The North Coast 500 (NC500) Adventure: Part 2

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I mentioned in my last blog that I would be sharing a bit of an overview on the following, which I will cover one at a time:

  • Our vehicle
  • Our newly purchased roof tent
  • Our new vehicle awning
  • Preparation for the visit

 

Our Vehicle

I have a 2016 Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian (Series 5), which I have owned since new. So far, I have been really pleased with it and it has served us well, whether on family holidays, winter trips to Glencoe or the Cairngorms, or weekends away. As we spend a lot of time outdoors, we (mainly I) have a lot of gear, which takes up plenty space (as my wife likes to remind me!!), in addition to a toddler, who comes with plenty gear of his own, AND a dog – the L200 has been great for us.

I have an old (1995) Land Rover Discovery 1 (300tdi), which I (and now my son) love. It was my first car, and my dad bought it new nearly 25 years ago now, but on longer trips as a family, it lacks the space and perhaps the comfort (spoiled with modern cars now!) that a family needs for taking everything away on this kind of trip.

The Barbarian is the top spec L200, and has everything that you could want to make long days in the car more enjoyable. I have made very few additions to the vehicle, other than fitting roof bars, but plan to change the tyres to All Terrain tyres (from the current half terrain) soon.

We have taken it off the beaten track in almost every condition, and whilst I wouldn’t say I have thrown ‘everything’ at it, I would say that it has far more abuse than most family cars, and allowed us to enjoy the outdoor environments that we like to within the UK. It has coped admirably when we have been exploring the Scottish Highlands in its notoriously wild winters.

I have made some recent additions, which I will come onto below in more detail, which will allow us to venture further afield into Europe, exploring the Alps, and beyond as a family. These additions of the Ventura Roof tent and an Arb Awning will make our trips a good bit more comfortable and will enable us to get ‘set-up’ quickly, even in bad weather, which is important with a young family.

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Ventura Roof Tent

I recently purchased a roof tent, and awning pack, from William at Ventura Roof Tents. The Ventura tent had positive reviews and was almost half the price of its nearest competitor, and so I thought I would give it a go. As I do quite a bit of winter mountaineering in Scotland, it will be handy for camping in the cold weather, so I am off the frozen and solid ground, which is where the cold comes up from in a traditional tent. This was my primary reason for buying one, but as the set-up time is relatively quick, it will be perfect for our North Coast 500 trip.

To date, I have only used the tent solo and for a weekend in the Lakes, although it rained quite heavily, and the tent seems good value for the money currently. William has been very helpful with answering my questions and queries, and so I am excited to test this out as a family, as it allows touring different places much more enjoyable.

The tent is a three-man tent, and so ample room for two adults, our son and a dog. The tent can open over the back, or from the side of your vehicle, and has a cover over the ladder entrance so you stay dry when entering and leaving the tent, and you have the option to attach the awning or not – depending whether you need the shelter/space. The tent takes about 5 minutes or so to set up (10-15 mins if you are setting up the awning) and a similar time to take down, which is much quicker than most traditional tents, as you can leave your sleeping bags inside the tent, if you wish. The tent has a 3-4 inch mattress which is very comfortable and is much thicker than the roll mat that I use when camping.

Obvious benefits include being off the ground, and in a much more comfortable environment, along with speed to erect, and take down the tent. The limitations are quite obvious, in that once set up, you cannot move your vehicle without taking the tent down, and if conditions are windy – being higher up usually means more blowy conditions.

So far though, I am pleased with the tent and would recommend thoroughly. Please contact me if you would like more specific information about the tent – happy to share in more details. The tent will allow us to enjoy our overland trips more and to be able to tour areas without some of the ‘faff’ that goes along with traditional camping.

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Arb Vehicle Awning

After a good bit of research into which awning to purchase, I went with the Arb awning, which is 2.5m x 2.5m, and fits well on either my L200 pick-up truck or Land Rover Discovery. The awning will allow us to get shelter quickly (literally 2 minutes set-up time) which will make us a lot more comfortable in adverse weather.

The awning is erected using telescopic poles which allows the quick set up time, but also allows the awning to have a frame which makes it more rigid and almost free standing (obviously excluding the side fixed to the roof rack). Unless there is significant wind, it is unlikely that you need to use the guy ropes included to secure the awning to the ground, although it is always recommended to use these in case of gusts…unless you fancy the thought of peeling your awning off your vehicle roof!

I am really impressed with the quality of the awning, which is re-enforced on each corner where most of the strain comes, but also the awning has straps which go around the telescopic poles to avoid ‘flapping’ of the awning ceiling. It is really well thought through design, as you would expect coming from Arb – renowned for their quality of overland products.

I am really excited to use this and see its usefulness for us, as even in poor weather, we have cover to be able to cook, make a coffee, sit down and basically avoid the elements. I will do a proper review of the awning once we have tested it for a prolonged period of time.

 

Preparation for the trip

So, this is the bit of the trip that I quite enjoy, and is what my wife calls ‘faffing’ – and according to her I am a professional ‘faffer’, which I think means I am good at it! I shouldn’t be proud though apparently.

In all seriousness, for this kind of overland trip it is so important to be organised and know where your equipment is, as not doing would soon become patience-testing! This couldn’t be more the case when travelling with your young family, in what could be poor weather. So, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what equipment to take, how I packed it and where I packed it, so that I knew where things were and they were always to hand. Obviously, the aim is to ensure the equipment that you use more is nearer to the edges, and in places that can be quickly accessed, with other lesser-utilised items at the back of the truck.

In terms of equipment, at a high level this includes:

  • Clothes (for 3 of us)
  • Food
  • Fridge (plugs into the cigarette lighter, with the option for mains)
  • Cooking equipment (a few different stoves and cooking box, which includes cutlery and plates etc.)
  • Camping equipment (sleeping bags, accessories and even a duvet…pre-requisite from my wife!)
  • Tools (light maintenance, and includes spanners, screw drivers etc)
  • Woodburning stove (Frontier)
  • General accessories

The aim of the preparation is to make the trip as easy and enjoyable as possible, so let’s see how successful I am, or if I am really just a ‘faffer’!! 😊

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