Hand’s up if you’ve ever been stuck up the creek without a paddle? I don’t know about you, but I’ve got two hands and both feet speared higher than Snoop Dog on a Friday night! Yep, if you like real adventure there’s a good chance you’ve pushed the limits a little too far at some point or another. Oh well, you live and you learn, right? I’ll tell you what, though; a few words of wisdom would have gone a heck of a long way back when I first hit the tracks, even more on my last lap around the continent! The good news is if you’re new to the world of off-road adventure, I’m about to spill the beans on a few of most valuable trail-tested real-world tips and tricks around. Some were learnt the hard way, others from good old fashioned hands-on experience. One thing’s for sure, the next few pages could quite literally save your backside, in more ways than one!
"A few years of travelling down bone shuddering, dusty tracks will teach you a thing or two about bush proofing. Like how cardboard packaging for liquid products almost always turns to mush. Think fruit juice poppers and long-life milk. The hardier plastic bottles are definitely the go for tough touring!"
Corrugations can take a toll on, well, everything! Especially if you don’t get your tyre pressures right for the terrain – ask me how I know that one! A few years of travelling down bone shuddering, dusty tracks will teach you a thing or two about bush proofing. Like how cardboard packaging for liquid products almost always turns to mush. Think fruit juice poppers and long-life milk. The hardier plastic bottles are definitely the go for tough touring!
Loafs of bread will almost always end up squashed under the case of beer, but a packet of wraps is much hardier and last longer too.
Then there’s the issue of glass jars cracking and leaking. If you need to carry them, put’em in stubby coolers so they’re well protected – you can never have too many coolers. Oh, and split everything into small plastic tubs, it helps isolate any leaks from the rest of your gear.
Righto, it’s time to get stuck into those little things that pack a big punch. Like when your water tank is bone dry, you urgently need a drink and the bloody tap has a vandal proof lock on it. I always keep one of those 4 in 1 tool tap keys handy for such an occasion, along with a couple of water treatment tablets for suspect water.
For swarms of flies, Rosemary and Cedar Wood cream is a clear winner. Originally used to keep flies off horses, it’s the only stuff that’s ever worked for me. For insects of the blood sucking variety, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in the glove box and rub it on the bite to stop the sting. Trust me, it works!
Another tip for those long days behind the wheel is to keep a tucker box stocked up in the cab. I mean, I’m no calorie counting athlete, but muesli bars, trail mixes and powdered electrolytes come in super handy when that quick firewood runs turns into a 6-hour winching session! Same goes for big days behind the wheel.
A TASTEFUL TOOL BOX
For years I travelled with more tools on board than a pimped out mobile mechanic. But all that extra weight just increases the chance of a breakdown. Of course, you need to be well prepared, but I’ve found the tools mainly got used for little repairs around camp. So, things like self tapping screws, large flat washers with small holes (handier than you think), electrical tape, silicon sealant and a few nuts come in super handy. As does some old rubber hose and worm drive clamps.
Epoxy Putty like “Knead It” has saved my backside more than once, same as a few flat and L-shaped brackets to hold broken bits and bobs back together. Then there’s the essentials like cable ties, fencing wire and WD40. Keeping a few valve remover tools in the ash tray comes in bloody handy too, especially when it comes to cleaning out a leaking tyre bead.
THE NUT BEHIND THE WHEEL
All the gear in the world counts for nothing without a little knowhow, although you do tend to pick things up as you go. Like how spinning your wheels on rock is a great way to snap driveline components and damage tyres. Or how activating the diff lockers before you get stuck is way more effective than waiting until you’re actually bogged. Bear in mind, diff lockers can give you the capability to get further up the creek if you’re not careful!
Then there are those bloody wash outs, dips and cattle grids that seemingly come out of nowhere. There’s nothing like a bent chassis and brown stains on your seat to teach you to slow down, eh?
Despite what the pimply P-Plater in a beat-up Patrol says - rock hoping isn’t the only use for low range gearing either; it actually gives you heaps more control when you’re reversing the camper trailer or boat, give it a go yourself.
Oh, and diving straight into water while your hubs are still hot can cause the metal to contract and suck in a gut full of water. A bit like sucking the guts out of a schooner on a super-hot day!
TOP TIPS FOR THE TOYS
Quad bikes, boats, buggies, canoes and trail bikes are all dead-set bloody awesome. But here are a few pointers to help prepare for the worst, you know, just in case!
- If you drown your bike or buggy, don’t try and start the engine. Instead, pull the spark plug/s out and crank it over a few times to pump any water out of the combustion chamber.
- Don’t overestimate your fuel range. I’ve been caught out a few times with that one!
- A camel pack full of water and added electrolytes is bloody handy on hot days. After witnessing everything from wasp stings on the eye to clumsy bike accidents and a snake bite, it now holds a basic first aid pouch and either a hand-held UHF or an EPIRB.
- Oh, and don’t forget to pack a hammock either! Nothing beats swinging around on cloud 9 when you find a new slice of paradise. At the very least it’s great insurance to have if any of the above should strike!
"Isn’t it funny how the little things can all add up to make a massive difference in the long run?"
IT’S YOUR TURN
Isn’t it funny how the little things can all add up to make a massive difference in the long run? Don’t get me wrong, the big things make an enormous impact too. But lessons learned from experience can definitely change the way you explore the country. But hey, don’t just take my word for it – get out there and see for yourself!