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 Living on the Road :: Wothahellizat Mk2 :: Design Criteria

This is a brief description of the design criteria we have for our motorhome. There were three basic requirements, these being,
  1. To be comfortable to live in for long periods of time (years).
  2. Be able to boldly go where few motorhomes have gone before. Which is to say that it must be capable of getting off-road.
  3. To be self sufficient and able to stay in wilderness areas for extended periods, days, weeks or even months.

Let's expand on these a little.

Comfortable
If you're going to permanently live in and run a business from a vehicle, then it has to be fairly large to be comfortable. Wothahellizat Mk1 was 34' (10.5M) in length, this was extremely comfortable to live in but limiting when we got into the bush.

Therefore Wothahellizat 2 is smaller, approx 8.1 metres (26') in length.

Off-road
Many of Australia's best landscapes are in areas that are hard to get to. There are two issues here,

  • The roads are often extremely rough with washouts, creeks, boulders etc.
  • Even if not that rough they are unsealed and usually badly corrugated.

Any motorhome that is to survive these roads for long must be very tough. The normal off-the-shelf motorhome is built more along the lines of a caravan and designed for use on bitumen. Their frames are often made of timber and the cabinet work is usually just stapled together. A vehicle made with these construction techniques will self destruct under prolonged outback travel.

When it comes to getting off road the normal motorhome doesn't cut it either. With long overhangs, high gearing and low clearance they will bottom out on the simplest of obstacles. There are three things that give a vehicle off-road capability,

  • clearance - the higher the better.
  • traction - all wheels must be driven to spread the engine's torque and reduce the possibility of wheel spin.
  • gearing - when the going gets tough you must be able to reduce the vehicle's speed to a crawl but also maintain engine revs. This requires extremely high gearing.

You only get these features in a vehicle designed for off-road use. Combine this with the stronger construction of an off-road vehicle and I believe they are the best choice for the job.

Self sufficient
If you are going to spend time and effort getting to a remote spot it doesn't make sense to stay for only a day or two. If it's a nice place then you want to spend some time there, a few days or even a couple of weeks.

Do this in several places in a row and before you know it you've been a month or two in the bush with no supplies of electricity, food, water etc. Therefore the vehicle must be fully self sufficient for periods of at least a month. This means carrying enough supplies of all kinds. Let's do a few sums.

Beer - I like a long neck (750ml bottle) of home brew each evening. As I make 30 bottles per batch I need provision for at least two batches, one fermenting and one for drinking.

Water - For outback travel you should allow 5 litres per day per person (we'll forget about the beer for the moment). Add 5 litres for washing etc and we have 10 litres per day, x 30 gives us 300 litres for a month. We've managed to fit nearly 600 litres in seven tanks. What about showers? When the water is scarce we make do with a bird bath.

Power - Some people can live with a just light bulb. However I run a photographic business, this means regular use of phones, computers, printers etc. Gas fridges are not known for their reliability and have to be kept fairly level so we have a compressor style fridge. In fact we have three fridges although not all are in use all of the time.

Also, as mentioned several times, I want to be comfortable so I want to run electric fans (in the tropics we sometimes need fans for most of the day and into the night) and not be miserly with the lighting.

Fortunately much of Australia is blessed with sunshine, and plenty of it. Solar is a viable option for lower usage rates but cannot handle high usage. A generator is noisy and requires quite a lot of fuel. Batteries last a lot longer if they are kept "topped up" at near full charge, a generator is very efficient at dumping current into near empty batteries but not so good at applying small top up charges. Solar is exactly the reverse.

What's the answer? In general we are totally self-sefficient with our solar panels and have been living off them since 2001, however we also have a 2kva generator for those times when the sun isn't shining. For example we once spent a month under cover working on the truck, during this time we ran the generator constantly.

Tools - If you break down in the outback you don't just call the AA, you fix it yourself. This means a comprehensive set of tools including welding equipment.

This all adds up to a lot of space/weight. Most motorhomes I've seen don't even have enough storage for the 65 bottles of beer, let alone the food, water and myriad of things I haven't mentioned. You need a large truck to be able to carry this amount of supplies.

Our ACCO has a GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) of just over 14 tonnes which is more than enough to carry all the above.

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                  wothahellizat Mk1  wothahellizat Mk2
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PO Box 450, Gin Gin, QLD, Australia.
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