this model over the Maggiolina which appears to have more room. I’m thinking of the Air Borne for myself.

  5. Jessica – because you asked so nicely:

    Sigma lenses:
    15mm diagonal fisheye
    20/1.8 EX
    85/1.4 EX

    Nikon lenses:
    24mm T/S
    2x tele-extender

    Zeiss lenses:

  6. I kept scrolling down, waiting for the good stuff, and then it just said: 9 lenses. WHICH LENSES? I don’t care about all of the other stuff (though I’m sure you do), I want to know what glass you’re using!

    Ok, rant over. Feel free to ignore this comment. But if you want to indulge my curiosity, I’d appreciate it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Oh’David!
    Smells like coffee in here… which Action Packer do you keep your coffee in? Hope you are enjoying being on the road with the wind in your hair. Cheers big ears! George

  8. Hey David! Thanks for taking me along (via your blog!) Lovin’ every story, and looking forward to the next post… Happy ~ and Safe travels! Greg

  9. I am so glad I stumbled over your blog. This trip sounds wonderful. I hope you will have the time of your life – get lots of photos and memories. I will follow this blog to see what happens to you. I liked the list of what Jessie is carrying for you – she is a really strong “lady” ๐Ÿ™‚
    I just started with my digitalcamera – so hopefully I will get alot of inspiration and ideas from your trip on your blog ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank You for sharing.
    Take Care and Be Strong – Good luck.

  10. David

    big reader of your blog, vision mongers and a couple of ebooks, but new to posting. I just wanted to say this looks like an awesome trip and I hope Gods reveals Himself to you like never before. Some of the pictures im seeing looks like your getting some pretty incredible gifts already.Speaking of that – I was wondering if you could share the technical details of how we can take pictures like the night one with the stars in this post – its soo cool. so yeah – please share.

  11. David
    Envy you your trip. I have been on several similar trips but limited to the Western US. They are great fun, particularly if you are not constrained by time. After reading your list of contents I have some concern if Jessie has enough bees under her bonnet for some of our Western mountain passes. I have been on some where it was a real struggle to get up, but then I understand that Jessie has some real low range gears. With that load you may need to use them. If that doesn’t work, you could try backing up. I understand that most vehicles have a lower range available in reverse. Good luck.

  12. I really love the second photograph. It has a magic to it that I really like.

    “I often think the night is more alive and richly coloured than the day.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

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  14. this is a thrillingly terrific adventure which even Samuel Clemens would be inspired by! stay safe- and have a great time!

  15. Do you need to use some sort of surge protector when hooking things to your inverter ?
    Last time I used one I fried a battery charger, probably a power spike..

  16. I haven’t been on a road trip in a long time, but you give me desire… just need to convince my 5 month old daughter, my wife (shouldn’t be too hard) and to win the lottery (the hardest part)
    Great last image

  17. Great post and great shots too. Glad to hear Jessie is doing well. I pick up my new 90 on Wednesday and am very excited to get her kitted out for our first big trip – won’t quite be on your scale but the Australia outback is pretty awesome. Safe travels.

  18. Wow, fantastic night image!

    Can’t tell you how impressed I am with your logistical planning and approach. Carrying that amount of gear would worry the heck out of me.


  19. One thing very obviously missing from the list: the Gitzo Jacket! Would including it have exceeded Jessie’s maximum load? ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. First of all – I’m amused, curious, jealous and entertained to read about and see images from your journey – I’m sure a lot of “pieces” will appear here on your blog. And maybe a book after this 10-month journey?
    And as far as your list… – where does it all fit???

    And – Good Luck with your trip!

  21. That second image is really strong. Great light and mood here. Thanks for sharing the details. Makes for an interesting read and valuable ideas should a similar opportunity arrise.

  22. Yep, me again, but Dave also got me thinking… Art once told me a story about how he spent 6 mo in the west, some of the best shooting he had ever done and I believe it was for a book. He and his crew pulled into SF beat tired, so they left the gear and film in a cooler in the back of the truck. In the morning the found it had all been stolen. I know your gear is coved, and it would be tragic to hear it happened, but what are you doing about off site storage? I am sure you have it sorted, but just thought I should share this heart breaking story that still brings him a bit of pain even today, just in case…….

  23. So great to watch your progress, bro. What a blessing! Wishing you deep and fruitful times. Thanks for sharing.

  24. Re: 3 x Nalgene Bottles

    Does this include the “green” one that you should never drink out of?

  25. LOVE the photos! I always find gear lists interesting. Thanks for that. Enjoy the next leg of your trip and keep Corwin out of trouble. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Love the idea behind this trip. I plan to do something like this in years to come. Just cant make it fly right now. I for sure will be keeping an eye on this blog. Nice to see the list of gear you planto take.

    Best of luck and cant wait for the next update.

  27. OH yeah….. amazing what you packed and fit into Jessie and the realization that you are working from the road for a year!

  28. I love that night shot, stunning colours and it really tells the story that goes with the blog post.

    I am so lucky to have your list to work with as I prepare for my own trip. Some of those things I have to look up. The only thing that surprised me when I read it was the 10 hard drives! 10?!! Yeah, ok, they’re small and that’s probably a really good idea.

    Thanks for such an informative post.


  29. I love this stuff. Great Post. Love your second story home. It will be interesting to follow your travels if you post those…


  30. really looking forward to “being with you” on this journey david – in spirit only unfortunately but exciting nevertheless.

  31. For a simple list of stuff that was an engaging read. I imagined the purpose and use of everthing, the uses, the backups, the stuff you might not use, the stuff you might never have expected you couldn’t do without. Cool. Loving the updates. Wonder how much the list will change/how much dirt will be accumulated by the time you reach Newfoundland.

  32. Amazing!! Such a cool trip, I’m so glad you’re sharing! It’d be a dream to try to do this myself, so excited to see this pan out for you! Happy Trails ๐Ÿ™‚ You should consider some sort of google checkin/tracking. I’ve seen it on another photog’s website, I’m sure we’d love to say heeeeey if we see you!

  33. Hey David, is that tent platform long enough for someone 6 ft 3 in? And what is the weight limit?

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