A beginner’s guide to off-road adventures

Photo of 4-wheel drive on a cliffside

Tim Nicholson

Posted March 15, 2021


Eight things you need to know to prepare for a four-wheel-drive holiday.

More Australians than ever are heading off the beaten track to explore our wide brown land on a four-wheel-drive holiday. But before going bush, you need to make sure you’re well prepared and have the right gear for whatever your adventure might throw at you.

Repco’s 4x4 Adventure and Escape Merchandise Manager Dion Cachia says it’s important to plan for your level of experience and needs – but even the most experienced bush basher must start every trip by telling a friend or family member (who’s not on the trip) where you are going and when.

Dion says travellers should make themselves aware of local conditions, particularly when it comes to flood or fire warnings, and keep informed while on (or off) the track.

“Being aware of the environment that you are entering is a must as it dictates the equipment and precautions necessary. Seasonal factors such as overly wet and slippery conditions need to be well considered, as does extreme heat and dry conditions that increase the risk of fire danger.”

It’s also vital to familiarise yourself with your vehicle’s four-wheel-drive system and understand the various drive modes and functions. And as for any trip, ensure your tyres and brakes are in tip-top condition before you head off, and that your vehicle’s servicing is up to date.

When prepping your vehicle there’s no shortage of equipment to consider. Here are Dion’s recommendations for accessories to ensure a safe and successful off-road adventure. 

Tyre pressure needs to be regulated according to the surface or terrain you’re on.
If you’re travelling alone or in remote locations, a satellite phone is essential.

Eight things you need for an off-road adventure

Communication equipment

If you’re travelling alone or in remote locations, a satellite phone is essential. Working ultra-high frequency (UHF) equipment, both in-car and hand-held, with the right antenna range should be considered mandatory for any journey, particularly when travelling in groups.

Water and supplies

Water is best stored in solid-colour food-grade containers that don’t allow light to pass through. They can fit inside external jerry-can holders, or squat-style containers can be strapped into place in roof baskets. It’s a good idea to cover water and fuel carriers to keep dust and contaminants out. Remember that four-wheel driving is thirsty work for your vehicle, and ensure you have more than enough fuel on board to keep you going in challenging terrain.

Recovery kit

A full recovery kit for retrieval of a bogged or stuck vehicle is vital for off-road trips. Remember that in any recovery operation it’s important to be cautious and follow safety instructions. Your kit should include the following equipment:

  • Recovery straps: Recovery straps are part of a basic set of aids for recovery by another vehicle. These are used in place of recovery ropes and have various breaking strengths and a stretch factor to help the process. Winch dampers should be considered when using ropes and straps as they help reduce the impact force of snapped ropes or straps. 
  • Shackles and ropes: Shackles are used for connecting recovery cables or straps to vehicle recovery points, and can be traditional metal-rated shackles or ‘soft shackles’. Paired with ropes and/or straps, they are used in an assisted secondary-vehicle recovery.
  • Recovery winch: Usually powered by a 12-volt motor, recovery winches are used to recover a vehicle when assisted recovery by another vehicle is not possible. They are handy – if not essential – for solo recovery operations.
  • Recovery track and shovels: Recovery tracks come in both roll-up or ridged forms and help a vehicle gain traction when bogged. Shovels are handy to clear mud and sand to better position the recovery tracks.  
  • Receiver hitches: These turn your tow hitch point into a recovery point, and vary depending on whether they are being paired with traditional metal-rated shackles or soft shackles.
  • Tree trunk protector: If you find yourself in a situation where you are using a tree as an anchor point to aid a recovery, a trunk protector helps preserve the tree. They also minimise any damage the tree can cause to your ropes.

Tyre compressor

When you’re on an off-road track, tyre pressure needs to be regulated according to the surface or terrain you’re on. In some cases, you’ll need to partially deflate the tyres, then inflate them back to regular levels when you get back on the road. Check the litres-per-minute of the compressor as that determines how long it will take to reinflate your tyres. It’s also important to consider the duty cycle or ‘run time’ of the compressor before it needs to be rested for re-use. There are plenty of 12-volt compressors on the market that vary in air-volume delivery capacity.  

Tyre gauge and repair kit

These kits are handy for the emergency repair of punctures on the tread face of a tyre. Try having a practice run before your trip so you know what to do. And remember these repairs are temporary fixes, so you should seek a professional tyre repair as soon as possible. Tyre gauges help you ensure the repair is holding pressure, and also measure a tyre’s desired pressure over varied terrain. 

Solar tyre-pressure monitoring system 

Early detection of leaks or punctures in tyres reduces risks to safety and potential damage. This kit frees up your vehicle’s 12-volt accessory socket by using solar power with an internal battery. It can be expanded to monitor the pressure of up to 10 tyres, so you can check your vehicle as well as camper trailers, caravans, trailers and spare wheels. 

Lights

When it comes to additional lights for your off-road adventure, there is a huge range of options available, from light bars to spotlights and mounting hardware to get them attached. Consider how and when you will use them and get specific advice for your situation and vehicle setup.

Gloves

Gloves are a no-brainer for boosting grip when handling wet equipment and for general hand protection when the going gets tough.


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