Article from Camper Trailer Lifestyle.
Words by Michael Borg — Images by Camper Trailer Lifestyle.
And how you can tackle them with a camper in tow!
How do you explore the most iconic touring destinations in Australia with a camper trailer? Well, truth be told, each destination presents its own unique set of challenges, which means a different mindset and approach are required, not to mention the techniques and a whole range of equipment. With quality advice from experienced travellers, we uncover everything there is to know about what to expect, how to set your camper up and what to pack so ultimately you can safely enjoy five of our most iconic tough touring destinations.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Stretching over 176,000km2, the Simpson Desert is an adventure for the keen at heart. You’ll experience everything from endless sand dunes to mesmerising salt lakes along the way. You can expect to tow long distances over soft sand in soaring temperatures, which will no- doubt get your 4WD working overtime. A hard-working vehicle means your fuel consumption will go through the roof. Also, keep an eye on your temperature gauge for overheating – it’s a real issue in this environment!
Ensure your 4WD is in tip-top condition. Tackling the sand with a camper trailer places your transmission under excessive load, which causes the fluid to heat up and lose its lubricating properties. Installing an external transmission cooler helps keep the fluid cool under
extreme working conditions. In terms of tyres, make
sure they are in excellent condition. You’ll need to be travelling with reduced tyre pressures, so make sure the tyres side wall is up to the task. Always carry at least one additional spare tyre and try to match your camper trailer’s tyres to your 4WD so you have extra spares if required. Also, a stone guard will help keep the stones that flick up from damaging your camper or rear window.
EXPERT TIPS — LEASH’S TOP TIPS
The eastern side of the dunes are much steeper than the western side, so it’s advisable to cross the desert from west to east.
RECOVERY TRACTION BOARDS:
These could literally save you hours of spade work in the sand, and with a trailer, two sets are even better.
Have the capacity to carry plenty of water, preferably keep some split between your camper trailer and 4WD in case you lose some somehow.
Carry a UHF CB radio, and ensure somebody in your convoy has a working HF radio or satellite phone for emergency communications.
A GPS with off-road and topographic maps can save countless hours, but always carry hard copies as a backup.
Allow for increased fuel consumption and extended daily travel times. Unexpected corrugations, sand and a tonne of camper will slow you down more than you think.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The Kimberley is an area that just bursts with life. Golden Spinifex plains, rugged mountain ranges and spectacular gorges are just some of the amazing sights you are likely to encounter. Spanning over 420,000km2, the region offers a challenging range of off-road adventures. Expect plenty of water crossings and lengthy dirt tracks in an area that is just begging to be explored.
Install a secondary fuel filter with a water trap in your 4WD as bad fuel is fairly common in this area. You’ll also want to ensure the camper trailer is water-tight and dust-proof. If it’s not, make sure anything valuable is wrapped in plastic or placed in a sealed container if possible.
Try not to over-pack. Too much weight causes stress and damage to your camper’s axles and bearings, especially when corrugations and unexpected washouts are involved. Stay well under the manufacturer’s specified weight limits. On that note, a good pre-trip inspection is a must-do before heading for the Kimberley as all those corrugations will destroy any weak spots that are present.
Avoid driving on the cushion of loose gravel or dirt that’s usually formed on the sides of the road. There’s less traction available, which means less control!
When meeting oncoming traffic on the dirt, move as far off to the side of the road as possible whilst slowing right down. This not only keeps the dust down but reduces the chances of rocks flying in your direction.
Also, carry any spare parts that commonly require replacement along with any items that would be super hard to source in a remote area. Nine times out of ten you can find somebody to do the repairs providing the parts are available.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Cape York is one of those places you just can’t get enough of. Numerous water crossings, spectacular fishing and quality 4WD tracks are just some of the attractions along the way to the most northern part of the Australian mainland AKA the tip. Long stretches of dirt roads, often littered with punishing corrugates and unforgiving dips is what your equipment, including the camper trailer has to survive. But the reward at the end of the journey is crystal blue water, pristine beaches and a real sense of accomplishment.
WHEN TO GO
The dry season, between May and October, is the best time to enjoy Cape York Peninsula. From May to July, maximum temperatures are around 30°C. As the season progresses, the days become hotter and more humid. The peninsula is busiest between June and September, during the ‘cooler’ weather.
