6 Things I took away from The Big Red Bash

Given the percentage of people who said they would be interested in potentially attending The Big Red Bash next year in our recent poll, I thought I’d share 6 things which come to mind when I reflect on my own experience.  I’ve already had a number of people reach out and mention that they head bush specifically to escape people, and like them I tend to enjoy time in smaller, more intimate settings generally.  Having said that though, I really thought the Big Red Bash experience was amazing, even being in close proximity to 9,000 other people!

Anyway, here they are…

1. Prepare for dust

It. Is. Everywhere.

I was told to expect dust, and a wise man suggested I take a face shield to help filter it(which we did), and yet I still wasn’t prepared for the dust.  You breathe it, you constantly taste it, and it gets into and onto every surface.  There is no escaping it.  The good news is that while it isn’t overly pleasant, but its also not that hard to deal with.  Just don’t think about the cleaning afterwards, and if you use contact lenses, I’d suggest you also bring a pair of glasses in case your eyes get irritated with the dust.

2. Water Management

As a sponsor, I was out there for a week.  And there is no provision for topping up your water tanks.  You need to carry enough to last for the week, and use it wisely.  I drove in with a 108L water tank, plus and additional 60L of water for 4 people.  I reckon we went through about 140L in 7 days.  That was without showers though  – we did small bird baths and used wet wipes for all the critical areas.  I was 2 adults and 2 young kids, so we used about 5L per person per day without showers.  This includes washing up and waste water.  We were careful to wash only when there was enough dirty plates to justify the filling of the sink.  Additionally, don’t forget to take a container for your grey water (any dirty water from washing up etc) – you’ll need to trap it and dispose of it in special bins.

3. Two Fridges are a must

I took two Waeco CF-X 65L Fridges to the Big Red Bash – one in the back of the truck, and one in the Trailer.  I set one as a Fridge, and one as a freezer.  We pre-packed all the meat and froze down extra milk and anything we could manage, as well as filled the 65L Fridge with produce.  Aside from a few minor topups for bread and some fresh salad items, we were self sufficient for the two weeks we were away.  I’ll do a writeup soon on my experience with the Waeco Fridges, but they worked very well – our Campsite was extra popular with the friends our kids had made when they learned we had frozen poppers and Zooper Doopers every day in the Desert! We still did our share of eating out in towns along the way, especially enjoying a few quiet beverages whenever we got the chance, but we were able to be remote for much longer thanks to both fridges.

It was handy that we were located right next to the food plaza, which offered an impressive variety of food, from Wendys to freshly baked pies, and even wood fired Pizza. I’m sure it resulted in us spending way more than we needed to on takeaway though…There is an abundance of food options at the Bash.  I even got a Wendys Supershake.  Really.  And prices are reasonable considering how remote you are, but it’s very easy to burn through any cash you take (and no reception means no eftpos!).  So having a Fridge and Freezer was very important to being able to provide for everyone for the trip.

Wendys – in the Desert!

I also found that two fridges created some redundancy, which I needed in the end.  Unknown to me prior to leaving Sydney, the second Battery in the HQGU was cactus.  I did only pickup the Patrol in the days before we left, and with the focus on getting it tuned and ready to travel, I didn’t check the battery.  There was a hint in the form of an intermittent fault in the Redarc system, but I assumed it was an electrical short somewhere in the wiring (our GU has done lots of travelling and we’ve come across this previously).

Anyway, I found out for certain that the battery was an issue only once we got to The Bash, thanks to Cam from Redarc who happened to be right next to us and was straight over to try and help out (the service and support Redarc provides is amazing!). Unfortunately there was no provision for replacement while at the Bash.  That meant that either one Fridge couldn’t work, or I had an immediate challenge of managing power (which is covered later on).

4. Social interactions are different (and by that we mean way better)

If you are from a major city, the truth is that our society has become scared of real social interaction.  Its blindingly obvious.  We hide behind our devices and walk past each other without acknowledging one another or even saying hello.

When you get out to smaller towns though, you notice instantly that people have more time for each other, and that is amplified on the way to (and at) the Bash.  People are sociable, keen to help each other, and it is a relaxed and really enjoyable experience even if you are a bit of an introvert.

