Planning a big 4x4 trip around Oz, planning tips needed

Hi all, I'm Piet from Melbourne.. Currently planning a long 4x4 trip with my girlfriend around Australia and am a little overwhelmed with all the information out there, so I thought I'd join and have a chat with you all.

I'm only just getting into 4bys and offroading, so please be patient with my stupid questions!

First off it would just be great to get some general advice around the planning side of things - I'm sure there are lots of things I haven't even considered.

So here's where we're at: I'm looking at buying a Nissan Patrol GU 4.2L turbo diesel, fitting an rtt like the ARB Simpson three and a bike rack on the back. We'd be looking to travel fairly lightly, but keeping the option open to buy a small trailer at some stage during the trip. I won't be doing too much full-on offroading, as I said I'm only just getting into it. We're planning on working along the way where we can, fruit picking, bar work, anything really to supplement our budget. If all goes well, we will be gone between 6 and 12 months, heading to Tassie first, then out West and continue clockwise.

I know that it will be cumbersome always packing up the rooftop tent, so it's imperative that set up and pack down is easy and fast.

Anyway, I'll leave it at that for now, would appreciate any general tips and pointers and I'll get into more specific topics later..

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Reply By: Fab72 - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 18:53

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 18:53
G'day Piet,
My 2 cents worth.
1. Forget the traditional roof top tent if there's only two of you. Go for a hard top pop up style roof top tent. Set up and pack up is about 1 minute and most of your gear can stay in there.Example of pop up roof top tent

2. Get a copy of "The Big Lap". Although it's based around a family doing the lap around the block, there's plenty of tips in there that are common to couples as well as families.The Big Lap

3. Lucky you! I wish I was in your shoes.....one day!!!

Fab.
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Reply By: Michaeljp - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 18:57

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 18:57
The Nissan 4.2 is a good choice of 4wd. Just don't get any 3 litre made before 2004 if you can't find a 4.2. Instead of the RTT id get a 3 man dome tent. Much easier to put up and down. If your taking push bikes stay away from the tow ball mounted racks. They will fall apart on the corrugated dirt roads and if you get a trailer where will they fit? I have bought a isi bike rack, it will never break but i cannot use a trailer with it if i want to.
Enjoy your trip.
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Follow Up By: Member - Cuppa - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 21:38

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 21:38
My experience with tents is different. Our rooftop tent is far quicker to put up & pack away than any ground based tent including the very quick to erect centre pole type & ones like the OzTent. Dome tents with their threaded or clipped fibreglass poles take more time.

Any ground tent also requires being set up inside, unpackin & putting in the bedding, & packing again when leaving etc. Each little thing like this adds to set up time. Every minute added to set up time for long term travellers becomes a tiresome chore day after day. Very different to short trips.

The pop up type of rooftop tents like the Baroud are indeed very convenient when ‘out bush’, but they don’t provide shade/shelter in windy & wet weather (unless you want to lay down all day), have no shelter over the ladder - a problem in the rain, & lack any area of privacy when staying in places with others - getting dressed in a sitting position in a small RTT is a pain.

It is of course all a horses for courses thing.

6 to 12 months will go very quickly. We took 18 months to go around & thought we would look for work as we went. Before leaving we envisaged stopping in places for a month or so at a time. Reality was quite different, didn’t feel like we had enough time to do that, at least not if we wanted to travel at a pace which allwed us to savour the country we were exploring.

We now have a 2006 Nissan Patrol 4.2TDi & are looking forward to taking it around Australia.........but will take our time & maybe even work next time
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Vic - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 22:28

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 22:28
Agree with cuppa. With a RTT you can camp anywhere. You do not need flat smooth ground. If your working you can camp around the backs of sheds, in driveways, just anywhere. See my blog
http://www.exploroz.com/Members/261669.250/2/2015/Roof_Top_Tents__RTT_.aspx
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Follow Up By: vk1dx - Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 at 04:50

Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 at 04:50
I also agree with Cuppa. With the annex hanging over the rear of the car we have full weather coverage with full access to the rear of the car and a kitchen bench to boot (tailgate). We also leave our bedding up in the tent. From getting out of bed it can has take 15 minutes, without rushing, to drive off including a cuppa and some corn flakes.

May I add this section as a suggestion.

As you are new and want to do some 4x4 I would suggest a bit of 4x4 training. There are some great 4x4 only drives on Cape York (OTT and Frenchmans), The Kimberley (Carson tracks) and the Vic Alpine (Billy Goat) area that come to mind. These need some 4x4 knowledge and experience before you tackle them especially solo, which is how we travel (40+ yrs off road exp).

