There’s a lot to be said about the quality of gear on the market these days and I reckon I’ve found some of the best quality adventurer bags around.
North Storm owners Marc and Lisa saw a demand on the market for decent waterproof bags and began the process to design several configurations for the market. They now offer three different waterproof bags to suit most outdoor adventures. Each bag has its own features, are versatile so they can store your gear when you're not in the great outdoors and you can also separate the wet and dry stuff while on the go.
North Storm offer a 60 Litre Duffel Bag, 30 Litre Backpack right down to a 20 Litre Dry Bag where they all have an IP66 water proof rating, lightweight, made from 100% waterproof flexible and durable 500D PVC tarpaulin material, all have various lash points and much more.
The waterproof rating makes it totally dust tight while being protected from high pressure jets and can handle a quick dunking. Now I won’t lie, I’ve been giving a couple of these bags a canning the past few months and I’m suitably impressed.
The 30 Litre Backpack is absolutely huge with heaps of usable storage, it's got an extra layer on the base, EVA back pads (thick foam that breathes) on the adjustable back straps, easy to use chest strap, side mesh pockets and the list goes on. I’ve been using it as a fishing backpack when I need to find remote fishing spots where I need to hike in and even wade across the odd creek or two.
At the end of the day the bag has been designed to be hosed off inside and out and dry’s quick due to the PVC material it is made from. Inside you say? Yep - simply stand the bag on the ground and fill it up with water then empty. You’ll achieve two things here, washing out any muck inside that has spilled plus you’ll see just how waterproof these bags are, nothing leaks out.
The other bag I’ve been using is the 60 Litre Duffel Bag made from the same material and has all the same features, but it also comes with added removable straps to be used as a backpack. This bag has its own and serious tie down points (read 8 in total) so it can be strapped to the top of a 4wd, on a bike or jet ski, even inside a boat. With two large internal pockets, an external mesh pocket (great for wet or smelly clothes), end grab handles, a large waterproof roll closure system, plus a host of other features including hard wearing oversize buckles and zips making life easier when fumbling in the dark.
This bag has been riding on top of my 4wd for some time now and been through dust, dirt and rain plus the local car wash and there has been no trace of any moisture inside the bag. Even being out on the tracks all day it’s been great to throw the dirty recovery gear inside the bag knowing that it won’t dump mud and grit inside the car, then to clean just give it a quick hose out with water, give it a wipe down and set aside to dry - it’s that simple.
So what makes these bags stand out for me?
Well its good knowing that they have been designed for our conditions and come from people that have actually put some serious thought and effort into a product. Marc and Lisa breath the outdoors and saw a gap in the market when they couldn’t find a suitable product for their own needs.
Being made from thick and tough PVC material they are so easy to clean and store but being non rigid the bags can be folded away if you can’t hang your bag up. Across the range all the seams have had high frequency welding, it’s where a radio frequency has been used to fuse two pieces together to make a join (bit more complicated than that but it works).
With North Storm’s quality standard this has resulted in making the joins as strong as the material itself, making the bags totally floatable if dropped in pools of water. The range of bags all have heavy duty strapping, reflective strips and the Duffel and Backpack have a light covered inside base to make it easier to find those lost items.
The launching of these bags has been a success to Marc and Lisa where they have a host of different professional users that demand their bags. From divers, commercial photographers through to sportsman and offshore fisherman through to hikers, travellers and 4wders - North Storm is starting to gain a reputation where quality is their number one aim. Their range of quality bags are only available online with free postage within Australia.
For further info or contact jump across to their website at https://www.northstorm.com.au/
Why bother ?
Well you can do none and maybe, just maybe you’ll have a great un-eventful trip BUT if shit does go wrong you’ll have no one else to blame.
We’ve all heard it before check this and check that, so here’s my version on what I do before and during our trips away because I love trouble free trips especially when being away for so long AND when towing as it places so much more stress on my 4wd, the trailer and of course the driver me. I find that if I put in the hours before going, its not until I get home after everything works that I really appreciate the effort that went in.