I’m not shy when it comes to a yarn, but I still reckon I had more enjoyable in depth conversations with strangers in the 6 days at the Bash than I would have the rest of the year combined.

Out there, people just care more for each other I reckon.  There was great evidence of this on unsealed roads once we got past Bourke. If someone was stopped on the road, 98% of travellers would slow down and wait to be waved on before they continued driving.  You won’t see that interest in a strangers well being in peak hour traffic in Sydney or Melbourne!

5. The Constant battle for power

This was something I experienced more than I’d like to admit.  The new Tvan I towed has dual batteries, and a 120W roof mounted solar panel.  However, with the issues I experienced with the dual battery system in the car, I had to rely on the trailer to run the second Fridge whenever we were stopped, which created a deficit on the system.  To make matters worse, the trailer didn’t charge reliably from the vehicle when moving because the system cut out to protect the main battery.

I used an additional Redarc 79 Watt Amphorous panel which we keep in the HQGU to help try to make the most of the Sun and help the roof mounted panel try to recharge the batteries, but even that wasn’t quite enough – we only really achieved about 4 hours a day of positive charge given the additional loads on the batteries.

The amount of dust also meant that despite regular cleaning, the solar panels wouldn’t have been operating at peak efficiency.

Luckily I’d made the decision to bring a generator to allow us to erect our new inflatable Marquee.  I found that in the end, every 3 days or so I had to run the generator for 3-4 hours to help get the batteries back to full charge.

I brought a Yamaha 2000 W Invertor Generator to help run a high pressure electric pump for our new Marquee, and ended up using it to charge the trailer batteries a few times…

This was a great learning for me, and as a result I’ll be investing in a much bigger solar panel as a secondary support to the roof mounted one in order to be better prepared in future to sustain the drain of two fridges from one vehicle.

It was also fascinating to see how much dust reduced the efficiency of the solar panels.

6. There’s no such thing as smooth sailing in the Outback

One of the other things I learned while at the Bash is that nothing comes away completely unscathed from a trip to the Outback.  That’s not to say that anything major is going to go wrong on a trip out there, but the truth is that the trip is hard on vehicles, and invariably everyone has something not go to plan.  For us it was issues with the second battery in the GU, and then a breakdown at Deon’s Lookout (which I managed to fix without needing recovering which was very lucky).  For others I spoke to it was windscreen chips.  One guy had issues with his fuel pump, and another I spoke to had the rocks off the road break off the tap to his water tank.  Yet another had issues with his electric brakes.  Others blew tyres – in fact I heard that the tyre guy in Birdsville did 80 repairs in one day.  The point I’m making is that even with the perfect preparation, everyone has a problem somewhere along the way.  Expect it – prepare for what you think might happen, work through it and embrace the adventure and challenge that it creates.

Deon’s Lookout. It’s definitely not the worst spot to breakdown!

In summary, it was a very special experience, which started the moment I left the driveway.  I’d highly recommend experiencing it at least once.

If there is anything you’d like to know about the Bash, or if you have any questions, please reach out!

Aiden

Did you know Club 4X4 now offers 24/7 claims support?  So you can get help and advice on making a claim or getting recovered any time of day or night…

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Comments 18

  1. First taking 2 weeks worth of food is overkill yet you still had takeaway? There are shops at Birdsville. Second to try and run 2 fridges with only 120watts of solar just won’t work and I don’t know why you thought it would. Three, Water you 2 adults 2 kids no showers 140ltrs, 7days what were you doing with it. We went to the bash at the end of an 8 week trip water used at the bash approx 40ltrs 5 days. Punctures, a matter of luck, we had 3 in the first 3 weeks then no more . a matter of luck, maybe. carry a puncture kit and check tyres often. tyres bought 0.
    People need to realize they are not at home and habits should differ. We run 2 of 110 amp hour batteries , 120w panel on the roof and a 150w fold out panel and don’t have a problem unless the temp exceeds 35c

  2. Hi Aiden, out of curiosity, what was the breakdown problem at Deon’s Lookout ??, you don’t mention that one, or isn’t it for publication !!??.
    I’m certainly not surprised at the amount of tyre repairs apparently carried out in Birdsville. I believe it’s more of people not understanding, (or not wanting to), the relevance of tyre pressures of the vehicle and towed equipment, in relation to conditions, rather than the conditions themselves.
    Glad you all had a great trip, cheers.