Just hopping into the 4x4 with a few mates on the weekend is not the best way to learn how to drive, use and appreciate all the capability of the 4x4. And then you need to be able to self recover etc.

That said there is plenty to do and you should be "overloaded" without going to 4x4 only places I mentioned. Car choice is excellent and may I suggest that you add the Toyota 100 4.2TD to your list.

You may already have the training covered and that's excellent. Enjoy and ask as much as you wish but be ready to be inundated with info. We all have so much to tell. Maybe join the gatherings at the "monthly coffee" would be very beneficial. Nothing like face to face sharing.

Enjoy . . .

Simpson Desert 2012



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Follow Up By: Piet M - Monday, Apr 06, 2015 at 22:09

Monday, Apr 06, 2015 at 22:09
Thanks all!

Michael, is it any different with the bike racks which mount to the spare tyre on the back? I'm just worried about adding extra weight on the roof.

I will definitely head out and get some experience first, I've exclusively been watching youtube vids for the last month on driving & recovering a vehicle under all kinds of conditions, but of course nothing beats hands on experience with an experienced person to guide you.

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Follow Up By: Member - Cuppa - Monday, Apr 06, 2015 at 22:41

Monday, Apr 06, 2015 at 22:41
You are right Piet, nothing beats hands on experience. Mine is quite limited but enough to make me realise that nothing else is a substitute. I recently went out 4wd’ing with a bunch of experienced folk who ‘coached’ me up & down some quite difficult sections. It was invaluable. Although I have years of off road motorcycling under my belt driving the same terrain in a car is not comparable. Driving down a steep & deeply rutted hill where wrong wheel placement could have easily resulted in a rollover, with someone outside the car saying “keep left’, “move right” etc not only got me down without damage, it also boosted my confidence enormously. Week after next I’m doing an accredited 4wd course. The cheapest way to do this is to find a 4wd club who run their own course. In my case it is included in the cost of membership, & in fact is a prerequisite for joining in any club trips.

Before driving myself I went out several times with another 4wd’er in his car as a passenger, we stopped prior to any ‘gnarly’ section & discussed the best lines. I found this very useful as car lines are totally different to bike lines. I’m still adapting from being able to see where my front wheel is in relation to the terrain to only being able to see sky or treetops on uphill sections. A totally different approach.

But to get back to the main point - every time I go out my confidence builds. My aim is to familiarise myself with 3 things without damage.
The physical ‘space’ my vehicle needs in ‘tight’ settings, the limits & abilities of my vehicle without pushing past them & techniques that are counter intuitive, but necessary to know. The first happens quite quickly with just getting out there. the second will I think come, but will take a little longer. The last is what the course is for.
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Follow Up By: Member - Cuppa - Monday, Apr 06, 2015 at 22:44

Monday, Apr 06, 2015 at 22:44
Oh & I’d agree with Peter. Probably best to leave the push bikes at home, they will get very little use.
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Reply By: Terry O - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 19:04

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 19:04
Sign up to Workabout Australia. Will give you jobs going all around Australia and advise and tax tips on working as you travel. If you are a member you get a weeks head start on jobs going.
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Reply By: Member - Tony F8 - Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 23:41

Sunday, Mar 15, 2015 at 23:41
Follow the threads on good forums like this, do a 4wd course, get a centre pole tourer tent, a good fridge, a good first aid kit, talk to people in towns your travelling through, buddy up with people going your way, buy a spot, a good 80 ch uhf, carry spares such as hoses and belts, learn how to fit them, drive to conditions, and foremost enjoy everything this great country has to offer. You will have the time of your life, did it in 96 and still wish it never ended.
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Follow Up By: The Landy - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 07:33

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 07:33
And that sounds like great advice.

The other thing I might add is that if you find a place you like, don't be in a hurry to leave!

Enjoy your trip...

Baz - The Landy
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Reply By: Bigfish - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 11:07

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 11:07
Some good advice given already. If it was only me going I,d swag it. Seeing as there are 2 of you and for at least 6 months I,d opt for a cheap hard floor camper trailer. Has built in kitchen, plenty of room, easy to tow, can set up and stay in it for weeks. Leaves you free to explore by having a base camp. No way could I be bothered climbing in and out of a roof top tent. Especially with 2 people in it.

Whatever you decide...enjoy and don,t rush it!!
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 11:31

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 11:31
Bigfish that is excellent advice. RTTs, swags or our option of sleeping in the vehicle are great if you are touring and travelling most days anyway. But if you want to stop for a while, especially if you need to work, that arrangement would be difficult. You can pick up a basic camper pretty cheaply and it would give you more flexibility, especially as some jobs may require you to have your own accommodation.

