The 4X4 Gear You Actually Need to Get Started

So, you’re looking to dive into the world of 4X4 adventures? To help you hit the ground running (or rather, rolling), here’s a rundown of essential gear that I reckon every newbie should consider.

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Pat Callinan
Jun 12 2024
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So, you’re looking to dive into the world of 4X4 adventures? Welcome aboard! It’s a thrilling mix of freedom, exploration, and, let’s face it, a bit of dirt and chaos. To help you hit the ground running (or rather, rolling), here’s a rundown of essential gear that I reckon every newbie should consider.

An Ice Box

First up, let’s talk about keeping your beverages frosty and your food fresh. A fridge/freezer with a decent 12V system is an absolute necessity for any major touring trips, but it’s a pricey investment when you’re just getting started. There is a middle ground, though. For example, you can spend a bit on something like the Engel 33L Ice Box. These units can keep a bag of ice frozen for several days, ensuring your drinks stay cold and your food doesn’t spoil. Look for an ice box that’s sturdy, well-insulated, and able to withstand a few knocks along the way. When you eventually upgrade to a fridge setup, it can be repurposed for backyard BBQs.

Handheld UHF Radios

Next on the list is communication. A UHF radio, specifically a small handheld one, is ideal for beginners. It’s not just about staying in touch with your convoy or mates; it's also a crucial safety tool. Whether you’re coordinating a tricky section of track or calling for help, a UHF radio keeps you connected. For beginners, a handheld unit is more than sufficient to start with and is reasonably priced. It can easily be stored in your glovebox. Like the Ice Box, these handy little units can grow with your setup, helping the kids stay in contact in the bush or serving as a loaner for mates in the convoy. I’d recommend a 5-watt unit for a decent range.

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Recovery Kit

Make no mistake, if you’re heading off-road, sooner or later, you’re going to find yourself stuck. Sometimes, a bit of manoeuvring with the steering wheel can get you out, but eventually, you’ll need a helping hand. A fully stocked recovery kit, complete with winch extension straps, a damper, tree trunk protector, snatch strap, and bow shackles, is invaluable and will repeatedly rescue you from tricky situations. However, if you’re just starting out or on a budget, a basic kit with a snatch strap and rated bow shackles is a good first step. You’d be surprised how many predicaments you can overcome with a simple kit and a good mate on the other end of the line. It’s all part of the adventure but being prepared transforms potential disasters into mere speed bumps.

A Swag and Some Shade

When it comes to camping, the sky's the limit on how elaborate you can go. If you’re doing the big lap or are on the road for weeks, amenities like a roof top tent and wrap-around awnings come into their own. But you don’t need to start at the top. A swag and a simple awning are perfect for beginner's keen to hit the tracks without breaking the bank. Plus, a swag is almost a rite of passage. Thrown in the tub or up on your roof, it’ll keep all your bedding and give you some of the best night’s sleep of your life. Set it up under a basic awning, like the Bushwakka Extreme Square on the Everest, and you’ll camp comfortably, come rain, hail, or shine. This setup is quick, easy, and lets you get closer to nature without a fuss.

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An Air Compressor and Tyre Deflators

One of the most affordable modifications you can make to any 4X4 is managing tyre pressure—it’s crucial for success across various terrains. By having a way to re-inflate your tyres without having to limp to a service station miles away, you’ll be far more likely to run the optimal tyre pressures for different conditions. Lowering pressures means a smoother ride over rough ground and better grip in challenging conditions. Dropping tyre pressures to single digits can also help you get out of a bog, but you won’t be travelling far at 8 psi without a way to re-inflate. Tyre deflators allow you to drop to the necessary pressure, and a compressor gets you ready for the journey home afterward.

Lift Kit and Mud Tyres

If you’re ready to elevate your 4X4 adventures, consider investing in a lift kit and a good set of mud tyres. As you grow more adventurous and start exploring beyond the main fire trails, you’ll naturally begin to wonder what lies down those intriguing side tracks. A lift kit provides extra ground clearance, giving you the confidence to tackle tougher terrain. When paired with mud tyres, you’ll gain the grip and stability needed to navigate challenging tracks. It’s an investment that pays off in spades when you venture beyond the beaten path. After one experience with a punctured tyre, you’ll understand why many 4X4 enthusiasts prefer mud tyres over standard highway terrains.

Good Insurance

Now, let’s talk about peace of mind. Having good insurance that includes off-road recovery is crucial. 4X4ing often puts you in dynamic situations far from home, where your pride and joy—along with all the accessories and camping gear you’ve invested in—could be at risk. What’s your plan if your vehicle gets flooded during a creek crossing or slips off a track beyond your ability to recover it?

While a winch might help you out on the day, comprehensive coverage, such as what Club 4X4 Insurance offers, can save you from bigger headaches. It’s all fun and games until you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere with a broken vehicle. Good insurance ensures you’re covered for the unexpected, providing crucial support when you need it most.

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Good Mates

Lastly, and most importantly, don’t forget your mates. While there’s a unique peace to be found camping alone with nothing but the crackle of a campfire for company, some of the best nights of your life will be spent sharing jokes and tales with friends. Plus, travelling with mates means sharing resources and having a helping hand if things go awry. After all, you’ll need someone on the other end of that snatch strap! Remember, it’s not just about the gear—it’s about the journey, the experiences, and the mates you share them with. So, gear up, get out there, and keep the shiny side up!

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Pat Callinan
Pat Callinan is one of Australia's leading four wheel drive experts. Pat Callinan's 4X4 Adventures is sponsored by Club 4X4