For anyone who has seen Outback Australia, they will tell you that Australia pretty much has it all.
Gorges, rapid rivers, secret hide-a-ways, rainforests, snow, fishing; you name it. Australia is the ultimate mecca for any adventurist.
However, the catch-22 is that these places aren’t always easy to get to and aren’t always just a stone throw away from where you are staying.
For this, you need a vehicle that can handle the roughest tracks. That can cover deep water crossings, and manage tough terrains. You need reliable gear as well, because more often than not these places are remote, with no consistent power, or persons nearby for days.
Danny Bosch, who runs Danny’s 4WD Adventures, explains how his set-up has been designed for the ultimate adventurer, and the vehicle accessories he has installed to ensure he has all the essentials.
The idea was easy: a year full of outdoor adventures around Australia. But it did require some research and thinking. How do I want to travel around? And more specifically, what kind of car? The thing is, I had never owned a 4WD. Growing up in the Netherlands, the biggest hills are speedbumps, and that is not really something you need a 4WD for.
So, I thought about the requirements. I wanted a car that could get me everywhere. It needed to be mechanically easy to fix if needed. It didn’t need to be a speed monster as I am travelling for a year. It just needed to be perfect for 4WD touring to get me to that special spot.
As an adventurer and explorer, I enjoy hiking, kayaking and mountain biking. I wanted to keep doing this during my trip. It gives me the diversity I love. One day you arrive at a beautiful river to paddle or fish. The next day you find a network of challenging mountain bike tracks through a never ending forest. With all this in mind, it needed to be a car which could carry all my outdoor gear.
I have always liked the Nissan Patrol GU. It is a popular car in Australia and is considered highly reliable. They have been used in the outback for decades, so most mechanics know how to work on them. I decided on a classic: the 4.2TD. In my opinion, one of the best engines ever made. Yes, they do sound like a tractor but are strong and mechanically simple.
A big disadvantage of this engine is that they aren't known as being fuel efficient compared to a more modern engine. This is something I have thought about. After all, one litre more per 100km becomes a lot of money after 50,000km. But the mechanical simplicity of the engine appealed to me. Plus, you know how it is, it is hard to reason when you have set your mind on something.
I decided that a Ute would work best for me. Ideally a Ute with a high GVM as I carry a lot of gear. An ex-Telstra vehicle ticked all the boxes. It has a 4.2TD engine, a versatile canopy and comes standard with a GVM upgrade. In addition, it has a gas approved storage cabinet, water tank and dual fuel tank. It also comes with a dual wheel carrier and roof bars to mount my kayak on. After a bit of searching, I found one in good condition and bought it.
Greg from 4WD Trekmaster helped me get the car ready for my trip. With a history in the racing industry and as a 4WD tour operator, he knows a lot about cars. He sells his own line of suspension and helped me choose and install 4WD accessories. New front coil springs and rear springs were fitted to bring the cars suspension up-to-date. A heat exchanger was fitted for a shower system.
To prevent getting scolded, he installed a thermostat which allows you to set the temperature for the shower. Greg also fitted a mountain bike carrier directly to the canopy to make it suitable for off-road driving. Lastly, he helped with all the electrical work. I decided on three car batteries and a 40Ah kayak battery which are charged whilst driving or by use of solar on the campsite. These batteries power the fridge, as well as laptop, camera gear and other gadgets.
Canopies are great for carrying all your gear including the fridge. However, people often experience high temperatures in their canopy. This often influences the working of the fridge. Therefore, Greg from 4WD Trekmaster helped with the installation of dust- and waterproof ventilation. This ensures that there is airflow through the canopy, resulting in lower temperature. This is the best improvement I’ve made on my vehicle and I really can’t thank Greg enough.
I use a 25 amp In-vehicle Battery Charger from REDARC because it allows me to charge my batteries to a full 100% whilst driving. In addition, I can use solar and DC inputs simultaneously to keep everything charged. When I’m parked up, the solar blanket gives me that extra bit of power to my batteries. Being compact and lightweight, this has been a great option for me as I go exploring. The last thing I wanted was to have some portable solar panels that are heavy and cumbersome to set-up.
In addition, I also have a 52mm dual voltage gauge installed in my vehicle. This allows me to monitor my batteries vitals and charging performance.
