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Ben and Nick Open Sky TouringIt’s nearly Christmas and everyone loves a story, so below are a couple from the Open Sky Touring archives. Fires are everywhere at the moment and a huge amount of loss has been incurred across Australia. As such, it seems more than appropriate to talk about them.

As travellers, we regularly use fire as a tool. In fact, for us and many others, it is the ritual of cooking in the bush. As someone on Facebook recently posted: “No one drinks beer around the microwave!”

That said, fire safety, now more than ever, should be one of your highest priorities when bush camping. Let me share one of my little life lessons that I hinted at in the last newsletter. Sometimes the best lessons about travelling are learned from your mistakes.

Campfire beside a vehicle

Lessons from Fire

A lifetime or so ago, I was working as part of a team on a station in a remote part of Queensland. We had called it a night near a small dam, lit the fire, cooked up a feed, washed it down with a few tinnies and crashed out for the night in our swags. The next morning we re-stoked the fire, knocked up a brew and some breaky for everyone, re-packed the Toyotas and moved on. The fire was out before we left and had a reasonable clear patch of ground scraped all around it. No worries. Or so we thought.

A couple of hours later, I took off in a Robinson R-22 helicopter and heard about a fire on the station radio. I turned and saw a huge wall of smoke billowing up from the direction of our last camp. Let me tell you, the feeling of dread and helplessness that hit me at that point is not something I ever want to experience again. One look at that fire, which was about a kilometre wide and out of control, and I knew it was us who had caused it by not properly ensuring it was out.

Well, a week later it finally burned out after all hands from three surrounding properties put in their best efforts to cut it off with backburning and firebreaks. About 67 square kilometres of cattle feed was gone as well as a few paddock fences, and let’s just say that I was not exactly the flavour of the month.

That fire was investigated by the Regional Firies and the first thing said was that although we had scraped up a clear patch with the shovel, we didn’t have the required 1.5 metres of cleared ground around the fire. It was eventually decided that a whirly whirly had most likely blown through and thrown a hot coal into the nearly dry grass. Stupid stuff. And it could have been a lot worse.

Lesson learned: Always, 100 percent always, ensure your fires are properly doused with water and out before you leave camp.

Lessons from the Dessert

For anyone who has spent some time travelling, a breakdown situation has probably happened to you at some stage. Breaking down in the desert though is most people’s nightmare and should be avoided at all costs. A breakdown here is a serious situation, and one that can be both life threatening and very expensive if you don’t plan properly. Well, that is exactly what happened to us during our 2015 desert crossing, and although it is now a part of our story, it could have been a disaster. It also provided another valuable learning experience.

desert_breakdownIn my case, the breakdown was caused by a single hose clamp popping off a hose running from the automatic transmission to the transmission cooler on the Brown Bear, the name affectionately given to my bronze GU Patrol with the 6.5l Turbo Diesel heart transplant. Great car by the way. It now lives at Useless Loop in Western Australia with its new owner, Luke.

Anyway, this happened just as we moved off from our second camp and we still don’t really know why it waited until we were in the middle of nowhere. Murphy’s Law, I guess. So, was this preventable? Probably. That said, I’ve never known hose clamps to vibrate loose, so I wasn’t paying attention to them. Also, and more importantly, I’ll never know if it was loose prior to starting the vehicle because it wasn’t checked during the morning vehicle start-up routine. Why? Because I stupidly didn’t do one.

Luckily for us we were traveling in a convoy of three vehicles and were able to duck into town (nine hours away) and pick up 12 litres of the world’s most expensive tranny fluid before continuing on our merry way.

Lesson Learned: Always have enough fluids for at least two days in case of a breakdown (we nearly ran out!) Doing pre-start checks is also highly recommended.

A blister from Pat

We got a bit of a rude shock a couple of weeks back when none other than Pat Callinan, aka Mr 4×4, gave us a public blister on one of our Facebook posts for a box with a bent lid. Once we found out, the matter was quickly rectified with a replacement and Pat now is a happy customer again.

In fact, we are only sorry that we weren’t able to provide him with the Sandy Taupe colour he wanted for his awesome Amarok. We pride ourselves on good communication with our customers. We’ll go out of our way to fix any problems and appreciate a chance to do this if something is not right.

Tight Boxes

If you have just joined the Expedition134 owners club (or are thinking about it) or have a new box on the way for Christmas, you may notice that the lid can be difficult to latch down for the first time. Take heart, this is normal when the custom seal is still brand new and yet to bed in properly.

If you are struggling to close that middle latch, pull the edge of the tub out and up as you push down and the latch should pop on. We recommend then leaving the box latched down for 72 hours to let the seal bed in properly and all should be good with the world again. See the video on this blog for a look at how to do it.

Update from the Team

We’ve been working a lot of overtime on our business of late and slowly getting the good word out about our Expedition134 boxes. The positive feedback has been great and a lot of pictures have been sent in by people just like us, who are travelling this fine country and are now enjoying doing so with our homegrown Expedition134 boxes.

Our fellow Cairns businessman, Isaac Edmiston from Norweld, recently bought a few boxes for his unbelievable new custom 79 and carted them across to the Perth 4×4 show and back in a massive effort, driving from one side of the country to the other, with Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne on the way. It’s always good to support and work with other like-minded Aussie businesses.

Zone Caravans has also seen the light (a big shout out to Mark and Sam from A247 for the intro) and have incorporated the Expedition134 boxes into some of their exciting new light-weight canopies. Dave and Matt at Zone are into some real cutting-edge designs with their composite materials and it’s always exciting to see what they come out with next.

Expedition 134 Gray Box

Christmas Orders

If you are looking for something for that special someone, then check out some of our bundles for the perfect Christmas presents and grab some savings at the same time. Just be sure to get the order in before December 15 to ensure they get to you before Christmas. All the best to everyone for the holiday break, if you are lucky enough to get one, and a big shout out to the Emergency Services for all your hard work. We’ll be out and about again in the New Year.

Ben & Nic


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