Towing across the simpson desert

Submitted: Saturday, Feb 14, 2004 at 21:26
ThreadID: 10528 Views:6244 Replies:9 FollowUps:13
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We are totaly set up with an off road camper trailer, have done Flinders, Arkaroola, Corner country, Fraser Island, Cape York [telegraph track] etc. We are heading out to Simpson, Finke area and Alice later this year. Nothing we have done so far has put us off about towing. I have read that if towing out through the simpson you should go via the rig road, can anyone tell me if this would be possible or have they seen others do it. Towing vehicle is a GU patrol.
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Reply By: Steve - Saturday, Feb 14, 2004 at 21:41

Saturday, Feb 14, 2004 at 21:41
Word has it that trailers are not permitted in the Simpson... and that includes camper trailers !!.. do us all a favour and don't try to stuff it up for the rest of us ...i.e. those who obey the rules..
AnswerID: 46722

Follow Up By: Wayne (NSW) - Saturday, Feb 14, 2004 at 22:06

Saturday, Feb 14, 2004 at 22:06

Just had another look in my Desert Parks handbook which I got July last year, and on page 40 they only strongly recommend that trailers not cross the desert. If you have any more up to date information I would only to happy to hear from you or anyone else.

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Follow Up By: ThePublican - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 15:01

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 15:01
Get a grip,, is the simpson any more environmentaly endangered than Fraser island or even stockton beach,,,not in your or your great grand kids lifetimes do we need the restrictions proposed by a very minor part of the populace,,,do you realy want to return to the days 234 years ago when the only humans in this country of ours had not even a use of the "wheel" let alone a 4x4,,, to any and all Aboriginal forumite users no offence is intended.
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Reply By: Wayne (NSW) - Saturday, Feb 14, 2004 at 21:45

Saturday, Feb 14, 2004 at 21:45
With any luck there will be a small convoy of off road trailers and there tow vehicles crossing from west to east on the rig road. Your GU patrol should not have a problem .

AnswerID: 46723

Reply By: The Banjo - Saturday, Feb 14, 2004 at 23:15

Saturday, Feb 14, 2004 at 23:15
Plenty of people have done it (French line even) - the authorities do discourage it (not ban it) - ring the Nat Parks SA at Port Augusta - have a talk to them. They will explain why it is not a good idea - you take your pick of the advice on offer. If the sand is dry and powdery, you will struggle in some places (could stress the car).
If you have damp sand, the FL will be straight forward. Rig Rd is apparently the best bet if in doubt.I need red sand under me.
AnswerID: 46731

Follow Up By: Member - Ruth D (QLD) - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 12:48

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 12:48
Port Augusta is 1100 klms from the Simpson Desert and the SA NP is responsible for lots of places. When you ring them there, ask to speak to a Ranger who has Simpson Desert experience - their answer will be different from someone who does not. Banjo, your answer is good. Remember this, anyone, whether they have only a vehicle or whether they are towing a trailer, anyone who has to back up or down any dune - does not have the correct tyre pressures. You should not need to back down any dune. Remember also that just because the SD travelled easily east/west (or the other way)this year or last year, does not mean it will be the same this year. Everything depends on wind during the summer, rain, amount of traffic before you get there and EVERY time you travel it is different - in the space of one week it can change. One of the problems experienced by people following a towed vehicle (particularly when they have incorrect tyre pressures and are overloaded) is that the tow bar causes major dishing in the dune. Incorrect tyre pressures (on the vehicle) cause the dishing in the track part of the dune and the trailer causes it in the centre of the track. It is so simple I cannot understand why it all has to be so difficult. Vehicles (not towing anything) that have a spare wheel underneath the rear of the vehicle can also have this problem - acts like a sea anchor, particularly when they have a big load. Most vehicles going into or out of the SD are overloaded.
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Reply By: Eric Experience. - Saturday, Feb 14, 2004 at 23:17