Staying in touch
Another item I invested in was communication equipment. Initially, I wanted a HF radio which is great for in the Outback. However, the weight/size of the gear and price tag made me decide not to. Instead, I decided on a UHF, mobile phone with external aerial, satellite phone and PLB. The UHF is great for communicating with other nearby cars. The mobile phone with external aerial is good for staying in touch and using the internet.
Internet is important for my freelance work so I invested in a good external aerial. I hooked this one up to a modem to provide me with WIFI on the campground. The satellite phone is perfect for when I don’t have phone reception. I can use it to call friends and family but also when I am broken down in the middle of nowhere.
The PLB is a must have item in my opinion. This little device can save somebody’s life one day. For anyone who is not familiar with PLB’s, they are similar to the EPIRBs which you find on boats. It is, however, a bit different from another popular communication device called SPOT which requires a subscription and uses a different satellite network.
PLB stands for Personal Locator Beacon. It sends a distress signal with your GPS coordinates to government emergency satellites. That signal is received by a Search and Rescue unit who will start a Search and Rescue operation. In the Outback, this can mean sending a plane over like the flying doctors for example.
You don’t need a subscription of any kind as it is all operated through the government network. It is more reliable than a satellite phone and easier to use in emergencies. You literally only need to press a button. This means that even kids can learn to use it. This is great for example in a car roll over situation. I keep mine always close by whilst driving, but I also use it when I am out paddling, hiking or mountain biking. The great thing is that it is cheap to buy and lasts for 7 years.
We have all seen those fancy drawer solutions. Some even have a slide-out BBQ mounted. I had set my mind on making the canopy as fancy as that till I saw the price. You can only spend your money once and therefore I decided on a simple but functional storage solution. On the kitchen side, I use big plastic tubs for cooking gear.
I use plastic drawers for groceries and some smaller items. This provides me with sufficient organisational structure. It is all mounted on foam in a wooden frame to withstand the beating from the road less travelled. In addition, a fridge and 125Ah AGM battery are mounted on this side to.
On the other side of the canopy, we find the rest of my gear. I simply use bags for clothing and bedding. I use space cases for valuable gear such as hard drives, cameras and whisky. The foam inside these cases protects my whisky well. I use dedicated milk crates for my outdoor adventures gear. So a crate for my kayak gear. Same for my mountain bike gear and tools, fishing gear, car tools and hiking gear. It is a lot of gear but the milk crate solution keeps it organised.
So nothing fancy! Just a cheap as chips and functional solution. Want to do a big adventure but are you limited by budget? Forget fancy solutions and start with something simple. The road less travelled welcomes anybody.
My camping setup is dependent on where and how long I stay. If I stay for 2-3 days then I will use my instant tent and a table. But if I am only staying somewhere for 1 night or if I hike/bike/paddle to the destination then I use my light weight gear. This gear consists of a single layer ultralight swag, low weight sleeping bag and mat. In rainy weather, I can use the car awning or a light shelter tarp. In addition, in summer I sometimes use a tent hammock (if allowed) if I plan to do some fishing.
I considered buying a big water tank and mount it under the canopy with a pump. However, there are disadvantages to this solution. For example, it would mean you only have one water source which can get contaminated or lost due to leakage. So I decided to use portable 10-litre water tanks from the local supermarket. They are reusable, come standard with a tap and are cheap to replace. In addition, as they are so portable you can quickly refill them at a lot of town parks. Another thing that makes them handy is that you can use them for grey water too.
Yes and no. There are several improvements to be made in my setup. But money is the limiting factor and has influenced my decisions at the time. Now looking back, I wish I worked a bit longer to purchase different tyres and a frame in the canopy. My tyres are good but bigger tyres would give me better clearance. In addition, if I had built a frame in the car, I would have had a better storage solution.
Top three gadgets
1. My REDARC Portable Solar blanket to prevent my ice-cream from melting
2. My DSLR, 4G phone with external aerial and laptop which I use for my freelance jobs
3. My solar power bank so I can charge my GPS on overnight hikes
What’s next for you in terms of future mods?
* Bigger tyres so I have more clearance
* Building a storage frame so I can sleep in the car if needed
* Upgrade my 100-watt inverter to a 1000- watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter so I am able to charge all my gadgets at once.
* Investing in an additional solar blanket to bring my solar power to 300watt so I can charge my canopy and kayak battery simultaneously