Category Archives: Gear

Overlanding in a Land Rover!? Would you do it again?

On this overland adventure, we drove 34.126 km through Europe and Africa in a relatively new Land Rover Defender 110.

Albania, July 2015

Albania, August 2015

Greece, September 2015

Sudan, November 2015

 

Egypt, October 2015

 

Would we do it again in a Land Rover? This question we have been asked by quite a few overlanders-to-be who contacted us during the last few weeks ...

Land Rovers are unreliable, right?

Well, ours definitely is NOT! We didn't have one "real" Land Rover issue AT ALL! The only Land Rover thing that broke was the central locking of the right passenger door ... That's it! Quite unreliable, right?! But we have to admit that we invested a lot of time in maintenance (i.e. checking bolts weekly and after rought tracks) and serviced the Landy every six to eight thousand kilometres ... just to "repair" things before they break!

 

Tanzania, January 2016 ... rough tracks around Ol Doinyo Lengai

 

Everything that really "broke" on the trip was of aftermarket origin, such as the keep of the double shockers (due to a really bad track we took and maybe a loose bolt that I had not discovered early enough) and the front prop-shaft (which still worked but made funny noises, so I took it out and had it repaired in Namibia). The other thing that happened was too few fuel in the Diesel (actually 50% of it was water) ... I guess any engine would have ceased to continue working then - even a Mercedes G Wagen! The funny thing is that the chip that everybody "demonizes" when it comes to overlanding vehicles, most probably saved the engine and thus prevented us from any real damage. So, we "only" had to drain the fuel system and clean the tanks.

The EGR valve we exchanged in Greece when it started making different noises ... before anything broke actually! At the moment the engine sounds a bit more like a "tractor ", but we will give the Landy a good service once we are back home.

Then to the "performance" of the car ... the Landy with a weight of more than 3 tons actually did very well on all kinds of terrain and in all kinds of situations, be it in the sandy desert, the mountains of Ethiopia, on rough tracks and the good tar roads in Namibia or South Africa.

 

"Bridge" in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana

 

Even though people consider the td4 engine (2.4l) as not strong enough, we think everything is absolutely OK with that engine. The fuel consumption was 12,8l on average, which also is not too bad. Actually on rough tracks and in sand the fuel consumption even dropped considerably!

 
 

The most important thing with the Land Rover actually is that everybody, really EVERYBODY likes Land Rovers (including our two daughters who consider the car to be a "family member" called "Nyati", (water) buffalo)!

 

After Mischa handed over the Land Rover to Duncan from "African Overlanders" for the shipping, Anouk was desperate because she couldn't even say "Goodbye" to the Landy ... only Landy books helped in that situation!

 

Also, we experienced the "Land Rover brotherhood" (and "sisterhood") as some kind of "second insurance" and also as a great opportunity to meet new people. With what other brand would a manager of a garage take you home with him to stay for the night because your car broke down?

The Landy broke down about two kilometers away from the Land Rover garage in Arusha

... and Ian, the manager, took us home with him.

We have been invited by so many Land Rover people and the Land Rover groups on Facebook or in Forums have always been a great help whenever we needed it.

Land Rover friends Erato and Konstantinos in Greece

... Sam in Cairo ...

... Lars in Nairobi ...

... the "Bundu Rovers" in Nairobi ...

 

... Elisabeth and Augustine with their children in Arusha ...

 

... Hugo from Denmark in Rundu ...

... Nyati and Hugo and Marguerite's Landy in Windhoek ...

... the van der Merwes on the farm "Eisgaubib" south of Windhoek ...

... and with Kathy and Ross at Cape Point.

It is really great to be members of this international "tribe" and we are happy to help any other Land Rover owner just as we have experienced it since we bought this car in 2011.

 

A Land Rover collection ... why not!?

 

In some of the following blog entries, we will go through our Land Rover's conversion again in more detail and share experiences, what was good or bad and what we plan to have changed when we are back in Germany.

...