I normally keep the woolgoolgaoffroad Landcruiser washed and polished most of the time ( and saying this I polish mine with Mr Sheen - easy, cheap and looks great ) and the interior pretty clean too. Not only does it make it a pleasure to drive, little things are easily spotted like broken parts or leaking fluids. Keeping it services to is another way to keep on top of things, BUT if you’ve got a flash new rig where servicing might be a little harder, find a mechanic that you can trust and get them to do an outback checkover. You know - touch everything underneath, see if there are rattles and run spanners over everything. My list is always pretty comprehensive and includes all fluids ( diffs, gearbox, steering, brake and clutch etc ), bearings, grease the whole thing, all bushes, belts and so on. While Im under the car I normally check nearly every nut and bolt ( good thing about the cruiser is that Toyota use between 10 and 16 mm on everything ). This is really important when I head outback and tackle the harder stuff that shake the shit out of everything because when things come loose out there usually it's too late to hear it or see it. Suspension takes a pounding in the far west so don’t skimp on it. Everyday it doesn’t hurt to lay on the ground and look for oil weeps, broken bolts or even missing parts, all this to keep on going to great holiday destinations. blogger
Again, I keep mine pretty clean, it may be a bit of OCD but as I clean its easy to see and feel any loose parts, fix em and move on. When getting ready for another big trip I strip everything out just to make sure I haven’t used any thing on the last trip and didn’t replace it, and it also gets my head around what I have in the trailer. On the outside I start at the front and check the hitch, not just look at it but run spanners over the mounting bolts and the grease it ( with a DO-35 there’s a couple of nipples ). I like to check the lights so I back the car up and plug it in. While talking electrical I look and feel the cabling to make sure there’s no exposed or potential broken wires.
Next its time to jack the trailer up and check for any wheel play and loose bearings. Once a year i'll change them wether they need it or not - OCD ?. With my trailer I have independent suspension so grease all points and inspect the bushes for wear. While I'm on suspension - check the tyres for any weird wear as it might need a wheel alignment ( I know when I bought my trailer it towed bloody shaking so I had a wheel alignment it one side was out 3 degrees, this trailer had no wheel balance either ). Run your hands over the tyres both inside and out and feel for cuts, bubbles or foreign objects that might cause a blowout. Oh - don’t forget the spares too, once a year i'll rotate my tyres too. Oh and check the wheel nuts and tyre pressures too.
While I'm under ill also check my water lines ( I’ve protected mine with larger hose over the original to prevent rocks busting anything ), i'll check the water tanks for dents and rocks caught anywhere that might rub a hole in anything. I like to tinker with the trailer most weeks, so I'm always checking little things and airing it out. With solar the batteries stay full, I'll light the gas stove now and again to keep the flow rate right, turn on the water pump and let the water go through the sink. Speaking of water, ill have a drink of it and see if it tastes ok, normally does but doesn’t hurt to check. It's all about keeping it reliable. Turn the lights on inside too if you have them.
MY LAST WORDS
If I am happy with the car and camper prep for the journey - normally it goes off without a hitch, but preparation is the key. Some of my prep may seem overboard but it works for me. Id rather touch and feel everything that just run my eye over things.
Next time I’ll go over personal preparation.
KENDA KLEVER Tyres
I’m a bit of a tyre snob these days, you know - tried the best and now looking at the rest. In the past Ive spent a bloody fortune on the big brands and to be honest they have been pretty darn good but on the other end of the scale I’ve tried the el-cheapo range and Im just as impressed. Having spent some 20 odd ( some very odd ) years in the bush, touring outback desert regions, clocking up stacks of highway miles and just recently spending time in Tassie - I reckon I can lay claim to be a seasoned traveller.
The past 18 months we’ve been travelling Aust - you know the all Aussie dream - so when it came to prep with tyres I knew I wanted muddies again for where we planned to go. Now I know there’s pros and cons with noise, wear patterns, being dicey in the wet ( allegedly ) blah blah blah, but that’s what I wanted.
Now on a side note - we bought a hybrid camper the year before to prepare and there were muddies on the trailer. Here again there’s been stacks of debate re muddies on trailers, so won’t go there. Anyway the tyres on the trailer were ones that I had never heard of before, namely Kenda Klever in a MT pattern. Now while they looked ‘tough’ on the camper ( only reason why manufacturers put them on in my books ), I just accepted they were on and thought they won’t last long. After having them balanced and a good wheel alignment they have been ‘performing well’ where we have spent getting ready for our tripping.