Cape York will undoubtedly throw numerous bonnet- deep water crossings at you. So, a few basic modifications like a snorkel and extended diff breathers for your 4WD, plus marine grade bearing seals on your camper trailer will help keep the water out of the more delicate mechanicals of your set-up.
Your tyres will cop a lot of punishment through the Cape, so ensure a good-quality tyre is used. Don’t skimp on your camper trailers tyres either; it will be skipping sideways through the tougher obstacles, so you’ll want tough tyres on board!
Ensure you carefully assess the water’s depth and come up with a clear plan of attack. You’ll be crossing water several times, so keep in mind the excessive flow or current can push a trailer downstream.
Beware of the sudden drop into water crossings, especially before Archer River, they often hide bad potholes. Keep an eye out for submerged rocks that could damage the camper’s axles too.
Watch for tight turns on the Old Tele Track, especially the northern sector. Steer for clearance on the turning side by approaching the corner wide. This allows for the reduced turning circle caused by the camper trailer.
VIC HIGH COUNTRY
WHAT TO EXPECT
The Victorian High Country definitely earns itself a place amongst the top iconic destinations in Australia. It’s a diverse playground that has so much to offer, from snow-capped mountain ranges to deep river valleys, there’s just so much to do depending on the time of year. Rocky hill climbs and steep descents along with some of the muddiest terrain in Australia make for an unforgettable 4×4 adventure, but sudden changes of climate can occur at any time, so good preparation is a must.
Electric trailer brakes are a must for keeping the trailer in line, particularly on steep and slippery descents found in this location. If it all goes pear-shaped, having rated recovery points fitted on your camper trailer and vehicle will increase your chances of a successful recovery. The recovery gear to go with them will be your greatest asset.
Tough tyres that are rated for mud and snow would definitely be an advantage around here, especially during the lead up to winter. Plus, if there is any place you would want a diff lock fitted, it’s in the High Country. It will help give you the traction you need to get you up a steep track with a trailer on board.
THE RIGHT GEAR:
On steep descents, always use low-range gearing to help maintain a manageable speed – this reduces the need to constantly apply the brakes with the extra load from a camper.
Muddy terrain can cause the camper to slide around, by using the trailer brakes separate to your 4WD when required you can keep the camper tracking straight – try not to lock the camper’s wheels up though!
BACK IT UP:
The High Country can be as hard or as easy as you like. But you will almost certainly need to back the camper up at some stage, so practicing your reversing skills before you leave can give you a real confidence boost.
KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT:
The numerous hill climbs in the area require careful planning before you attempt them. Stick to the ruts just in case you have to stop or reverse backwards, as it will help keep the camper in line.
WHT TO EXPECT
Encompassing some of the last true wilderness areas in Australia, Tasmania is filled with spectacular scenery and equally insane 4WDing. Pristine beaches line the west coast, and while there are tough tracks found throughout the region, there are quite a few more suited to relatively standard vehicles. For such a small state, there is a massive variety of terrain. The weather is one thing you just can’t predict. Being way down south you can expect chilly temperatures, but this can fluctuate several times in a day.
If you go looking for mud and water to test your 4WD out, there is plenty of each to be found. This makes a snorkel, extended diff breathers and ensuring everything is watertight, all valuable investments. A good off-road hitch is a must, you will end up with some serious hitch angles along the way.
Bash plates will come in handy along Tasmania’s low range tracks. Rocks
and hidden obstacles are renowned for causing damage, so look for the vulnerable spots on both your 4WD and camper trailer and protect them.
Be aware of how much down ball weight the trailer is loading onto your vehicle and pack the trailer accordingly. Trailers that are heavy at the coupling will put immense pressure on your vehicles tow bar, especially when enduring sudden unexpected jolts.
Be prepared to adapt your driving style to suit the abundance of different terrain on offer. On the West Coast, the infamous “Climies Track” is lined with sharp granite rocks, which means skidding your tyres across the top in definitely not advisable. On the other end, with no shortage of wet, boggy mudholes you’re going to need a bit of wheel spin to get you through. Yep, if there was ever a place to become the master of throttle control, this is it!
IT’S YOUR TURN!
Well, if that didn’t get you more pumped up than a hot air balloon at sunrise, you better go and check your pulse! Australia truly is an amazing country, with some utterly spectacular destinations to explore for the adventurous at heart.
All you’ve got to do now is go and live the dream!