The other thing to think about is timing, especially whether you want to be in northern areas during the summer wet season.

Cheers,

Val.
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Follow Up By: Yabbo - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 13:54

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 13:54
I agree. Car based accommodation is only convenient if you are travelling most days. A hard floor camper trailer is easy to put up and down but tends to be more expensive and have less room to store gear. We have a soft floor (All Terrain) and have used it for years. We did a big trip from Sydney to Broome via Cairns and the gulf and back diagonally through the Tanami in 2008.

The trailer was perfect. Its robust construction meant no mechanical problems and it had enough room to set up a nice base camp to explore an area in the vehicle (100 series Landcruiser). For quick overnight stops, just opening it up without folding out the awning takes 10 - 15 minutes as I seldom bother with pegs.

I have never really understood the obsession that occurs on forums like these about speed of setting up and packing up. When I go away I am not in a hurry. An extra half an hour means little. What is more important to me is the final camp setup. Enough room for the gear I want to take, a nice shady awning, a simple functional kitchen, some walls for bad weather, good quality canvas to withstand the conditions and a good, strong trailer to carry it all over rough, corrugated roads. If you are well set up and comfortable you can relax and settle into the rhythm of your journey.

You two will have a great trip. Enjoy!

Yabbo
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Follow Up By: Piet M - Monday, Apr 06, 2015 at 22:25

Monday, Apr 06, 2015 at 22:25
Thanks for the input!

There are several reasons I'm keen on the rtt. For one, the safety of being off the ground, but also it costs less, meaning we can spend more on a reliable, well-maintained car. It also gives us more flexibility in our movements (I can imagine in certain areas towing a trailer would become cumbersome).

I do see the point about it being more convenient to have a base camp, but I'm not sure how often I would want to leave it unattended anyway.

The lack of a kitchen in an rtt does not bother us much, as we would use a campfire whenever conditions and restrictions allowed for it. In populated areas, bbq facilities might also be an option. We're quite spontaneous like that. I was also planning on taking my portable gas cooker, but I'll have to revisit that option and do some more research since the ban on many models.
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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 14:55

Monday, Mar 16, 2015 at 14:55
6-12 months is only enough time to have a quick look at a few highlights.
Choose them carefully. There will be no time to work.

I would go with a roof top tent and cook out of the back of the Patrol.
Leave the bikes at home. They will quickly get wrecked on the back of the 4WD and you won't use them much anyway.

Cheers,
Peter
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Reply By: Member - mike g2 - Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 at 01:20

Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 at 01:20
Hi Piet, agree with a lot of the replies so far. do a trip plan, allow for seasons/holiday periods, estimate fuel costs by average of each state and vehicle km/L . est accom costs- can free camp ( get a " camps 7 or 8" book). cant always rely on getting itinerant work- often see no pickers needed in fruit areas. 6mths is absolute minimum to do Aust lap-its over 20,000 km. tried a RT tent once-didn't fancy it that much. good idea but not that much space, can be fiddly climbing in/out, was standing on tippy toes to zip and undo it each time as well. believe a camper trailer is better option. if you've got time- go to caravan and camping show and check out options.
I just did 4 1/2 mths perth-esperance -adelaide-melbourne-sydney-newcastle and the overall cost was close to $30,000 . look up info from RAC, 4X4 clubs etc..do a search of blogs/forum on this site.
things to take can be a topic on its own- after my own trip...excepting essentials such as first aid,fuel/water/comms and mechanicals, lay it all out and halve it, then your close! most of my stuff did the 1/2 lap untouched .
enjoy!
MG.
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Follow Up By: Piet M - Monday, Apr 06, 2015 at 22:32

Monday, Apr 06, 2015 at 22:32
Wow, thanks for your advice.

So how comfortably did you travel in order to spend $30k? It seems like a lot for 4 1/2 months, what did you find were your main costs? I'm just asking because we are hoping to be pretty frugal in terms of our style of travel, kind of like a mix between backpacking and camping, so just looking to see if I have misjudged cost that much.
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Follow Up By: TomH - Tuesday, Apr 07, 2015 at 08:06

Tuesday, Apr 07, 2015 at 08:06
Dont know how you could spend that much on a 20 week trip.

We were away for over a year and did 50,000k and reckoned it cost a $ a K

That included flights into the Bungles and Horizontal Falls.

