Emma and Jacob create some of the most beautiful and inspiring recreational content you’ll come across. But that’s secondary to their love of the great Kiwi outdoors. Heck it’s secondary to their love of their mighty 75 series Landcruiser Troopy which is now at refit 4.0.
So let’s start at the start when the Troopy came into your guy’s lives?
Ha well funny story. We first laid our hands on it winter of 2017, but it sat in the driveway for the first 14 months before we could put it through compliance due to the 20 year rule. It was a hard 14 months seeing it just sit there and not take it on any adventures. But it also gave us plenty of time to tidy it up and plan out some epic missions.
And how’d that come about, were you both coveting Troopys?
It was actually Emma who first started talking about them. Her mate in Australia got it in her head that a Troopy would be the perfect vehicle to tour New Zealand in and I started to agree with her. After a lot of searching on Gumtree, Facebook, Car Sales and a few awkward I’m-not-a-scammer phone calls to sellers all over Australia, I finally managed to find a nice old bloke in Queensland. Plans were made to have the Troopy exported to New Zealand, sight unseen. Once everything was locked in and the Troopy was on its way across the Tasman I broke the news to Emma that we were proud new owners of an unregisterable, unwarranted, tin can full of red dirt.
BT [Before Troopy] It seems like you were both going on camping missions anyway. Could you explain how each of you got into exploring NZ?
My dad wors in Forestry and my family spending a lot of time tramping while I was young. I feel this is what left me wanting to explore more and more of New Zealand and the great outdoors in our own backyard. When I first met Emma she had just returned from her gap year and she was eager to see more of her own backyard as well. We both enjoyed finding new places and the simplicity of it all. We started out on weekend missions in my 1989 Toyota Starlet Sport, which was the size of a match box but our coolest adventure vehicle by far. We took Big Red everywhere. A lot of places an 80’s Starlet shouldn’t have gone. This is where the desire for a rig like the Troopy really started to grow.
Back to the Troopy, was it camper ready when you got it, and if not what did you do immediately?
Apart from a bulbar and a cheap set of mud tyres, it was fairly bog standard when we first got it. We began by stripping the interior, carpet and bench seats. We got to work removing the amazing amounts of outback dirt which was in every nook and cranny. We replaced the broken interior bits and generally restored the old girl to a clean and comfort state. Then the fun started to begin on the exterior touches. I imported a full set of steel wheels from the States which looked as close to the original and iconic Land Cruiser grey steelies as I could find. We wrapped them in a set of BF Goodrich tyres which I feel really set it part from all the other white Troopy’s on the road. Apart from this and a long list of minor tweaks to other areas, we’ve wanted to keep her fairly standard on the outside. The camper accessories on the roof and the internal fit out really left to do all the talking.
You’ve both helped create some of Feldon’s content and been on a few missions with Beth and Joel, how’d that come about?
I was always a huge admirer of the work they produced throughout all their ventures, especially C’s Garage and Earnest when I was in college. They seemed to nail everything they put their mind to. But after following their content and stunning photography for a few years, in 2018 I saw a role open up in their team at Feldon Shelter. I jumped at it and I feel as though our friendship has only strengthened from there. This has lead to some amazing adventures for all of us. It has meant we’ve had countless hours to use, shoot and enjoy each piece of gear over and over. In turn this has ultimately meant it has become part of our everyday lives. Emma now works closely with them creating content for both Feldon Shelter & West Supply. So we’ve all managed to stay really close knit even after our move to Mt Maunganui.
Your original fit out was pretty good, storage behind the front seats, with the chilly there and then retaining a old far back troopy side seats. But you’ve changed! Last year you gutted it back to the panels… why’d you do this? Like was there a realisation after using the older layout it could be better?
Yes! ahhh well its been quite the learning process to get to where we are today. We’ve gone through about 4 different variants, with the most complex sitting in the truck today. Originally I wanted something that was a bit more temporary. For a long time the Troopy was my daily driver; a full camper set up added to the weight and lack of boot space for other things. The set up you’ve mentioned was a really great one. It had tons of storage, the bench seats were good as they could fold up which made the back section useful for things like hauling all our stuff to Mount when we moved. It did the job just fine as a weekend warrior. But for long haul trips like the one we’ve just finished and winter missions it wasn’t quite the best use of space. There wasn’t a lot of room to sit inside if it was raining or super windy. Everything got really messy and disorganised super quickly. We knew we could do better. So last year, seeing as our travel plans were put on hold, we decided to focus our energy on Troopy 4.0.
And how did you plan out the new layout, what were the key considerations?
Emma loves coming up with new designs and layouts for small spaces, so she took the role of Project Manager on this one. We wanted something that still had a good amount of storage and a place to sit comfortably inside on miserable evenings. A pull out kitchen with everything you need to cook a meal right there. Plus the option to be able to sleep in the back if we got somewhere super late or were parked up in a more urban area. An Instagram account called @troopyporn was a huge help inspiration wise. Emma went through every single set up and picked the best parts of each which ultimately makes up what we have now!