After running the Kenda’s on the trailer for a year I thought id take a gamble and throw a set onto the Cruiser after doing a little googling. Now I was pleasantly surprised on the ratings overseas and the vast range of tyres that Kenda make, from truck, 4wd, bike, mower and a few random ones. Even the history behind the company is pretty impressive, established in 1962 in Taiwan producing bike tyres they soon moved to other fields.
These days Kenda is major player in the tyre game with several factories in China, USA, Germany, Indonesia with technical centres and also establishing a joint venture with Cooper Tyres and establishing a reputable name in the offroad, drifting and racing scene in the US. Supplying to over 150 countries, over 10,000 employees and have now just developed an Eco tyre which emits less CO2, they lay claim to it being a new generation green tyre with is better for the environment, will apparently give you better fuel economy with the silica infused tread to allow less rolling resistant.
So I thought why not take a gamble with a set on the old 80 series to match up with the camper. Now trying to prep to go on the road full-time and not having a bucket load of cash to spend, but really didn’t want to skimp to much on tyres the Kenda came in pretty much under budget. For the 285/75/16 I paid just on $240 each ( fitted and balanced ) which was very affordable.
First impressions ?. Well they are muddies and was expecting the typical howling noise and a bit blocky on the road which they were BUT, def not the nosiest I have had ( and mind you I’ve run comp style tyres that scared little kids walking down the road ).
So basically the Kendra Klever MT have double steel-belted construction with 3 ply sidewall, utilised for long-lasting wear with tough square shoulder lugs that provide pretty decent self-cleaning capability. Like I said they are on the cheaper end of the market and we all know that down here they all look pretty much the same in design and looks.
But you know what ? Im bloody impressed. We’ve done some big miles along gulf type roads, outback desert roads, a lot of tar, played in the sand ( not the best for a muddle ), used them in the mud ( around Tassie ) and given them a hiding around the back blocks of Coffs ( known as the 4wd capital of NSW ).
My PROs and CONS.
The on and off road performance of these tyres has surprised me. On the road ( tar ) I run them at 45 psi, they wear well and keep above the blockiness that muddies have and they seem to clear mud and rocks pretty well. Off road they perform bloody well in all conditions. I find that my 80 seems secure on both the tar and offroad at full tyre pressures and they keep their balance well. Price was very attractive too, half the price of other brands on the market and I’m sure not half the tyre. Cost - for a 285 ( 33'' ) pay around $240 each.
Honestly I cant think of many cons at the moment. Probably the biggest con is that you need to drop a stack of pressure out for them to perform extremely well off road. Other muds my go to pressure was around 22 psi, with the Kenda muds I soon learnt to go straight to 16 psi to bag them out. Very open block that are open to punctures.
MY FINAL OPINION.
After having these tyres for nearly two years and being on the road for 18 months- I am very bloody impressed with their performance in most conditions ( haven’t had them in the snow yet ). But like any tyre they need to be looked after - I check pressures every morning when cold, do a visual every time we walk around but basically baby them by trying not to hit large sharp things on the road, hitting washouts and dropping pressures to suit.
They aren’t AT’s so I'm always extra careful in the outback where gibber rocks tend to bust side walls and with the open tread pattern there’s always a chance of a large sharp rock or a foreign object punching a hole directly between the blocks, but hey that’s the chance you take with nearly any tyre. Interesting to note tho, on the trailer the tyres are marked made in China and the Kenda’s on the old girl are marked made in Taiwan.
So after 50,000km on mud tyres, heavy towing, exploring nearly all road types and giving them a caning in the bush what’s my verdict ?.
Well I am really suitably impressed overall and would and probably will get them again, but like any tyre just remember to rotate and run the right pressures to suit what you're doing.
After years of development and many trials and error - Hema has finally launched their new and very improved navigator the HX - 2.
So what’s so great about this new navigator?
Well, it's not JUST an improvement on the old HX-1, it's like evolution through the whole system. Get this, its slimmer ( over half the thickness compared to the HX-1 ), the battery is smaller yet has a longer life ( due to a faster internal 2GHZ processor plus a claimed 8-hour battery life compared to 4 hours in the old HX-1), a brighter screen with easier controls to adjust and better mapping.
