Trailers in the desert

Submitted: Monday, May 20, 2002 at 00:00
ThreadID: 1176 Views:2173 Replies:15 FollowUps:16
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I discovered this on another Web site

"November 2001 - A word about trailers...
The South Australian Dept of Environment and Heritage advise that trailers are not be towed through the Simpson Desert. This is an environmental/recovery issue rather than a safety issue. The risk of bearings and axle failure is high due to the difficult terrain. The risk is further compounded by the lack of support facilities and services in the desert. Consequently, trailers are frequently abandoned in the desert at great expense to owners and conservation groups. Please heed these warnings seriously. ExplorOz advise that there is currently no "fine" for towing a trailer, but 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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Reply By: Michelle - ExplorOz - Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00
Colin,you may have found this on another site also, but this is word for word from ExplorOz - I wrote this myself on advice from the SA DEH and first hand knowledge. Have a look at Trailers and Towing on ExplorOz. Not sure what your query is.
AnswerID: 3699

Reply By: Mike - Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00
Colin, I will be leaving my Kimberly Kamper off the desert because of this request, even though I know that both my trailer and my ability would make the crossing possible. The problem once again is the section of the 4WD fraternity, who see a camper or designated off-road trailer being taken in these parts with correct tyre pressures, etc and then think they can tow their old box trailer to the same tracks, with the corresponding damage. This decision will cause me to make a 800km detour to pick up the trailer for the rest of our odessey, but if it helps the cause then it must be worth it. Happy trails, MIke.
AnswerID: 3708

Reply By: Darian - Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00
Colin....I had the very same issue to resolve awhile back....I spoke with Ranger, Desert ParksHQ (based at Port Augusta)
1800 816 078 or 8648 5300
Fax: (61 8) 8648 5301.
Pearce Dougherty (a good bloke - very helpful - invites people to keep in touch about their intended trips - will provide information and advice.
Pearce spends quite a bit of time out in the Simpson, on field trips for the NP.I decided to re formulate the trip - no trailer - have not been yet. dp
AnswerID: 3712

Reply By: Bob - Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00
I was unaware of any official disapproval of trailers in the desert. I came down the Colson track and then across the French line in April. There were no abandoned trailers to be seen. My trailer made it through OK, but did have a broken spring for the second major trip in a row. I hope they don't 'ban' trailers. I find the trailer an excellent way to reduce vehicle weight, and make travel safer and more comfortable (no overhead weight as in roof racks, and no packing the cabin with gear). Talk about nanny state. What about all the abandoned vehicles littering every track and road in the Centre? Are they environmentally friendly or something?
AnswerID: 3725

Follow Up By: Bill - Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00
Surely you don't consider that abandoning trailers in the Centre makes it acceptable to abandon trailers in the Simpson. You also didn't travelthe difficult section of the Simpson - the dunes become progressively more difficult. A 2wd could possibly reach the Colson track. You saw no abandoned trailers because noone is either stupid enough or environmentally insensitive enough to disregard all the advice and recommendations and try to take a trailer through the difficult sections of the desert.
FollowupID: 1563

Follow Up By: Bob - Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00
Bill and his bloody Prado. I might have known you went to the hardest parts, and that one could have gone in a two wheel drive to all the other places. You're a bloody marvel Bill.
FollowupID: 1566

Follow Up By: Goran - Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00
Bob , nothing is too hard when you drive TOYOTA . Time for a change , dont you think ? On the other hand i do understand your view of the trailers. There isn't much room in the bloody Discovery ,is it ? Maybe you should do Gunbarrel . There , on the side of the road you will find answer for your question. Do W.A. deserts a favor Bob , leave your trailer at home.
FollowupID: 1595

Follow Up By: Bob - Monday, May 27, 2002 at 00:00

Monday, May 27, 2002 at 00:00
I am sorry I missed your reply until now. I've travelled the GBH (Maroochydore to Carnarvon, Nov 98) and would have to say it was one of the hardest trips I've done because of the corrugations. According to the VKS737 at the time a Toyota actually lost a wheel because of the conditions (stub axle broke). I did it with an ARB steel roofrack, and the back seats removed. The only problems I had were with trashed tyres (2) and a snapped support in the roof rack. That was in a Pajero. I've also used the trailer behind a Toyota (LX470), and still find it much more comfortable to keep the cabin free of clutter . I have since used the Discovery for bush trips because of its outstanding fuel economy and reliability.
FollowupID: 1637

Reply By: Wayne - Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00
A lot of people seem to give trailers a bad name. Here are some thoughts that I have which change the focus onto those vehicles without a

Lets take my example when I travel (with wife and two kids) with a camper trailer. I have a maximum of 1000 kgs in weight on the trailer.
This includes various spares for the trailer and the second spare tyre.