Also stayed every night in a van park.
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Tuesday, Apr 07, 2015 at 13:35

Tuesday, Apr 07, 2015 at 13:35
Conventional wisdom suggest that costs come out to about $1 per km travelled. Depends on how mach free camping you do, fuel costs and also how you eat (and drink). We prepare almost all our meals so dont have dining out costs - in a RTT or other vehicle based camping where you want to be set up before dinner time, going out to eat is usually not much of an option.

Cheers,

Val
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Reply By: Piet M - Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 at 10:36

Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015 at 10:36
Wow thanks for all the replies, I'll process it all and respond later on when I'm not on my mobile. Thanks again, I really appreciate all your help!
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Reply By: nickb - Wednesday, Mar 18, 2015 at 18:06

Wednesday, Mar 18, 2015 at 18:06
I would look at other vehicles too. As good as the 4.2 is, there are more comfy, newer, safer, cheaper and economical 4x4s out the. I have had 2 patrols and while they were tough there is nowhere I went that a Pajero/prado/dual can ute couldn't go. A ute would also carry more gear in the back than a wagon.

I agree a small sturdy camper trailer would be more useful especially if you plan on working or staying in one spot for a couple of weeks. You will be able to tow it to 95% of places too, you can always do day trips or overnighters once your base camp is setup.
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Follow Up By: Member - Cuppa - Wednesday, Mar 18, 2015 at 18:53

Wednesday, Mar 18, 2015 at 18:53
I suspect the best vehicle choice may depend upon how long you want travel in it. You are certainly correct to say that any 4wd will manage the task, but for us it was a case of for how long. One lap is quite different to a decade+ of travel on rough roads. Our decision to go with a 4.2 Patrol is because we wanted a vehicle which will last us for many years of outback travel & influenced by our experience of hiring a 4wd in Broome to travel up the Dampier Peninsular. All of the multitude of hire car companies had a wide range of 4wd’s available. However every single one of them restricted the vehicles they would allow up the peninsular to Patrols & Cruisers, mainly because they get such a hard life being driven at speed up & down the 90 odd kms of corrugations. This suggested to me that Patrols & Cruisers would be better investments for long term rough road travel.

Of course the OP in this thread is looking at a vehicle for a 12 month trip & any in reasonable condition would, as you say, manage the task well.
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Reply By: Piet M - Monday, Apr 06, 2015 at 22:50

Monday, Apr 06, 2015 at 22:50
One thing I forgot to mention in terms of itinerary is that both of us have been up and down the east coast, and the inland parts of eastern Australia are easier to reach in future trips seeing as we are based in Melbourne. So if money or time run out we would not be all too bothered if we had to leave it at half-way and cut through Alice Springs back home after NT.

One more question, what do people think about taking a satellite phone? I like the idea of being able to let people know where I am (for example if it takes us longer than expected to get from point A with mobile coverage to point B), but if possible I would like to avoid the cost.

We will, however, be taking an EPIRB in any case just to be on the safe side.
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Follow Up By: Frank P (NSW) - Tuesday, Apr 07, 2015 at 09:05

Tuesday, Apr 07, 2015 at 09:05
Piet,

You are wise taking an EPIRB, preferably one with a GPS and have it registered with AMSA.

An EPIRB is for use in a life threatening situation. It is of little use when you have a non life-threatening situation where you need to discuss your needs with someone.

Take a sat phone, for sure. There are plenty of threads on this site discussing this issue. Also check out the articles on communications here. There is a discussion on sat phones in there.

Cheers
FrankP

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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Vic - Tuesday, Apr 07, 2015 at 12:27

Tuesday, Apr 07, 2015 at 12:27
I have this phone its great.
http://www.satphonesales.com.au/Globalstar-GSP1600-Refurbished-A-Grade
For the price its good value IMHO. I would also have a PLB.
The beauty of having these things is when you are travelling and you see or hear of something that interests you but it is remote, you can tackle it with confidence.
With a sat phone, plan for a mechanical breakdown and have your phone programmed with the numbers of a few mechanics you could ring if necessary. Also doctors etc for medical problems.
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Reply By: Michael H9 - Tuesday, Apr 07, 2015 at 13:52

Tuesday, Apr 07, 2015 at 13:52
A comment about taking bikes. If the bikes obscure the number plate or lights then you will need a second plate or portable light rack that plugs into a normal trailer wiring system to be legal. Be aware that it is illegal, in nsw at least, to scribble up a number plate and stick it on the back. You must either use/relocate the cars existing number plate or order a bike rack plate from the rms. Check for other states.
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