Thankfully it has never been an occurrence for me personally however in my past life the company that I worked for had a few cracked chassis from vehicles being overloaded for remote travel. It got to the point within the business that, as part of our trip safety checks, we had to run the vehicle over a weighbridge before we could leave. This was also in the days before GVM upgrades were a common thing.
For those not in the know, GVM is simply how much your vehicle weighs when it is fully loaded – and that includes passengers, fuel, water and all the in-between stuff. All vehicles have a manufactured-specified GVM and you cannot exceed it if you want to stay on the right side of the law – and your insurance company.
Now, for those lucky enough to have a vehicle that received a pre-rego GVM upgrade, this article might not be for you. When you have 1000kg of payload, even after all the accessories, you are probably okay!
For travellers like myself though, who only have 500-600kg to play with, and which has to include everything we need for life on the road, things can start to get a little tight.
So I have put together my best advice and 5 easy ways to save weight when packing your 4WD for your next big trip.
Move to modern recovery gear
Change your recovery equipment to use winch rope, alloy accessories and soft shackles over steel winch cable, steel hitches and steel bow shackles. It makes sense when you think about it; steel is heavy and rope is light.
Saber Offroad grabbed the scales recently and put this theory to the test. For a self-recovery kit, they were able to drop nearly 30kg without compromising on the quality or amount of gear. This is a massive saving considering the kit started at 38kg.
Losing 30kg is nothing to be scoffed at when it is probably about 5 per cent of your load capacity.
It could also mean carrying an extra carton of beer, an extra jerry can filled with water, diesel or petrol, or some additional creature comforts like a stretcher bed!
Ditch the fridge slide!
Don’t get me wrong, fridge slides are great! They offer you an easy way to gain access to your fridge when you have the tailgate down, or if you can’t get the fridge door all the way open in the space you have.
Weight-wise, the flat ones that slide straight in and out aren’t too bad, weighing in at around 10kg. The drop-down slides on the other hand, can weigh in the vicinity of 35kg.
The alternative is an upright fridge. These have gained popularity in the last few years, with 12V accessory systems and batteries becoming more common, lighter and offering higher performance.
Because the door opens out like a normal fridge, you don’t have to worry about the space above the fridge, meaning it can just sit there! Not to mention, you can move up to a larger fridge because they are lighter than the chest-style. For example, a 44L MyCoolman weighs in at 23.4kg compared to an 85L Bushman, which comes in at 21.5kg.
If you have the space and the battery power, save yourself an extra 12-37kg and get an upright fridge.
Switch to Lithium Batteries
Probably one of the more expensive solutions, but changing to a lithium battery solution will let you have a lot more power for a lot less weight, in comparison to a lead-acid or AGM battery.
To get yourself 200aH of useable battery capacity using traditional deep-cycle batteries (AGM), you need to have about 400aH of total capacity. For example:
2x 190aH AGM batteries (380aH total/200aH useable) = 90kg
2x 125aH lithium batteries (250aH total/200AH useable) = 25.6kg
Not only will you save over 60kg of weight, but you will save a fair amount of space at the same time.
For some vehicles, 60kg might easily represent 10 per cent or more of your useable packing weight.
Lightweight alternative gear
There are plenty of lightweight options for most of the gear we take camping. The 4WD industry in Australia has been slow on the uptake of lightweight gear, but it has been popular in the US and Europe for years.
As we start to reassess the amount of gear we need to take to keep ourselves “comfortable”, many travellers are turning to brands like Helinox, Snow Peak and Sea to Summit, which all offer lightweight solutions.
Many of the lightweight options on the market come from the hiking industry and are often made with alloy or titanium components and use fabric, even in place of ridged surfaces, and the difference in weight speaks for itself:
1x average camp chair = 4.5kg VS 1x Helinox chair = 1kg
1x average small table = 7kg VS 1x Helinox table = 1.6kg
Just by replacing two chairs and a table, you can save 12.4kg, and you can save even more as you move your gear to lightweight options.
Just pack less!
Honestly, we are notorious for overpacking! Travellers from other countries mock Australians for how much unnecessary gear we take on our trips. Like seriously, do you really need a coffee machine?!
Packing a little less and being more conservative on what we take with us on an adventure is one of the easiest ways to drop some weight.
Of course, be sure to prioritise the necessities; do you have enough food, water and fuel? But do you really need the coffee machine and those six pairs of shorts? (We all know you’re just going to alternate between your two favourite pairs!).
If you are planning a long trip, a good tip that I learned was that if you haven’t used something in six months, ditch it. A great way to work this out is to put a little sticker on items, when you use them, you take the sticker off. Then after six months, you can take the things you don’t use out of your vehicle. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to safety or emergency gear.
Without too much hassle, it’s not hard to drop the kilos from your rig. Just by looking at some of these simple changes, you could easily drop 100kg+, save on a bit of space and be a little more fuel efficient.
Aside from leaving the family at home, do you have any other weight-saving tips?! Share them in a comment below.