So, going back to the intitial question: Yes, we would definitely go again in a Land Rover and we will do so in overland trips for many years to come hopefully! This being said, we are not fundamentalist in any way on our choice of car, as there are definitely other cars on the market which are also great for overlanding! It is only that the Land Rover suits and fits us best ... maybe its edgy-shape goes along well with our characters!

 

A "lonesome Landy" at "African Overlanders" near Cape Town ... waiting for being shipped.

 

Overland Cuisine – the “Dutch Oven” or “Potjie”

 
 

In this post we want to introduce one of our most valuable (and also the heaviest) pieces of cooking gear, the "Petromax Feuertopf".

These iron cast pots are also called "Dutch Oven" (mainly in north America), "casserole dishes" (in some English speaking countries) or "Potjie" in southern Africa.

The "ancestors" of these pots travelled with the first white settlers to the American "West", went across the sea with Jan van Riebeeck and today can be found in almost all households all over southern Africa.

 

Anouk's enamel "Quarter Potjie" ... She loves cooking veggies for our braai in that.

 

There are various different sizes and varieties and "relatives" of the Dutch Oven can be found in many countries, e.g. on the Balkans and even in Australia.

Special for our "Petromax Dutch Oven" is the flat bottom which is good for baking bread, and the lid, which can also be used on the fire as a pan. It is also possible to add hot coals onto the lid when the "Feuertopf" is in the fire to have heat both from above and below.

The history of the "Dutch Oven" goes back to the 17th century, when these pots were made in northern Europe, the best pots actually to be found in what today is The Netherlands. That's where the name "Dutch Oven" originates.

...

In Southern Africa, every family has their own traditional and favourite version of "potjiekos", a kind of stew, but unlike a typical stew, "potjiekos" is not stirred in the cooking process. Instead the ingrediences such as different kinds of meat and vegetables spiced with the typical Dutch-Malayan-Indian-African variety of spices are added one after the other in different layers which are not supposed to mix. The cooking process is generally slow using a constant but rather low heat (which is distributed equally by the cast iron pot). As only very little sauce or water is used (sometimes also beer or other alcoholic beverages), the ingrediences in the pot are rather steamed than boiled.

The atmosphere around a campfire with one or more "Potjies" bubbling along in the fire is very social and it always feels a bit like "witchcraft" with a big black pot in the fire.

 

There actually is a great variety of different meals which can be made in a "Dutch Oven": stews, pizza, bread, rolls, gorgeous ratatouille ... the list could continue endlessly here.

Stephanie from the French "KUMP" family presents her perfect Potjie bread ...

Baked potatoes from the Dutch Oven ... just add a layer of coarse salt on the bottom and put the clean potatoes on top ... after about 30 minutes they are just perfect!

We want to introduce three of our favourite dishes here:

 

We can tell you: these rolls for breakfast ... just gorgeous! Unbeatable!

 

Our freshly baked bread rolls which are great for breakfast ... See our post from Hungary in 2014 with a recipy for the rolls and also for Hungarian "Lesczo".

 

Veggie casserole - one of our favorite dishes!

 

At home but also when traveling we really like different varieties of veggie casserole. After greasing the pot, we add layer after layer of fresh vegetables (we actually prefer eggplant, onions, garlic, mushrooms, bell peppers and tomatoes with already boiled potatoes) spice it well, add some cream, water or broth ... top everything up with loads of cheese (favourably Swiss cheese like Gruyere, but Cheddar also works quite well), close the lid of the pot and let it simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. If you want, you can also add a layer of feta cheese.

 

Everything you need for "Biltong-Sauerkraut Pot with Boerewors"

 

On "Eisgaubib", our Namibian friend's farm, we created a new "Germibian" potjiekos recipy we call "Biltong-Sauerkraut Pot with Boerewors".

 

Frying the onions ...

 

After the pot is put in the fire and greased with coconut oil, we first fry the onions, a bit later adding the sliced potatoes (raw), frying and stirring until the onions and potatoes are turning slightly brownish.

 

Adding the potatoes and frying until everything turns brownish

 

After that, you add a layer of sauerkraut, one with as much fine cut biltong as you like (we prefer spiced Oryx actually), and another one of sauerkraut.

