Meet Gimli, our family’s Land Rover Defender overlanding camper. Gimli has had an interesting life and, since 2018, has been part of our family and has seen A LOT of changes. Here’s his story!

Our Land Rover Camper Conversion

Why Did We Build A Land Rover Camper?

Our decision to build a Land Rover Campervan began on our family gap year in 2017-2018. As much as we love taking public transportation when we travel, we felt a real sense of freedom each time we rented a vehicle. We were free to go where we wanted, when we wanted, without being bound to a schedule (which was often unpredictable in many parts of the world!). 

We weren’t long into that trip when I told Randy I wanted a VW Campervan. His response was a resounding “hell no”!! Then we met someone randomly in Guangzhou airport who was en route to pick up a Land Cruiser in Australia. That was a little more palatable to Randy, but it didn’t quite stick. Finally, months later, we were in Tikal, Guatemala and met a couple from Brazil overlanding in a Land Rover Defender Camper with a rooftop tent. Randy was sold.

We came home from our family gap year with the seed planted for another epic adventure. Although, this time, it wouldn’t be all at once. And this time, we’d have our own wheels.

Why a Land Rover Defender 110 Camper?

I don’t know exactly when we decided we wanted to travel overland around the whole world. It seems like that was always the plan, like it was the obvious thing to do! I’m sure it wasn’t, but as soon as we started seriously researching overlanding vehicles, the whole world was part of it. 

When we started researching, we looked at almost every vehicle option available. I wanted a bed that didn’t fold (so no rooftop tent for me!!), and Randy wanted something that was easy to fix anywhere in the world, since the whole world was part of the plan! We both wanted decent off-road capability, knowing we’ll need it in Africa and across Asia. 

The final decision was narrowed down to a Toyota Land Cruiser Troopy and a Land Rover Defender. Both vehicles met all our requirements. One could argue that the Land Cruiser is more reliable and, therefore would require less fixing. However, parts are more difficult to find and more expensive. The deciding factor was that the Troopy is only available with 2 doors. Since there will be 4 of us travelling inside for the first decade (or so), a 2-door vehicle simply was not an option. 

Once we decided on which vehicle we wanted, we had to find one to buy!

Finding, Buying and Importing our Land Rover Defender Van

Land Rover Defenders were never sold in Canada. Canadian law dictates that a vehicle originally sold outside Canada or the USA must be 15 years or older to import. By then, it’s considered a classic car and isn’t bound to Canadian safety or emissions standards. 

Randy scoured the internet for something exactly 15 years old (a 2003 at the time) with low kilometres. He and Kacela even took a trip to Europe and looked at several Defenders in Germany.  Eventually, he found our Defender online, located at a dealer in Italy. It had 92,500km and had been used as a forest fire protection vehicle. It appeared to be in good shape, and the price was reasonable. (See before & after below!)

We used a translator to help us negotiate and fill out the paperwork.  Without ever having set eyes on the vehicle, we decided to go ahead with the purchase. Our banker was very uncomfortable about sending a relatively large wire to Italy, to an unknown company, for an unconfirmed asset, but we did it anyway!

We bought our Defender in November 2018. The next hurdle was arranging shipping and importing it to Canada. Long story short, the vehicle finally arrived at our house on April 16, 2019. It was a complicated process, and we learned a number of things along the way! Hopefully I’ll get a post up about that at some point in the near future!

Our Land Rover Defender Camper Conversion

We started the interior/camper design with the bed. This was my non-negotiable item. I wanted a bed that didn’t fold, and we found the perfect solution in the AluCab Icarus Roof Conversion. 

AluCab Icarus Pros: 

  • One flat mattress that doesn’t fold. 
  • Our bed is always made up; we just pull it down and crawl in. 
  • Access from inside the vehicle
  • Ample storage space on the bed for the bedding, pillows and clothing
  • Bed hinges up out of the way to provide full-height interior living space. Even Randy, at 6’2”, can stand up inside.
  • It looks super cool when it’s set up!!  

