Meet Sam Roil, Bay Of Plenty firefighter who just happens to have made one of the best Kiwi ute camper fitouts you’ve seen. We’ll let Sam explain the process.
But before that, special thanks to Jamie Garrod from New Zealand Mountain Biking for flowing the images.
I’m into just about everything outside – surfing, kiteboarding, whitewater kayaking, snowboarding – anything that has an adventure involved I’ve had a dabble or it’s on my list. Mountain biking is probably my main sport at the moment and it takes you to some pretty cool places so my setup has kind of evolved to take advantage of everything.
The start of the setup in my ute was actually just a trip around the East Cape with my partner Flick – I built my first set of drawers for my old BT50 which just had a tonneau cover and we just had a fly (tarp) that we put over the back to sleep under. We got hammered by mozzies at Lottin Point which got me thinking about roof tents. When I brought my current Ranger, it came with a canopy and then things just escalated really.
I like having a ute because they’re practical for lots of other things than camping. My first setup was actually pretty modular, the whole thing winched into the roof of my shed and the canopy with the tent on it winched up behind it. Then I could just use the ute as a ute. This new setup could theoretically do the same but I found myself leaving the setup in more than not so I’m not too worried – plus I’ve got some winter missions lined up this year.
In saying that, I’ve got a nana car which I drive to work and the ute is reserved for adventures these days as it costs a bit to run and I have a big work commute each day.
I’m a firefighter so we have a shift system which means we work weird days but get time off during the week and have to work some weekends. I live in Okere Falls near Rotorua but I work in Tauranga. Lots of us here work random jobs which aren’t really 9-5 so there’s always someone to play with! So lots of mid week trips – most of my friends are always keen for some kind of mission and it’s just a constant stream of ideas for trips, whether its riding, surfing or any combination of things!
We did a two week trip down South last April which was sort of half camping half accommodation. But we did 8 or 9 days on great barrier island in October which was all camping etc. Then there’s just lots of short trips all over the show.
I try to get away with Flick (my partner) when I’ve got weekends off, but it’s often us and other mates too. And then like I said above there’s always someone who has an adventure up their sleeve so we often roll in a crew depending on the trip. Like the Barrier trip there was 7 or 8 of us.
The Set Up;
The tent is from Intenze and is the big one with the overhang/awning thing – it has another room which zips on underneath so you can fit two more adults to sleep or just have a kitchen/lounge if the weather is average. I got it off Trademe which is why it is bogan camo – I didn’t pick that colour, promise!! It opens off the back to give shelter/roof for the kitchen.
The ute racks are from Rhino – they are on tracks riveted to the roof which is the strongest setup for racks. The canopy racks are Yakima – I did lots of research to make sure the canopy would deal with the tent/people in it but I was prepared to reinforce it if I had to. So far it’s been mint – no sign of any cracks or wear.
The roof box is a Yakima one too, it is an amazing bit of kit! I can fit shortboards, snowboards/skis, stinky mountain bike gear or just heaps of normal gear in it and it all locks up securely. The other side of my racks is for longer surfboards or I have put another roof box on for big missions.
Lastly, my bike rack is a 6 bike vertical rack from Shredder Racks in Taranaki. It is probably the biggest factor in being able to do what I do. Anyone who has mountain bikes knows how niggly it is getting into the back of your car with bikes on. My rack folds backwards even with bikes on so I can access the back of my ute/cook lunch, load groceries etc. It fits into the hitch which is super strong and nice for peace of mind when you’re carrying upwards of $40K worth of bikes.
My drawer system is designed to work around the rack – when it’s laid back, the cooking side clears it completely which is key.
My first set of drawers was basically just two drawers under a flat platform. One side was the cooker/pots and utensils etc and the other side was basically the pantry. The last trip we did in the middle of the heatwave this summer made me think chilly bins and dealing with ice/soggy food was overrated.
My current drawers was done with the help from Ken of Creative Campers, in Mt Maunganui [thanks Ken!]. They are designed around the fridge. I have got the Dometic/Waeco CFX 65 which is pretty big and I had to be careful when I was designing that it would clear everywhere I needed it to. Behind the fridge on the same slide is space for food etc which can also be accessed through the side window of the canopy. Underneath the fridge is a slide with a pop down sink. There is also the tap/hose which comes from a 60L water tank mounted right up against the front of the tray. It is just gravity fed at the moment but I’m still deciding whether to have a pump.
Tucked against the side is the house battery which charges via the alternator and by solar once I get a solar blanket. Right in front of the battery is the switch panel with 12v outlet and 2 USB’s which has a charging station for speakers/phones etc. Under the canopy door are two LED’s to light up the kitchen. There will be more lights added down the track in the tent etc.
The other drawer is the cooking side. The chopping board/bench folds off the top of the stove. The gas bottle lives in the back of the drawer with pots/other storage and cutlery/plates are in the drawers under the cooker. The whole cooking drawer clears the bike rack so it can be used without taking it off but the fridge slide hits the rack. Even so, the fridge can still be opened which was part of the design. On top of the cooking drawer is another drawer with coffee making stuff and then condiments/hot sauce and key things for when you are cooking. Lastly, down the side are random things which are handy – shovel, table, chairs etc.
I’m tossing up getting a 12v califont shower but normally it’s a swim or a wash in a creek or the sea. Usually there is a toilet where we camp. My worst nightmare is going where there’s a million white vans so the whole ‘freedom’ camping thing is semi redundant for me. You can always find a toilet at a cafe/shop/campground. I can’t understand how people leave toilet paper/poo right where they’ve camped – it’s such an easy thing to manage.
A real rough add up I’d say around $5-6K so far.
Sam’s Five Recreational Hacks
1. Be super efficient with your space. In a ute you have way less space than a van so you can’t afford dead areas like around the wheel arches etc.
2. Do the research on items you want (cooker, fridge etc) and then build around them. It sucks if you build it and then have to get a cheap stove because the good one doesn’t fit or find that you’re 5mm too small for your gas bottle to stand up.
3. Make sure you can access your food/pantry without opening the whole thing up. When you go shopping then you can load it and make a quick exit. By the same token, make sure you can access coffee/tea/lunch making stuff easily for when you stop to make lunch mid roadie.
4. Get a roof box. You’re using half your storage in the back for a set up and roof boxes are mint!
5. Wet wipes. They are amazing for cleaning up when you don’t have unlimited water. You can get eco/biodegradable ones too so you don’t get the guilts about rubbish.