Bones the Hilux


The early days, just after purchase August 2015


I thought I would take a moment to introduce to you Bones, my trusty Hilux. We’ve only been together for a couple of years but have shared some good times and she is yet to let me down, no surprises there it’s a Hilux. Bones is a 1993 2.8L diesel single cab Hilux, solid axles front and rear with leaf springs all round. I have owned three different generations of Hilux and to many peoples surprise this would be my favourite. I gave up comfort and power for simple mechanical reliability, not to mention saving a few pennies while I was at it.


Aluminium tray, Suspension and tyres fitted.  Canopy in the background on my old new ute!


This vehicle is built as a weekend tourer with the capability of longer trips with some slight changes. One of my main aims is to have a comfortable, ready to go, easy to setup vehicle to maximise outdoor opportunities. I find if everything is well organised you are more likely to head away on short notice as packing and unpacking is not so much of a chore.

Below is a list of current mods, including some brief descriptions about them and why I chose them. I will also add a future plans list because lets face it who has ever seen a finished perfect 4WD.


Bones’s current state



As with most utes comfort is not there strong point from the factory, I learnt early on with my first Hilux a good suspension setup changes a vehicle drastically. I fitted a 50mm lift, using Dobinsons leaf springs and Bilstein shocks. I also fitted an adjustable torque rod and a dropped drag link, these were recommended to me to bring some correct geometry back to the front end. The bilstein/dobinson combo gives a superior ride over stock with good flex off-road. Caloffroad in NSW supplied the kit, this is the second kit I have bought from Cal and both times he has gone out of his way to answer any questions and make sure he supplies exactly what I am after.


Testing the new suspension setup, South coast of WA


Wheels and Tyres

31×10.5R15 Mickey Thompson ATZ P3

15×8 -22 King Steel wheels in Black

These are the same wheels and tyres I ran on my last Hilux, be it a different size. I could not fault them, a lot of sand driving and a 10000km Kimberley trip and not one problem. I went with 31” tyres as I did not want to rob anymore of the Hilux’s power, it also places less stress on the drivetrain and does not require any mods.


12V System

The 12V system is simple yet works. I run two 12V batteries. A start battery located in original position under the bonnet and a second 100 amp hour deep cycle battery located in the canopy. The charging of the second battery is done via a REDARC BCDC1225 controller, which I would highly recommend. These units boost the rate of charge so your batteries are charged properly and also overcome any voltage drop from using long cables. There is also a provision to run a solar input, which is on my list of things to do. I find that this setup is good for one night maybe two without moving but anymore and it would require a drive/running the engine or solar input. There is also a 1000W inverter and a hard-wired CTEK MXS15 charger so I can plug into mains power at home or in campgrounds to top up as needed.


The kitchen/living side of the canopy



The storage side of the canopy


Other Mods

Steel framed aluminium cladded canopy (home built)

Rhino Rack sunseeker awning

Rhino Rack pioneer platform rack

Snorkel (EBay)

Runva 11000LB winch

ARB Bullbar

Narva Ultima 175 halogen driving lights


For navigation I use an iPad running a combination of Hema maps and Memory maps


Future Plans

Turbo Kit (obvious for anyone with experience with a 2.8!)

More fuel and water storage (custom tanks or Jerry space)

Canopy Layout change

Front and Rear Diff Lockers (because everyone wants lockers)

Solar panels


That is about all I can think of for now; I will go into more detail on some of the areas above in separate articles/reviews as time goes on. As many of you will understand it seems as I cross one mod off the to do list another two are added! In the meantime Bones isn’t perfect nor complete but we will still be getting out and enjoying the great outdoors as much as possible. Thanks for reading, if you would like any further details on anything above feel to let me know in the comments.

Southern Cross Double Swag

SwagLabelSix or so years ago if someone had told me they were going to sleep in a SWAG I would have replied with a confused, blank look upon my face. I was first introduced to the legendary Australian swag when I joined a land based fishing club in Perth Western Australia and wanted one instantly. The convenience of rolling up your shelter with a mattress and sleeping bag all ready to go was genius. OK so the swags we use today have evolved and changed from the original swags but the concept is still the same (a canvas sleeping compartment sometimes insect-proof, with foam mattress, and is a durable fast erecting shelter). These days swags are used primarily for car/4WD camping due to their size and weight.


Both sides roll up, great for those warm clear sky nights

So I was in the market for swag. After doing a lot of research I stumbled across Southern Cross Canvas Products an Australian Company based in Victoria. It was not the cheapest swag available but after seeing one in the flesh the quality was out standing. I chose a double dome swag, which has ample room when I am travelling solo but also there is plenty of room for when my girlfriend decides to join me. I am 6’1” and find the length fine.


There is a window at each end, I just about always have these open to reduce condensation buildup.

Some specs

Canvas – Australian Canvas 10.9oz

Base – Heavy Duty Vinyl 520gsm

Length – 2100mm

Width – 1300mm

Height – 700mm

Diameter Rolled – 450mm (includes 2 sleeping bags)


North WA, Croc Country

I have spent hundreds of nights beneath the stars in this swag in varying types of weather and have never had a drama. Most often I will set it up under my awning so that in the morning there is minimal dew on the outer canvas and I can roll it up without having to worry. The base is heavy-duty vinyl, extremely waterproof and durable, and the canvas is great quality and mine is showing barely any wear apart from a little fading as to be expected. The two end hoops are aluminium with the top spreader bar galvanised steel. It is very quick to setup, strong and simple. After completing multiple extended trips up to 6 weeks long from the Kimberley to the Victorian High Country I have always had a comfortable rested night’s sleep and never once was I sick of sleeping in the swag!


Victorian High Country

Six years on my swag is still in perfect condition and have no doubt it will be going strong for many years to come. Overall I am extremely happy with this swag and would not hesitate to buy it again. Sure there are a lot of cheaper swags out there but the Australian outback can be harsh on gear and I would rather have something locally made, strong and reliable that I can count on when out in the bush.