The Kimberley is an iconic off-road frontier that’s riddled with 4WD tracks and jaw-dropping landscapes. If you’ve got the Kimberley on your travel bucket list, then you better check out our countdown of the gear you need to get there and back.
In years gone by, the Gibb River Road was a rugged 4WD track for much of its length from Derby to Kununurra, claiming a steady stream of unprepared victims with its washouts and corrugations. For better or worse, these days the Gibb is well graded and sealed in sections to make the journey smooth sailing. With that said, the truth of the matter is that the best part of the Kimberley’s main artery is actually the many side trips that spread out from it, and some of the best are rough rides indeed. Drives to Mitchell Falls, Walcott Inlet, the Munja Track, the Old Karunjie Road and many more can vary from challenging to treacherous, but an adequate aftermarket suspension system can tip the scales in your favour.Aside from increasing your ground clearance to help you overcome obstacles, a good 4x4 suspension system will make your drive safer and more comfortable, while also allowing you to carry more cargo than factory suspension.
2. 4x4 Snorkel
The Australian Outback and Top End are dusty destinations, and the Kimberley gets no pass on this front –it’s not unusual for rigs to leave the driveway white and come back some shade of orange (sandstone, marmalade, yam, marigold –take your pick) after a journey to the jewel of WA. Dust coating your ride’s paint is harmless, but dust clogging its air filter can quickly cause problemsfor your engine.For that reason, a 4x4 snorkel is rightly one of the first and most common accessoriesfitted to a 4WD. A snorkel raises the level of your engine’s air intake from the bonnet or wheel arch area to the top of your vehicle, which has two huge benefits: it means less dust is getting stuck in your air filter, and it also means you’re getting cooler air through to your engine. These reasons make a snorkel a worthwhile investment for almost any off-road traveller (and that’s without even talking about water crossings).
3. Vehicle Protection
Rough off-road regions can only be negotiated (intact) by tough vehicles. Vehicle protection accessories are the most effective way to protect you and your vehicle from cosmetic damage and impact events, both of which are commonplace in the Kimberley (as well as on your journey to the area, especially if you live far away in a major metro away). A bull bar defends your vehicle’s all-important cooling pack that sits behind its front grille, while also protecting your rig’s broad front end. After all, an impact to a radiator will quickly immobilise your 4WD, put a sour end to your trip and cost you a pretty penny. However, while the front of your vehicle is the area that needs the most protection and is most susceptible to it, additional fitted protection accessories can be incredibly useful: steel side bars and side steps, rear bars and underbody guards all play a role when it comes to protecting the full package that is your 4WD.
4. Dual Battery System
One of the most empowering aspects of owning a 4WD is the ‘go anywhere’ factor it offers, but that only counts if you have the other tools you need to get there. The Kimberley, just like every other epic Outback and Top End region, doesn’t have 7-Elevens on either side of the track at every T-junction. This means you need to be self-sufficient for the journey between supply points, because without that self-sufficiency you may as well not leave your driveway.A dual battery system gives you just that. With power on tap throughout the day and at camp, you can keep your food cold in your fridge, light up your campsite after sunset and charge 240v appliances like camera batteries to capture the journey as you go. Depending on your battery size and whether you’re collecting solar power, you can feasibly keep the power on indefinitely without having to move an inch.
Epic trips require epic packing. Any off-road tourer worth their salt can regale you with tales of how they Tetris their cargo and how it’s organised to maximise storage space and accessibility –two factors that become all the more important when you’re considering a trip upwards of two weeks long. Thankfully, this job can be made much easier with some simple bits of gear. Roof racks are an easy way to externalise your storage space, and they’re the perfect place to store bulky items like utility cases and swags. Meanwhile, a drawer system can make organising easy, allowing you to access a whole range of items without rearranging them or taking cargo out to get to what’s underneath. It’s also worth considering cargo barriers if you’re driving a wagon, since they allow you to get the full extent out of your cargo space.
6. Off-Road Tyres
Off-road tyres are designed for travelling off the blacktop, which means they perform better in 4WD situations and have a purpose-built construction. This includes thicker tread and stronger side walls to protect against punctures, while their more aggressive tread patterns are designed to give you optimal traction in terrain that can be less than helpful (remembering that without traction you can’t guarantee forward motion).The Gibb River Road itself won’t usually ask too many questions of your tyres, but once you veer off into its exciting side trips you are far more likely to test your treads.