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      Hi Kevin, I’m happy to share the issue. It turns out a very small electrical cable snapped off the negative terminal. Didn’t even notice it at the start. First issue was the turbo stopped working properly and then the engine was pulsing a bit at just over idle. I stopped thinking it might have been a vacuum hose on the turbo, but then the check engine light came on. Had checked all hoses and then called for a tow before I noticed the wire. A guy who stopped and claimed a mechanical background said there was no way it was the wire causing it, but I thought I’d fix it while killing time. Low and behold when I connected the wire back up, the truck ran fine again…

  3. Nice report Aidan

    We’re off on a three month trip up to the Kimberly’s and back via the west coast next dry season.

    My wife is game when it comes to the 4×4 bit and she takes her turn at the driving and does well, but; she’s a little concerned about our trip so I think it’s best not to dwell too much on your report as she is primarily a city girl ( married together for 35years when we do the trip) but some good feed back nonetheless.

    Kind regards
    Col Sheedy

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  4. The Bash from another perspective.
    I did not go to the Bash but I must say we were heading Nth in the caravan for a trip and were caught in the departing traffic returning from the bash. I was very disappointed by the lack of concern for other road users. We noted window stickers denoting those that had attended the Bash and after several bad experiences realised the Bash was finished.
    I usually pulled over right off the road as Bashers raced past in the opposite direction , requesting on the 2 way that they stay on the the single lane asphalt.
    In many cases this was ignored and seemed to be a game, going on the outside of white posts instead. The many irresponsible camper trailers owners racing at full tilt with AT tyres spraying my windscreen with 25 mm stone missiles only chipping (luckily) my newly replaced windscreen . The result was large rocks left strewn over the single lane asphalt waiting to hit some other road user in the next few weeks. It seems the Bash to many, has become a race to see how quick you can get to the Bash and back.
    I know you can’t stop idiot drivers but I was wondering if there is any mention during the Bash asking for some coutesy to other road users on departure?
    In Quilpie we stayed an extra night as many others did, to let Bashers leave the area before we hit the roads again. We noted a van, in the park, who had been to the bash, losing his rear axle completely, from his dual axle van. We also saw a complete rear bumper with spare tyre attached from a van /trailer on the side of the road.
    I am not against the bash, but I heard the local councils are under pressure due to all the damage done to the 100s of kms of marginal roads in the area.
    Is the damage done worth the damage done to the infrastructure currently in place? Do we want sealed roads all the way to the bash?
    Just my opinion.

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  5. I know there are a few thoughtless drivers, but overwhelmingly people were courteous and considerate.
    We volunteered at the Bash, and found the behaviour and attitude of everyone was great. Aiden is right, a very friendly and welcoming experience. And yes, you do need two fridges, plenty of water, and plenty of solar. Cheers Adrian and Helen Wild

  6. Great to here your feedback , we have been to the last four Bashes and love it, we generally expect pun ctures and minor problems but if you take it easy & use common sense you are usually pretty right. I have four 130 amp deep cycle batts in my canopy with a 40 amp red arc dcdc charger witch plugs in to our Jurgens Tuff Trax which has two 80 amp deep cycle batts. Generally we have enough power for four days running an 80 lt waeco a 50 lt waeco in the ute & a110 lt upright waeco in the Tuffy plus led lights, charging gear ect . We haven”t really needed solar yet. Go BIG RED BASH

  7. I just want to support Aiden’s general comments and confirm that the Big Red Bash is a unique, dare I say, awe inspiring experience and a must for those looking to experience the true spirit of Australia and the Outback. I write this from Birdsville having just completed 3 weeks traveling the Simpson, post BRB. Even with 9000 people nearby, just walking along Big Red at daybreak, in total silence, as the the sun rises over the red desert fills one with raw emotions of this wonderful country. I thoroughly recommend the trip and event to all… just amazing!!

