Twenty first century tourism has engulfed many of the world’s beautiful places.
To find places which are still relatively unaffected by this tourism wave, you have to go further off the beaten track, and deeper into remote areas.
Without a doubt, the best way to do this is with your own set of wheels, and a sufficient camping setup. In Australia, this is commonly called Touring, in America it is referred to Overlanding.
The travellers who set themselves up with a suitable rig (i.e. a capable 4WD Off-Road Camping Setup) will open up locations and opportunities which the rest of the world simply cannot access. These following 10 tips for travelling highlight how to do remote travel with todays modern vehicles, and how tapping into modern technology can help maximise your chances of success, and minimise the risks involved!
To ensure safe and successful travel in remote and potentially rough areas, you need a vehicle which is tough, reliable, and resilient. A four wheel drive is essential. A four wheel drive ute (aka pickup truck) is ideal. Dual Cab and Extra Cab 4x4 touring setups provide a great balance of cabin space and exterior storage space. Bear in mind however, that a tray-back ute generally provides more flexible storage space than a tub style ute.
Gone are the days of simple four wheel drives with leaf suspension and no ECU. Modern four wheel drives will invariably come with intricate looking coil springs and a range of useful electronic driving aids like improved stability control, ascent and descent aids. Inside the cabin they usually come with a centre console smart screen and quick access buttons to enter 4x4 mode, change tyre pressure, lock the diff/s, and alter suspension on the go. Vehicles like the Ford Ranger epitomize the heights modern tech packed four wheel drive have reached.
For those looking for a more rough and ready vehicle that will take more of a beating, something like the Toyota 79 Series Landcruiser may be more suitable. You will get less electronic driving aids and cabin gadgets, but more resilience and longevity while traveling the world’s most remote regions, like the Kimberley in Australia.
While four wheel drives may consume more fuel than two wheel drive vehicles, fuel saving technology is improving, and there is a range of driving techniques you can use to reduce consumption.
An OBD link is an essential piece of technology to have while travelling in remote locations. It is an electronic diagnostics scanning tool.
Modern vehicles have a swathe of electronic sensors which, upon sensing an issue with the vehicle, can shut down certain parts of the vehicle to prevent further damage caused by continued driving. This can prevent you from limping long distances into a mechanic to fix the issue.
An OBD link lets you connect to the vehicle’s CPU and identify what is wrong. You may then be able to patch the issue up so the CPU doesn’t prevent you from making it to the nearest mechanic.
Your vehicle delivers you to your desired destination, but your shelter system makes or breaks the experience while you are there.
In a survival sense, a proper shelter system is even more important than food and water! Take the 'survival triangle' for example, based on the following three principles:
1 - In extreme weather, you need shelter after three hours.
2 - You can survive without water for around three days.
3 - You can survive without food for three weeks.
Here, shelter is the number one critical factor. So make sure your shelter system provides sufficient refuge from all conditions and dangerous animals (i.e. snakes, crocodiles, bears, lions etc..). Some typical off road shelter systems include slide on campers and off road trailers.
Keep in mind, off road camper trailers are great for a large family, but if your goal is to go deeper into the back country, they can quickly become a liability. They generally put more strain on your vehicle, and many destinations now restrict access to trailers (due to conservation and safety concerns).
Look for something which provides the creature comforts you desire when travelling far from civilisation, without compromising on durability or off road performance. And importantly, make sure it fits well with your vehicle, and is able to charge and integrate with your devices through a sufficient power storage system, circuitry, and inverters.
A proper shelter system will keep you alive and extremely happy in all sorts of locations, from the desert, to the Arctic, to the African Savanna!
One thing to keep in mind when choosing a shelter system is to never under any circumstances exceed the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM). It is very easy to do this, because we innately want to take the entire home with us. But the reality is, the lighter your touring setup is, the less likely something will go wrong with your vehicle.
Also remember to incorporate the following things in your GVM calculations:
Most utes have between 750 kg - 1.2 tonne of available payload to fit everything in. For an example calculation, check out our recent article 'how to choose a slide on camper'.
Currently, many 4WD's come with quite soft suspension to be more comfortable on the road. However, off road this has some implications. If you are considering buying a rig for this purpose, we highly recommend you get a suspension upgrade to lift the diff and chassis at least 2" and handle the constant load of a slide on camper. Factory suspension will quickly fail under rough terrain conditions with a constant load.
And we would also suggest considering front end protection (Bull bar), a winch and a snorkel for maximum versatility.
Solar camping and travel is the way of the future. It means you don’t need to stop in powered campsites to recharge your gadgets and appliances, it is lighter than a portable fuel powered generator, noiseless, and after the initial purchase price, free!
When choosing a solar setup, look for something which can be stored out of harm's way (i.e. away from branches on overgrown roads), provides sufficient power generation capabilities (i.e 120w solar panels or more is generally the minimum), and integrates well with your vehicle and shelter system.
To support your solar system, good battery storage capacity is a must. In comparison to outdated AGM battery technology, recent Lithium battery technology provides for quick and efficient charging times, is lighter, smaller, and stores more usable energy.
A good option is to have battery management systems installed to intuitively regulate the whole solar/battery/power use relationship.
A proper system will allow you to keep all your camping equipment and technology charged all of the time to aid navigation, safety and provide vital information in remote locations.
When exploring remote and rough areas, you should assume anything could break. So think about which components of your setup could be showstoppers.
As a starting point, you should carry spare vehicle parts like hoses, belts and filters. Many vehicles now have manuals available for download online. These manuals will help to identify which spare parts you should acquire spares for, and how to install them if needed. A chat to your local mechanic will also help to cover off on essential spare parts.
Spare ropes, tapes and adhesives are the next essentials. And finally, a container of assorted nuts, bolts, screws and other bits and bobs is extremely handy!
Load up your smart devices with navigation and information Apps. A good library of apps on your phone or tablet can also come in handy for entertainment when you need it! Just make sure you can access the maps offline! Because where there is no civilisation there will be limited cell reception.
Take hard copy books for times when your tech doesn't work, and take a list of emergency contacts for times of real need. Load the contacts into your devices and write them down somewhere easy to access.
Find out the safest seasons to travel off the beaten path. Investigate the potential for extreme weather or dangerous animals, and prepare for anything.
Weather websites are useful to get an idea of what to expect. However, weather radio channels are still the most reliable source for travellers. A digital radio can be extremely handy for reliable weather updates.
Take notes from the experiences of others travellers through online articles, blogs and other content. Heed the recommendations of authorities like national park websites and other government organisations.
Precaution is the best form of prevention!
Primarily, you need extra food, water and fuel. As a rule of thumb, at any given time you should have the following:
You should also notify relevant people of your adventures and proposed movements. Tell family and friends exactly where you will be and how to be contacted. Share your location on social media often.
Don’t forget to notify government agencies like parks and wildlife that you will be exploring on or near their land.
And finally, an EPIRB or similar emergency device can be a lifesaver, and thus a very useful addition to a remote travelling setup, alerting the authorities to your location when needed, so people like the Royal Flying Doctors Service can come and help!
These 10 tips will help you assemble a safe, rounded, effective and comfortable travelling setup, and help prepare you to reach the world’s most beautiful destinations.
And before you hit the road, make sure all travel and vehicle insurance is covered. Insurance is a small price to pay to manage the risk, and will provide peace of mind (just bear in mind, if you happen to exceed your GVM, it's likely insurance won't cover you either!).
Good luck and safe travels.