My cousin Greg & I have been working on the trip planning for nearly two years now. Originally I was going to do the journey solo when I purchased my Drifta Offroad Trailer (DOT358). Sadly these are no longer manufactured but the Drifta business is still going strong. I personally believe they were the best built camper trailer in Australia and this one was custom built to my specifications. Will add the specifications sheets in the blog soon for those that may be interested when they come to specify what they want/need in a camper trailer.
DOT358 at Greg’s finalising plumbing modifications
Greg became very excited when I talked about travelling the outback to take landscape and bird photographs through the deserts of NSW, SA. NT & Western Qld. So much so that he sold his 23 ft van and downsized to a AusTrack Tanami X13 offroad van so he could accompany me. We have been mates for years loving camping and fishing together. Our wives were very good friends but sadly both have passed away in recent years leaving the boys to go bush and have fun.
I had not realised how much work was involved to ensure that not only would we be safe on our travels but that our vehicles and trailers would be rugged enough to survive as well. In my case my Toyota Prado 150 GXL needed upgrading to ensure insurance compliance with overall weight and load distribution. Originally I had added lots of ‘fruit’ to the vehicle as I had no intention of dragging a caravan or trailer around on my journey so I had a rooftop tent installed. As I got older this became less comfortable and inconvenient so I started researching camper trailers as I still do not like caravans. When I bought the vehicle I had my friends at ARB in Albury fit a bullbar & winch, underbody steel plate protection (bash plates), a drawer system with a cage, driving lights, roofrack with ARB Simpson tent & a 12v 48 ltr Fridge/Freezer plus upgraded the tyres to Coopers ST-Maxx. Never once did I consider the impact of adding all this weight to the vehicle. After awhile I was back to ARB to have an Old Man Emu 2″ lift kit put in after giving the bash plates a hiding exploring the tracks in NE Victoria. This rig was a delight to drive and gave me many years of fun. When I started to do some research on travelling in the outback in style my needs changed .
It was fun doing the research on how people had prepared their vehicles to go out and enjoy the great outdoors of Australia. Here was where I began to hear about issues with vehicle weights and potentially how dangerous this can be. Not the sort of thing you want to hear when all you want to do is go out there and have fun. So I decided to investigate to see if I was compliant. Shock, horror I was not even close. I imagine most 4WDs will be in the same boat. For my Prado it has a GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) of 2990 kg fully loaded and a Kerb Weight of 2265 kg. This allowed for 725 kg of load – sounds a lot but in reality is not. Remember the ‘fruit’ I had added? Now was the time to do some sums – to cut a long story short I was over even before I hopped in and added my camera gear let alone added a camper trailer onto the hitch for towing.
More investigation meant my options were limited – 1. Replace the vehicle (too costly – rejected); 2. Remove some of the ‘fruit’ (Many are to protect the vehicle so option rejected); 3. Remove and leave behind some of my portable gear (A lot this is safety/recovery gear – option rejected) & finally 4. Bite the bullet and get a GVM upgrade which will give me another 350kg of payload capability but at a significant cost ($4500 AUD). So after much procrastination I bit the bullet and went with Option 4. I am now legally compliant to tow my camper trailer plus take all my camera gear when I travel. We did the same assessment on Greg’s vehicle ( a Ford Ranger) but it was Ok but decided to add a bullbar, underbody protection, driving lights & recovery points because of where we were going.
Next was to figure out what spares and tools we would need to carry which we trimmed down to spare hoses, air filters and fan belts for the cars. Tools we already had included socket sets, spanners, pliers and No 8 fencing wire (plus fencing pliers). The last we felt was a prerequisite for all bush mechanics if something starts to fall off!! We are also carrying pop rivets, anderson plugs, wiring, crimping tools, drills & drill bits. You can see by now much preparation was required to journey off the beaten track as mechanics & spares will be few and far between where we are going. As an added precaution we are both carrying a spare tyre hull plus I have two spare tubes (these are just in case we rip/split the wall of the tyres we have and cannot patch them.
All of that work has now been completed and both vehicles have had a thorough service plus my trailer and Greg’s caravan so from a preparation side that is now complete. Topped up the fuel & water tanks plus loaded the MaxxTrax & three spare fuel containers up onto my roof rack (these won’t require filling until we hit the dirt roads of outback South Australia). Everything now tied down with only camera gear & clothes to load into my car plus load the dry food container onto the back of my trailer. These are all the small luxuries you like to have when you are free camping out in the bush – vegemite, jams, pickles, S&P, sugar, flour, rice, noodles. For a lot of our initial journey we will have access to supermarkets but once out in the desert they will be few & far between so it is wise to pack them before leaving home. Prior to leaving both Greg & I have made prepared meals for two and frozen them and they include curries, stew, soups & roasts (pre-cooked, sliced and cryovacced) enough to last three weeks off-grid.
Both of us have full kitchens on board our trailer/caravan which I will show in another blog once we are on the road. All our gear was given a thorough test when we camped on the edge of Blowering Dam for three weeks last December. So, no more gear required to buy it is time to do the final packing. One more sleep and we will be on the road. First stop is Lake Boga near Swan Hill.