In the vehicle all I have is the people, the fridge, and the recovery gear.

Given the weight of the car (100 series land cruiser) in base is 2245 kgs before the bar work, with people on board and a full fuel load
(in long range fuel tank) and the above gear, the vehicle would weigh around 2900 kgs to 3000 kgs.

Therefore with this weight pattern and a well balanced trailer, the average weight distribution is say 750 kgs on the vehicle and 500 on the trailer.

Now if I load up the vehicle and leave the trailer behind, I get a few problems. Firstly with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 3180 kgs, I only have
180 kgs to play with. Take out of that the water and the second spare tyre I am left with less than 50 kgs to cover food, bedding, clothes
cooking gear, second spare tyre etc.

That leaves me with a little problem. I have two choices, leave stuff behind that may endanger my family or overload the vehicle.

If I travel on maximum GVM of 3180 my average weight distribution is 795 kgs, which is an increase over the example with the trailer.
If I overload the vehicle, not only am I putting more stress on the vehicle when it is already under stress from the terrain it is covering,
but my average weight distribution is higher again.

Therefore my view is that travelling with a well built off road trailer with appropriate tyre pressures will place less stress on the road than
travelling with a fully or over loaded vehicle.

This is the bit of the "debate" that I believe people forget. So there was my two cents worth over to anyone else for further comments
AnswerID: 3729

Follow Up By: Bob - Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00
thankyou for injecting some intelligence into the debate. Yes I feel that there is a lot of mindless criticism of trailers from inexperienced know-it-alls who love to bandy the 'environmentally insensitive' label without the least understanding of how a trailer could harm the environment. The proposition that someone would abandon several thousand dollars worth of trailer in the desert like a empty beer can seems crazy to me.
I've travelled with overladen roof racks, I've travelled with the back seats removed and the cabin overloaded, and I've travelled with the trailer. From a fuel economy point of view the over loaded cabin is best, but from a safety and comfort angle the trailer wins hands down. Assuming that I don't leave several grands worth of kit in the desert, I would like to know how the trailer is more environmentally harmful than the overloaded vehicle.
FollowupID: 1565

Follow Up By: Johnsy - Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00
now some sense is beginning to surface andwell informed fact .As for putting on a roof rack and burning more fuel because of increased wind resistance or trying to jam all required equipment behind a cargo barrier which transfers weight to the rearaxle and change the steering no thanks.A casual observation quite a few interstate vehicles obviously on tour have locally regoed trailers (Alice Springs).As for my trailer it,s an all steel number leaf sprung and I put a full length chassis from tow ball to rear now done 40000 dirt ks .Trailers for this lad.
FollowupID: 1567

Reply By: Mike - Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, May 21, 2002 at 00:00
Oh! Sorry Bob, we forgot, you are obviously the only person in the world with an opinion worth airing. The desert parks people in SA, do a fantastic job out there, AND they have done all the tracks AND recovered all the "well informed experts" who of course know more. They are not banning trailers because they don't like trailers, hell they aren't even banning them. They are just sick and tired of the extra work they have to do recovering well intentioned travellers like yourself, so they are REQUESTING that we do not take trailers out there. So get off your high horse long eneough to listen to the full story, or at least give others the common courtesy of airing their views without having a know-all jump down their throat. Happy trails, Mike.
AnswerID: 3737

Follow Up By: Bob - Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00
Sounds like you've been drinking the red infuriator again. If you look back I merely posted an article defending the use of trailers. Bill, who seems unable to contain himself whenever I say anything, jumps in with aspersions. As far as the full story goes, I am listening. Do you have anything worthwhile to add or do you just happen not to use a trailer? As far as I knew, vehicle recovery has usually performed by Adam from the Pink Roadhouse. Tell me that isn't the case.
FollowupID: 1578

