The 5 Japanese Business Principals, Applied to Overlanding?

This Japanese business concept fits nicely when packing a vehicle for overland travel. Or in our case two very different vehicles.

  1. Seiri: Straighten up – decide what you need.
  2. Seiton: Store – everything in its place.
  3. Seiso: Shine – clean it up.
  4. Seiketsu: Sanitize – make it safe.
  5. Shitsuke: Strive – to compete these every day.

Let’s begin with the first two principles, as they apply to our two principals: Big Birds’s 1996 Delica Space Gear (aka “The Magic Spool Bus”), and my 1991 Land Cruiser HZJ77 (aka Old Betsy 10). (Part 2 can be seen here.)

Seiri: Straighten Up – Only bring along what you need.

This can refer to kitchen items, clothes, extra fuel, and especially tools and parts. How many vehicles have you seen with gas cans and water jugs all over the outside? With most destinations in North America having ready access to fuel, and most vehicles providing a range of 400km or more, bringing extra fuel is precautionary, but often not necessary. And our philosophy on spares is if we can’t easily fix it on the side of the road, or unless the part is unobtanium, we don’t bring it along. I’ve seen folks bring spare axles, even extra driveshafts, along with the tools to install them. I think a little mechanical sympathy, and less weight might make these things superfluous? Not to mention, you have to find a PLACE for all these extras.

Instead of extra spare tires, we both have onboard air. For the Land Cruiser, I installed an underhood compressor and a plug kit. Big Bird’s compressor will be an integral part of his drawer build, further down.

My high-lift jack gets left at home, since my factory bottle jack can do the job. Neither of our JDM diesel engines were ever sold here, so spare fuel/oil filters are our kits, but oil can be found virtually anywhere. A small 5 pound propane tank takes up a lot less room than 5 green bottles, costs less, and can be refilled if needed. I will only pack two sets of dishes, cutlery, etc, and many pieces do double duty. Big Bird will do the same, and we’ll share some bulkier things, like water, a cook stove, etc.

Big Bird is going one step further in his organization, by keeping EVERYTHING inside. Oh the magic of space, afforded by a stealthy 4×4 van. On the Land Cruiser, as you may have guessed, the bed will still reside outside/upstairs.

Seiton: Store – Everything in its place.

Okay, so we’ve pared down what we need to just the necessities. All right, maybe a few EXTRAS, since this is car camping. Let’s not go all crazy backpacker here!

But we still need to find places to put it all.

Most people start with bins. Bins, bins, and more bins. Where did I put that widget? Oh yeah, it’s in that bin under and behind these other bins. And it’s at the bottom of the bin, under everything that I’m not looking for. Bins are great and have their place, but if its something you need more than a few times a day (and if you followed the first “S” then you ONLY have the necessities), then it starts to become a royal pain to extract the things you need. I’ve done many iterations of bins. By the end of a trip, nothing is where it started, and I can’t find anything.

From bins, the logical progression seems to be some sort of slide or drawer system. As long as you can find a way to keep the weight to a minimum, while still making use of your available space, drawers are a great way to satisfy the second “S”, and keep everything in it’s place. My drawer evolution over the years hasn’t been without its hiccups, but I have finally reached a point where the things that need to be stored actually FIT in the drawers.

And even when you’ve spent your hard-earned money on truck furniture, you still have the problem of laying things on top of the drawers that you can’t reach at the back. Rather than being right back where I started from, I opted for drawers with additional sliding tops, so my fridge and bins (remember those?) can be accessed from the back of the truck, rather than some crazy combination of climbing contortionism. The drawers I settled on (from Overland Vehicle Systems) also came with sliding cutting boards, because no place is more valuable than a clean horizontal surface when you’re out in the wilderness and you need a place to lay something. I will have to do some custom work around the sides and in between, to make the top level the whole way across, and give me some hidden storage areas.

With the volumes of space afforded by the MAGIC SPOOL BUS, Big Bird has also resorted to bins in the past, but this time around he’s also working on other options. Here’s a sneak peek at his CAD (cardboard AND computer aided design), as he works to integrate all the necessary bits into custom built drawers. Keeping everything inside is great, up until it isn’t. A level bed that doesn’t require moving everything outside every night is what his drawer setup will ultimately allow, but requires careful planning to get there. Here’s how he described the process:

I was looking at my cardboard model and thinking of the various paths one takes in planning their design. Even with a model in-hand, the drawn version had to make several concessions due to equipment selection. Not unlike an engineering project. (So very similar to my occupation).

Big Bird

Speaking of beds, what about those fluffy things that take up room, yet are necessary for comfort and warmth, especially when the sun goes down? Yes, we are talking blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, etc.

Look up.

A cheap net from Amazon provides an attic space where my extra sleeping bag, down blanket, pillow, and puffy jacket live. If I get into a colossal wreck, my fleecy pillow is likely going to help more than it hurts, if it becomes a projectile. And even though that stuff is bulky, it has no real weight, so up high is about the best place for it. Big Bird is also looking at creating an attic in the Delica, since its has even more space at the inner roofline than most commercial airliners.

Next time, we will tackle the other three “S’s”: Shine, Sanitize, Strive (shine won’t have anything to do with wax/wax off).

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1 Comment

  1. When it comes to space utilization,you are a keener- and,of course,a perfectionist.Hindsight and lots of experience is always a plus.And learning from past mistakes is a wonderful prerequisite.An interesting article as usual.

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