Natures Botanical

Through my experience working in the mining region in North Western Australia it doesn’t take long to appreciate a good insect repellent. Not to mention just about anywhere you might go camping in the warmer months there’s a strong possibility of midges and mosquitoes trying hard to fight your relaxation. At a guess the most common and well known insect repellent would be bushmans which I used and it does work, but because we were using it so often I started to look for more natural alternatives. Now I do not have any scientific information regarding the ingredients used in insect repellents or the harm they may or may not cause but my personal choice is I feel more comfortable using more natural products directly on my skin. One of my dislikes with some of the main insect repellents is the often chemical/synthetic type smell and the feeling some of them left on my skin. One of the main areas of use is your face as it is not usually covered and some products often left me with parts of my face feeling numb.

That lead me to the product Natures Botanical. Nature’s Botanical is an Australian made essential oil based personal insect repellent. It repels flies, sandflies (aka midges) and mosquitoes. Nature’s Botanical essential oil ingredients are Rosemary Oil and Cedarwood Oil. It is available in a thick cream which is applied by hand and a lotion which can be sprayed or rolled on. Due to the rosemary and cedarwood oil in Natures Botanical it has an amazing smell. After using this repellent for a few years I can tell you it does work, there’s always some stashed in Bones for our camping adventures. If you are looking for a better smelling repellent made from more natural ingredients I strongly suggest giving this a go. I’ll leave a link below to there website which has a lot more info and a store you can purchase from.

naturesbotanical.com

Cheers

Big River Trout, New Waders

Stream

Having recently purchased a pair of what some might call “proper” waders I was eager to get out for a fish and try them out. Over the last few years I have owned a few pairs of gumboot style waders. These were mostly used to fish surf beaches in winter which considering you don’t need to walk long distances and you are normally on sand they were great to keep you warm and dry. After moving to Victoria and fishing more in fresh water streams for trout I soon found that these waders although well priced were not the best option to walk long distances in stony creeks and can in some circumstances be quite dangerous.

KBStream2

After visiting the guys at Gavin Hurley’s Fly Fishing World I came away with a pair of Stalker backcountry waist waders and Simms Freestone boots. This is a great entry-level setup coming in at around $490 (the freestone boots were on sale!). Although still considerably more than gumboot waders they are a lot more affordable than some other brands and material technology has improved over the years, which has brought prices down.  I will review both these products once they have had more time on the water.

KBStream

Leaving home at 7:30am KB and myself headed north to our destination of Big River State forest, 30km east of Marysville. Parking the Ute, gear ready, waders on, we were in the river by 10am. The river (a small tributary of the Big River) was looking great, with a steady flow and super clear water confidence levels were increasing. Within wading just 30 metres the cost of my new waders had left my mind, they were extremely comfortable. The old saying of why hadn’t I done this earlier rang true in my mind.

KBTrout

Fishing turn about for a couple of riffles we were yet to see a fish. Approaching our first decent pool it was decided KB would have first cast. KB cast to the other side against the bank and half way through the retrieve a small brown trout could not resist the Strike Tiger 1” froglet he had on offer and engulfed it. After a small fight we had it on the bank, a photo and a quick release and we were keen to get lines back in the water. If you have not seen the Strike Tiger range of soft plastics I would highly recommend heading to there website/online store and check them out! I hate to admit it but after KB’s success I basically cast into the same spot as he did, the only difference was I had on a Strike Tiger 1” Nymph in copper berry.  Again half way through the retrieve BANG! I was on, this time a small rainbow that leapt and danced all over the place it put on quite the show. The fish was quickly released and took off back to the cover of the depth. After all that commotion unsurprisingly the pool went quiet so we moved on.

MatTrout

Continuing upstream for another 1km I was rewarded with another rainbow and although there were no more landed fish we had a lot of follows and spooked a few fish so overall the river was looking really healthy.  I was extremely impressed with my new waders and boots and how they felt in the water.  Even after wearing them for a few hours they were still really comfortable, I can’t wait to get back out and chase some more trout.  A great couple of hours fishing in a beautiful small stream in Victoria.

Cheers,

Mat

Bones the Hilux

Hilux1

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.

Hilux2

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.

Hilux5

Bones’s current state

 

Suspension

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.

Hilux3

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.

Hilux8

The kitchen/living side of the canopy

 

Hilux7

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

GME TX3100 UHF

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.

SwagMesh

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.

SwagWindow

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)

SwagRoof

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!

SwagSnow

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.

Snow on the Bluff

P1000273

The Bluff, Victorian High Country

Pulling back the curtains we were surprised by a rather sunny warm day in late August, which was a welcomed sight. A decision was made to head to the Victorian High Country for a quick overnighter as the previous months of camping were non existence due to weather and other commitments. By the time we tidied up from a hearty cooked breakfast and packed up Bones (a 1993 Toyota Hilux who you will get to know) the clock was reading 11am. Not our best efforts time wise but with the warm sunshine upon us we didn’t mind.

Arriving in Mansfield in the afternoon, a bite to eat and a quick catch up with a friend who gave us some local knowledge on track conditions and places to camp and we were off. After grabbing some diesel additive as overnight temps were heading towards -5° we started heading east towards Mt Buller.

Turning South onto Howqua Track around 4pm the golden sun contrasting against the cloudless blue sky we realized we had limited light left. Wanting to reach our desired destination of refrigerator gap by dusk we had to get moving! Driving along beside the Howqua river at the end of a magnificent sunny day was a treat and still being winter there were very few other vehicles to be seen.

P1000255Heading East onto Bluff Link track we started seeing signs of snowfall on the track and dotted along the banks. The more we climbed the more snow we saw, upon reaching our campsite we were greeted by a reasonable covering of snow on the ground. It was by no means heavy but considering it was our first time camping in the snow it was the perfect amount. Camp setup was quick as darkness was approaching, after getting a fire going we settled in for the evening adding many layers as the night wore on and the temperature fell.

Clear blue skies and crisp air greeted us in the morning, getting out of the swag was a shock to the system. The reason we chose to camp at refrigerator gap was so we could pack up camp and be at the Bluff Walking trail with minimal driving. Some tea and warm porridge were made before packing up partially frozen gear with numb hands and driving to the base of the Bluff.

P1000259

The 1.5km hike to the Bluff was amazing. I had climbed the other side previously during summer but this was a totally different experience. The entire side of the Bluff had about a foot of snow covering it, sometimes more. There were small rivers of melting ice, icicles hanging from rocks and views of the high country getting grander as we climbed. Lucky for us there were some tracks from previous hikers who had compacted the ground and meant using my GPS for the most part wasn’t necessary. As we approached the summit we noticed the clouds were speeding past and soon we were surrounded in fog and a bitter wind was whipping around us. At the summit our views were partially blocked from the approaching weather and the wind made it a little uncomfortable, but we still took a moment to look around and take it in, as it was truly spectacular. There are some breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. I thought we should start to head down incase the weather really turned and with some careful footing we were soon back at the vehicle and the sun had returned.

P1000263

Some lunch was had before we started making our way home. This was a great one night away, a simple trip that didn’t require to much planning, a little luck with the weather and we had a nice break from the daily grind.