After the first layer of sauerkraut add the biltong and then another layer of sauerkraut.

... adding more sauerkraut!

We don't add water or broth but a good mug of a fresh and fruity white wine (depending on how you like your sauerkraut, this can be from dry wine to sweet).

... let it simmer ... and relax with a glass of beer or good red wine for a while!

Fresh "Boerewors" ... that will add a lot more southern African flavour to the sauerkraut.

You close the lid and let the potjie simmer for about 40 minutes and then add the Boerewors on top to be finished within the next ten to twenty minutes (you can of course also braai the boerewors instead and just put it on top of the potjiekos when serving).

Ready to serve ...

Lekker ... Germibian potjiekos!

 

Have one or two glasses of "Camelthorn Weizen" to go with our "potjiekos" ... purely Namibian and certainly one of Mischa's favorite beers!

 

One variety for the cheese lovers is adding a layer of cheddar or other cheese (favourably Swiss cheese again) on top after about half an hour after having started the cooking process.

To make this dish more "traditional", one could start with frying meat (preferably Orxy, Kudu or beef) in the pot until it is brown, then add the onions and fry them together with the meat for a while, and then add a layer of potatoes and continue as above.

...

Even though our "Dutch Oven" is a really heavy piece of gear and consumes quite a large portion of the very imited space in our Land Rover, we still would not want to travel without it. The older it gets also the more patina it gets and the food prepared in it will be getting better and better.

Just make sure that you only use hot water and a sponge for cleaning and that you dry it immediately after cleaning and add another layer of oil inside and outside. It will last a lifetime!

...

 
 

When we are down in South Africa, we will certainly buy one of the typical round-bottomed "Dutch Ovens" everybody uses here in addition to our "Petromax Dutch Oven".

Overland Cuisine

Cooking on the beach in Albania. Before ...

... and after. Yummy!

Who said that camping or overlanding and great food don't "fit"?! This was (part of) our Christmas Dinner in Kilifi, Kenya in 2015!

Gateau de Pancake á la Pettersson & Findus ... Anouk's birthday cake for her sixth birthday.

People who know us personally know that the things we really love are creative cooking, enjoying good food and experiencing new recipies and ingredients. Some now might ask themselves whether this passion can go along with overland travel or whether we have to live on canned food on the road just like "backpack tourists".

 

Our "kitchen".

 

Of course for our travels we have chosen a really good equipment to be able to cook tasty and varied food everywhere we go.

The "Kitchen Box" - and somebody seems to be waiting for something!

We would never leave home without a box full of good spices!

This equipment we store in our Zarges-Kitchen-Box (a Zarges Universalkiste K470) and in three Rako-Boxes (two with crockery and cutlery and one full of spices - only that the spice-box is overfull already).

 

Everything packed out ... this really is a lot of stuff - call us over equipped Germans if you want!

 

Our valued Coleman Stove with the Coleman Oven and the Toaster ... would not want to leave home without it as well!

- A two flame Coleman Stove - running on petrol, because you can get it everywhere, it is cheap and effective and will also provide enough heat even in moist or cold climate or in great heights ... The handling, though, might be something you have to get used to. For the Coleman, we also have the Coleman Oven and a Toaster.

Our Dutch Oven and Pan ... heavy but good to have it!

- A Petromax Dutch Oven (also called "Potje"), which can be put directly into the fire to cook a vast number of great dishes, ranging from pizza to rolls (here you can find a recipy for rolls we made traveling to the Carpathian Mountains) and to veggie casserole or roast venison.

- A Petromax Pan, which can be used on the stove or directly over a fire.

- A Petromax Firebox, which provides a hearth fuelled by small branches of wood.

- A Petromax Hobo, which is so small that you can take it with you on hikes to make a tea, coffee or a soup.

Our small BBQ-grill ... for fanning the fire we use an Ethiopian fan.

Apart from these things, we also have a small fold-out barbecue grill manufactured by Esbit and a set of good German knives made by Zwilling in Solingen.