  8. This year was my first Bash and first real desert journey up from Melbourne. I spent forever setting up my Prado 120 and even had my injectors done and EGR cleaned out just before departure. I had all my goodies and thought I’m ready for anything. The trip up to the Bash was awesome coming up through places like Cradock, Copley, Leigh Creek and Farina, Marree before hitting the Birdsville Track, Mungerannie Hotel and then onto Birdsville. All these were iconic to me and was glad to finally travel this way.
    The Bash was awesome, the thought of 4 days with no wifi or phone connection was just what the doctor ordered. The music was brilliant and the fun around the campfires was very therapeutic away from work.
    Our troubles started late on exit day when travelling to Innamincka via Walkers Crossing track when we hit a rather deep washout which took out our front right steering heading into sunset. This left us stranded pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Bugger! What to do? We were going nowhere fast and after getting under the car and doing some initial troubleshooting (with no success) we needed to settle in, get a fire going and set up camp for the night and put down a few beers with my travelling buddies.
    Club 4×4 to the rescue!
    Lucky, being a Friday and just before close of business before the weekend our claim was taken over the phone and our recovery was set in place and I was put at ease knowing our predicament. Lucky for my friend phone booster in his vehicle and being in close proximity to the Moomba Gas fields which gave us a bar or two of 3G. They quickly arranged a tow from the nearest town, over 500 kms away down in Copley with an ETA of night time the next day. A prior call to RACV Total Assist prior to Club 4×4 did not help us with anything and had costed a tow from the same place but at our cost of $4,500. Bloody hell! Meltdown had begun!
    Back to Club 4×4 they assured me that this tow was part of their cover and I would be assisted the whole way. This was not just to a holding year in Copley but also another 300 kms to Port Augusta where the vehicle could be fixed. And no the $4,500 did not cover this further tow but was by Club 4×4.
    After hanging around in Port Augusta, frustratingly for 5 days while parts were ordered from Melbourne and the car was repaired, Club 4×4 covered the cost of our accommodation.
    Whilst our trip home was to take us through the Flinders Ranges after the Bash we were glad to get home in one piece a week after leaving the Bash.
    Two things I’d like to point out, I am so glad that I have had the Club 4×4 insurance coverage. Their assistance through this time was great and I can thoroughly recommend them for people doing the same thing as what we did. I was nervous during the process thinking that maybe somewhere along the line my coverage would be denied, but all good.
    Secondly, our little mishap put a few things into perspective for me. Our country is large and unforgiving and you can be all alone, a long way from anywhere and in trouble. These are the times you realize you are along way from help. Despite everything you plan for in the lead up there are just somethings that can’t plan for which can leave you stranded and very much alone.
    Consider a phone booster in your vehicle and maybe more importantly consider a Sat phone, especially if travelling alone. Make sure you leave home knowing what your Insurance company can do for you.
    Well done Club 4×4. Nice article Aiden

    1. Damien,

      Thank you so much for taking the time out to tell your story – its not often that someone does do that.

      I was following the progress of your claim here in Sydney despite wanting to have been out there in the red dust.

      Cheers

      Kalen

  9. Aiden I too have just returned from The Big Red Bash, you may have seen me directing traffic in Birdsville as either a crocodile, pig or kangaroo? So let me tell you a story as well. Over three years ago tried to insure my camping equipment and camp 4×4 trailer with Club 4×4 for its replacement cost. Really it was just in case some unknown the event occurred that I had to replace everything. Now the best part of this true story is that although I was given an initial quote (still have the email) of a reasonably priced policy estimate, once I photographed everything as required (including trailer, engel fridge, battery systems, solar panels, heavy duty gazebo, 3m camp tables and chairs, cookers, camp ovens, boxes of stainless camp plates and cups etc) the new policy estimate price was almost double and the coverage price was now substantially reduced (less than the cost to replace just the fridge and the trailer). I was left thinking “well that won’t work, what is the point of only covering a third of the gear”. I was told by the rep last year at BRB “things had changed at Club$x4 insurance” by the guy with well fitted out landrover. I actually gave Club4x4 a second chance when I was home again, and seriously it was no better than my previous experience. I didn’t bother this year talking to anybody because it just isn’t worth it, I found out years ago that it was better to go through all the motions and just list everything that is my camp set up on my home insurance policy and pay for those items as covered additionally as away from home. So although I don’t have a policy with Club4x4, I have remained on your mail out list and hope to do so into the future, isn’t it fun to sit around and tell each other how happy we are.