After using the old HX-1 all over Australia and then trying to compare the old unit with the new is like chalk and cheese, so it was a little difficult at first trying to use the HX-2 due to the new systems and better mapping.
Straight out of the box it's all new and improved. The windscreen mount is now a light metal, very solid with an extendable arm and swivel mount head where the HX-2 slides into place. By doing this it allows the unit to be faced downwards slightly to avoid sun glare and the extendable mount gives the unit more flexibility to where and how it's placed off the windscreen. The charging lead is a C cord to a USB charging the unit faster and cleaner.
Hema has also included a quick start instruction guide and a nice soft bag to store it in. Speaking of how to use, Hema has now included on their website and U-tube, instructional videos on how to use the unit’s features correctly and with confidence. ( jump onto the Hema website and click on the knowledge base, then HX-2 and it opens an array of videos ).
Turning the unit on, immediately you’ll see new map options and easy-to-find setting icons. The icons down the left let you preset most of the unit, complete downloads, take photos, operate the reverse camera, and much more. The large map options are an easy way to get into what you want to use. If this is your first Hema unit you’ll need to register to the Hema cloud so you can save and download maps plus do the free updates. If you don't register it just means you can’t do the free updates for the system.
The screen is an amazing new and brighter pinch screen with the added bonus in the settings, to adjust the 2D - 3D viewing level. Hema has listened to the masses by putting screen brightness buttons on the top of the unit, and it automatically adjusts from day to night mode when the time is right by using soft greys and blacks to reduce glare.
The on-road turn by turn mapping is like using most car play systems so very easy to use, either with navigation or just zooming down roads. Incidentally, the whole working system inside the HX-2 is based on an android operating system. The on-road experience is nice and easy, from putting in a destination to following the route, right down to screen speed limits and warnings. If you’ve got a wifi connection and the option turned on, the HX-2 will give live road warnings up ahead, say if there’s been an accident or traffic hold up.
To me, this is where the unit shines and probably where we will all spend most of our time. Hema has gone from the old Raster map system to the Vector maps where you can zoom in seamlessly giving you more and more detail. The off-road mapping can also be used as an on-road touring map but you can’t ask for spoken navigation. Once you get your head around the unit you can use the Hema Explorer option in the off-road map section so you can zoom right into 1;25 tho which is generally needed in places where high detail is needed ( Vic high country, great dividing range, etc ). A couple of other options here are a satellite and hybrid view. If you’ve got the POI ( points of interest ) turned on there’s a massive amount of icons that will fill the screen that you can click on for a pop up detailed run down on what the icon is about; from tracks ( some with track grading levels), fuel stops, all types of accommodation and so much more. These can be filtered from a top button and can be turned on and off from a short-cut button. The POI feature is available on all maps with over 40,000 verified to date.
In true Hema fashion, this mode is like using your normal paper maps but is a good screen to use if doing big boring distances across the country. The Adventure maps use the old Raster system so the maps won’t keep zooming in, they just get more pixelated. The advantage with these maps is that all the Hema maps you can buy from 4wd shops are all in here, so if you're sitting around the fire planning a trip to say Cape York or WA the maps are available here. The POI and tracking features are usable here along with side icons for map centering, quick tracking and more.
SO WHAT DO I REALLY THINK?
After using the HX- 2 for a while and learning more about the unit, I’m quietly impressed and glad that Hema has listened to the public on what they want from a navigation unit. Coming from the HX-1, I thought it would be an easy transition to the 2, but honestly, you need to throw everything out that you have learned by using the old unit as the 2 is definitely new and improved. For most users the de-fault settings and basic maps are fine, touring and exploring around. My only gripe was to access the more detailed explorer maps ( located in the off-road section ) you need wi-fi or hot spot off your phone. Living on the great divide in NSW the cellular network isn’t always the best, so if you lose a phone signal the explorer section just won’t load when in deep gullies or in thick rainforest areas. The new touch-pinch screen is very nice to use and easy to view, and with the swivel ball head adjusting the HX-2 to an easy viewing point is a breeze.
