Jackson Bright is an ultra talented Coromandel wedding and surf photographer, hence the level of images in this feature. Over winter he and Georgia did a Mainland mission in their fitted out Landcruiser which featured on the Feldon Shelter website HERE.
A few years ago I did a trip with 2 of my best mates flying down to Q-town where we picked up a terrible Nissan sedan on its last legs from my brother who was living down in Invercargill at the time. We were the delivery boys for the car which needed to be back up in the Coromandel. So we took a few weeks to make our way up the country. Doing this trip definitely gave me a taster for how epic it would be in a 4×4 camper. I also got really frothed on the idea of a 4×4 at the end of last year trying to get around to Shipwreck Bay in my (very low) Mazda Atenza station wagon. It made it there and back (just), at snail’s pace. But while 4×4’s motored past me, I came to the realisation that I’m tripping having a 2WD, and my eyes started to wander anytime an epic 4×4 rig passed by.
What is you idea of the perfect camping trip, and how did you get interested camping?
I’ve always done camping trips growing up living in the Coromandel, and all those camping trips over the years have been the memories that have stuck with me. The ideal camping scenario would have to be good weather, good people, and the ultimate bonus, if it’s not too much to ask, is good waves. If you’ve got those 3 things it’s a recipe for the best times you’ll ever have.
I’d been looking for a few months at every latest Landcruiser listing that came up in NZ. Then, my partner Georgia stumbled on a two-tone 70 series Landcruiser Prado on Facebook Marketplace within hours of it being listed. I called the guy and went to check it out that afternoon. It was a really mint example of an old 70, and the look of it definitely ticked the photogenic box for me so I was sold.
Is the Cruiser and the whole build a partnership, or is it your baby?
It was definitely a team effort. Georgia and I both got stuck into researching storage solutions and ways we could build something for the back-end of the cruiser for a kitchen setup. Many hours were spent sitting in the back of the truck with a measuring tape, trying to figure out solutions to utilise the limited space we had. We knew we wanted a couple of deep drawers, a locking slide for a fridge/chilly bin, a hatch for the existing rear cupboard, and a drop down table on the rear barn doors for the cooker and chopping board etc.
Did you have a clear idea on how you wanted to camperise the Cruiser?
Luckily my brother Tim is building a tiny house so he had all the tools I would ever need. I have as much building knowledge as a 16 year old on his first day at wood work so Tim’s building brain was very valuable. We built a simple but super practical storage box with two deep drawers on top of each other on the right side of the box. A locking fridge slide to fit the 55L Dometic chilly bin on the left, with a shelf above that to store the cooker, chopping board etc.. The whole thing bolted straight into some existing threaded holes where the rear seats used to be. I also installed a Front Runner drop down table from West Supply on the right barn door, and made a ceiling net from golf netting and 4 adjustable bungees from Bunnings that hung up inside from the existing roof handles. The ceiling net was a game changer to be able to store shortboards, fishing rods, winter jackets and towels. It freed up so much space and you hardly knew it was there. These 3 super simple additions made the truck so much more organised and made everything super accessible.
We had a date planned for when we needed to leave for our South mission and it definitely creeped up on us pretty fast, so it was a classic mad rush week to try and get everything fully ready to tackle the cold. But if you’re ever wanting to be super productive a good deadline will do that to ya. We had a weekend previously out west on a strike mission to test out the setup, and to see where all the gear might go and it all worked out pretty epic with a few slight tweaks here and there to be done.
How long were you in the Mainland and did you have a clear plan?
Georgia had 3 weeks off of University so that was the timeframe we had to work with. We focused purely on the South Island, which started off with the 8hr hike from the Coro to Welly to catch the ferry. Coincidentally, we were in Nelson at the same time as some good mates of mine, so we all rented a house in Kaiteriteri for 4 days to ease us into the South livin’. From there on we basically winged it. I had a rough route in my head of heading down the east coast through Kaikoura and then over to the west coast via Arthurs Pass. Down the West Coast over the Haast Pass, Wanaka, Q-town, Milford Sound, Catlins and then back home. But multiple B C and D plans were at the ready if the weather, wind or waves didn’t play ball. Luckily we tin assed it and with the good weather following our exact route, we roughly stuck to the plan with a few pit stops along the way in places like Lake Pukaki on the trek back home.
How’d Georgia enjoy the camping in winter in the South Island?
Georgia loved it! There were definitely some moments where she genuinely questioned if her toes were still attached and she was pushed to her limits for sure. It was so worth it to experience the South Island in mid winter like that, from the insane winter wonderland hoar frosts to the excruciatingly painful glacier swims in Fiordland. She’s glad we hit the coldest place possible first now she knows any missions from here on will be an absolute breeze.
What were the highlights?
Waking up next to a lake in Arthurs Pass to the craziest Hoar Frost that had set over night (fog that freezes to absolutely everything), and driving through those same Hoar Frosts from Hawea to Wanaka was such an insane experience. I’d always wanted to find a crystal clear river that wasn’t a full-on tourist hot spot, so to stumble upon one in Fiordland on the side of the road, I was pretty frothing out. There’s something about super clear water that really floats my boat. Plus, finding some pumping waves in the Catlins was definitely on the South checklist, so I was stoked to line it up being down there with a solid swell and good winds.
And finding some pumping waves in the Catlins was definitely on the South checklist so I was stoked to line it up being down there with solid swell and good winds.
And the lows?
The sketchiest moment of the trip was driving from Queenstown to Te Anau. We got stuck driving in another Hoar Frost but at night time. Thick fog would consistently set on our windscreen giving me a max visibility of maybe 10 metres. The whole outside of the truck was completely freezing up and the windscreen became a solid ice block. Then, having to drive at 15kph looking through a 10cm peep hole where it wasn’t too iced, made it a long night but we got there in the end.
We love our setup, and it definitely worked really well over our South Island trip. But we do have plans to add a few more selves to the back, plus a few other tweaks. And now that I’ve got a little rigid hull inflatable boat, I plan to tow it around a lot over the next few months for fishing and surfing missions, so bring on summer!
For more epic images of Jackson’s check out his Instagram page HERE
And his print shop HERE