There's a fine balance between packing too much gear into your 4WD, and not having enough. We've found it takes some time to find that balance, and you continually get better at taking what you need, and nothing more.
However, if you are using your 4WD off road, you should have more than the standard jack and wheel brace in the back of your 4WD!
How do you know what to carry?
You wouldn't get very far throwing everything you 'might' need into the back of your 4WD. You'd run out of room too quickly, and your 4WD would be overweight by a mile. So, below are a few of the things we consider when packing Our 80 series Land Cruiser.
Where you are going
There's a big difference between heading an hour from the city to do a bit of beach driving and crossing the Simpson desert. Your trip length, road conditions and distance from the nearest services should play a role in guiding you to pack the right gear. If you are close to help, you can do without some specialised tools and spare parts. Head to somewhere remote though, and you are on your own!
How long you are going for
A short play in the local mud holes one afternoon calls for a difference amount of gear in your 4WD than a 5 week trip through the Kimberley. Obviously, there is nothing saying you can't take it all, but you don't need to!
Remember to cater for water, food, spare parts, cooking equipment etc, and have a backup plan should things go bad. We always take a little burner plate that screws straight onto an LPG bottle. That way, if you have a problem with your main cooker, you can still eat. We lived for over a week off that little burner stove after the Coleman one went down in Esperance!
Likely breakages or problems
The longer you own your vehicle, the more you know about it. Every vehicle has its weak points, and you should factor this into packing your 4WD. For example, some vehicles have a problem with the bearings going in various pulley's after water crossings. There isn't much you can do about it, except for carrying spare pulleys and belts should one let go!
What you are doing
If you've ever driven on a really rough 4WD track, you'd appreciate the hammering our 4WD's take. The amount of time you are spending off road, and the condition of the tracks should play a role in what you take with you. A days driving on a rough corrugated road will do more damage to your 4WD than a week on the bitumen! If you plan on doing endless corrugations, things like a spare shock absorber won't go astray!
Your competency on the tools
I've seen people take tools with them on 4WD trips that they can't even name! If you aren't able to competently use the tools and gear you have with you, they can be more trouble than they are worth. That said, you only need someone with you who knows how to use the tool, and then its of use.
Think about what is practical too; I don't think you are going to strip an engine down in the middle of the desert, so do you really need the tools to do so?
What you carry in your 4WD can be the difference between life and death when it comes to some of the more remote 4WDing in Australia. Things like the correct amount of water and food are imperative that you get right, as are methods of communication. If you get into serious trouble in the middle of no where, how do you get help? On our 5 weeks up north we carried a SPOT gps tracker, which is essentially a more capable EPIRB that can call for emergency help anywhere.
Your space available, and weight capacity
Just because you can fit it in doesn't mean you should! It's vital that you keep your weight down in a 4WD, and especially under the maximum GVM and GCM. The more your 4WD weighs, the more stress is put on every single component, and the more likely something is to break. What does your 4WD weigh?
Some people go way overboard with what they keep in their 4WD, and others are too lax. It’s all about finding a comfortable medium, and the longer you use your 4WD the better your understanding.
Who you are travelling with
There's a big difference between travelling solo, and going with a group of mates. There's no need for everyone to bring a comprehensive bush mechanics kit if you are going in a group. Spread the load over the group, but ensure you have the gear you may need for your vehicle, like hoses, belts, hub sockets etc.
What do we carry in our 80 series Land Cruiser?
Our 80 has been built as a tough tourer, and it does a very good job. Despite this, I’ve got a range of gear on board, to keep it going should something not go to plan out in the bush. Majority of the time we keep the same items in the vehicle; its just the quantities of water and food that change!
Food and cooking
We normally take a tub for cooking gear (plates, cutlery, frying pans, pots, cutting boards etc), a tub or 2 for food and a smaller tub for washing up gear. Do yourself a favour and get some decent quality tubs; the clear $10 ones aren't going to cut it when you are bouncing your way down a 4WD track in the middle of no where. There's nothing worse than having to pick up cans of tomato from one side of your 4WD to the other!
We bought a Coleman Eventemp burner some time ago, and have been pretty happy with it. We haven't had a trouble free run, but it is simple to use, quick and easy. I mentioned above that we carry a single burner that screws straight onto the burner for a bit of redundancy; you need a cooker!
We've got 3 jerry cans that carry 20 litres of water, and then a smaller 5 litre one. We find this is plenty of water for two people, for up to a week.
Our choice of cooling is an Evakool 55L fridge/freezer. For short trips, we will run this just as a fridge, but anything over a couple of days and it gets split into a fridge freezer. This works very well, and hasn't given us any issues.
Fishing and diving
With more fishing opportunities than you can poke a stick at, we pretty well always carry our fishing gear. It changes depending on when and where we are going, but you've got to have a fish, or go for a dive!
We are pretty happy with our sleeping arrangement. We use an Oztent RV5, two Blackwolf mega deluxe mattresses, Coleman Bigfoot sleeping bags and pillows from home. Comfortable, warm, easy to set up and reliable, in all weather conditions. That, and you don't have to pack anything away when you want to go for a drive in your 4WD.
Chairs and table
We spend a fair bit of time just sitting around, enjoying what Australia has to offer. We use a plastic blow-mould table, an oztent and an oztrail chair and are quite happy with them.
Heavy duty jack and jack plate
Sockets (including a 54mm narrow wall one for the wheel bearings)
Brass punch and cold chisels
Pliers (pointy nose, normal, multi grips, circlip)
Ball peen hammer
Spare belts and hoses
I carry a full set of radiator hoses and belts, along with a number of little fuel hoses. Along with this is a range of different hose clamps, so if something does let go it can be replaced without leaving us stranded in the middle of no where!
