I was just recently asked what I considered to be the greatest change within the 4WD industry over my last decade of front-line involvement within it and my answer, unequivocally, was the rise of affordable aftermarket accessories for your 4WD. Ten to fifteen years ago, your choices were limited and expensive; today you can add a host of accessories for less than the price of a top table winch back in the day.
However, while this is a fantastic advancement and one that has introduced so many people to the awesome world of off-roading, it is something of a double-edged sword. It’s worth remembering that just because its in a catalogue, it doesn’t mean you need it. The very tracks you are driving now, were most likely pioneered by folks using nothing more than basic necessities and a bit more gumption than many of us carry today.
That said, camp life and bush touring can undoubtably be made easier, safer and more comfortable with some basic additions; here are my top five must do mods.
Firstly, I’m going to have to recommend bar work on your chosen rig. Its an unfortunate consequence of outback touring that try as you might, animal strikes happen and the result, without adequate protection can cause significant damage. At the very least this can be costly and a massive inconvenience but when extremely remote, it could spell disaster. As an added bonus, quality bar work gives a vehicle the frame work for other additions such as winch, aerials and driving lights.
Next up I’m going to suggest one of the more boring mods yet one I find I just couldn’t do without. I’m talking the humble awning. These days you can get ones that unfold like some ancient dinosaur bird wing to wrap around your entire vehicle or you can settle for the tried and tested simple fold out model. Whichever you choose, the basic awning can turn even the simplest camp setup into home away from home. I’m also going to add to this something I’ve been using on every campsite of late and that is a compatible awning wall. Seconds to set-up yet doubling your liveable space and massively increasing your protection from the elements, the combination of awning and awning wall in my opinion is a must have.
Australia has some of the single most demanding stretches of road and tracks in the world; corrugations, gravel, wash-aways, potholes and cattle grids are notorious and the one part of your 4WD that does battle with them full time is your tyres. OE tyres are simply not designed to handle these extremes in track condition and will let you down, more often than not, in the worst possible location. Upgrading your rubber to tyres tailor-made for Australian conditions is a must. A superior quality all terrain tyre, the Bridgestone Dueler A/T 697 is the tyre I’d choose for the best of both worlds. You will find the ride far more responsive, capable, safer and you’ll also greatly lessen your chances of failure.
In the same vein as adding frontal protection to your 4WD, the addition of a quality secondary battery set-up not only ensures against faults but allows for addons down the track. By isolating your starter battery and installing an auxiliary battery, you are completely eliminating the chances of a flat battery preventing you from starting your 4WD miles from anywhere. Plus, this then allows you to run a host of other features such as camp lights and fridges; all of which make bush life just so much more comfortable.
When it comes to storage solutions for your 4WD I am a bit of a self-confessed nerd. I firmly believe in everything having a place and keeping things neat and ordered. While I might take this to new levels of fastidiousness, the range of affordable storage options on offer these days means you too can make packing your rig a work of art. My rational behind being so passionate about storage within a 4WD centres around being organised, of course; there’s nothing worse than searching for something you’re sure you packed but just can’t find or on the flip side, just chucking in everything haphazardly and hoping for the best. However, my main reason for having a 4WD packed and organised at all times is the simple fact that it makes going bush so much easier. My rigs are literally ready to add basic food items, a few beers and go. I can be on the track within 30 minutes of deciding to leave. This means heading bush is so easy - and if it's that easy, you’ll do it more often!