In years gone by, a swag and an Esky in the back of the 4WD was enough to be considered touring. Today though, you can buy more accessories and gear than you can poke a stick at, and the standard of touring has most certainly evolved.
Australia is a magic place, and in our opinion its one of the best countries in the world to hop in your 4WD, and to tour around. From the whitest, and squeakiest beaches around through to rock formations in the Pilbara that look like another planet, and incredible 4WD tracks through the Victorian high country we really have a huge amount of variety and space to enjoy.
When you are on the road long term, you need to be comfortable, and that varies from person to person. Some people are happy with a swag and an Esky, and others need their 5th wheelers with air conditioners and lounges. There’s no right or wrong way of touring Australia, but in this post we take a look at 25 of the most useful accessories you can have for 4WD touring (in our opinion!).
1) Water on tap
There’s nothing more important than a good water supply, and touring Australia makes this extremely clear. You might not see water for several days, and that means you need a good supply, and having it on tap is the ultimate solution.
Being able to wash your hands without having to pour water out is far more efficient, simple and easy and running water is an absolutely game changing accessory. You can keep it simple, like we do and just have a 50L underbody water tank that gravity feeds out of a tap, or you can pressurize it with a 12V pump, or just screw a tap into a jerry can.
What ever you have, as long as the water is easy to get to, potable and user friendly, you are onto a winner.
2) A quick access table
Every single touring setup should have a table that is quick to grab and use. Ideally you pull it out, or fold it down, but you need something. A table will be hugely used when touring for cooking, playing card games, sitting your equipment down or just eating dinner at. Our Dmax has a simple plywood fold down table that is extensively used, and then our camper trailer has other bench space.
3) Great navigation tools
You can get very badly lost, and stuck in thousands of places in Australia. It’s a country that is absolutely humungous, and being sparsely populated you can end up in trouble very quickly without a good navigational tool.
Paper maps are almost a must (even if they are a backup), along with a good app, or 4WD navigational system. Garmin make great stand alone units, and we are currently running Exploroz on our phones which has proven to be a massive improvement over the Hema app that we were previously running.
Knowing you are heading in the right direction, and on the right track is a great peace of mind that everyone should have when out in the bush.
4) Access to information on amazing camp grounds
We live in a world of information overload, and fortunately today its really easy to find great campgrounds. We primarily use Wikicamps, and then rely on places shared by locals, friends and social media.
There are thousands of truly epic camp sites in Australia, and having an easy way to find them is essential for having a great time touring.
5) 12V Fridge
With the prices of 12V fridges today, you’re almost mad to tour long term without them. Yep, you can do without them, and you can use ice and an Esky, but if you are on the road for more than a few days it gets old really quickly. A 12V fridge opens up a whole new world of food when camping and touring, and that makes the experience much better.
6) Solar and Batteries
You don’t need to spend a fortune on solar and batteries, but having a system that will reliably run the electrics you want them to, even when there’s a couple of days of shade is hugely important. A permanently mounted panel on the roof with a decent sized battery system is the ultimate solution, and an inverter if you want to run 240V appliances.
Make sure you balance the electrical load properly with your solar and battery size though, or you can end up in trouble really quickly.
7) A comfortable place to sleep
You need a nice, comfortable place to sleep when touring. If you are cold, getting wet, bitten or blasted by the wind, you’ll get over touring really quickly.
Again, there’s more options than you can poke a stick at, from hundreds of different swag types, quick setup tents, rooftop tents, camper trailers, hybrid campers and the list goes on and on.
Sure, you can sleep on a junky air bed that goes flat overnight and makes you freeze, but one of the best investments you can make for touring this great land is a nice, warm, dry and comfortable place to sleep.
8) Protection from the elements
The sun in Australia can be seriously harsh, and that means you need somewhere to escape it. The other elements though, can be just as unpleasant, and being able to escape the wind and rain is critical too.