We love tea ... being nostalgic, we always use our enamel mugs from our home-island Spiekeroog.

We love a tea in the morning (and in our midday break, and ...), so we always have our East-Frisian teapot with us whereever we go (it actually was a wedding present) and also take along our beloved East-Frisian tea (Thiele Broken Silver of course!). Water we boil either in the Primus Kettle on the Coleman or using the Petromax Firekettle powered by small pieces of wood, leaves, bark et cetera (here is our review of the Petromax Firekettle).

It took us quite a while to find the right set of pots and pans ...

Trying to find a good set of pots and pans was a long and tiring process. Finally, after a lot of trial and error (and costs!), we decided on a Pot & Pan Set by the Italian company Brunner - being inspired by Swiss friends who used the same set. In these pots it is no problem at all to cook rice pudding, make wonderful breakfast pancakes and so on.

...

In the following weeks we every now and then plan to publish reviews on some of our cooking gear and also maybe share some recipies we cook with this gear.

In search of Paradise Beach

 

Gjirocastër - we loved it, for the kids it was exhausting and haunted

 

As impressive as the Albanian city Gjirokastër was for us, the two girls become grumblier the longer we stay here. The streets are far too steep for them and every walk becomes a hard hike for them. Startled they hide behind our legs whenever a seemingly speeding car approaches pestering itself along the steep cobbled streets we are walking on. The exciting traits of former inhabitation witnessed by the buildings we see are far too abstract for them. Anouk and Sóley only see old, crumbling and therefore not really beautiful houses in them. The restaurant-food for them is reduced to pizza and French fries, which after some days is nothing they want to have again. Normally, we cook far more diverse. And in addition to that, there is the haunted hostel which frightenes them at night. Babameto house is so wonderfully ancient that you can glimpse through the creaky floor boards down on the people living one floor below us. Then, there is the wind constantly blowing through the windows and laut squealing doors ... and there are small doors everywhere with unused hide-holes and secret passageways. This is far too much for Anouk's vivid phantasy. Without us in the same room, she doesn't get a wink of sleep. This is quite exhausting after a while and so the kids rather want to go back to the beach as soon as possible. As much as I had been looking forward to Istanbul, this wonderful city now recedes into the far distance. And also, the question darises whether it is possible at all to travel to big cities with island-children like ours.

On Mischa's birthday we enrich the hostel-breakfast with the local speciality sheep-cheese burek. Mischa's birthday wish is to find "Paradise Beach", so we "set sails" to the Albanian coast.

 

Old Ottoman bridge.

 

On our way, we want to ask farmers to be allowed to camp on their property, but we only meet shepherds herding their flocks of sheep.

 

Before we set up camp, we help an Albanian couple to pull out their VW Golf out of the deep sand.

 

Thus, we reach a relatively undeveloped and un-parasoled beach without any beach bars on Mischa's great day. That this beach is supposed to be "Paradise Beach" we are not really convinced of, but at least this is a first step in the search for it. Probably, it's quite difficult to find such a beach especially for us, as we live on an island with kilometres of white, sandy beaches, which for most people would be more or less the prototype of the personal "Paradise Beach". But, alas, our family getaways to the beach home on the island of Spiekeroog can be counted on the fingers of one hand because our everyday work, respectively the his standards we set ourselves do not permit that too often.

Just having arrived at the beach, we spontaneously pull out the VW Golf of an Albanian couple out of the deep sand, take over their idyllic spot and even get chilled drinks in return - welcome to Paradise Beach! The first thing that our daughter Sóley builds at the beach is a mosque with a minaret; words and concepts she before visiting Gjirokastër she did not know anything about. She remarks yearningly that she so very much wants to see a mosque from the inside - something we would never have dared to do because of her stubborn moodiness when we were visiting the city, but it seems that more impressions rest on her than we had expected. While skyping, an enthusiastic Anouk tells her friend Lasse about the collection of canons she saw inside Gjirokastër castle even though she felt very uncomfortable in exactly this part of the castle due to the fact that she connects those gigantic weapons with death and destruction.