  10. Hi Aiden,
    You probably don’t remember me however I did speak to briefly at the Bash. First of all my wife and I had an outstanding time at the Bash. Further to Ron’s comments above, we were disgusted, shocked and could not believe the amount of idiots displaying suicidal behaviour in the way they were driving to the Bash. We fortunately have a tidy 18′ Bushtracker Caravan we tow with a 100 Series Landcruiser, both insured with Club 4 x4. We drove from a free camp west of Windorah into Birdsville on 14 Jul 19. We got a very early start realising there would be a lot of people traversing the 270 odd km of dirt road into Birdsville that day. There was southerly breeze that day so us heading west had the huge dust plume coming off our car and van at varying speeds between 60-80 kph (dependant on how rough various parts of the road was), blowing left to right across the road. The dust was so thick I could only see the top metre or so of a 3 metre high van in the RH mirror, however I could see the whole side of van in the LH mirror.
    These kamikaze drivers were overtaking us blind through a dust cloud that would have to have been at least 10 to 20 metres long. I could not see anything but brown dust in our wide angle camera on the back of the van. We have clear view mirrors on the Cruiser which have a lower convex mirror to enable you to see what is in your normal blind spot.
    The first I would see would be the front of their car emerging from the thick dust cloud which was about level with the back of my back door. They must of entered the dust cloud and said a little prayer hoping this wasn’t the day they were going to perish??? After the 3rd vehicle completed this suicidal manoeuvre we started keeping count. 15 times this happened during that 270 km stretch of road that day. They would then continue their madness at about 100-120 kph throwing up rocks over our bonnet. Most of them typically had a female partner in the front seat giving me a little wave and a smile, obviously oblivious to what just occurred and about 3 of them had young children in the back seat. There actually was a number of innocent people travelling the opposite direction, and as they would disappear into out dust cloud I wished them luck and hoped I wasn’t going to hear a loud explosion behind me. There was 2 trucks travelled into our cloud from the opposite direction. How someone wasn’t killed that day was astonishing in just the ones we witnessed. It was just pure good luck. There was numerous other people we spoke to at the Bash who witnessed similar behaviour and also others who travelled up the Birdsville track.
    What makes a bloke attempt this kind of behaviour, obviously not even caring for his own children? Is it just the win the Wacky Races into Birdsville? Do they think they driving down some flash highway in Sydney or Melbourne? There is absolutely no way they could see even the front of their own bonnet, for some period of time in this situation, as we viewed other vans in front of us in the same conditions on the same road.
    I also quickly realised they would most likely try and avoid what would of been a fatal head-on incident (this is no accident as it was an intentional decision by the driver) by probably swerving left straight into us, if suddenly a vehicle appeared as they emerged from the cloud? So as soon as they would appear I would back off and move left as nothing was gonna stop them.
    I was unable to get any of their rego numbers (due to the dust they were kicking up at from their vehicle. and pay them a visit perhaps at the Bash and have a chat.
    The organisers of the Bash have advised all including these Nut Jobs, not to overtake through dust clouds as you are blind. But they ignore that of course believing they know boats???
    I have provided feed back to the Organisers of the Bash as to what I witnessed described above??
    It was that bad, we chose to go home a much safer route even though it was an extra distance for us to travel.

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      Hi Russ, thanks for reaching out. We stayed an extra day to escape the madness, and still found people trying to overtake us because we kept a ‘safe’ distance from the vehicle in front so we could actually see the road. Frustrating, but a lot of these people don’t know how to drive. Perhaps an opportunity for an article I think!!!

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