Reply By: Ruth - Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00
To the person who came down the Colson Track - the reason you didn't see any trailers abandoned (or caravans) or anything else is because there are a number of people who go and collect other peoples rubbish and abandoned gear in the Simpson Desert. It is to be hoped that a special permit was applied for and granted before travelling on the Colson Track! If you lived and worked in Birdsville or Oodnadatta you would see why trailers (of any kind, most particularly the family box trailer) are not a good idea. The South Australian Government is formulating a law in relation to this - we have had some input. Go out into the Desert right now (like we do), see how corrugated the dunes have become already this season - think about tyre pressures and think about tyre pressures in vehicles as well as in trailers - use the "I don't have to alter my pressures for anybody "thing - and then, look again from the opposite point of view instead of only your own. No one is trying to stop anyone from enjoying the delights of the Simpson Desert or anywhere else - we promote it at every opportunity for the magical place it is BUT we promote it as a special place on its own where you can spend lots of time - not just as a place on a map, maybe 500 klms wide and a way to get from (a) to (b) and into Alice Springs as quickly as possible. Whilst out there - sit on a claypan (like we do) and watch the trailers being snigged over the dunes, dune after dune - then talk to the families who have been through the Desert in two days being "snigged" over the dunes and ask them what they saw and how they enjoyed it. Ask the wives, then ask the children - then ask the Father and see what different stories there are. Oh yes, then ask the people who have had the misfortune to follow them (or assist them) and see what the real story is. No, it doesn't have to be like that at all and yes, when we are doing a recovery that requires a trailer we have to take them also - but only because it is a recovery. One thing I have discovered though, living and working and giving advice when it is asked for - it matters not one iota what you say in the giving of advice, because most people have made their minds up before they asked for the advice and (in relation to the Simpson Desert) are going to do whatever they like - and that goes for people who persist in going on closed roads and tracks and private property. I sound very pessimistic - I'm not I basically look at life very optimistically, but hey, this is my sixth year of experience in the Simpson Desert, and every day someone surprises me.
AnswerID: 3746

Follow Up By: John R. - Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00
Ruth, You're a breath of fresh air!!!!!!!!
We need more like you.
FollowupID: 1582

Follow Up By: Bob - Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00
from the person who took the trailer down the Colson track.
We had permits from CLC - apparently the first issued since 1999.
We left no rubbish or abandoned gear.
We deflated our tyres.
What is snigging?
The vehicle in our group sans trailer (80 series) limped home with wrecked shocks - probably because it was carrying too much weight. They were brand new shocks of supposedly good quality.
I discovered a broken spring leaf in my trailer when I got home. It is a purpose designed and built off road trailer.
I wonder if the advice you give is based on evidence or just the mouthing of prejudices.
Would you please explain to me how a trailer can leave corrugations, while an overloaded wheel on a vehicle doesn't.
FollowupID: 1591

Reply By: Cairns Offroad Training & Tours - Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00
We drove across the Simpson on the french line east to west in a 3lt Patrol auto towing a 650kg tandem trailer as a back up vehicle for a Polaris 6 wheel drive in September last year. Our trailer which we built ourselves 2 weeks before the crossing, even had a 12 ft tinnie on top. We travelled alone, we were experienced although this was a first desert crossing, well prepared and well set up and experienced no problems and that is the key to the whole thing. We decided to go to big red and if we couldn't tow the trailer up her we would have left the trailer at Birdsville. We would not have been able to do what we did in a manual car, the auto made it reasonably easy to stay in the torque range of the motor. We also had 39 x15 tyres all round running at 12 lb cold, an 8 " lift and a lokka diff in front. I don't consider we did any damage to the dunes as no winching was required A couple of dunes we had to back down and try again with more momentum. Common sense should always prevail. Know yours and your vehicles limitations and capabilities. We asked lots of advice from people at Birdsville when we got our permits and know one suggested not taking the trailer police included.
Rob Berrill
Certificate IV Instructor\Assessor

AnswerID: 3753

Follow Up By: Ruth - Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00
This is a very sensible technical reply, unfortunately, the Simpson Desert is mostly in South Australia - the Police in Birdsville are Queensland Police. National Parks in Birdsville are Queensland National Parks, not South Australian. As mentioned before, not everyone has the experience or knowledge that you have - I remember your group coming through and the discussion that ensued because of it, and from people who followed you.
FollowupID: 1585

