Be discerning with modifications
Many people kit out their off-roader with accessories and modifications.
For some, it’s more about the tough truck look than fitting things that will make a genuine difference.
Conversely, well-chosen tweaks can add much-needed comfort or capability.
Do your research and be discerning with the changes you’re making or things you’re adding. A bullbar could be handy, in part to fit driving lights or aerials on. Most new cars have sub-standard high beams for night driving in the bush.
Some basic recovery gear is a must in case you get bogged, and an air compressor is handy for adjusting tyre pressures for different conditions (lower them to 18psi or lower for sand driving).
Keep in mind that any extras you bolt-on – lights, bullbar, roof rack and bash plates – add weight, which needs to be subtracted from how much you load in the car
One handy addition is a UHF radio, especially if you’re travelling in a group. Many travellers run on Channel 40, and as well as having a chat, you can ask about the road conditions.
Don’t bother with cheapie kids’ radios, instead, make sure you get a 5W one with a decent aerial.
A sat phone is also worth considering, especially if you’re travelling solo. You can hire or buy one and sell it after your trip.
Consider the gear you’ll be taking with you. Outback roads can be rough, so things jiggle around. Pack carefully and strap things down so they won’t go wandering, potentially damaging the trim of the car.
Maintaining tyres in the outback
Any proper off-roader will have a full-size spare wheel. Depending on how remote you’re going, it could be worth considering for a second.
At the very least, make sure you will be alerted to a puncture or slow leak. Some cars come fitted with such warning systems, but if yours doesn’t, spend a couple of hundred dollars on aftermarket tyre pressure sensors. External ones take a few minutes to screw onto the valve and if you’re doing Outback touring they can prevent permanent tyre damage.
Most new SUVs – even LandCruisers and Patrols – have tyres that are more about the suburbs than the bush.
They’re typically more susceptible to a puncture than some hardier all-terrain tyres, which should resist rocks and sticks better.
But tyres are a compromise; by improving puncture resistance you’ll likely get a tyre that’s slightly heavier and/or stiffer, so the ride quality may suffer. They could also be noisier and have less grip on bitumen.
For that reason, don’t bother with mud terrain tyres unless you’re planning on diverting around bitumen altogether; they’re often too compromised for regular driving.
Before you take off, make sure you check your spare tyre and tool kit to make sure it’s ready to go. Ensure you can undo the wheel nuts manually; it may involve asking your mechanic to loosen them with a rattle gun.