AluCab Icarus Cons:

  • Lowered the interior roof height slightly (doesn’t matter for me & the girls, but Randy’s head is shockingly close to the ceiling).
  • Increased the overall height of the vehicle
  • It’s expensive (however, it’s incredibly well made, so we didn’t mind paying for quality).
  • It’s tricky for me to get the roof up (and down) on my own. I was able to do it with the factory struts…but it’s not happening with our upgraded struts.

AluCab Icarus Struts

The factory struts that lift up the roof conversion work great when there’s nothing on the roof but are a bit (a LOT) underpowered when the roof rack is loaded. We upgraded the main struts to Metrol Springs NS-FF-10-500 800N and the short struts to Metrol Springs NS-FF-10-400 600N. We also needed 2 ball joint end fittings with 8mm thread full range (B7-10S) and 4 Eye end fittings with 8mm thread range (E10). The installation was a massive PIA until we figured out what we were doing. We even managed to bend our bed trying to lift the roof to get the new struts on! 

Finally, Randy figured out that he could use a ratchet strap and managed to do it without a problem once he figured out the right method. I highly recommend you learn from our mistakes and watch the video if you decide to upgrade your struts!

Defender 110 Camper Interior Design

We knew there was no way all 4 of us would sleep comfortably in one small bed, so the next step was to figure out the interior puzzle. Randy removed all the back seats, and we spent hours sitting on the wheel well just looking around the vehicle, talking through options. 

Most Land Rover Defender conversions have fixed cabinetry running up one side and retain only the front driver and passenger seats. This wasn’t an option for us because our kids need somewhere to sit. So, keeping the second row of seats was a must. I also didn’t think the girls would love sleeping together in a narrow bed beside the cabinetry, so I wanted to work out a way for their bed to take up the entire width of the vehicle. 

I played around with multiple configurations, and eventually landed on our final design. 

Interior Cabinetry Design

We have 4 cabinets that serve as a base for our interior setup. They have two different configurations, day mode and night mode.

Day mode – When the cabinets are up, we have space to stand inside the vehicle for food prep or cooking (in poor weather). There’s also a pull-out table that allows us to eat together inside as well as play card games, and it gives the girls somewhere to do their schoolwork. In this configuration, the internal storage can be accessed via doors on the front of the cabinet boxes. 

Night mode – When the cabinets are down, they create a sleeping platform the full width of the vehicle. We often curl up here in the evening to watch a movie together. When down, the cabinets can be accessed through the hinged lid on the top.

Randy was initially going to build these out of plywood. Ultimately, we ended up having them fabricated from aluminum and powder-coated. Compared to wood, aluminum is lighter & more durable, and the sides are significantly thinner, giving us more interior storage space. 

However…The 4 cabinets are only 42” (1067 mm) in length, not enough to make a bed for anyone! 

So…Randy designed and made the back seat frames so we could remove the backs of the seats. Then, we had a set of aluminum custom-fabricated boxes made to sit on top of each back seat to extend the bed. These open from the top and each girl has their own to store whatever they want (mostly clothes). 

The height of the cabinet boxes was something that took a LOT of thinking. We had to consider the heights of; the bench seat on the driver’s side, the slide-out tables, and the “countertop” when the cabinets are in the daytime configuration. 

Normal counter height is 36” (~900 mm). This seemed like a very reasonable height for the top of the cabinets. We would have three 12” (300 mm) boxes stacked together to reach this height.

The problem is that the wheel wells are 9” (~230 mm) high. We would need to build a 3” (~70 mm) deep storage area above the wheel wells, hardly big enough to create usable space. So, we decided to make each cabinet 13” (330 mm) tall, giving us 4” (~100 mm) above the wheel well and making the total counter height 39” (990 mm). I admit, it’s a tiny bit on the high side for me, at 5 feet (1.5 m) tall. But, it’s still very manageable, and worth it for the extra storage space we gained. 

Wheel Well Design

On the passenger side, under the cabinets, we added a 4” (~100 mm) tall aluminum drawer system. If we had built them out of plywood, the storage space inside would have been minimal. However, they provide a decent amount of space with the aluminum frame. They pull out when the cabinets are up and have a hinged top so we can access them when the cabinets are down. 

We use them to store games (one whole drawer!) and things like insect repellant, sunscreen, and the broom & vacuum (link). 