Rubber and linatex
Rubber is an amazing thing. You can use it for a heap of different things, and if you can get your hands on some Linatex, its even better. Its essentially heavy duty red rubber, which does a fantastic job as a dampener, protecting two things from rubbing together, making o rings etc.
Spare tyres and puncture repair kit
With the Kaymar Rear bar, we’ve got two tyres on rims mounted permanently on the back of the 80. Fingers crossed, but we haven’t had to use any just yet! We also carry a Ridge Ryder puncture repair kit which has been used a couple of times on other vehicles. A great set, that is awesome value for money.
Bolts and nuts
It’s a good idea to have a range of nuts and bolts, along with washers in your vehicle. Make sure they are the same pitch and thread size as your vehicle, and when you notice a bolt has fallen out of the radiator you can easily put a new one in. We keep a small container of bolts and nuts in the back of the car, should we ever need it.
I picked up an extra wheel bearing kit for the front and the rear of our 80 series, in case one ever lets go whilst we are travelling. I make sure to regularly touch the hubs of all 4 wheels when we pull over, as this gives you a very accurate idea of the bearing condition.Your wheel bearings should never get hot enough that you can't put your fingers on the hub. Be aware of the brake heat though!
The bearing kit comes with the axle seal, and I keep grease in the car too. On our trip to the Kimberley I noticed the rear right axle seal was leaking. As we were in Broome, we picked up a new seal from Toyota (to keep our spare set) and fitted it up there. I found the axle had a small groove, and despite my efforts to make the seal run on a different part of the axle, it still leaked a little!
Tie down straps
Ratchet straps are incredibly useful for everything from holding your gear on the roof rack to securing broken parts under your 4WD. Quality ocky straps are useful too.
Cable ties and duct tape
They say if you can't fix it with duct tape and cable ties, you haven't used enough! Seriously though, these are extremely useful for a whole range of applications and are an absolute must in that back of your 4WD
Some decent width fencing wire is extremely useful for getting a broken 4WD back to civilization
We carry a heap of recovery gear on board. A number of our trips are solo, so having the gear to get out when no one else is around is imperative. As of now, our recovery gear list includes:
Rated recovery points (2 on the front and 3 on the rear)
Maxtrax (2 sets)
Smittybilt 10,000lb winch with synthetic rope
Tree trunk protector
Winch extension strap
Various rated bow shackles
Two snatch straps (11,000lb and 8,000lb)
Full length shovel
Once you've been Bogged in a salt lake several hours from the nearest help, you learn to be self sufficient, very quickly! We had 4 snatch straps between two vehicles, and that was pretty well it!
Oil and fluids
On our trip around Esperance, we had just gotten back from a short walk to an amazing beach, when I noticed a puddle of oil under the 80 series. After a bit of investigation, I found the nuts holding the differential in place had all come loose, allowing some of the oil to leak out. After tightening them back up, I cleaned it all up and pulled out my spare differential oil, topping it up and then we were on our way.
I always carry 5 litres of diff/gearbox/transfer case oil and 5 litres of engine oil. Being an older diesel it will burn oil from time to time, and I like to have plenty on hand if something were to go wrong. We carry a 1 litre oil bottle too, which has a funnel allowing us to easily fill things up (its pretty hard to fill a diff up with a 5 litre oil bottle!).
On our trip to the Kimberley, we took 15 litres of engine oil, as I needed 10 to replace the oil at its 5000km service interval. Your fluids on board should match the places you are visiting
We also carry loctite stud locker and loctite 401 (general purpose), a 5 minute araldite mix (in two syringes), WD40 and some metal putty.
First aid kit
Our first aid kit changes on each trip, depending on who we are going with, and how far away from civilization we are going. Our normal first aid kit is one from St Johns, which has all the essentials. From there, we build our own side kit- burn cream, stingos, detol cream, panadol and what ever else is missing.
However on our trip up north we took a huge St John of God kit with everything under the sun (about the size of a backpack) as it was just us going, with no one else to rely on. We also put in a big first aid book that goes through various recommendations and treatments for different injuries. Its all well and good having a great first aid kit if you don’t know what to do when someone gets bitten by a snake, or breaks an arm! Yep, we've both done senior first aid kits, but you aren't going to remember everything.
Our 80 series has an aftermarket filter which separates water and other contaminents. I’ve got a spare one that sits in the car at all times, along with a spare oil filter and air filter.
I’ve never been very good with 12V electrics. Perhaps I haven’t taken the time to learn enough about it, but I recently bought a Narva kit which came with all the crimps and crimping pliers. This kit has been extremely useful for various modifications to our 80 series.
We keep at least 5 of each fuse size (and spare fuses for our compressor) in the glove box. Along with that, I've got a number of offcuts (and new bits) of electrical cable in different sizes in the back of the car, in case something is fried. I also keep a spare fuse holder.
We run a 100 watt solar panel on the roof, that keeps our dual batteries topped up for the fridge and lighting.
How do you pack it in?
Space is always a problem when it comes to longer trips. We have a roof racks, and have removed the middle seats. Anything light weight goes in the middle (or it is tied down) and everything else goes in the drawers in the rear, or on top in tubs. It was tight on our trip up north, but you soon get into a routine of packing up quickly and easily.
Do you carry the right amount of gear?
As I said before, its a very fine balance. Don't carry too much, but don't leave the necessities at home! What do you carry in your 4WD? Do you have enough, or do you carry too much?!