With the offroad towing abilities of modern four-wheel drives, there is now an ease of accessibility to numerous remote locations all around Australia — and it’s easy to assume that many of us will be heading off to explore the corners of the country in the near future.
This method of travel, as exhilarating as it can be, brings with it a heightened risk of being stranded if your vehicle breaks down or due to unpredictable natural barriers.
Even for those of us who prefer to stick to sealed roads, Australia has some vast distances, and help may not always be immediately at hand. In those situations it pays to be carrying the basics.
If you’re already an avid traveller, you will probably have already gone over this, but it never hurts to check. And for those who are just beginning to dip their feet in the waters of Australia’s diverse sceneries, here are a few things to consider for peace of mind.
Road safety supplies are essential for any offroad or long-distance journeys, especially given how the majority of inconveniences happen on the side of the road. Make sure you bring with you a high-vis vest as well as some collapsible road cones to alert oncoming vehicles that you have an emergency, so that they can take care and give you plenty of room as they pass.
A V-sheet, or a distress sheet, can also help you attract the attention of passing aircraft if you’ve been stuck somewhere remote for a long period of time. While it’s predominantly for when out at sea, it’s a valuable, foldable piece of gear that can save you if you run into trouble exploring remote regions.
If you’ve travelled anywhere around Australia, you would know that mobile coverage is not always your friend, so a satellite phone — and its charger — are essential for long-distance travellers. While not cheap to buy outright, there are options to hire one from companies such as Landwide for a period of remote-area travel.
A personal location beacon (PLB) can also help show you or emergency services where you are if lost, or in an emergency that you can’t fix yourself. Australian Standard PLBs operate for 24 hours and are manually activated. Be aware that many PLBs on the internet do not meet the Australian Standard and will not be able to be activated.
CB radios can be intimidating for those who have never used them, but understanding the right frequencies to use and basic CB etiquette is surprisingly straightforward. And not only are they a great communication device if you find yourself in trouble on the side of the road, they’re also very useful for preventing emergencies, especially along any road that’s shared with road trains.
A handheld short-wave radio — with spare batteries — is more useful for keeping in touch when trekking away from your vehicle. Essential items for exploring anywhere with spotty mobile coverage. Also a nice stress-saver when doing a tricky reversing job, so that you don’t have to shout out the window at your spotter!
You can’t go on any trip without a first aid kit and the knowledge of how to use it. These will often be tailored to your personal needs, such as backups of any personal medication, but must have everything you will need to help keep an injured or unwell individual in a stable condition until proper medical help is available. Taking a First Aid course, even a single day one, is highly recommended.
Knowing where you’ve been, where you are and where you are trying to go are essential when travelling. Due to this, a GPS with remove-area mapping — again, don’t forget the charger! — is a fantastic tool for navigating regions with no road signs and few landmarks. They can get pricey, but these models usually have detailed bush maps that show all kinds of tracks which are often not on cheaper ones.
Next up, a compass! We know, it’s a bit outdated but unlike its digital successors, a compass doesn’t need a power source. Therefore, if your GPS fails you, a compass will at least show you the direction of your travel and, if you’ve been regularly logging your positions on a paper map, you should be able to plan your next course of action or retrace your steps.
You know those paper maps you used to plan your trip? Bring them or an Australian road atlas to help with mapping — or even for the additional details on popular remote destinations. For remote areas, sometimes it can be necessary to bring topographic maps with large scale mapping so that, if stranded, you can help direct rescuers of the best route to your location.
You know all those electronics we listed? you will need a solar panel or generator to charge them, especially if your vehicle’s alternator can’t operate. A small 40W solar panel can do the job as long as there’s ample sunlight but try to aim for something bigger as you can use it to power other electronics such as your fridge, too. In overcast conditions or thickly wooded areas, your battery charging may need to come from a small petrol-powered generator instead.
If you’re undertaking repairs on the run or even just chopping up some firewood, a pair of safety goggles and strong gloves will help protect you, as well as a sturdy pair of close-toed shoes or boots.
What you will need is dependent on the type of terrain you are traversing but, since on longer trips you’re likely to encounter all different kinds, there are some kinds of gear you need to consider.
For offroad adventures on soft soil or sand, a long-handed shovel and a pair of traction boards, such as MATRAX, can also be incredibly useful. With the need to partially deflate your tyres for these soft surfaces, you will need a pressure gauge and an air compressor at hand to help pump them back up once you reach the road.
If you have snatch straps and shackles, make sure yours are rated sufficiently and always use a damping blanket. Also, if you’re using a hand winch, never use it with dynamic components such as snatch straps so make sure you have the appropriate chains and such. Otherwise, an electric winch might be a good idea.
Any kind of travel will require an in-date fire extinguisher and a fire blanket for safety, and you will find a small oil spill kit can also be incredibly useful as you never know when you will have a leak.
Food and Water
The bare essentials for survival in any kind of situation are food and water.
Freeze-dried food has improved from years ago and this easy pocket food can actually be quite good. Have a ration box menu set aside for any potential nights without fresh food, and packed, pre-cooked rice is also available which can be a filling meal for any hungry stomach. For a total weight of only 1kg, you can have meals for up to several days and it is easy to stow these packets in a small area of your vehicle or caravan in case of an emergency. Before you go, make sure you check the use-by dates so that nothing has expired since your last trip.
If you run out of clean water on your travels, contaminated water can make you very sick, very quickly, which is the last thing you need when you’re stranded. Sometimes, access to clean water is limited and you may need to supplement your water supply from dams, creeks or even floodwaters. When this happens, a water filter, such as the B.E.S.T. water filter, will help take out any miniscule objects and strange tastes from the water to give you safe drinking water in your time of need.
These items and equipment should be essentials on your travels around the country and, even if you don’t use something this trip, you may need to use it on the next. Being always in reserve, they will give you peace of mind that if something goes wrong, you will make it out and will have a crazy story to tell once you get back home.
And now that you know what essential safety gear you should be carrying, the next step is knowing how to use it, and what to do and not to do in an emergency. For that check out page 22 for our guide to emergency situations.
Don’t let this worry you too much though. Offroad and remote travelling offers some of the greatest adventures and sights in Australia, just waiting to be explored, and with the right preparation you can be sure to make it back again with your stories. So, get to it and plan your next adventure.
WHAT SHOULD YOUR FIRST AID KIT CONTAIN?
There are a wide variety of First Aid kits available, and should be tailored to your individual needs, but they should contain:
- Crepe bandages
- Triangle bandages
- Sports/skin tapes
- Gauze swabs
- Non-stick dressing pads
- Sterile eye-pad
- Alcohol swabs
- Disposable gloves
- Thermal blanket
- Small scissors
- Safety pins
- Notepad and pen
- Antiseptic cream
- Anti-rash cream
- Pain pills
There are three types of emergency beacon to choose from: EPIRB, ELT and PLB.
EPIRB: Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons are primarily used on boats as they are quite large and heavy.
ELP: Emergency Location Transmitters, which are used on aircrafts.
PLB: Personal Locator Beacons are the smallest of the three types and are what you would use on land, such as with four-wheel driving, biking and hiking.