Heading out in the bush requires a sturdy 4WD that can handle the rough with the smooth, and have enough space for all your essentials. This might mean different things to different people, but with the limited space even on larger vehicles, there’s just so much that you can take with you. The Outback is one of the most inhospitable places created, so going prepared is a must.
Depending on where you’re going, how long you intend to stay, and the level of luxury you expect, there are different items you need to take. I’ll start with the basics.
Driving through city streets is one thing, driving on unlit, loose gravel trails is something else. There’s always the chance of a tyre puncture, so have a spare ready. Recovery gear, like winches, straps and hi-lift jacks should always be packed in easily accessible places, even if you’re just a few hours from home. A shovel is good in the sand and running boards when wheels get stuck. You’ll also need a basic toolkit for any repairs and some spare parts, like oil and air filters if you’re hitting the dirt. Better be safe than sorry. Always have a first aid kit around, in case of any accidents or bites. Paper maps are good if your GPS and phone lose reception, as are CB radios to contact anyone nearby just in case. Also include a few jerrycans with extra water and fuel. Water especially is something you can’t have too much of.
Basic Sleeping Gear
If you intend to spend a few nights under the stars when on your 4WD camping Australia journey, you’ll need the right gear to keep you sheltered and warm, especially during the night. Rooftop tents can accommodate up to two people, are easy to set up and ideal in tight spaces. You can also get a decent waterproof ground tent, with separate sleeping and living rooms, meaning a little more comfort. Sleeping bags, pillows, and pads need to have good padding and watertight outer shells for warmth and a comfy night’s sleep. If you’re tight on space, then a basic swag might just be enough.
You don’t need to ditch basic luxuries during the day. Awnings provide nice shade from the sun and are installed on roof rack rails. You can find different sizes and designs, like front and side rail awnings to create multiple shaded spaces. If you’re taking the kids then this is a must-have. Camping mats keep feet clean and protected from cuts or scratches, and screens keep out the mozzies and flies. For lazing around, you’ll want a few decent reclining chairs while downing your beer. And a sturdy, foldable table and matching chairs when preparing the barbie or teaching the kids some poker.
Small portable stoves run on cheap gas canisters and can last a few days. Extra canisters don’t take up space, so pack a few more. Electric stoves need battery power but are better. Don’t forget basic BBQ utensils, cutlery, and reusable plates, bowls and cups. A decent camp knife can come in handy for a range of tasks. Keep drinks cold in a portable fridge. To keep all waste in one place, get garbage bags, or bins that attach to your 4WD. These are good for dirty clothes as well.
In terms of food, get all the meat and veg you plan to put on the barbie, but also some pre-packed sandwiches or canned food. A few snacks and some fruit won’t hurt either.
Clothing and Personal Hygiene
Pack the appropriate clothing for the place and weather. Add some warmer pieces too, like jackets. Extra joggers and hiking boots, caps, hats, sunnies, swimwear are some of the things to remember. Include basic items that you use daily – soap, shampoo, toilet paper and paper towels, combs and brushes, toothpaste, but also insect repellent, sunscreen and medication. A backpack is enough to fit all of these items.
Don’t go over the top in filling every nook and cranny in your 4WD. However, there are a few things that can make your 4WD camping Australia adventure just that much more pleasurable. Camp lights can make nights shorter and more memorable, and run off a regular battery. Kettles for a cup of hot tea or coffee to get your day started. Powerbanks to charge phones or computers. To power large items like fridges and stoves, you’ll want a battery, set in a battery pack with compatible cabling, fuses and connectors. One or two flexible solar panels should provide enough power for a shorter trip. A DC-DC charger can put some juice back in the battery on cloudy days.
If you have the space, then pack stuff like fishing gear or canoes if you’re near water, or bikes and toys for the kids. Ideally, if you’re going with mates in one or more other 4WDs, spread bigger items around.
Preparation and Packing
Do a thorough check of your 4WD before beginning to do any packing. Check the engine, oil and coolant, chassis, lighting, bull bars and roof racks. Check tyre pressure as well. When you do begin, start with the heavier stuff, like jerrycans, gas bottles and battery packs, making sure they’re secure and won’t budge. Double-check that anything on the racks is properly tied down. Use drawers or boxes for storing tools and spare parts and anything with heft. Get a divider or cargo nets to keep things tight. Use the remaining space to sort out all the remaining gear. Run a list of what you’ve packed. If you don’t have space for anything left over, you probably don’t need it.