We spend a lot of time planning out our overland builds when it comes to suspension, wheels and tires, roof tents, and even storage. But when was the last time you thought about your interior? Life on the road can be hard on seating surfaces, carpets, and even headliners.
One of the whole points of overlanding is to be outside, and, well, outside is a dirty place. It's nearly impossible not to track mud, sand, and other debris into our vehicles. Add pets and kids into the equation and the mess can quickly mount up. So why bother staying on top of it? You can always clean out the rig when you get home from your adventures, but there are a lot of good reasons to protect your interior from dirt and moisture while you're out on the trail.
The number one rationale for keeping your interior clean is to prevent long-term damage. Damage? You bet. Coarse contaminants like sand and dirt can wreak havoc on your carpets and seating surfaces, grinding down carpet fibers and abrading cloth and especially leather. Water and other liquids (like your morning coffee, or the 3-year-old's juice) obviously can stain fabrics and carpets. But those spills left unattended will also promote mold or mildew growth and funky smells. These liquids can even break down insulation and foam padding and encourage rust on floorboards and fasteners. In modern vehicles, with all their complex electrical systems, lingering moisture can cause short circuits and other headaches.
Not only does this contribute to making your rig an unpleasant place to spend time, it can lead to all kinds of issues in the long run. The first is simply the proper functioning of your interior space. Grit and grime trapped in seat tracks and hinges can make it hard to adjust your seats. Dust and moisture will gum up the operation of buttons and other knobs and levers in the interior.
The second consideration is your vehicle's resale value. Making a small investment in keeping your interior spic and span will contribute to retaining the overall value of your rig. Worn carpets and seats multiplied by unidentified aromas will drive away buyers when it's time to sell, or simply drive down the resale price in the first place.
Getting Ahead of the Grime
How can you stay one step ahead of the inevitable filth overland life will throw your way? The aftermarket has a lot of answers for this question and plenty of ways to keep grit and spills off of interior surfaces. But before we take a look at some of these products, let's think about some strategies for managing the messes in the first place.
I love to cook, but my kitchen at home (and in my overland set-up, come to think of it) is pretty small. Preparing a meal necessarily creates some chaos in that space, with dirty dishes and spilled ingredients piling up. In order to stay organized and maintain some semblance of sanity as I work, I clean up as soon as things get dirty. Instead of letting two dozen dishes stack up, I clean three or four at a time. Wash, rinse, repeat. This is generally a rule I follow in my overland life as well. When messes start to mount, I take time to address them immediately, rather than letting them sit.
Cleaning your rig every time a sprinkling of sand hits the floor might sound like an obsessive-compulsive nightmare, but it doesn't have to be that meticulous. When bigger messes invade your rig, cleaning them right away will prevent staining and absorption of liquids in porous fabrics, and grains of sand and dirt from embedding deep into carpets. The five minutes it takes to address these messes as they happen will save you a lot of time and effort down the line. It's the equivalent of washing a handful of dishes as they get dirty, rather than waking up the next morning and finding a pyramid of crusty plates and bowls that require hours of work to finally get clean. Groan.
I keep a simple dust pan and broom at the ready in my Land Rover, and there are lots of hand-held battery-powered vacuums out there that will also make quick work of dry dirt. In camp I like to sweep once every evening, regardless of how grimy things get. I always carry at least one role of blue paper shop towels (that you can find in any auto parts store) in my kit as well. These are worlds stronger than traditional paper towels, and highly absorbent. They also double as a tool to keep things clean under the engine bay.
Tools for Defense
Of course, the number one way to protect your interior from harmful contaminant is a robust line of defense. Floor liners, cargo liners, and seat covers with precise fit will be your best bet.
WeatherTech is the standard when it comes to floor liners. The fit and finish are exceptional due to the laser-measurement system WeatherTech uses to ensure that every floor liner and cargo liner they make will line up to the millimeter. Close tolerances prevent more mess from reaching your carpets, and easy-clean surfaces make living the scrubbed life a snap. With a huge range of applications, you're bound to find your specific vehicle in WeatherTech's extensive catalog.
WeatherTech floor mats
We've profiled Covercraft's robust Carhartt seat covers here on the Notebook before. When it comes to the pain the claws and nails that pets wield against your interior surfaces, nothing will hold up better. The same goes for kids and the worst they can throw at them. In addition, when we're out on the trail, long days in the driver seat and constantly getting in and out of the rig is just a fact of life. This repeated sliding back and forth over seat bolsters can lead to stitches unraveling in the factory fabric. Covercraft's seat covers all but eliminate that problem. Like WeatherTech floor mats, Covercraft offer fitment for a huge range of vehicles.
Covercraft Carhartt seat covers
How do you stay clean and tidy on the road? Tips, tricks, or questions? Hit us up in the comments below.
Images: WeatherTech and Covercraft