On the driver’s side we added a bench. It has a bit of storage above the wheel well, and a long open space along the floor in front of the wheel well for our exterior rug. We pack spare air filters and tools in there, as well as our Wolf & Grizzly portable, foldable firepit.

Custom Cushions

In order to turn the platform into a bed, we designed custom cushions to fit the space. These are made of 3” (~75 mm) high density foam covered in indoor/outdoor Sunbrella fabric. They’re relatively comfortable to sleep on, at least no one’s complained yet anyways! When the cabinetry is up against the wall, they become the bench cushions. Everything has a dual purpose!

I wanted to maximize the space inside the girl’s storage boxes. So, instead of putting a 3” (75 mm) cushion on them, it’s only 1”(25 mm). This part of the bed is for their feet, so it’s not a big deal that it’s not as soft & comfortable. 


One of the things Randy was adamant about was a fridge that opened from the top. Initially I was against this as I wanted the inside to “look like a house”, and therefore have a front opening fridge. Randy convinced me that from an access and energy savings perspective, a front open fridge was impractical. Every time it opens, all the cold air falls out the bottom. And with kids, the fridge gets opened an awful lot!

I reluctantly agreed to the top-open fridge, then realized we could position it between the kids. By doing this we’d separate them when driving and hopefully eliminate some of the inevitable backseat fights.  

We settled on an ARB 50qt (47L) fridge with an insulating cover. It’s a 12V fridge and runs off our house battery but has it’s own converter so we can plug it into a 120/240V outlet if we need to.  So far, we’ve been happy with the fridge. It’s big enough for all of us if we shop every few days. Occasionally I wish we had a dual fridge/freezer so I could have something frozen, but this is so rare it’s hardly worth the extra space. 

(The kids also sleep on the fridge periodically, especially once we’ve just landed from an overseas flight!)

Interior Storage

With 4 of us jammed into a small space, creative storage solutions are incredibly important. In addition to the custom cabinetry, we also have the following storage spaces:

  • 14 small Velcro storage nets on the ceiling. They either have a small eBag packing cube inside, or we roll up/stuff jackets, sweaters, etc into the net. The packing cubes help keep everything looking relatively organized and uniform. Initially, I tried to put the girl’s jackets in a packing cube as well, but this was a losing battle as they never used it! 
  • Randy & I both have a large, expandable eBag packing cube for our clothes. I also have a mesh bra bag as I really love my Knix V-bra and I don’t want it getting ruined by stuffing it into a packing cube. I also put all my socks and underwear in with my bras. 
  • The girls also have their clothes packed in eBag packing cubes that live in their storage boxes. Having our things in packing cubes allows us to easily bring our clothes inside when we’re staying in a hotel, etc. 
  • Each kid has a seat back organizer on the rear of the front seat. It holds their water bottle, purse, book, pens/pencil crayons, headlamp, and any other junk (literally sometimes) they pick up along the way. 
  • My sun visor has a zippered organizer that holds extra charging cords, the vehicle registration, glasses cleaning cloth, a few serviettes (very important to have on hand with kids in a car) and anything else I need quick and easy access to. 
  • We replaced the factory cubby box with a locking cubby box from Exmoor Trim. This holds our passports, binoculars, electronics cube (other charging items, headphones and Skyroams) and anything else we’d like to keep secure.
  • Since we both often have a water bottle AND a coffee cup, we added a tunnel tray around the gear box. It has 2 cup holders and a few other small nooks for things like pen, hand sanitizer, etc. 

Other Interior Modifications for our Land Rover Campervan 


The stock seats that came with Gimli were incredibly uncomfortable. We’re planning to spend a LOT of time sitting in those seats, so this was something we were willing to splurge on. For the driver & front passenger seats we bought Scheel Mann Touring LR Edition with integrated heating and lumbar support. These were PRICEY but worth every single penny. 

We didn’t need to go quite as fancy for the back seats, and Randy wanted something he could fit onto a self-built frame. We ended up with Exmoor Trim classic high back seats.

I did contemplate the idea of a folding seat for a while, but this would have eliminated the girl’s storage boxes. We do need to store the seatbacks, but they fit quite nicely on the floor in the front seat when we’re not driving. I originally thought the tradeoff was worth it, even though it takes a few extra minutes during set up to get the seat backs off.

