While many people choose not to go 4WD’ing in summer (no air-con, when you’re not in the car!), there are always some intrepid souls who are prepared to take the challenge. With the Dry Lakes Races at Lake Gairdner due in the next week, we thought this would be a good time to provide some tips & tricks for camping & 4WD’ing in these hot summer months.
4WD’ing in summer heat brings its own unique challenges – bitumen roads tend to melt, leaving bitumen stuck in tyre treads, which can affect grip once you get off-road, engines are more likely to over-heat, meaning you need to both keep a closer eye than usual on your temperature gauge and do your best to avoid running into things that will damage your radiator… Although to be fair, that’s a good rule of thumb that applies all year round…
First Things First
But if I could only give you one piece of advice concerning 4WD’ing in summer, it would be this – however much water you think you’re going to need, bring more. Bad things happen to good people who run out of water in the outback and when you’re baking in 45+ degree heat, you’ll be glad you brought that extra water. You’re going to go through more water for yourself and your vehicle than you think you will. So, trust me – bring the water.
4WD’ing In Summer Is Better Than Walking
Fortunately, I can give you more than one piece of advice, but the second piece of advice is similar to the first – bring more fuel. One wrong turn may not sound like a deal breaker, but if you don’t realise you made a wrong turn for 100kms (when you finally give up looking for the next turn), you’re now potentially down 200+ kms worth of petrol.
If you’re running on dual tanks, when you stop for petrol, always check both tanks are full before leaving. It’s not unusual for someone (particularly kids), to accidentally flick the switch and switch tanks without the driver realising. If you’re calculating how many km’s worth of fuel you have left in the tank but you’re running off the second tank when you think you’re running off the first, it’s easy to overestimate how much fuel you have left.
Zip Lock Bags Are The Gift That Keeps Giving
What you bring in, you take out, but there’s no need to put up with the smell. Zip lock bags of all sizes are your greatest friend when travelling.
As always when you’re in remote spots, there’s not likely to be many trash cans, but in the heat, things can get a bit… smelly… And food smells attract predators. To avoid both the predators and the stench, seal your rubbish scraps inside large zip lock bags before putting them in a bin liner. This doesn’t just keep smells in; the best part is that it keeps flies – and the resulting maggots – out. If you keep the bag away from predators, you’ll have a relatively fly and stench free trip.
You can also pack fruit and veggies in zip lock bags with a piece of paper towel to keep them crisp and fresh. Pack snacks and put them in the car so that when the kids complain they’re hungry, you won’t need to dig through everything to get to the Engel to find something for them to eat. Before leaving home, freeze juice or water in smaller zip lock bags – they take up less space than water bottles and can serve as ice-packs, then, when they’ve partially defrosted, stick a straw through the top and drink or snip a corner off and suck on the ice for a cool treat. This is a great way to keep hydrated when 4WD’ing in summer months.
Shoes, Shoes, Shoes.
Bring sturdy shoes. When the temperature rises, everyone wants shoes that won’t be too hot. And when you jump out of the car, and it’s easy to slide on a pair of thongs, but if you’re in sandy conditions, it won’t take long to regret it.
Burns from hot sand can be quite serious and require medical intervention, so protect your feet with hiking boots or even sneakers, especially if you’re in sandy conditions. If you really don’t like sand in your shoes, you can invest $10 in a pair of work boot covers to make sure no sand gets inside your boots.
Good boots won’t just protect against hot sand, they’ll also help protect against insects and possibly even snake bites, so make sure your feet are protected.
The Outback Is Not A Cashless Society
Bring cash. Don’t count on being able to access ATM’s or use EFTPOS at some of the smaller sites, including homesteads, you may visit. It never hurts to carry cash with you to cover any unexpected situations that may come up. Whether it’s for buying petrol from a fellow traveller, a souvenir, a bag of ice or a replacement part for your vehicle, there’s a good chance you’re going to need some cash at some point.
4WD’ing in summer can be a great experience but as always, preparation is the key and small things can make a big difference to your comfort and safety on your trip. If you’re not quite ready to go it alone, why not consider one of our 4wd tag along tours? They’re a great way to experience the outback with the security of an expert guide. What do you do to make your summer 4WD’ing holiday more comfortable? Do you have any tips or tricks of your own? Let us know!