Saturday, Feb 14, 2004 at 23:17
J Shone.
You may get across with out any problem to you but you add to the damage to the track, so its not a case of is it possible, but is it the right thing to do. If you have any consideration for others you wont. Eric.
AnswerID: 46732

Follow Up By: Member - Bob - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 12:54

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 12:54
many people have said this but I am not aware of any evidence of trailers causing damage - nor does it seem plausible. To my mind an overloaded vehicle is doing more damage to the track than the same load spread over six wheels. However, I could be convinced otherwise by evidence. Evidence is more than people stating their beliefs.Bob
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Follow Up By: Jemima - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 13:01

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 13:01
I'm with you on that Bob
Taking a trailer generally means that you can take extra gear but i would make a good guess that the even the extra weight would be less per wheel for 4wd and trailer than for just 4wd.The real Jemima
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Reply By: Crackles - Saturday, Feb 14, 2004 at 23:49

Saturday, Feb 14, 2004 at 23:49
Towing a trailer over the Simpson is not against the law. It is not advised because of all the idiots that take lesser quality ones or overload them then get into difficulty, often abandoning them when they have no way to repair or recover it.
Suggestions that have worked for me :
1. Towing vehicle should have over 130 Kilowatts of power.
2. Let your tyres down to 18 PSI. (or less)
3. Carry full spares for the trailer .
4. Travell with another car that can tow you.
5. Gross trailer weight under 1 tonne.
A trailer can be towed over most of the main tracks in the desert. On our last crossing we drove the French line only getting stuck on Big Red so it can be quite easy. The problem arrises when the sand is soft or it rains then the last thing you will want is a trailer getting you bogged (It takes all the fun out of it) and the groups stuck behind will curse you as you back down.
Yes it can be done but be prepaired to leave the trailer behind should the conditions be unsuitable.
AnswerID: 46735

Reply By: Phil G - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 08:38

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 08:38
Rather hefty fines for leaving a trailer in the desert.
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Follow Up By: ThePublican - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 10:08

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 10:08
Fines,,since when ?? Lots of $ spent to recover broken trailers yes,,fines and illegal to tow ? not yet and while Australia remains a democracy with only a smidgen of collective common sense the status quo will remain.
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Follow Up By: Phil G - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 11:39

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 11:39

Just have to look here in Exploroz:

The South Australian Dept of Environment and Heritage advise that trailers are not to be towed through the Simpson Desert. This is stated in every "Desert Parks Bulletin". Although there is currently no "fine" for towing a trailer, you will incur an enormous "fine" if you have to abandon a trailer in the desert. It will also become your responsibility to retrieve the trailer at your expense... and this is considerable!
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Follow Up By: Phil G - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 11:43

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 11:43
Another quote:

The SA Department of Environment warns that no trailers may be used on Simpson Desert crossings due to high number of failure incidents. Trailers and vehicles which fail are required to be removed from the desert, and this is extremely expensive. Towing a trailer in this terrain is high stress for any 4WD. Approximate recovery fee starts at $4,000, plus fines if applicable.
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Follow Up By: ThePublican - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 12:15

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 12:15
Pray tell us when S.A. ceded from the rest of Australia in that one is NOT ALLOWED to travel towing a LEGAL and registerd vehicle,,,,next thing you know it will be illegal to go into the simpson in anything but a TOJO/PATROL [pick 1] due to the so called failure rate of " other " brands ,,,, in the words of John Elliot "pigs -rse".... The catchcry of the greeny of saving the environment "for the children " and or the next generation to veiw our land is a misdmeaner in that legislation to protect also totally inhibits the general populace in favour of the chosen few,{read rich},,,,,I and mine will continue to travel where and when we wish to see this land in as much comfort [ trailer ] as we and not some over paid burecreate deems fit to demand.
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Follow Up By: Jemima - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 13:17