Window Coverings

Randy & I don’t really need window coverings in the pop-top bed, but the girls definitely need something to block the light down below. I had a little look around the internet for something to buy but ended up just making the window coverings myself. I put magnets around the window frames (the downside of an aluminum vehicle) and on the blackout coverings and bug screens. They’re easy to put up and down and do a decent job of blocking out the light. 

They don’t have any insulation in them because I felt this just makes them bulky. The vehicle isn’t really insulated either, so I didn’t think it would matter if we didn’t have insulation on the windows! However, they do get pretty steamed up in the morning when it’s cold outside and the heater’s run all night. If I were to do it again, would I add some type of insulation? Maybe!! However, I’m just hoping we’ll end up somewhere warm, someday soon, and it won’t matter anymore!. 

Battery & Power

The power system is the brain of our Land rover 110 camper. It keeps the lights on, the heater running and our devices charged, not to mention the fact that it starts the vehicle, so we couldn’t go anywhere without it. There are a ton of different options when looking at power system setup for an overland electrical system, and different people are going to have different priorities. 

Ultimately, we decided to go with a 12V-only system. This avoids the need for an inverter, which saves energy, weight and heat production (which lowers the fire risk). A single voltage system is also more robust and easier to troubleshoot &repair compared to more complicated setups. The downside, however, is that everything must run on 12V or be USB chargeable. Luckily, these days, that’s easy to accomplish. We even have a USB chargeable car vacuum, blender and hair straightener (that doesn’t get used much, but one never knows when they might need to look presentable)!

Our dual battery system is based off a Northstar AGM starter battery and a 115 ah AGM “house” battery. We opted for AGM over lithium because we felt it was the best option at the time, however when they need to be replaced, we’ll be upgrading to lithium. On the roof, we have 2 – 100 watt Renogy solar panels permanently mounted. We started with flexible non-permanent options, but they were too flimsy and we get great charge even without direct sunlight, so the permanently fixed option ended up being our preference. If we ever feel like we need more solar power, we’ll buy a folding panel that can be positioned anywhere…but this is just one more thing to store so I’m hoping we won’t need it. 

The power system is managed by a CTEK 140A Off Road system (note, this system is not compatible with lithium batteries). It’s specifically designed for overlanding, and it’s nothing short of amazing! It manages power by charging both the starter and house batteries with the alternator and solar supply, prioritizing the starter battery. It also provides surge protection, system diagnostics, and a battery monitor so you know exactly how much juice you have left.

My favorite feature of this system is the “house” battery starting assist.  The CTEK reroutes power from the “house” battery if the starter battery happens to be low. This feature saved us in the past when our starter battery failed.

It may not sound like much, but the 140A Off Road is a miracle system that is well worth the money and time/effort to install. 

Although the CTEK is the brains of the system, and most everything electrical runs through it, the design and construction of the rest of the electrical system took a lot of planning. Randy put time & thought into ensuring we had the right power requirements for each of the various electrical components, appropriate length of wire runs & correct gauge wire. This was important to prevent future failures, electrical shorts, and decrease fire risks. This was a MASSIVE undertaking for Gimli with the dozens of lights, USB ports, heater, etc. 

This is all controlled via a custom-built panel that sits just above Randy’s head. The CTEK battery monitor lives here, as well as a series of rocker switches that control the external lights, fuel transfer pump, winch and stereo. 


In a perfect world we’d never be in a situation to need a heater overnight. However, our reality is that this is one of our most used items. We installed a Webasto Airtop 2000STC 12V Diesel heater with the SmarTemp 2.0 thermostat. We tested it at home in the winter, waking up nice and toasty in our uninsulated vehicle, with an outside temperature of -30C!

Once we were overseas, we had problems with the heater quitting intermittently.  We would wake up freezing because it stopped in the middle of the night. In the process of troubleshooting, Randy ended up replacing the thermostat with a SmarTemp 3.0. It turns out it wasn’t the thermostat after all, but an electrical gremlin (poor connection in the fuse holders of Webasto’s factory wiring harness). Overall, the system is excellent, and since we figured out where our little gremlin was living, we are very happy with it.  

