Thinking of camping in the Top End? Here's what you need to know before your go.
Plan Your Trip
Pick out your campsites and get local advice about where you plan on going. Before you head out, check the conditions of the parks you intend on visiting and whether they are open:
Tennant Creek and Barkly region
Alice Springs region
Planning on going off-road in a park? You’ll need a permit for that.
Permits are also required in some areas for accessing the area or to camp. As one of Australia’s most coveted fishing territories, the Top End is renowned for excellent barramundi fishing during the barra build-up in October to December and barra run-off from February to May. If you’re planning on boating or fishing, read up about guidelines before you launch.
Large areas of the NT belong to traditional owners. To access these areas, you will need to contact the relevant land council for permits. In the Northern Territory, there are four Aboriginal Land Councils to get in touch with:
Northern Land Council
Central Land Council
Tiwi Land Council
Groote Eylandt the Anindilyakawa Land Council
In the days leading up to your departure, be sure to check the weather forecast and let a friend or family member know your route and when you’re expected to be back.
Check where you will be able to get fuel along the way and know where your last refuelling station is before going off- road.
You won’t always be the only one on the road, read about driving with road trains.
Pack to the conditions
In the Northern Territory, you will need to ensure you have 2L of water a day per person, pack more if you’re going to be exerting yourself or in the elements. Sunblock, a hat, DEET insect repellent and sturdy shoes are basics not to forget. First aid kit, a lighter and water purification tablets / life straw should also always be on hand.
Good food makes a big difference to a trip (especially when travelling with family). Mounting a sliding fridge on a good set of drawers keeps more than just the drinks cool, enabling easy access and versatile 4WD storage options. A gas BBQ can come in handy on days where there is a total fire ban.
Cutting down on the non-essentials and checking your vehicles weight (available at select TJM stores) before heading out will help ensure your vehicle handles well. Check everything is secure, so your cargo won’t shift under heavy breaking or get lost.
Roof racks are a great way to free up a bit of space in your boot. Be careful not to overload them, this raises the vehicle’s centre of gravity, increasing your roll over potential. Weight distribution should be as low and centrally located is possible.
Gear and Vehicle Preparation
Go through your gear and make sure your equipment is in good, working condition. Make sure this is done far in advance, so you have plenty of time to make repairs or get replacement parts.
Give your 4x4 a good check-up including a service 3-4 weeks out, tighten up all your screws and bolts (guaranteed to be tested by any corrugated roads), hook your trailer up and test your brake lights and make sure you’re carrying a copy of the workshop manual for your vehicle. Get your local TJM to check your suspension and while you’re there, install dual batteries if you’re using a fridge.
Spare parts should be considered based on the age of your vehicle and the intensity of your trip. Flats and punctured tyres are the most common issue when going off-road. The best place to learn how to change a tire is in your driveway. Practice the process at home until you’re confident you can handle it when the conditions are against you and you’re using a recovery jack. If your tyres aren’t in good condition, replace them. Pick up a tyre pressure gauge before you go and drive with the piece of mind that you’re always at the right PSI in any situation. If there’s even a chance of things getting a bit rocky or sandy, an air compressor will make sure you can fill your tires back up after airing down.
Communication and navigation equipment are essential for making sure you get where you’re going and back again, safely. For very remote areas, it has been standard to get a HF radio, PLB or EPIR fitted to your vehicle, however, these days Satellite phones are becoming more and more popular to buy or hire in case of emergency.
Keeping your engine’s airbox as dust free as possible while allowing for the maximum intake of air is crucial to ensuring your vehicle will continue to perform as it should once you get off sealed roads. You’ll notice 4WD snorkels are a must have for the typical Aussie 4x4 for this exact reason. If you’re considering getting a snorkel installed before your trip, our stores make it easy with fitment centres capable of modifying your 4x4 onsite.
Likewise, you should never leave home without a reliable recovery kit (snatch straps, rated recovery shackles, recovery blanket, gloves, snatch block) and treds to get yourself out of danger, especially if you’re traversing the infamous wetlands of Arnhem Land. There’s a common saying about getting a winch for your 4WD: it’s like insurance, you may never need it but when you do – it might save you from a lot of strife. When it does come time to pull out the recovery gear, you may need to trust it with your life. Everyone’s 4x4 setup is a little different, so make sure to talk to your local TJM to make sure you’ve got gear that is rated for your weight class and configuration.
You’re in the Northern Territory, baby! Take extra care to read signs and maps, as they will warn if there’s salt or freshwater crocodiles waiting for you in a waterway. Here’s a local tip: never, ever camp near the water’s edge.
National parks and reserves generally don’t allow dogs and cats. Check the rules for pets in parks before you set out. Once again, keep an eye out for those salties!
Ready to take on the Northern Territory? Gear up with our Top End Catalogue, out now.