So, you want to leave the beaten track behind and head off-road? Well with beautiful landscapes and cracking scenery, why not? In Australia, we are blessed with vast and endless terrains that set the tone for great off-road and four-wheel drive adventures. While it’s more often than not a fun and exhilarating activity, off-road driving does come with its risks and dangers. It can be serious business when your tyres hit the sand, soil or rock or mud. Prepare properly and plan accordingly and you can minimise risk and optimise enjoyment, experiencing all the scenic routes Australia has to offer.
Before heading off the bitumen, here are a few things to check off to maximise safety and quality.
1. CONSULT EXPERIENCE
First things first, 4WDing is one of the most thrilling things you can do in Australia. It’s one of the best ways to travel and immerse yourself in the beautiful Aussie countryside. And it’s that very harsh countryside that can cause trouble, especially for novice drivers looking to indulge in all that our vast landscapes have to offer. If you know of anyone with 4WDing on their CV, ask them to share their experiences. Ideally, ask someone who has driven the tracks you are wanting to traverse. Even if that’s not the case, ask them about issues they ran into or what to do or what they did in specific scenarios. 4WD enthusiasts are a passionate bunch and generally are more than willing to share their off-road tales and escapades. A past conversation could be the perfect thing to help get you out of a bog or through a pool of water. You never know.
Don’t know someone with direct experience of your planned route? Here are some excellent forums to use:
2. PLAN, PLAN & PLAN
The main thing to do, especially if you’re a first timer is to plan your trip and course accordingly. Map the trip to the finest of details. That way you know where you’re heading and what you will be doing. Subsequently, if you wanted to stray off track a little to chase a sunset or fancy pulling over at a pleasant scenic discovery, planning elaborately will equip you with a greater understanding of your bearings and location, allowing you to continue back on track to your heart’s desire. Once you know where you’re heading, it enables you with a greater capacity to indulge in the things you would like to do. It also means people more often than not know where you are heading, so if anything was to happen, you’re well-being is secure in that others will know where to look.
Just make sure you take more than one form of a map. Think you’re covered because you’ve got your smartphone? What happens when it runs out of battery? To avoid being stuck without a map, make sure to bring a phone or tablet, as well as a paper map. It’s also a good idea to make sure you can read a map properly before you go. There’s no point having the map, not knowing what the different lines mean and get stuck on the wrong side of the river or next to very steep terrain.
3. VEHICLE INSPECTION
If you’re hiring a 4WD, your vehicle probably doesn’t need an inspection, by law suppliers must conduct regular safety checks and assurance reviews of their vehicles. If they don’t, then that’s one massive lawsuit just waiting to happen. Give it a look over anyway before driving away. If you own your own off-road 4WD, it’s important you put it through a service or inspection to make sure it’s mechanically healthy and fit for the trials of off-road driving. Don’t be too proud, no one can ever be too safe when heading out to the wilderness, and breaking down in the middle of nowhere is the last thing you want to happen. Err on the side of caution and make sure your vehicle has been thoroughly examined by a qualified mechanic. It’s also a good idea to always have your own tools on you. If there’s a minor problem, you’d want to be able to fix it yourself, to avoid become stranded or having to pay for an expensive mechanic to fix it.
Besides your normal dealer, here are some specialist 4x4 providers worth considering:
An obvious one, but still a resource people often take for granted. You can never have too much water, and this notion should be acted upon accordingly when preparing for an off-road adventure. Not only for basic bodily functions, but it serves plenty more functions relevant to safely 4WDing. It is a vital tool to have if your 4WD happens to overheat. The more, the better, and if you happen to get stranded or have the need to clean the windscreen of mud and dirt, an excess in water is the ideal combatant. Fill up your water containers to the brim, throw them on your roof racks or in your boot and rest easy knowing you’re self-sufficient while off-road. As a rule of thumb, it’s advised to have 3 litres of water per person, per day, with extra water needed for your vehicle.
5. RECOVERY GEAR
4WDing and getting bogged are two things that generally end up in a sentence together (case in point). Subsequently, packing your 4WD boot with a spade allows for a great and effective tool to be at your disposal come the time you get bogged or need to dig a hole, (for whatever reason). You can pick up a little compact one from your local camping joint or hardware store to maximise space. Alternatively, you can opt for a post-hole shovel, long handled spade or standard garden shovel if room permits. You’d be surprised about their usefulness when off-road, with plenty of testimony from season 4WD’ers. When you’re heading out on a trip, we recommend bringing a long handled shovel, recovery tracks, snatch strap (make sure to have shackles and glove dampener) and some form of radio communication.
Some retailers include:
6. A COMPRESSOR
Driving offroad often means lowering the pressure in your tyres. As you drive on and off sealed roads you will need to raise and lower the pressure. A compressor can help save time and effort.
Tyres. Pretty important element for driving, and especially so when heading onto erratic terrains and surfaces the harsh environment of Australia boasts. This means a simple air compressor, available from most car accessory stores, is vital to cater to any unforeseen tyre issues. A simple air compressor available from TJM, SupercheapAuto and Repco will more than suffice in jacking the amount of air back up. What won’t suffice? Ignoring this notion and running the incredible risk of having no working tyres while out in the middle of Simpson Desert.
7. RACK YOUR ROOF
If you happen to own your 4WD vehicle, then installing roof racks is the best way to create extra storage space.This means you can take more and potentially do more while on your adventure. Many 4WD rental companies equip their vehicles with roof racks to supply their customers will all the features to help enhance their customer’s off-road experience. Make sure you stick to the weight limits of your roof and remember that they may decrease in offroad situations. This figure, generally found in the user manual, must be adhered to as to ensure the safety and stability of the vehicle and also to ensure insurance cover. If you’re unsure on anything to do with roof racks, contact one of the experts at Yakima.
8. GENERAL SUPPLIES
Obviously, when heading out anywhere that’s a considerable distance from infrastructure, you need to make sure you have your essentials. Always pack extra fuel, extra food, a torch, a first aid or trauma kit and plenty of things to keep you warm. Australia is a semi-arid environment, and the remote surrounds can often be desolate and overwhelming. Packing these necessary items, which generally take up little space, safeguards your journey against any unforeseen events or emergencies leaving you not to worry and concentrate on all the fun that is 4WDing. Don’t forget the most important thing of all - NEVER leave your 4WD if you’re broken down. Always stay with your vehicle until help arrives.
These are just a few steps potentially among many to help secure your safety and optimise the good times when going off the beaten track. Off-road adventures, while fun and exciting do come with their risks and dangers. But if you follow the outlined steps, you’re more than equipped to cater to any potential challenges your voyage may encounter. Following these tips will help increase the fun and quality of your trip, helping to create a no doubt memorable experience that comes with the territory of Australia.
Article brought to you by Yakima Australia, your 4WD and Adventure rack specialists.