The range of 4WD awnings today is absolutely insane, and you can get a myriad of walls and tents that attach giving you the ultimate protection from the elements.
Again, you can get away without this, but it will make some stays awfully unpleasant.
9) UHF Radio
Touring Australia should require a mandatory UHF radio, in my opinion. They are basically critical when you are dealing with any other vehicles (particularly road trains) up north, but even more important off road in convoy, or when you are doing a track where there could be others coming the opposite direction.
A handheld is the cheapest solution which works, but you won’t have the range of a permanently installed unit.
10) EPIRB, PLB or Satellite Phone
Sadly, there’s been a number of people over the years who have perished out in the bush, simply because they couldn’t raise help, and no one was out there looking for them. Starting at about $200, you can buy yourself an EPIRB or Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), which you can have with you in your vehicle, preferably in a grab bag.
This guarantees that no matter where you are, if you activate it you will have help coming as an emergency recovery. All you need to do then is stay with your vehicle, and wait for help to arrive.
If you want to go further, you can get yourself a satellite phone, or satellite sleeve which allows you to call anyone, anywhere. The cost is significantly more both in initial price and on going running costs, but if you break down and want parts brought out, or you want to stay in touch with someone for emergency reasons you can’t go wrong.
People spend thousands of dollars decking their 4WD’s out with all the gear under the sun and then will skimp on a few hundred bucks for something that could easily save your life; it just doesn’t make sense.
11) Comprehensive Tool Kit
I don’t go anywhere without a decent toolkit on board these days. The extra weight is almost always worth it, and we’ve used our tool kit hundreds of times off the beaten track. Whether its to tighten loose bash plate bolts, check your wheel nuts are nicely done up, or to repair a camper trailer door that has decided to quit early, having a good tool kit is critical.
Your tool kit needs to include a decent quality compressor too! We even carry a second hand, cheap one as a backup, in case our primary one decides to die, as low pressures miles away from anywhere or anyone is not something we want to deal with.
12) Traction boards
I often laugh at how effective the good quality traction boards are at recovering a bogged vehicle. In most cases these are easier than getting a winch or snatch strap out, and they are far safer. We carry 4 Maxtrax inside our Dmax canopy, and although they don’t get used too often, we’ve been awfully glad of having them when we have sunk down.
If you are travelling on your own, they can often be the only 4WD recovery method if you don’t have a winch, or there’s nothing to winch off!
13) A stainless steel bucket
We love our stainless steel bucket, and use it all the time. We purchased it off eBay, and it holds 16L of water, which seems to be a good size for our family.
Not only does it do all of the traditional uses of a bucket, but we use it all the time for heating water up for bathes, dish water, showers and washing our feet at the end of the day. Most people already carry a bucket, but its worth while getting one that is much stronger, and you can heat water up in.
14) OBD2 Reader
Modern 4WD’s are extremely vulnerable in terms of their electronics. You only need something minor to go wrong, and your vehicle will throw a code, go into limp mode and you’ll be in a world of pain.
We had this happen near Karratha, where some wiring in our old camper trailer caused the Dmax to blow a fuse, go into limp mode and throw a couple of codes. Fortunately, we run an Ultragauge which allows you to read the codes, and then clear them, and with the help of an auto electrician we were on our way without too much of an issue.
If your vehicle throws a code and you don’t have an OBD2 reader, what are you going to do? Not only does it mean you’ll have a hard time finding what the actual problem is, but your vehicle is going to be stuck in limp mode until you can find someone who can clear the codes for you.
I would not be going anywhere outside of a major city without an OBD2 reader that can clear codes; they are cheap insurance and we’ve used ours a number of times over the years.
15) Rubbish Bin Bag
You’re guaranteed to create rubbish when you travel, and having somewhere that is easy to access, outside of the vehicle and convenient is an absolute must. We run a Rubbish Bin Bag from Bushranger, and its been fantastic for more than 10 years. You can get a heap of different types today, including custom canvas ones to protect your tyres, but they are a brilliant idea and something everyone should have.