To mark the occasion, we pump up our sound system at the beach and sing and dance together with Xavier Rudd and the United Nations' new cd "Nanna". Anouk, who has overheard more and more Englisch-chunks, demands a simultaneous translation and so we philosophy about the turbulent history of human societies, the injustices of the world and about religion and spirituality.

Romantic camp

Enver Hoxha was a bunker-maniac - these things are everywhere in Albania!

 

Sóley falls asleep in Mischa's arms for the first time in her life - a wonderful moment. That's what family time is all about!

 

During the following few days at the beach, our kids relax and Sóley evel falls asleep in Mischa's lap for the first time in her life, which for him is a very special moment because she still has a fixation on me. I rediscover the sea for myself. Swimming and water gymnastics encourages the metabolism and awakens new vitality in this heat which can be lived out together with the kids in acrobatics at the beach and in the surf.

We want to save fuel, so we cook on the open fire using our Petromax Feuertopf (dutch oven) and the Petromax Feuerbox

Wonderful food - it smells as good as it looks!

Beach neighbours from Aurich in homely East Frisia got bogged down with their old VW LT and, naturally, we also pull them out of the sand. The evening before, we had helped them to cope with their stomach upset with Caj Mali, the magic tea from the Albanian mountains.

 

Pulling out another car - we should make a job out of this!

 

Somewhere in the mountain wilderness looking for a nice place to wild-camp ... do you see the weird puppets in the background?

... magic protection against the "evil eye" - if somebody does too many good things in life and others speak positively about that person, he is in danger to be affected by the "evil eye".

 

On our way through the mountains ... not knowing that we are going to end up at out last beach camp.

 

In between, we go on on our search for our personal "Paradise Beach" and wriggle ourselves through countles serpentines alongside the picturesque coast heading north again, which makes the Land Rover roll like a tall ship and also makes Anouk throw up like being seasick. No wonder, I think, as I met her father being seasick on board the tall ship "Thor Heyerdahl". Rough mountain tracks however are no problem for the girls. Now we need a quick look into the guidebook to find a campsite with a laundry machine. In the next bay there are some, but we rely on "Reise Know-How" which results in the fact that nearly exclusively German-speaking campers have set up their camps here (while the campsite "next doors" is frequented by a majority of French and Italians). Becaue our Land Rover is decorated with eye-catching stickers of this publishing company we are asked more than once about what connection there exists. "Are you in any way connected with this company? ... 'Cos we also use this guidebook!". It seems as if there are only few other guidebooks on Albania even though tourism seems to be booming here. We don't want to stay longer than needed for our laundry and WiFi service, because "Paradise Beach" means something else for us. From Vlorë we discover a remote mountain valley in search of a farm, guesthouse or hidden pub - in vain! At the end we end up at the same bay with our first "Paradise Beach"-attempt.

 

We are greeted by a wonderful sunset - it's actually quite good to be back here!

 
 

New friends!

 

But it could have been worse than ending up here for another night! Just shortly after we have arrived, an iconic Mercedes "Rundhauber"-LKW (an old Mercedes 911 truck) pushes itself along the road behind the beach and a multitude of sympathetic faces appear being the windows. They answer my waves and I invite them to set up their camp right next to us. They do so and out of the wonderfully neat and affectionately converted oldtimer-truck bearing the name "Rosie" climbs a wonderful and charming 6-headed family from Munich including their dog. Both parents are artisans from Schwabing and their four kids enjoying Waldorf education which has a long tradition in their family. They seem to be very relaxed, are extremely creative, courteous and cool "in spite of that". Our kids play with them as if they had known each other for years even though concerning their age they are years apart from each other, which actually convinces us the next morning to stay for another two nights enjoying this wonderful company. Us adults have tons to catch up on, too. We cook vegetarian, gluten-free and yummy food together and finish off the feast with baked chocolate bananas from the campfire (we use our last German chocolate for that).

Beach life: fresh food directly brought to us.

Beach camp ... it's good to have company ... only that their "car" looks like a castle!