Reply By: Ruth - Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00
I believe this becomes not a technical issue - of course it can be done, but more a moral issue - should it be done. There is also the point about excatly how much needs to be taken on a trip - do we need so much gear, do we really need the drag of a roof rack, do we really use everything that gets put into the car?
AnswerID: 3757

Follow Up By: Bob - Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00
By the time you load four swags, folding chairs, fridge, toolkit, recovery gear, food and cooking gear, cameras/laptop/radio etc, clothing, fuel and water, you are talking quite a large volume and mass of gear. Even the bare minimum will not fit in the cabin comfortably with four passengers. You have three choices : leave two passengers at home, use the roof, or use a trailer.
FollowupID: 1593

Follow Up By: Colin - Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00
I didn't realise how much of an 'issue' Trailers in the desert would be! Ruth, it's good to get a response from someone who isn't wearing 'blinkers', you have my vote for 'Forum Moderator'. As a Subaru driver I constantly have to ask myself the same questions for obvious reasons. A suggestion for others - try the 'Subaru Test' , if all your gear wont fit in a Subaru them you have too much of something. A bit radical I know, especially if there are kids or you are away on a very long trip. But seriously, it does pay to have a periodic look what is gear is needed. These remote areas are being visited by an increasing number of people and we need to pay more attention to how we can protect and maintain them.
FollowupID: 1596

Reply By: Goran - Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, May 22, 2002 at 00:00
Guys , take it easy for Christ sake . Leave poor Bob alone. Not everyone has the room in their vehicle to store all the gear required(Disco comes to mind here) . Especialy four swags that Bob needs. What about the nice light weight tent Bob ? And the nice full size roof rack , long range fuel tank etc. C,mon Bob you can spend few weeks without the kitchen sink and the trailer. All you have to do is think about it for a while. Unless you driving as a support for an mineral exploration crew that is.
AnswerID: 3762

Reply By: Mike - Thursday, May 23, 2002 at 00:00

Thursday, May 23, 2002 at 00:00
All you guys can just keep hammering away all you like, Ruth has lived there for 6 years and seen it all before. "I am an expert, in the best setup in the country so whatever Desert parks personel (Who are out there) Ruth (Who is out there), SA Police (Who are out there) say, I've crossed the desert once so my opinion is the only one that counts" Great attitude guys, I'm just bloody glad I don't have to travel with you. By the way, I tow a Kimberly Kamper just about anywhere, but after accepting the advice of the people who REALLY know about these things, I am leaving it where I will travel about 800kms to pick it up and continue my treck. And I think I could tow my trailer across as well!
Happy trails, Mike.
AnswerID: 3763

Follow Up By: Robyn - Thursday, May 23, 2002 at 00:00

Thursday, May 23, 2002 at 00:00
Mike is spot on.
Ruth HAS lived in the area for 6 years and HAS heard all the stories (both fact and fiction) and HAS seen first hand the damage that can be done when some people insist they can "do their own thing - because they can" and DOES know just how much a recovery into the desert can cost - not only to the person that has done damage but also to the recoverer.
Why some people ask advise is beyond me because some will ask everyone they see until they get the answer they want. Same goes for what people do.
Before you all get on your high horses - I too have lived in the areas under discussion (for 11 years), so do know a little, maybe. Of course there are always city dwellers who know more.
FollowupID: 1604

Reply By: Robert - Friday, May 24, 2002 at 00:00

Friday, May 24, 2002 at 00:00
The people who are for taking trailers have put forward several valid reasons for a trailer such as spreading the weight across six wheels instead of four ( which would have to be better for not wrecking the tracks ), the safety factor of not having an overloaded vehicle and the ability to take more water and spares etc.
Those who are anti taking a trailer haven't put forward any valid points that I can see to back up what their saying -
One comment was " think they can tow their old box trailer to the same tracks" that comment really means it's not an issue with all trailers at all but only with the inappropriate & un-maintained trailers.
Another comment "see how corrugated the dunes have become this season" what's this supposed to mean that towing a trailer causes corrugations?? - I notice there was no response when someone actually asked how towing a trailer causes corrugations.
Another comment was "of course there are always city dwellers who know more" - well if you have that attitude (chip on the shoulder) towards city people no wonder people don't bother listening to you.
Another comment was "there are a number of people who go and collect other peoples rubbish and abandoned gear" - perhaps all this abandoned gear is from the people without trailers who are having difficulty with overloaded vehicles???
Another comment was "So get of your high horse long enough to listen to the full story, or at least give others the common courtesy of airing their views without having a know it all jump down their throat" - Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!!!