16) Fire extinguisher
You’d be surprised how often vehicles catch on fire, and if you have a reasonable fire extinguisher there’s a small chance you’ll be able to put it out before it does catastrophic damage. We’ve just recently installed two Firestrykers into our setup, and hope to never use them, but if we need to put a fire out they are there and ready to go.
17) Dash Cam
With everything that happens today, a dash cam that records on the front and rear automatically is a good investment. If your vehicle gets hit in a car park, or you’re involved in an accident you can prove without a shadow of a doubt what actually happened, and put any porkies being told by other parties to rest. We still don’t have one, but should get one!
18) Suitable suspension
Your suspension is one of the most important parts of your 4WD, and ensuring that you have something that is legal, rated to the weight that you carry (GVM/GCM upgrades if required and possible), and that is going to make your vehicle handle nicely is one of the top things you should get done.
Start by getting your vehicle weighed in its normal (or full) setup, and then get something that is going to suit this properly. We ended up with an Old Man Emu GVM upgrade on our Dmax because we ran out of capacity, and have been pretty happy with it so far. It’s not top of the range gear, but it does what we need it to.
19) A Bull Bar
There’s some debate as to whether a Bull Bar is really necessary for touring, but you only need to hit something once and it will pay for itself. Asides from the improved entry angle and a mounting location for antennas, light bars etc, they are a good investment for kangaroos and other animal strikes.
Not sure what Bull bar you should get? This covers everything you need to know; the Ultimate Guide to buying a Bull Bar.
20) Suitable Kitchen
At the end of the day, you’ll need to pull up and get some good. The easier, and more comfortable the kitchen the more you’ll enjoy your touring. That might be a basic setup in your 4WD, or a nice pull out kitchen in a camper trailer, or even an indoor kitchen on an off road van. What ever you have, make it comfortable, simple and easy to use, or you’ll learn to hate it (and buy lots of take always instead!).
21) A comfortable toilet
We started off without a chemical toilet, and whilst you can still legally do this in many places, it soon becomes frustrating, and uncomfortable. A decent chemical toilet is cheap as, and makes life on the road long term so much easier. Yes, you need chemicals and you have to empty it, but its much nicer (especially if you have kids!).
22) Light bar or spotlights
When we built our Isuzu Dmax, I wasn’t going to get any spotlights or a light bar, and then I stood back and thought about it. For $300, I could fit something that might eliminate the chances of me hitting something on the road at night, and it would pay for itself a hundred times over.
We now have a Stedi Light Bar that is roof mounted, and its amazing, even though we try and avoid driving at night as much as possible. You will inevitably end up driving at night, and being able to flick a switch and see clearly is hugely valuable. You don’t need anything mega expensive, but some decent spotties or a light bar will be appreciated, I guarantee it.
23) Underbody protection
Some 4WD’s have enough clearance that the risk of knocking anything expensive is pretty low, but many modern ones are fairly low, and if you take a decent dent to your sump, radiator or automatic transmission the repair costs can be astronomical.
If there’s a chance you’re going to hit something off road, and you have the weight capacity, seriously consider getting a set of underbody protection plates. They are not expensive, and one knock will pay for themselves a number of times over.
24) First aid kit
If you are travelling Australia, you should have a first aid kit, and some knowledge of how to use it. It doesn’t have to be anything insane, with every piece of medical gear out there, but the basics are a must.
25) Tyre repair kit
I spent about $20 on a tyre repair kit from Repco more than 10 years ago, and its been used extensively. The plugs are the main thing that you want, as I guarantee you’ll get a puncture eventually on the current vehicle you own, your partners, friends or a future vehicle. They are so easy to use, and work really well. Given their price, size and weight, you are mad not to carry one of these when touring Australia.
What have we missed?
What else is really useful for touring this amazing country? What have we missed?