The upside of upgrading to the SmarTemp 3.0 is the Bluetooth capability.  Now we can control the heater from up in the bed and Randy can perform better diagnostics, although that hasn’t been necessary since we evicted the gremlin.

Air Conditioning

Gimli didn’t come with factory air conditioning. This wasn’t a deal breaker for us as we knew we could install an aftermarket A/C at any time. To be honest, I’m kinda glad it didn’t come with Land Rover A/C because it allowed us to install a Ministry of Defender 319 HVAC Upgrade. This upgraded our heating system (a notorious problem in any Defender) and added A/C without giving up any legroom, which didn’t matter at all for me, but mattered quite a bit for Randy!

The one downside to this is that we decided to also include the conversion to a Puma dash. This maximized the efficiency of the blowers, and ergonomically is a bit nicer. However, it required permanently sealing off the front vents. I was a bit sad about this at first. However, I’ve had enough bugs fly through those things when they’re open that I’ll get over it.


If you’ve ever driven a Defender, you’ll know they’re LOUD! You hear the engine, and the road, and every single rock, gravel or piece of sand that flies up and hits the underside of the vehicle. I wasn’t disillusioned into thinking we could eliminate the exterior noise, but I did want to find something to minimize it, even a little bit!

Once we had everything stripped out of the interior of the vehicle, Randy painted the entire floor with Herculiner. It was an ugly grey colour, so of course I had to paint over every part of it that was visible! It makes a good base to decrease a bit of the road noise. It’s not silent (at all!), but it’s better…we can almost have a conversation when we’re driving highway speeds now! 

Exterior modifications


Water storage is tricky. Water is heavy, and it sloshes around, making it potentially hazardous if it’s high up on an already high vehicle. Having our water storage low in the vehicle was non-negotiable. On board we have 105L water capacity, and the ability to almost endlessly filter drinking water as long as we have a water source. 

Built in water storage:

  • Custom-built 20L clean/potable water tank in the back seat foot well under the fridge. It’s piped out through the floor to a small tap hidden under the back passenger door. This is used for cooking, brushing teeth, etc. 
  • 65L Safari-Equip sill tank on the passenger side (non-potable water). This has a quick-release valve on the bottom and the hose is in the “garage” above the back wheel. The output flow is quite slow, and we’re on the hunt for a pump to speed it up!
  • 20L Lifesaver 10000 water filter for drinking water. 


The Defender has a 70L factory fuel tank. Depending on our mileage, we get anywhere from 550km-700km per tank. In Canada and Europe, this is adequate, but once we venture further afield, we need the capacity for more fuel. We installed a Safari-Equip 66L Sill Tank on the passenger side. This balances the weight of the fuel and water and keeps the weight as low and as far forward as possible. 

As much as we love the Safari-Equip tanks, they were a massive pain to install. They didn’t come with installation instructions, and Randy had an awful time trying to get any info from the company. He was able to figure his way through it, after a lot of frustration! So…if you’re planning on installing one of these tanks, save yourself some hassle and shoot us a message so he can give you some tips. 

Wheels & Tires

Tires: Randy wanted big, beefy tires. I blame this on Graeme Bell. He recommends larger tires in his book “Travel The Planet Overland or We will be Free”, (we can’t remember which one so you should probably read them both!) because they’re better for sand. I wasn’t 100% convinced, but since there were a lot of interior things I wanted, I went along with the big tires. I’m sure one day when we’re not stuck in sand because of our wider tires, I’ll appreciate having them!

We have BF Goodrich T/A K02 – 285/75R16. They’re 32.8” diameter, which is 1” larger than the original tires. Between the slightly larger tires and aftermarket suspension, Gimli rides a few inches higher than a standard Defender. This has pros and cons, and at the end of the day, the pros outweigh the cons (which are really only because I’m so short). 

Wheels: We had one heck of a time finding a nice-looking wheel with the correct bolt pattern for our Defender. Apparently, 5×165.1 is not a very common bolt pattern in Canada. We finally settled on a set of Method wheels, MF701. We think they look great, and they do their job well.

