Thursday, October 22, 2009

Desert Tidbits: Fuel Containers

As regular readers of this blog know only too well, I have reserved the right to occasionally post items of interest to desert dwellers. For some reason, this really outrages a number of people, who (a) think this blog is written just for them, and (b) think this blog should be more "Buddhist." So what? I have tons of friends all over the world who (a) live in deserts, (b) travel in deserts, (c) live in places where offroad is reality, not recreation, and (d) happen to be Buddhists.

Anyway... who cares?

Being Buddhist doesn't exempt you from the necessity to carry auxiliary fuel supplies into remote regions. If you are in Tibet, this is going to become a daily reality. Basically, you have your choice of a Toyota Landcruiser or a BJC 2020, both of which suck petrol. As an aside... if you have a choice, pick the Toyota. Either way, when you are operating a four wheel drive vehicle in full four wheel drive mode, gas consumption increases dramatically. Now, auxiliary gas tanks cost money: $1,500. and up. Most people can't afford that, so the only other solution is to use fuel cans.

The fuel cans are known by a variety of names: Blitz cans, Gerry cans, Wedco cans, NATO cans, or Wavian cans, depending upon where you happen to find yourself. In the top photograph above, you see old style 20L Wedco cans, which are no longer sold in the U.S., and are thus highly prized.

One of the issues has always been how to mount these things, and above we see an elegant solution for the Wedco cans. It is nice because it accepts a padlock. If you have ever ventured about, you know why a padlock is necessary. This is built for roof mounting. You will never see a serious expedition vehicle with the gas mounted anywhere else. There are reasons for this, and all of them have to do with common sense.

With desert travel, the main issue is leakage caused by expansion due to altitude and heat. Many people wonder if plastic cans are better in the desert than metal cans. I can honestly say that it doesn't make much difference. I have been using two plastic Blitz cans for a couple of years, and have had them in extremes of temperature from below 0 to 120F, and elevations from Death Valley to 10,000 feet. One seal failed, one didn't, so there you go. As seen above, the common solution in Tibet is to just tie metal barrels on the roof. If you go there, you will also want to learn about Sta-bil, which is a fuel stabilizer additive.

Recently, I saw a product called Rotopax which really seems to be an intelligent solution. They have a locking mechanism that bolts to the vehicle, then a part screws into those slots you see in the picture, and you simply turn it to lock and unlock the fuel cell. These are low profile, which really helps, and about the only drawback is they are only 4 U.S. gallons each. These are modular, stackable, and made in the U.S.A., not China. A similar product, known as Kolpin, is made in China and leaks like crazy.

Actually, the Rotopax people make a complete system, so you can snap together water, fuel, and emergency kits. They are about three feet in length, so you can use them as field expedient sand ladders. All in all, I think this is the way to go.


There... that "Buddhist" enough?

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5 reader comments:

Fishy said...

Sta-bil seems rather difficult to find in Australia. I'm not sure about the rest of the world.
An alternative is Lucas Fuel Stabiliser:

TENPA said...

Thanks Fishy... from the land of the finest offroad equipment in the world: Oz's own ARB ;-) If you can figure out how to get ARB goodies to the 'States without paying an arm and a leg on freight (and also the Honda Posties... don't forget Posties), you'll make a name for yourself.

That Lucas product is actually what we use in California, since Sta-Bil (which I am told is particularly effective against moisture) is outlawed there for some reason.

Back to Oz products... I have a question bothering me for several years now. Oz makes good products, but nobody in the US can afford them because of the shipping costs. Why not ship Oz products to bloody Hong Kong, and consolidate them with the river of trash from China that costs almost nothing to ship (USD $700 for a 40 foot container, landed in California)?

Fishy said...

Thanks Tenpa-hla...

It is approaching time to break my 9to5 cycle of insanity and look for new ventures that will allow me the space for regular retreat... this has given me some interesting ideas to follow up... I was born in Hong Kong and maybe it is time to return to my roots to investigate a new venture...
The Honda CT110 ships out of Japan and is only road-registerable in Australia for the first time this year... are they available at all in USA?

From what I understand, the high price of shipping out of Australia is related to the fact that we have only a few, very powerful stevedoring companies and a ubiquitous Maritime Union, and between them they set the price as high as possible. [] But there are ways around every problem...

I'll look into it...


TENPA said...

Very interesting item on the Oz waterfront you forwarded. I had no idea. Is this a communist thing, or just the inertia of greed?

The CT110s stopped coming to the US in 1986, but see here:

TENPA said...

And before I forget... if you do decide to go into the logistics business, give some consideration to China. China's external logistics apparatus is second to none, but domestic freight? Forget about it. Just try to get packages from Chengdu to the ports at Xiamen or Tianjin. This is really limiting Tibet's ability to trade with the outside world. The gangs of thieves who run the domestic parcel business make more money stealing contents than they do from shipping fees.