If you’re looking for two people who are passionate about travelling around New Zealand, look no further than Emma and Jake. As a photographer that’s been travelling up and down the country for over six years, they’ve perfected their rig setup to allow them to travel and camp exactly how they like.
Who are you?
We’re Emma and Jake and we’re based in sunny Mt Maunganui, in the North Island of New Zealand. For the last six years we’ve explored our backyard from top to bottom and everything in between in our 1998 HZJ75 TroopCarrier which we’ve recently swapped for our current project, a 1993 Toyota Landcruiser Prado (yes, it’s a LandCruiser).
Tell us about your rig…
During our most recent trip around the South Island, we searched high and low for a tidy Prado tucked away for years in a shed or garage. We eventually found a unicorn, or so we thought, from a local who had about 10 other LandCruisers scattered around his property. Jake drove it back to the North Island and we began tidying and getting it setup for missions.
4 months later she sports the all new Hawk’s Nest rooftop tent by Feldon Shelter, a fresh set of Bradley V’s from Japan, wrapped in BFG KO2 tyres, along with a killer interior fit out made completely by Jake, including essentials from REDARC such as our BCDC 1250D battery charger, 1000W inverter & the 160W solar blanket. After a few turbulent months of mechanical issues that unfortunately would arise just as we’d fixed the previous one, she is finally ready to take on some long-haul adventures.
How do you like to travel and how does your rig let you do this?
We’ve always preferred to travel on the road. The sights and experiences of driving long distances across a country far outweighs the convenience of flying. In the past we’ve typically jammed as much into a trip as we can, spending no more than a night in one place, we covered a huge number of kilometres.
However, 6 years later, we can proudly say that we have pretty much seen and done everything New Zealand has to offer a 4WD road trip. These days we prefer to take it slower, parking up for a few days here and there when we find a great spot. This has meant our power sources need to come from somewhere other than our alternator when driving.
The REDARC solar blanket and battery charger allows us to retain our power for charging camera gear and powering the fridge no matter how long we are parked up for. Such a game changer! There's no worse feeling than leaving a banger camp site because the ice has melted in your esky and your veggies are going soggy.
What’s the first modification you make to any new vehicle?
Wheels and tyres, Jake is a sucker for a good-looking rig and he believes it starts with the shoes. For the Prado, we’ve gone for a more practical, gruntier tyre and wheel combo; Bradley V’s & BFG KO2 tyres which give the truck a little more edge while still keeping the look timeless and being comfortable for long journeys on the road.
What accessory or mod would you never leave home without?
After 4 years of running an esky, I can honestly say the best investment we made to our set up was a fridge and 12v system. We couldn't live without it now. Having access to a fridge while on the road is one of the few luxuries that makes life a little more comfortable.
We don’t have to worry about how many days the ice will last in the esky, there's always a cold beer and nothing goes to waste. If you spend a decent amount of time on the road, it’s an investment you won’t regret.
What accessory or mod would you recommend to a beginner 4x4er or adventurer?
A lift kit would be our first recommendation, for both comfort and capability. Better clearance, higher traction and a more robust ride will allow you to test your limits and get further off road. Another great accessory is a UHF radio. This can be super helpful in situations where you can’t directly talk to someone, whether you're crossing rivers, planning drivelines or communicating when there's no service. It’s a good way to stay connected when convoying and keeps you off your phone when driving!
How does your setup make off-grid travel more comfortable?
While some could say we had the ultimate comfortable set up in our Troopy, we noticed we weren’t spending as much time outdoors. We had made the back of the Troop so comfortable we were missing being surrounded by the elements we’d spent so long getting too. While we loved having a van-like set up we missed the more primal experience of cooking, lounging and just being outdoors.
This might be a bit backwards from what many people try to achieve while camping, we’re actively making things more uncomfortable, however we’ve noticed we’re a lot more relaxed and comfortable with a simpler, essentials only setup.
As there’s not as much space inside, we don’t really have the option of fleeing into the back like we did with the Troopy when it’s a little windy or the rain starts up and, to be honest, we much prefer it. Our batwing awning allows for a huge, sheltered area covering the side of the truck and back doors, which is where we have our pull-out kitchen, bar and access to the drawers and fridge.
We strategically park the vehicle so the main living areas (backdoors and left side of vehicle under the awning) are out of the wind making it quite cosy to watch the bad weather roll by or escape the sun on blistering days. We’ve refined our set up over the past 6 years, trying numerous bits of gear and layouts and while each had their pros and cons, I think we’ve finally landed on one that works best for us and hopefully a little 4-legged friend one day.
How does REDARC allow you to spend more time off-grid?
REDARC has given us the freedom to travel in the way we want, while not having to compromise on our comfort. We’ve included a wall-mounted Anderson plug in the back, to easily plug in the REDARC solar blanket as soon as we’re parked up. The 5m cable allows us to have the blanket draped across the bonnet or tilted to the sun on the windscreen.
I often work from the road meaning my laptop needs a stable source of power and the 1000W inverter is more than enough, so much so that I splurged on bringing my Nutribullet with us this summer to make margaritas on the road - a highly essential luxury and one that kept friends close by.
Having two sources of power available to us and a way to charge our camera gear, laptops, drones and other essentials such as a blender for margaritas means we’re in control of our timeline and have nothing that can pull us away from that dream spot, unless we run out of chocolate, then we will be leaving asap…
To follow Emma and Jake’s adventures around New Zealand, you can find them on Instagram. If you’re after your next New Zealand travel destination, they’ve told us about some of their favourite New Zealand camping spots.