1. A GOOD COMPANION
Lone wolves may well disagree, but I’ve always found that solitude is best when it isn’t entirely permanent. Having some company around when you hit the road not only shares the experience, but also provides valuable backup when, and if, you hit a snag in your journey. Rarely does a remote adventure end without something snapping, puncturing or failing you, and having two heads to nut out a solution is invariably better than one.
If you step it up a notch and travel in convoy, you’ll always have another vehicle on hand to winch you out of trouble, and two or more toolkits and the combined mass of recovery gear and spares is gold in the bush. On the flipside, some travellers are blissfully happy when their travelling companion has four legs instead of two. Pets might keep you out of national parks, but they know how to enjoy a campfire.
I’m into compact, multi-use gear, which makes my smartphone indispensible on the road and on the trail. I use GPS for navigation and it’s loaded up with some fave free camping and offline mapping apps too.
Choosing a phone with a Telstra ‘blue tick’ offers a marginal advantage to its functionality (depending on how remote you really are). My smartphone is my camera, my clock, my lifeline to social media. Oh, I can talk to people on it too.
3. SOLAR PANELS
Whether you mount your panels on top of your vehicle or rig, or run out a free-standing unit in camp, you simply can’t beat a solar panel for clean, petrol-free power.
You’ll need a couple of decent panels teamed with a generous bank of batteries to run most rigs, but if you install the most energy-efficient white goods you can afford, switch to LED lights, insulate your rig well against the cold and heat, and check that you have good seals on your fridge and freezer, a totally solar-powered rig is possible. And if you accidentally flatten your starter battery, your solar panel can come to the rescue and, with a bit of time and patience on your part, get you back on track.
4. HI-LIFT JACK
Yes, it’s entirely old school but when you’re on your own and offroad, a hi-lift jack can get you out of a lot of trouble. Use it as a manual winch to ratchet yourself out of a bog (it’s hard work but it does work), to straighten damaged steelwork if you have to and, funnily enough, to change your tyres.
Other recovery basics include a good nylon snatch or tow strap, emergency tyre repair kit, an air compressor and a tyre pressure gauge.
Even if you are no bush mechanic, with a bunch of reliable tools on board you stand a chance of getting your vehicle and rig back on track. It’s never too difficult to wrangle advice and aid from fellow travellers (those pods of guys clustered around camp with beers in hand are actually hard at work, remedying someone else’s misfortune).
Gather together a collection of wrenches, pliers, vise grips, screwdrivers and socket sets to fit your vehicle and rig, or ask your local 4X4 shop expert to do it for you. My simple multi-tool is indispensible too: its knife is razor sharp, the pliers have an unbeatable grip and the screwdrivers save me from unearthing the toolkit. I love my aging Swiss army knife too, even though the old corkscrew is totally redundant (wine casks are pretty easy to get into).
6. REPAIR SPARES
Fill a box with a menagerie of nuts, bolts, screws, wire, connectors, bulbs, fuses, electrical and gaffa tape, plastic weld, superglue, gear and engine oils and WD-40.
These bits and pieces will be called upon far more often than you think once you leave the bitumen.
7. SURVIVAL SPARES
You never know when your tyres or vehicle will fail you on rugged, remote journeys. It might be a blown tyre, a serious axle breakage or electrical issues that leave you stranded and in a survival situation. Having at least two spare tyres keeps you moving on remote routes, as does at least one emergency jerry can of fuel.
To prepare for the worse, maintain a stash of dry food separate from your usual stores, and at least 20L of water.
8. FIRST AID KIT
I have never had to compress a snakebite or splint a limb, and quite frankly I think I’d faint if I ever had to break out the stitch kit. Thankfully, it’s my antiseptic cream and paracetamol that get called upon most, making me a terrific nurse to have around in case of a splinter or a hangover.
Nonetheless, an extensive first aid kit is one offroad essential just about everyone agrees upon. But it’s not enough on its own. School up before you hit the road by taking a first aid course so you’ll have the knowledge and confidence to tackle any incident or emergency in the bush.
9. A KINDLING BOX
On frosty nights in the dead of winter, nothing warms the mind, body and soul like a good campfire. Sometimes you need to cook on it, other times you need a fire just to sit around and stare into.
When timber is abundant, I stash a little extra in the kindling box and before arriving at destinations where wood is scarce or already occupied by Aussie critters, I strap some larger logs on the roof. Don’t forget a few spare lighters and a stash of recycled newspaper or cardboard.
10. AN EMERGENCY BOTTLE OF PORT
There can be an awful lot of good times to celebrate when you travel. What goes better with a beautiful sunset than a tiny nip of port? Need to settle the nerves after a hard day on the road?
The guy in the van next door’s having a birthday? Just grab the port and head on over. It doesn’t have to be flash; it just needs to be full.
Need more advice about camping essentials? Read our Top 5 Camping Essentials