 

Acrobatics teachers Stella and Lydia

 

Acrobatics teachers ... our girls are impressed!

Acrobatics: flying Sóley

Anouk

Our "rumble ballerina" Sóley

... or rather a troll?

Our travel guitar finally is called into action and wonderfully harmonises with the ukeleles from Munich. At the evening of the second day, another "Rundhauber" from Munich joins us, but when Rosie leaves us with her crew we get itchy feet as well.

 

Beach life - new friends!

 
 

The first hot shower in days - get that look in her face!

 

Croozing further down south, we find a nice beach right after the Albanian-Greek border where two beautifully converted Unimog fire-engines have already set up their camps. Again, we meet Bavarian families waiting for their ferry to Italy because their summer break soon will be over. At night, even more trucks join us and for us, it's getting a bit too crowded here for us to stay longer and so the next day, we leave after some nice breakfast-chats still in search of our own "Paradise Beach".

Our friends Konstantinos and Erato from Athens, Dutch friends and also Coen and Karin-Marijke from "Landcruising Adventure" had recommended a certain beach on the island of Lefkadha to us which will be where we head today. Actually, this was a wonderful tip which is pretty much what we had imagined when talking of "Paradise Beach".

 

The first beach which more or less is fitting our dream of "Paradise Beach" - Athani beach, Lefkadha.

Our camp in the setting sun. Again, this is a place we don't want to leave too soon!

 

We meander down to a large bay with a long sandy beach with turqoise waters. Right at the end of the sandy track we set up our camp and figure out that here nobody cares what you wear (if you want to wear anything at all!). Everything here seems to be wonderfully uncomplicated and roomy! We plan to stay here until our provisions run out. Because, again, we can help others stuck in the sand - this time it's an Austrian couple - we can stock up on fresh water in return which enables us to even have hot fresh water showers here. And thus, we stay here for four enchanting days, taking each day as it comes. Anouk complains that the days go by so very fast here even though we don't provide some kind of kids-programme here. But it is exactly this family time which all of us simply enjoy to the fullest.

 

Old beach bar used as a camp by some young surfers.

 
 

The three girls dreaming into the sunset.

 

This indeed is the return for skipping Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaidjan and Iran, countries I had been looking forward to visiting for a very long time. But it's OK, as this serves a more important purpose, "relaxed, harmonic, easy going and still intensive family-time". All of us sense our backlog demand and sponging up each other as if we were dried up. Even rationally viewed, it was a good decision even though all these countries are so very interesting, exciting and culturally impressive as there is still so much waiting for us on our route down through Africa. But we can only manage and enjoy this if we grow into a relaxed but gut well-practiced team.

During the last 8 weeks we have not managed to do a lot of things we had planned in advance, but - and this is far more important than anything else! - we have re-started to live and not just "behaving". The rest will come automatically!

text by Juliane

photo comments by Mischa

 

Paradise Beach ... Made in China???

 

Coffee or Tea?

Many people need a cup of good coffee for a good start into the day. In our case, we definitely need tea. Strong and sweet Assam tea! Typical and traditional "Ostfriesentee" (East-Frisian Tea)! Every morning! Boiling water in the camp early in the morning sometimes can be a really annoying task, especially when you've got to set up the stove et cetera first.

 

The Petromax Feuerkessel fk2 / Fire Kettle

 

Today, we try a new piece of gear which could simplify this process, the Petromax Feuerkanne fk 2 / Petromax Fire Kettle. Our first impression is that the Fire Kettle is quite big, which actually speaks against adding it to our gear as we need whatever space there is in the Land Rover.

The complete set-up consists of three pieces: the kettle, the fire bowl and an adaptor to add a "normal" kettle or pot on top of the Fire Kettle.

 

Little more than a handful of wood is needed!

 

For boiling one litre of water you only need about a handfull of wood. The kettle is double-walled, and so while branches, barks or pine cones burn and crackle in the fire bowl, the heat of the fire goes up through the inside of the kettle and brings the water inside the wall of the Fire Kettle to the boil.

 

The complete setup in action.

