Going four wheel driving off the beaten track and exploring new and remote places is what 4WD’ing is all about and there are some tips to setting up your car and getting organised before you embark on your adventure.
Going on adventures to places we have never been, in particular the ones off the beaten track is what 4WD’ing is all about. We have a saying that if it were easy to get to, then everyone would be there. Sometimes the best trips and experiences come from a place you least expect and that is what keeps us travelling and looking for those hidden gems.
The best trip we have ever done was a three-month road trip when our boys were aged one, three and six-years. We conquered the Old Telegraph Track in Northern Queensland, drove the Savannah Way to Darwin then up to Garig Ganuk Barlu National Park in Arnhem Land, through Central Australia, across the Gibson Desert and back to Perth via Karlamilyi National Park.
Although the trip took us three months to complete, it also took me three months to plan. We required six travel permits to pass through different Aboriginal lands as well as special permission to enter Arnhem Land for a week. As we were accessing remote areas, we needed spares for the vehicle and a large amount of safety equipment.
The trip was special as we spent a solid three months together on the road as a family. We really bonded during that time and we still talk about all the things we did and adventures such as getting bogged in the outback and shovelling like people possessed to get us out in time before dark. The bulldust was so thick we ate it for days and the thrill of making it through water crossings was great but we had to endure the car's smelly mouldy carpet for the rest of the trip home.
The love hate relationship I had with Red Dog (our GU Nissan Patrol) was one of my most poignant memories. She overheated in the desert and we couldn’t run the air conditioner so we were did the trip with windows down and our car was so noisy we had to shout to each other. We ate dust the whole trip from Alice to Tom Price and when it got really hot, we would take a break, pull the bonnet and let poor old Red Dog have a rest. I hated her on those days. But she saved us from a treacherous sandy track where I thought we might have to bury her in the desert with the rest of the skeletons but she pulled through and I loved her then like I have never loved a car before. After all, Red Dog is part of our family and despite her overheating and dishevelled appearance, she does the job and does it well.
Setting up your car
We have spent a lot of time upgrading our car so we have everything we need to go away for extended off road journeys. We can safely carry enough food and water for our family of five for around ten days without having to visit a shop or restock on supplies. This is great for us as it means we can really get off the beaten track but be comfortable and still eat well.
It helps that we bring our camper trailer with us as it has a great outdoor kitchen, comfortable bed and plenty of storage and water carting capability.
A drawer system for the back of a vehicle is a great way to be able to organise your car as they generally feature a fridge slide, drawers and packing options. There many brands and configurations on the market to choose from but we wanted a particular design so Ashley welded up a set himself. Our storage system has a tray for two fridges, two drawers and stacking options on top of the fridge. While they are basic, it works for us and it makes packing and organising much easier when we go away.
When travelling off road, it is essential to have a well-accessorised vehicle but it is also important to carry a range of recovery equipment suited to the destination and terrain you are tackling. We have a designated box in our Patrol, which holds all our recovery equipment and it stays in the car. All we need to do is add in a couple of extras before our trip such as a shovel, which tops our list of recovery equipment below:
- Snatch strap
- Shackles (load rated)
- Tree trunk protector
- Winch cable damper
- Drag chain
River crossings, steep ascents and descents, sand driving, traversing uneven, rocky and guttered roads are hurdles we expect our four-wheel drive to get over without incident and be capable of tacking the most difficult terrains. To get a vehicle ready for demanding off road conditions, it may need after market modifications. We have spent a number of years slowly fitting out our Patrol so it has everything it needs to get us safely to our destination. The after market modification we have added or changed on the car are as follows:
- Cargo barrier (adds safety and separates gear from passengers)
- Heavy-duty bull bar
- Driving lights
- Duel batteries
- UHF radio and antenna
- Roof rack with shade awning
- Drawer system
- Upgraded suspension
- Long range fuel tank