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 13:17
Quote from

"It is strongly recommended that travellers avoid attempting to tow trailers across the Simpson Desert."The real Jemima.
Where is that Imposter hiding
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Reply By: Greg - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 16:29

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 16:29
This issue keeps raising its head every now and then with the same responses. I would leave it home and enjoy your trip. I have crossed the Simpson in both directions in dry sand and have considerable four wheel drive experience. I honestly don't know how people manage to get trailers across as it was hard enough just getting the vehicle across. By the way I have towed trailers in far more difficult terrain the the Simpson but soon learnt to leave them behind in the rough terrain. As far as the environment goes well all I know is that towing a trailer in sand requires you to gun it up the dunes even with the tyres down and this definitely buggers the track for those that follow. If you do take one make sure it is a good one because it will cost you a lot if it breaks up and you have to retrieve it. I also believe that a vehicle towing a trailer in these conditions suffers more than one that is heavily loaded but then I guess like all things that is open to debate.
AnswerID: 46788

Reply By: Member - Ruth D (QLD) - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 20:59

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 20:59
There is a safe place in Birdsville for people to leave their trailers. last word on subject.
AnswerID: 46808

Follow Up By: landie - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 09:39

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 09:39
Hi Ruth

Where can I leave my trailer?

We have been into the simpson twice in the last two years and have not bothered bringing the trailer (KK) due to the hassle. Happy to leave it in we prefer to travel with it where we can.

As an aside, people should look at the insurance impication of taking expensive trailers into the simpson..

Cheers Landie

FollowupID: 308859

Follow Up By: Member - Ruth D (QLD) - Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 12:33

Monday, Feb 16, 2004 at 12:33
Landie, there is a special area near the residence at the caravan park where any number of campers and caravans are kept, at no cost, for people travelling in and around and over and back. This subject makes me sick to death. Want to be philosophical - well if the speed rules are 50 for town then as its a democracy I can do 80. If the sign says do not smoke, - then I can and I will. If the sign says Road Closed - then I will go there because I can. It will be all desert travellers who will be punished - either the Desert will become unavailable or else everyone may have to pay a levy to the Friends of the Simpson who go in and do the clean ups. This is my very last word in writing on this subject - until the daily grind of travellers who come in wishing advice on this matter, who already know what the answers are but will continue asking everyone until they find a person who has the same answer, therefore it's true. That's it, no more words. Landie - contact me on and I will give you more information on parking. Cheers.
FollowupID: 308877

Reply By: duncs - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 22:20

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 22:20
Sorry Ruth,

Not quite.

I have commented on this before and will probably get sucked into it again in the future.

I properly prepared and built trailer behind a well driven and maintained 4WD is no more damaging to tracks of any nature than other vehicles.

I towed my trailer across the Simpson in October last year and hardly spun a wheel. As a bit of a guide we did 600km between Mt Dare and BIrdsville, I have a GU 4.2 turbo diesel and used about 130l. I did not think that was too bad and have used more htatn that for similar distances in other places, that means the car wasn't working too hard. Whilst refuelling at Mt Dare the guy there commented on his preference for people not to tow trrailers but when I challenged him he conceded that most of the damage done to the tracks was from people who did not drive properly.

My advice to anyone travelling the Simpson is to take your time, think about what you are doing and if you start to spin back off or it will only get worse. I have seen trailers broken in the bush but they have always been the old box trailer that was bought to take rubbish to the tip. A purpose built 4x4 trailer should not be a problem.

J, we used a combination of tracks including French Line, QAA and the Rig road. The QAA was the prettiest and was not overly difficult. Go for it and have fun
AnswerID: 46824

Follow Up By: uther - Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 22:25

Sunday, Feb 15, 2004 at 22:25
Hey Jemima...just so as ya don,t think I am all bad, I have a rubbber duckie mounted on the front of my hilux...just cause I can ,no other reason,...he , she , it , seems to point the way . A little cuddle and ya get a Uther
FollowupID: 308823

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