Exterior Storage

  • Garage: Outside the vehicle we installed a locking “garage” in the driver side wheel well. It holds all the dirty things we don’t want inside the vehicle, like extra oils & fluids. 
  • Spare Tire Bag: I searched far and wide for the perfect spare tire bag. I wasn’t thrilled with the longevity of the Trasheroo bags, and I was pretty excited when I found the G.A.R.B 2.1 bag, made in Canada by NBX gear. It’s incredibly durable, and I love that the interior compartment is divided in half, so we run trash on the left and recyclables on the right. The 2 front pockets fit our wheel chocks, and the side pockets are great for stuffing random things we don’t want inside the vehicle! 
  • Front Runner Wolf Packs: We have 4 of these, but the original version, not the pro version. They fit on the roof rack when we’re not carrying the bikes, and between the wheel wells (with the cabinets up) when we have the bikes on the roof. When we’re parked, 3 of them stack together to make stairs to increase the ease of getting in & out of the vehicle. The wolf packs hold our tools and other spare parts we’re carrying (i.e. belts). We also have one for shoes & out of season clothing items, and another for recovery gear. The last one is often empty, but is meant for extra food when needed, or anything else we might find we need space for along the way. We’ve replaced the latches along the way, and because we step on them, we’ve had 2 of the lids crack in the middle. They work for now, but when we get to the point where we ditch the bikes and these live on the roof full time, we’ll be on the hunt for something a bit more durable and rugged. I think the Pro version is better, but we’re likely to go for a Pelican Cargo case instead.

Mechanical Modifications


The factory suspension that comes with the Defender is kind of crap, especially for off roading of any kind! We knew we needed a suspension upgrade but didn’t want to go with anything too crazy. Randy did some research and settled on a 2” lift, heavy duty custom-selected Old Man Emu suspension system to fit the Defender. 

And then, I did an offroad course with a friend in her 110, Maddy. They had a brand-new suspension, and as we were driving out on the washboard road, and we were stable and comfortable, I turned and was like, “I NEED this suspension!”. So, we met the husbands in the parking lot, and I made Randy take Maddy for a drive, and he immediately ordered the Old Man Emu BP51 suspension. 

The first suspension was good, fine, totally worked and was way better than the factory suspension. But our new suspension is AMAZING!!! 

HOWEVER, now I’m looking at airbag suspension because it would make levelling so much easier. I’ve decided that we don’t need to spend any more money on the suspension at this point tho, so I’ve convinced myself that it won’t be as good off-road. Feel free to contradict me if I’m wrong!


I think this is Randy’s favourite addition to our vehicle. It’s also the thing that other Defender owners go out and purchase after driving Gimli!

Roamerdrive is a Canadian company, which makes it even more special. I get so jealous of all the Europeans (especially Germans) who have access to so much amazing custom Defender gear made within their own country, so they don’t have to worry about outrageous shipping or import fees. I think the only thing Canada can lay claim to is Roamerdrive, and I’ll take it!

It drops our revs by 28% in any and every gear, including low range. It’s especially useful on the highway. We comfortably travel faster, and it improves our mileage (not by 28%, but with the price of fuel these days, any improvement is good!)


One of the downsides to a lifted suspension is that the angle of the front driveshaft requires a double-cardan joint.  When we installed the new suspension, we had a front driveshaft custom-made at a local driveline business in our hometown.  

On our drive across Canada this driveshaft failed at the most inopportune moment… climbing to the summit of a Mountain pass! The failed part resulted in a multi-hour delay, a rented car, and a U-Haul rental with a vehicle trailer to haul Gimli ~500 km to TRS Automotive in Calgary.  

Randy was concerned either the Roamerdrive or transfer case were destroyed. Fortunately, the driveshaft was easily diagnosed by TRS. Our friend’s Defender “Maddy” (yes, the same Maddy from the suspension) happened to be sitting at TRS with a brand-new Gwyn Lewis Mega front driveshaft (GLDCMEGA600). This is the absolute best driveshaft available.

Maddy became Gimli’s organ donor and TRS installed her driveshaft on Gimli.  We were back on the road within a day!  You’ll be happy to know a replacement shaft was delivered to TRS for Maddy just a few days later.