Don't expect to understand all the features overnight as it's still a complex unit with a host of features but I recommend watching the bite-size instructional videos associated with the HX-2. Hema also runs scheduled web-style training sessions through Hema University (HEMA-U) online. For any serious user, these are a must to watch.
There is an option to buy a sun visor for it but honestly, because you can tilt down the screen and with the extra brightness I don't think the visor is necessary. Another bonus for the unit is the re-introduction of a reverse camera, something the HX-1 missed out on; BUT Hema’s option of a camera at $199 may scare a few buyers off. Pricing started off at $749 but I have seen the HX-2 for sale as low as $649.
There are so many quirky features with the 2 and once you understand them all it’s a great unit, like map tracking and syncing it to the cloud, from there you can share and download. Another nice feature in all modes is when you touch the screen, side menus glide in giving you more options. This saves you from going right back to the home screen to set parameters.
It's going to be hard to improve this unit over the next few years but I reckon Hema have got a few things up their sleeves already looking towards the future.
PRO … Easy to use screen
Improved windscreen mount
Reverse camera capability
The use of Vector maps in off-road mode
Larger battery, faster internal processor
CON … Need internet connect for Hema Explorer maps
Expensive reverse camera option ( $199.00)
RADAR RENEGADE AT TYRES
Buying tyres todays is really a personal choice with so many brands and configurations available, I remember years ago there was only several choices and you’d never touch the real cheap imported brands.
Having to replace my mud tyres after years of tackling tracks around our country I decided to jump back to some AT’s for our next stint in the outback. Not one to follow the pack I came across a relatively new brand designed and made in Singapore under the Omni United group.
Starting back in 2003 by entrepreneur GS Sareen the company is growing rapidly in Singapore and indeed around the world with its flagship tyre brand, Radar Tyres. Over the past 18 years the company has hit monumental goals like developing the worlds first carbon neutral tyre, they have over 120 design patents, launching Timberland Tyres that when recycled will be made into shoe soles, they have launched a new tyre into the lucrative US market and also branched into the Baja offroad racing circuit. Omni now have 11 facilities across 4 countries and claim they can go from tyre design to the market in under 6 months.
One that caught my eye was the relatively unknown Radar Renegade RT aggressive all-terrain tyre. The specs seemed to have all the right info such as, good side wall protection, a 5 block pattern across the tyre for good stability and traction, has a 10 ply rating with 2 steel + 3 polyester + 2 nylon built into the tread and a 3 ply polyester in the side wall.
Over the past few months the tyres have seen an array of different conditions. I had them fitted in Darwin while exploring the NT and so far they have exceeded my expectations. With over 10,000km racked up so far and their first rotation there is no visible sign of any unusual wear. They have covered top end locations like Litchfield, Kakadu, cut across through the rough gulf country and down through central QLD on outback highways. As some know these roads can be darn right horrible from deep bull dust sections, rough as guts rocky sections across the Savannah Way through to the unmaintained single line tracks in remote camp areas.
The low hum from these tyres is definatly a sweet sound compared the noise my last mud tyres made in their last days and being an all terrain the steering feels lighter and smoother, its a pleasure cruising down the back streets.
Back home on the east coast around the Coffs Harbour region where tracks go from mild to wild in the blink of an eye, they seem to be holding up well in different situations, from our simple bush tracks, loose river sand and rocks through to the damp rainforest sections. I have found that running them at 45psi on the highway seems to be the sweet spot for my vehicle ( heavy Toyota 80 series ), 28psi on outback roads and across the top end, then on the harder tracks with steep hill climbs and where I’ve needed a lot more traction they work well at 18 psi and to be honest I reckon I could drop them further if needed due to the tough side wall.
It’s only early days but I predict I should get a great run out of these AT’s in my next stint across the country and exploring the range along the east coast where if it's not uphill its back downhill with large sections of wet areas in between, so time will tell.
So from a relatively new company they seem to be producing the goods and ticking the right boxes around the world, it maybe a company well worth watching what they produce in the upcoming years. #woolgoolgaoffroad
PRO… Quiet and smooth on the road, good looking for an aggressive AT tyre, easy on the wallet at around $300 per tyre ( 285/75/16 )
CON .. nothing to report