If there is a genuine reason not to take a trailer then how about coming forward with some sensible supporting reasons instead of nasty replies.
AnswerID: 3794

Reply By: AXEL+KAREN - Saturday, May 25, 2002 at 00:00

Saturday, May 25, 2002 at 00:00
Seems to be a very lively discussion on to trailer or not to trailer,,and would seem that the against have only one valid point, that being the cost ,time ,and effort required to retreive a broken trailer,,no mention of the towing or other vehicle ,, why not just get off the high horse, oops cant use a horse,might just need a horse float to do a recovery,,,,the whole point is that if the vehicle and TRAILER are BOTH purpose built and servicable why deny their use.
AnswerID: 3819

Follow Up By: Chapo - Saturday, May 25, 2002 at 00:00

Saturday, May 25, 2002 at 00:00
FollowupID: 1627

Reply By: Cruiser - Saturday, May 25, 2002 at 00:00

Saturday, May 25, 2002 at 00:00
Methinks we might all be missing the point here a bit. Let's just, for a moment, remain open to the possibility that both sides of the argument might actually be valid.
The original post suggested that the SA Department of Environment and Heritage were responsible for the original advice. My understanding is that it remains advice at this time. However, given the experience in other places, if this department, or any other agency responsible for maintenance, clean-up, etc. of any parks or deserts decides that trailers, rubbish, etc. are responsible for degradation, it is only a matter of time before there will be bans put in place. And we all know what that means. How many more tracks, how much more access do we need to lose?
Finally, given that many 4-wheelers proclaim themselves to be environmentally responsible and follow the TreadLightly ethos, I would be interested to hear the views/recommendations of that body in regard to this issue.
AnswerID: 3821

Follow Up By: Bob - Monday, May 27, 2002 at 00:00

Monday, May 27, 2002 at 00:00
Good post! It seems the major concern is one of abandonded trailers. There exists a permit system for all vehicles entering the park. While I hate advocating more red tape and bureaucracy, would the addition of a trailer permit solve that problem. Owners of trailers taken into the park would have to prove that they were removed. Or alternatively, a levy to cover the cost of abandonded trailers could be added to the trailer permit. It really irks me to suggest something like this, but in the interests of keeping all parties happy maybe this is needed.
FollowupID: 1638

Follow Up By: Robert - Tuesday, May 28, 2002 at 00:00

Tuesday, May 28, 2002 at 00:00
Introducing yet another permit isn't going to stop people abandoning a trailer, the only thing that introducing another permit will achieve is extra revenue. Isn't the purpose of the Park Entry Permit to cover the cost of looking after these area's??
Introducing a trailer permit will mean only people with trailers bear the cost of abandoned trailer removal, shouldn't this cost be everyone's responsibility? - why should responsible trailer owners be the only ones who cop this extra cost.
Instead of a permit wouldn't it be more appropriate (common sense) that the SA Department has in place some guidelines on what the minimum requirements a trailer should meet before it is permitted to be taken into these area's. After all shouldn't it be about stopping inappropriate trailers entering these area's rather than just focusing on the cost of removing abandoned trailers.
FollowupID: 1643

Reply By: John - Wednesday, Jul 17, 2002 at 00:00

Wednesday, Jul 17, 2002 at 00:00
Why would a well maintained 4x4 camping trailer , Well set up , be any different from say one and a half 4x4's doing the same crossing?
The way I see it, the trailer would do less damage, as the wheels are not "powered".
Lets face it, the problem is not properly set up trailers, but rather people trying to take their garden clipping specials , where they were not designed to go.......
I suspect the same people wpould also attempt to take their clapped out EH holden across Big Red........
AnswerID: 4909

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