Far North Queensland’s Cape York is one of Australia’s most epic off-road destinations, so what gear do you actually need to make it to The Tip?
Anyone who’s been to the Cape in the Dry will tell you that its 4WD tracks are full of one of two things at any point in time: dust or water. The Old Telegraph Track is famed for its deep creek crossings – Nolans Brook and Cockatoo Creek (and the rest) for example – that will test your vehicle’s air intake as well your driving ability. On the opposite side of the scale, many of its drier drives kick up bulldust if you sneeze, let alone if you’re barreling down them at 80km/h (and the rest). This is especially true in the region’s dusty highlands like the Old Coach Road and its adjoining tracks, which mean it’s impossible to escape the need for a snorkel for the journey. A 4x4 snorkel is designed to deliver clean, cool air to your engine intake, making them essential on the wet and dry tracks on the way to The Tip.
If you’ve ever seen the entry to Palm Creek on the Old Telegraph Track, you can understand why good approach and departure angles can only be a good thing in the Cape. Even if you take the bypass track when it’s available, Cape York is full of bumps, lumps and corrugations that will leave you begging for high-quality suspension (if you don’t already have it). With adequate aftermarket suspension fitted to your 4x4, you will be able to overcome more obstacles, drive in greater comfort and increase your rig’s load-carrying capabilities – all of which you want on rough drives that last a long time.
Getting stuck is a common possibility in thrilling off-road hotspots, and Cape York is perhaps the most thrilling. Recovery gear in its many forms is designed to help you – whether you’re bogged, hung up or otherwise – get off the sidelines and let you get on with your trip. This includes self-recovery tools like recovery boards and winches, as well as multi-vehicle recovery tools like snatch straps, kinetic rope and more. Even in the Dry, Cape York has plenty of potential bogging spots where you’ll need a solid recovery kit, while a winch is also a useful track management tool to drag yourself out of trouble or over pesky obstacles.
Cape York can sometimes feel more like a rollercoaster than a 4WD destination, which means that panel damage is possible from all sides (and on most sections of track). With that in mind, it’s worth considering a range of vehicle protection before rolling past Cairns. Aside from its vital protection for your vehicle’s cooling pack, a bull bar gives your winch a safe home, while TJM bull bars include 8000kg rated recovery points to boot. A rear step tow bar gives you similar protection at the back of your rig while also giving you the option of a rear recovery point, while side steps and side bars guard your side and corner panels from getting crushed as you negotiate the Cape’s sometimes tight and twisty wilderness. Finally, underbody guards are easy to forget, but they won’t be if you damage any of the vehicle vitals that are exposed underneath your 4x4.
Whether you’re climbing the slippering inclines of the CREB Track or easing down the Old Coach Road’s dusty descents, traction can be hard to come by in Tropical North Queensland – and without traction you can have no forward motion (which equals more recoveries). The right kind of off-road tyre, also called a light truck tyre, have tread patterns that give you far better surface grip than road tyres. Plus, their stronger side walls make you less susceptible to punctures and stakings from sharp sticks and rocks. All in all, a good quality set of tyres can save you plenty of anguish, while they will also make driving off-road an easier, more enjoyable experience.
Speak to most four-wheel drive tourers worth their salt and they’ll tell you they’ve either been to Cape York (and plan to go back) or have a trip to The Tip on their off-road bucket list. Aside from it being a classic 4WD destination, the reason why these trips are always in the pipeline is because it takes time to plan a trip to the Cape, and it takes time to make the journey. This means that you need plenty of gear to get there and back, which in turn makes your storage solutions more important than on a regular weekender. Roof racks make storing bulky cargo simple, while cargo barriers, drawer systems and utility cases allow you to store more gear in a more organised fashion than just chucking it the back with a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. Trust us, by the end of a three-week poke around the pointy end of Queensland, you’ll be glad you stored your gear in a way that’s accessible and repeatable.