 

As soon as the water boils, the steam whistle starts whistling. In our case the start temperature of the water is 19.3°Celsius. To bring it to a boil, it takes only 4,5 minutes (our electric water boiler at home needs 3 minutes and 40 seconds). This speed really impresses us! ... At the same time the water in the pot on top of the kettle is heated up to 50°Celsius. If you need the hot water inside the Fire Kettle for making coffee, you can put a pot of milk on top to upgrade the coffee to wonderful latte macchiato.

 

Vietnamese - Ethiopian Coffee.

Ostfriesentee / East Frisian Tea

Latte Macchiato

 

Thanks to the three feet at the bottom of the fire bowl, the Fire Kettle leaves almost no traces of the fire behind and is steady whatever the surface. As we did not cut the lawn so far this year, minor damage is done to the vegetation.

 

The fire bowl.

Some traces left in the vegetation.

 

To sum up, the Petromax Feuerkanne fk 2 / Petromax Fire Kettle is an absolute winner, which definitely is going to travel with us to Africa in spite of it's size as it is really effective! What we still need, though, is a proper bag to put it in, as the insides of both the kettle and the fire bowl become really sooted.

 
 

We also tested the fire bowl to prepare Ethiopian coffee. But this process took longer than our "German patience" allowed us for now (more on the Ethiopian way of making coffee).

 

Roasting coffee beans.

 
 

What a perfume!

 

Thanks, Fräulein Anker!

Gear: Finding the “Perfect” Travel Chair

Maybe, it's just our personal problem, but finding the perfect travel chair seems to be way more difficult that deciding on any other piece of gear ... it's like an Odyssey!

"How come? It's very simple!", you say!? "Why don't you just go to one of the outdoor specialists and compare chairs on offer there according to the following two characteristics: being comfortable, having a small pack size?" ...

Well, that's what we thought when we were newbies to the subject!

First Travel Chair: "Meru Bastille" (2011)

The first travel chair we bought was the "Meru Bastille", made for the German outdoor supplier "Globetrotter". The chair was quite comfy but had a relatively large pack size of about 110cm x 22cm. The weight was relatively low with only 3100g due to the framework being made of aluminium. It had a high back rest and a cup holder. The chair was supposed to be suitable for persons weighing up to 120kg. ... After two trips (i.e. not more than 8 weeks of use alltogether), the fabric of one of the two chairs tore right at the connection between the seat and the frame. As all the four of us do NOT weigh 120kg (well, all together, we do, maybe!), we had no real answer to that and decided that the "Bastille" was not the right chair for us! Being really obliging, "Globetrotter" gave us the money back for both chairs ... they don't produce them anymore!

Globetrotter's "Meru Bastille"

The Brunner "Pico Lounger"

The Brunner "Pico Sport"

At the time when the "Bastille" broke down, we were travelling in the Pyrenees with our Swiss friends. Watching them setting up camp in an amazing speed, we were impressed by the camp chairs they owned which had a really small pack size and were set up within seconds to relatively comfortable chairs. The "Brunner Pico Lounger" really looked like a great travel chair. Its "Xpress Telescoping Technology" enables the user to fold the chair down to a 15th of its folded-out size. The pack size then is 44,5cm x 42cm x 6,5cm. The fabric is extremely durable and carries persons weighing up to 112kg. It weighs 4100g.

Second Chair: "Brunner Pico Sport" (2014)

So, after getting home and changing the Meru Bastille back into Euros, we travelled the internet to find a dealer who would sell us our own "Picos" ... only to discover that Brunner had just recently come up with a newer version of the Pico Lounger, named "Brunner Pico Sport", which has more or less the same packsize and weight, but is said to have a revised telescopic system. Now, we thought that this new version of the "Pico Sport" would be THE travel chair for us ... Its telescopic system helps to reduce the packsize of the chair to a 16th (!) of its set-up-size.  The pack size is 31cm x 50cm x 9cm and it weighs 4000g. 

