The Australian Outback is incredibly remote and its landscapes are rugged, which makes travelling through it a real challenge for any 4x4. Here’s the essential off-road kit your 4WD will need to help you get there and back in one piece.
Aftermarket suspension is always worthwhile if you like off-roading, but it becomes even more important when you’re out the Back ‘O Bourke. Put simply, improving your 4x4’s suspension makes it a whole lot more useful off-road.
Good suspension increases ground clearance (allowing you to overcome more obstacles, more easily), wheel and axle articulation and load-carrying capabilities, while also making your rig more responsive over changing terrain by enhancing its ride, comfort and handling. These benefits not only allow you to travel to more challenging places, but they also make your 4WD safer to drive.
Plus, because the Outback is a big place that demands a lot of off-road kilometres for each trip, an adequate suspension system will also reduce the mechanical strain put on your fourby over those long slogs – meaning less chance of a breakdown during your trip or added repair costs at the end of it.
Your tyres are the connection between your 4x4 and the terrain you’re driving over, and it just so happens that the Outback is home to the toughest terrain on Earth. This means that if you want to cruise the Plenty Highway or take on the Talawana Track, your tyres need to be up to the task. Off-road tyres (also known as light truck tyres) have deeper tread patterns for getting traction off the blacktop, while their thicker side walls make them far less susceptible to stakings from jagged rocks and sharp sticks. Investing in good tyres and keeping some spares to boot should be near the top of your wish list before you head out on any Outback trip.
Australia is full of wildlife and tough-as-nails terrain that can damage your 4x4 on impact. An animal strike – which is most common at dusk and dawn but can happen at any time of day – to the front of your vehicle can cause a massive amount of damage to the sensitive parts of your fourby which live behind the front bumper. For this reason alone, a bull bar is a worthy investment that pays for itself even if it only protects your 4x4 (and its occupants) once.
A set of side bars will extend your vehicle’s protected area to its side panels, while some solid side steps are essential for two things: guarding against flying stones and debris that are common in the Outback and for making it easy to access your rig or roof-loaded cargo. A rear bar adds protection to rear panels and bumpers too, while also giving you added vehicle access and recovery capabilities in sticky situations.
Finally, a place that’s frequently forgotten and even more frequently damaged is your 4WD’s underbody. Most people don’t think about it, but your vehicle’s underbody is full of exposed components that are vital to a functioning 4x4: the transmission, steering, gear box, sump, transfer case and more. In a place like the Aussie Outback where ruts and rocks are all part of the fun, getting some underbody protection makes a whole lot of sense.
Rated recovery points
In Australia, vehicle recoveries aren’t a sign of a trip gone pear-shaped – they’re just another part of the journey. To be ready for the inevitable, it’s essential that you have the right gear to get you through a vehicle recovery. The first thing you will need for a snatch strap or winch recovery are recovery points, which give you a secure and functional attachment point for recoveries that require a tow vehicle.
Rated recovery points are recovery points that have been load-tested to prove they can handle the strain of a recovery, ensuring that you can get unstuck in the middle of nowhere and come home to tell the tale. Luckily (and unlike other bull bar manufacturers), TJM bull bars come with 8000kg rated recovery points as standard, which means that you get two essential Outback 4x4 accessories for the price of one.
One of the joys of being in the Outback is the solitude and serenity you get from any remote area travel. However, being away from it all also means you’re often in patchy or non-existent cellular range, and a solid communications setup is always essential in the Australian Outback.
In an emergency, including a vehicle breakdown, injury or something similar, the ability to contact someone quickly and reliably is key. Meanwhile, in some places like the dunes of the Simpson Desert, radio communications are required to find out where other travellers are to avoid collisions. To be able to do both these things, items like a UHF CB radio, aerial and a satellite phone should be high on your pre-trip preparation list.
Australia’s desert destinations are often dry and almost always dusty. To help your engine function properly over long days of travel, a 4x4 snorkel is a necessity. To the casual observer, a snorkel is only required for fording deep water crossings – but this assumption misses the point of what a snorkel actually does. Your 4x4’s usual air intake is around the wheel arch or under the bonnet, which does in fact mean that a snorkel makes challenging water crossings possible. However, moving your vehicle’s air intake higher off the ground doesn’t just take it out of harm’s way, it also improves the quality of air your engine is receiving.
The reason for this is because your normal air intake is susceptible to excessive heat and dust ingress, which can compromise engine performance and clog your air filter incredibly quickly. So, by putting your air intake higher, you can deliver clean and cool air to your engine even in dusty Outback conditions.
If you’ve ever looked up at the night sky in remote areas, you’ll notice that the stars shine far brighter (and you’ll even see the core of the Milky Way overhead during the autumn and winter months) than they do around townships and cities. The reason this happens is because of light pollution from the ambient lights of houses, streetlights and more. However, when you get into the Australian Outback, you really understand how dark and impenetrable the night can really be.
Whether you’re driving in pitch darkness or around dawn or dusk, it can be difficult to see what’s in front of you with your 4x4’s standard driving lights. Changes in terrain and wildlife on or around the track (or road) can seemingly appear out of nowhere, which is both hazardous and avoidable. By fitting some aftermarket spotlights or a light bar you can light up the path ahead, giving roadside wildlife fair warning of your arrival and giving yourself the chance to spot any upcoming obstacles.