Other Useful Things


When I talk about toilets, I’m talking specifically about somewhere to do number two! We can easily pee in the bush, or in a bottle using my Go Girl Pee Funnel, which I do almost every morning and the girl’s think is totally gross! Dealing with pee is easy. Dealing with poo is much more difficult!

Initially, we started with a chemical toilet. However, we used it so infrequently (one night total on our entire 10 week drive across Canada) and it took up so much space that we sold it in Halifax before shipping Gimli to Europe. It was replaced with a folding toilet from Amazon that uses compostable bags and takes up a tiny bit of space. It’s the ideal solution given it’s compact size, and it very rarely gets used.

When needed, we use it in our Alucab shower cube. 

We also have a poo shovel, which lives outside Gimli in the tire bag. This is definitely our preferred method when we’re away from civilization. We always follow “leave no trace” rules; dig a hole 6-8” deep (depending on the environment), poo in the hole, cover it back up and stamp it down; carry out the toilet paper in a ziploc bag, and make sure the hole is 200ft away from any bodies of water or hiking trails.  

Recovery Gear 

Most Defender owners joke that they carry recovery gear to pull out other vehicles. We haven’t used our gear yet, but Randy’s had it out once…for another vehicle! We bought most of our recovery gear from Freedom Recovery Gear. Richard makes and sells incredibly high-quality gear, and I know it’ll stand up to whatever we put it through, which, hopefully, isn’t a lot!


Choosing the “right” winch wasn’t easy, because there’s a lot to consider. Eventually we decided on an ARB winch bar/bumper and a Warn VR EVO 12S winch. The bar and winch are very heavy and we’ve yet to get into a situation where we need them. We may in the future, but in hindsight we probably could have gone with a smaller setup and saved a lot of weight (and resultant fuel, wear & tear, etc.)

Recovery Board/Sand Ladder

Many overlanders choose to carry recovery boards or sand ladders, like Maxtrax. We chose to carry an alternative to this, GoTreads. GoTreads provide a good recovery option for sand, snow and mud, similar to a sand ladder. The difference is that they fold into thirds. This makes them easy to store and they double as our nightly levelling blocks when setting up camp. I love multi-use items! The one downside of GoTreads is they don’t offer the ability to bridge. I think the need for this is so remote that we’ll come up with an alternate solution at the time if it’s ever required.

Wheel Chocks

When we’re sleeping in Gimli I chock the wheels every. single. night. Randy says it’s overkill because the park brake does a great job keeping the vehicle from going anywhere, but I just feel better with the wheels chocked, especially if one or more is up on a levelling block, and ESPECIALLY if it’s windy! It’s such a little thing, but I sleep better knowing one of the wheels is essentially locked in place. 

Air Compressor

We carry a portable air compressor that lives under one of the girl’s rear passenger seats. It’s a ViAir 88P compressor that works like a charm to air up the tires when needed. We’ve also used it for our folding bike tires! 

Recovery Gear Kit

Our recovery gear includes; gloves, tow rope, shackles, bridles, clevis’, quick tire deflater, spare valve cores, a tire repair kit, hand saw, axe, jack, a small chain saw, and a lot more that I can’t think of right now!

Theft Prevention

We’ve deployed a variety of items to assist with theft prevention in Gimli. This gives us peace of mind when we leave it for any length of time, especially if we’re in a bigger city. 

  • Battery disconnects under the driver’s seat. We disconnect the starter battery when we leave the vehicle for any extended periods of time. We can also lock the driver seat box if we feel like we need to be extra cautious. 
  • Locking Cubby Box from Exmoor Trim.
  • Removable steering wheel: The wheel itself comes from MoMo and the steering wheel boss is from Optimill
  • 2 Air Tags (one per adult)
  • Spot Trace – This lets us see where Gimli is all the time. Randy gets an alert anytime it moves, and our family can also see where we are (if they remember to save the link!). It’s battery powered but also hard wired to the house battery, so it’ll live for a long time. We’ve left it for 4-5mo at a time and it stays charged. 
  • Padlocks on roof tent & kitchen box.
  • Aircraft cable for things on the roof rack, including the folding bikes.
  • Security bolts – These are on the solar panels, light bars and table. 

I’m sure I’ve missed something, so I’ll be sure to update as we go!

Reach out if you have any questions 🙂

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