You’ve used CAD to do it aye, were all the pieces cut?
Again this was Emma’s area where she really bought the idea to life. She used SketchUp which is essentially a really basic and free-to-use version of CAD she used back at high school for graphic design work. Everything was measured to scale and we stuck to the design pretty religiously. It was a good way to put all the ideas we had together to see if it would work, without finding out the hard way half way through the build. On top of this having the measurements all ready on-hand made cutting the materials the easy part in the workshop.
Could you explain what materials you used and why those?
Ply, ply and more ply. Although a lot of people shy away from it, it’s cheap, light, easy to handle. With a bit of trial and error with stains, varnishes and wood coatings, you can really make it look a million bucks. We kept the overall finish pretty simple. We gave the ply a light white wash and sealed it with a UV resistant marine varnish to stop it from yellowing and keep it easy to clean and look after. Emma made the squabs and curtains herself and I got pretty familiar with the table saw cutting lengths and lengths of ply wood. We also laid down a sheet of vinyl flooring underneath the whole thing. This makes the foot wells easy to wipe clean from muddy adventures and acts as a protective water barrier in case anything leaks or spills in the storage areas.
What are your electrical requirements, charging camera batteries, laptops, the fridge etc and how does your electrical system achieve these needs…like what batteries do you have, do you have solar, have you got 240v plug in?
On the road we have a lot of things to keep charged up: camera batteries, drone batteries, our laptops, interior lighting and the fridge (which has by far been the best addition to the whole set up). All of this has meant we needed to update our electrical system as our previous method was to sit in a Macca’s for a few hours while everything charged up. Through this, I’ve really enjoyed how much I’ve learnt about 12v systems. As a bit of a stubborn perfectionist, I find the wiring and design side of the install super satisfying to fit and solve any issues that arise.
Systems wise, we’re running a few beautiful items from Redarc; a 150A BCDC battery charger and a 1000w Inverter. This is paired with a single 200ah AGM battery which has so far been more than enough for our daily needs. With both the vehicle and the 150w solar blanket charging our auxiliary battery, we’ve never even come close to running low, even on multi day park ups.
What do you guys do for water?
We’ve got a Front Runner 45L rooftop water tank from West Supply, which we mainly reserve for drinking and cooking and this lasts us probably a lot longer than it should (we should really drink more water!). This tank has been a perfect addition to the set up. Before we relied on supermarket water canisters which take up a lot of room in the back. We use the camper mate app when we are in towns to find water sources to top up. These are usually at gas stations, random parks, DOC sites etc. We always make sure it’s suitable for drinking and we haven’t had any issues yet.
And you even took on making the squabs, what foam and type of material did you use?
Emma gave sewing a good crack for the first time and they turned out great! She bought some standard upholstery fabric and zips from Spotlight and the foam was a queen mattress from the Warehouse. We weren’t really sure if we would be using the space to sleep in often so we didn’t want to spend a huge amount on a mattress. We just cut up it with a carving knife as soon as we got it home. We’re pretty happy with the final result, if we were to do it again now that we know what we are doing we would go with a higher density memory foam. But for now it does the trick!
How’s the fit out performance compared to the original one?
We’re just finished a two month South Island trip and the fit out has been a huge game changer. A good amount of space to escape the sandflies. The pull out kitchen has made cooking much more enjoyable. It has been nice to have the option to sleep in the back on some incredibly miserable nights. The overall experience has been a lot more comfortable and sustainable. We can quite happily go 4-5 days without needing to go to into town. Previous trips we would need to go into town most days for ice for the chilly bin, more food because everything had gone soggy, more water and get rid of rubbish. In the new build everything has a place. It’s much easier to keep everything organised and right where you need it.
I don’t think there is such thing as a perfect set up. With a small space like this there’s always going to be sacrifices and compromises. But I think we have pretty much nailed a space that works best for us and the things we need to house. We sometimes park up next to a motorhome or camper van and think it would be so nice to be able to stand up inside or make a cup of coffee without having to construct the kitchen outside. On the flip side, they can’t explore half the places we can. When we think back to the first trip we did down south in the Troopy, we had a couple storage bins and a little drop down table and that was it! I don’t know how we managed but we thought it was a great set up! So I think it’s important to remind ourselves that camping isn’t supposed to be easy, or it isn’t about the perfect setup. It’s hard work, but so rewarding. Most days you don’t know where you’re going to sleep that night. Things break, hard drives fail, the weather isn’t always on your side. You have to deal with those things all while being in the backcountry or tiny towns where cell service is sub par. But we love it, and wouldn’t want to be doing it any other way.
Check out Jake on Instagram HERE
Check out Emma on Instagram HERE