is a brief description of the design criteria we have for our motorhome.
There were three basic requirements, these being,
- To be comfortable to
live in for long periods of time (years).
- Be able to boldly go
where few motorhomes have gone before. Which is to say that it must
be capable of getting off-road.
- To be self sufficient
and able to stay in wilderness areas for extended periods, days, weeks
or even months.
Let's expand on these
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.
2 is smaller, approx 8.1 metres (26') in length.
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,
- the higher the better.
- all wheels must be driven to spread the engine's torque and reduce
the possibility of wheel spin.
- 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
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.
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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
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.