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15 September 2015

Our new multi-function headgear & The Fabric Store care card


One of the items I saw on a Youtube video about packing for the Icelandic weather was called a Buff®.  Not being part of the outdoors community I had never heard of it before so had to do a bit of research on this famed multi-functional tube of stretch material.

Apparently it originated in Spain decades ago, and has been so well-marketed that the name Buff® is used as a generic term.

You can wear it as a neck scarf, a hat, a balaclava, head band and the list goes on.  This short video shows you more of the ways it is worn:


Convinced that this would be a useful additional to our packing list but not about to pay $40-$50 each I wondered whether it was something I could make. This tutorial showed me the basic dimensions and the rest is history.

The real product is seamless so that is the big difference - the ones you sew will have a seam.

I made ours out of 150gsm black merino tshirt-like material (purchased on special at $12 per metre from The Fabric Store in Auckland) so it is tightly woven and fairly thin.  What I didn't know from the online product listing was that this fabric shrinks. The sales person did tell Atlas about the shrinkage went he went in to buy it but he didn't know to then get extra length to compensate.  It went from 142cm across the width to 133cm.  I was impressed though with the care card (above right) that came with the fabric - no one does that these days let alone understand the features of what they are selling.

I had planned on getting 3 out of each width but ended up only getting 2 widthwise and seaming together a couple of off-cuts to make a 7th.  Oh well - mine has 2 seams.  To accommodate for Atlas' larger head circumference (60.5cm) and Kita's smaller one (51cm), I adjusted their widths (not including seams) to 55cm and 46cm respectively.  The rest of us have a circumference of 56/57cm which works fine with the 50cm base dimensions.  I cut all heights at 48cm. 

I over-locked the upper and lower edges and left them as is, before sewing the lone seam.  I had wondered about turning the edges over and zigzagging them down but don't feel it needs it.  Time will tell how this wears but there certainly isn't any issue with the over-locked edges not stretching enough which I was also mindful of.

The fabric feels beautiful and they are thin enough to be worn as an additional layer as well as being substantial alone.  

However if I were to make these again I would add an extra 50% to the length (so approx. 70cm) as the material is thin enough and has a lovely drape that there wouldn't be an issue with it feeling too bulky. In fact I am tempted to get some more regardless and trial the two lengths to find out what works best for each of us and the way we come to most commonly use them!

There are also Buffs® with Polartec® fleece, reversible, UV protection and with visors to give you some further diy ideas:



If you are making all the same colour 'Buffs®' for your family (and/or need to make different sizes) and want to assign them to specific people, run a few strands of each person's chosen coloured embroidery thread or wool through the inside over-locked seam.

We have used colours to differentiate our packing cubes (recommended by another travelling family as a must-have); and hope to continue it with the travel towels we plan to get too (recommended by a motorhomer).

02 December 2014


All this talk about RUCs and diesel led me to do some more research into a side-interest I've had of fueling a vehicle on used vegetable oil - think takeaways on wheels.

Yes, there is a small movement in the United States of America in particular to partially convert vehicles to run on both diesel and vegetable oil, but I am only aware of a few light vehicles being run on it in New Zealand.

It's nothing new, Diesel himself was writing about using vegetable oil as far back as 1912, when the French government suggested running an engine on peanut oil. 

I do wonder though whether it would induce irrepressible cravings for those good old Kiwi greasies!?  You could perhaps scent the oil and ooze aromas of chocolate, liquorice, jellybeans, or pineapple chunks instead as you travelled through the city and countryside - a confectioner's marketing dream.


Back to fundamentals...

A conversion involves fitting a secondary tank (although some installations swap the tanks over thereby using the main tank for the oil and a smaller secondary tank for the 'back-up diesel'), filling entrance, hoses, heating elements, and a few other bits and pieces.  

When you start your vehicle you start it on diesel until the oil in the tank is heated enough, press a button to switch it over, and hey presto you are cruising on canola or whatever your preference is.  When you have almost arrived at your destination you switch back to diesel for a bit to flush out the lines.

There is the extra effort required in hunting and gathering your ingredients - approaching a restaurant or takeaways that would otherwise pay to have their waste oil removed from their premises.  Transferring that into your holding container - this can be a messy business; then into your fuel tank after filtering.  [Sometimes you can skip the middle step and put the oil into the vehicle tank but it still needs to go through a process of filtering at some point - it depends on how your system is set up.]


Conversion of a light vehicle (under 3500kg) requires an inspection by a Low Vehicle Volume Technician.  These are usually people who look at sports cars, cars that have been lowered, or had improvements to make them more efficient over and above your regular off-the-factory-line automobile.  The fees start at $500 and go up from there.  After inspection they order a metal plate be made and fitted to your vehicle that a WOF/COF agent will need to see each time your vehicle needs it's regular road-worthiness testing.

Low Vehicle Volume Technical Association

NZTA have information on their website for light vehicles about CNG and LPG conversion but no other fuel sources; so I guess it comes down to a case-by-case basis and the individual discretion of the technician 


As far as converting heavy vehicles (anything over 3500kg) is concerned NZTA's preliminary advice is that a change to the fuel system would need to be inspected by a Heavy Vehicle Certifying Engineer (pdf list).  

Different certifiers are allowed to inspect subject to their different areas of expertise.  These areas are the codes in the last column of that table which are explained on the Heavy Vehicle Engineers website.  None of which are specifically 'fuel systems'.  The closest one gets is HVEC being engine transmission.

The difference in this process is that you are best to contact the certifier prior to starting any work as they will need to inspect before, during and after a change has been made.  Then they will issue a LT400 paper certificate (instead of the metal plate mentioned above for light vehicles) which you lodge with any heavy vehicle testing station (CoF agent) for loading onto the NZTA Landata database.  

So far it doesn't look as if there are any widely-publicised guidelines for heavy transport fuel conversions.  Has one even been done in New Zealand?  You would definitely want to know that you had a chance to be approved prior to installation as you don't want to go to all the cost, time and effort to have it declined.  Watch this space as we update the post with further information as it comes to hand.


One of the overseas veggie fuel system suppliers that we contacted, Golden Fuel Systems recommended that overseas customers (given the specifications we were enquiring about) purchase a tankless system as this would be less expensive to freight, and source a locally-made tank.  The question would be finding a knowledgeable installer.

It seems that for about NZ$4000, plus installation, and certification ($500+) you could convert your vehicle to run on veggie grease.

The real question is 'how easy would it be to source vegetable oil around NZ to fuel the vehicle after conversion?' and 'would getting it remain free?'.

16 September 2014


Whether you are travelling from house-sit to house-sit, touring in a motorhome or caravan, back-packing, tenting or anything in between, you'll want to know where to pick up any extra outdoor camping, automotive or hardware equipment that you find you just can't do without on the journey.  


Remember though that you will have to stash it somewhere so think twice about your purchase.


GENERAL OUTDOOR AND HOUSEWARES (generally lower cost but limited range)



The Warehouse


SPECIALTY OUTDOOR (wider range but generally higher priced)

Bivouac Outdoors

Complete Outdoors  (Christchurch-based)


Hunting & Fishing



Yellow pages listing of camping supplies *

Yellow pages listing of sporting goods *



AUTOMOTIVE (general parts and equipment)



For brand-specific parts and service for your vehicle use the Yellow pages * 'What?' search field and type in the brand ie Holden, and your location to get a list of dealers and suppliers. 



* Yellow pages is a paid-for directory of businesses in New Zealand.  It is NOT comprehensive but is a start.  You may like to ask a local (person), who are generally only too pleased to help, for other business recommendations.