During the first few days of our trip to Eastern Europe in 2014, the die-cast aluminum connection of the chair legs broke on two of the four chairs we bought - again, us being not obese! ... This was a really frustrating experience for us, as we were really convinced that the "Pico Sport" was exactly what we wanted and would endure almost everything (at least that's what the adverts say!). Maybe, the "Pico Lounger" would have been the better choice (our Swiss friends have them for years now and they have absolutely no complaints whatsoever)! We sent back the four chairs to Brunner and that company also was very customer-friendly and we got our money back. (The company said that they had that problem with only very few chairs of that type altogether and had no real answer what exactly was wrong with the chairs or our treatment of them!)

Overland Reunion 2014 (photo by Coen Wubbels)

When the "Pico Sport" broke down, we remembered Coen Wubbels' words from this years Overland Reunion, stating that, actually, the most important characteristic of "THE" travel chair is that you have to be able to repair it almost anywhere with the help of basic mechanics using material you can get everywhere, because even the most refined, small travel chair on the market is worth nothing when it breaks down and you are in the Belizean jungle without an outdoor retailer around the next corner. The more telescopic plastic or cast-metal elements you have on a travel chair, the less chance you have that you will be able to sufficiently repair it yourself or with the help of the village mechanics. (Yes, yes, I know you were right, Coen!) Without such a chair, you might end up sitting on the ground while the ants are not only going to do away with your breakfast! Not nice! This, actually, reduces the material used for such a travel chair to plated metal, wood and fabric.

And so continued the the quest for the "holy grail" of travel chairs!

... Now, that really was difficult! Where do you find a wooden travel chair which has a small pack size, is comfortable and where all parts can be removed separately and thus could easily be repaired or even remade by any carpenter, blacksmith or metal worker ...?

Third Chair: "Kermit Chair" (2014)

But, yes, we found it - with the help of fellow nomad Coen Wubbels, who had seen a chair of that kind somewhere and gave us a name to google on the internet: "Kermit Chair". The "Kermit Chair", handmade in Tennessee, seems to have been an "insiders' tipp" in the motorcycle community for quite a while now, but to us it was completely new ... Nearly all the reviews we found on the net were positive! The "Kermit Chair", according to the company's website "is a light weight chair with the comfort and beauty not found in other portable chairs". Just take a look at the photos and you'll have to admit that the advert is not overdoing anything! It is made from hardwood , aluminium and Nylon-fabric, has a pack size of 55cm x 10cm x 15cm and weighs only 2400g. It can be set up in not more than one minute and can carry persons weighing 150kg (!). To increase the sitting-height, we also ordered leg extensions.

Now, the next problem was to find out where in Germany one could buy the Kermit Chair - absolutely no chance! None of the outdoor retailers in Germany sold it or was able to get it  ... Well, so we had to buy them in the US and had them shipped to us  ... What we got will hopefully last a lifetime - and: any broken part of it can be replaced anywhere on this planet. And: the Kermit Chair is really comfortable and the "old school" look fit's the Land Rover perfectly well, doesn't it?!

The "Kermit Chair"

Kermit Chair with Leg Extensions

Just like Christmas!

Setting it up for the first time

Step I - installing leg braces

Step II - attaching curved braces

Step III - leg extensions

1st time - 1 minute!

Our first experiences

Setting up the "Kermit Chair" is really easy: install the two leg braces, then attach the curved braces, unfold the chair and then add the leg extensions. Done that! I had imagined that process taking way longer - it took me just less than a minute! And that was the first time!

The design really is wonderful. The chair looks beautifully delicate and still seems robust and it has some kind of "British country style" to it.

Most people who were around immediately found the chair really comfortable, especially it being a travel chair. The "Kermit" is even something for people with back problems as our expert stated! The leg extensions make the chair really variable, as you can decide between the "hang loose position" and a more upright one. For people with long legs (not true for the four of us!), the "Kermit" with leg extensions might still be a bit short!

We'll keep you updated with the "field-tests".

1st sitting

Back expert says, "Thumbs up"!

Too short for "Big Ben"

"hang loose position (I)"

"hang loose position (II)"

"British country style" - even Scotty loves it!