Studies across the globe have shown that people are more stressed than ever. With Covid lingering over us, news reports and our screens constantly vying for our attention. It’s no wonder so many people are throwing in the towel, packing up everything and hitting the road. That is part of the reason so many people decide to travel Western Australia, it’s that raw, empty open road. It’s not normal or natural to spend every waking minute at home and that need to get off grid, with no phone reception might not make sense until you’ve tried it. There’s a human curiosity that speaks to us all the time. It’s that voice that says, “What’s on the other side of that hill?” or “How many cheese balls can I fit in my mouth at once?”. It’s what makes us unique, and it’s inspired so many travellers to push themselves further into the unknown.  

 

Western Australia is the perfect coastline to lose yourself on. Packed with a variety of scenery, climates and wildlife, there is an adventure waiting for anyone. From top to bottom the journey is just over 2000km. Two months was plenty of time for me in a tiny rental van. But others say you need more. From bottom to top, driving 5-6 hours a day, it sure does leave you with a lot of time alone and trust me you do end up talking to yourself, a lot. In summer, the heat, wind, flies and humidity will drive you insane. However, the raw beauty of the landscape and the abundance of wildlife everywhere will keep you coming back for more. It does require a lot of planning and if I could do it again, I’d do it an 4x4.  

Alone, with just the sounds of the bush was intimidating at first, but amazingly, your mind and body adjust to its surroundings very quickly. You adapt to listening to your gut rather than googling what to do. That dream trip is never too late for anyone, of any age.  You are almost guaranteed to come back with a clearer mind and a different perspective. The benefits of going off grid for a while is a hard reset to your mental well-being and trust me, you’ll be able to finish tasks or projects you just haven’t had the motivation to finish before. 

The best thing about going bush, is meeting like-minded people. Comparing set ups, recovery gear and fishing tips is an Australian way of life and it’s something the people at Outback Equipment are truly passionate about. Some of the friendliest people in the world live in the middle of nowhere and you can understand why. Aussies have earnt the title of ‘most eager to help a traveller in need’. Rest assured if you break down in the middle of the outback it’s only a matter of time before someone comes along and asks if you need a hand. Like that time, I thought it was a good idea to drive a 2wd van onto a beach? Yeah, no. It was only 10 minutes before a couple in a Suzuki Jimny came to my rescue. It’s always best to go prepared, relying on the kindness of strangers doesn’t always work out. So, below are the top 15 things I would have done differently in Western Australia with the help of the team at Outback Equipment:

  1. A different vehicle 

There are so many road trip vehicles to choose from. The trick is knowing what you want to see and how much you want to spend on getting there. I rented a van for $3k for two months, only because they were offering an insane half price deal at the time. That might sound like a bargain at first, but renting comes with hidden insurance costs, and can be really limiting on kilometres. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and make a rash decision based on how badly you want to get going on that adventure. When I picked up the van in Perth, although I was excited, the challenges started popping up very quickly.  

There were no privacy curtains installed and no way to hang anything decent. No electrical system or lights, so a fridge was out of the picture. No awning and no roof racks, so I had to sleep with my surfboard, which is not a great cuddle buddy! It did come with a table and chair, but the kitchen and Esky storage was at the back of the van leaving it exposed to the wind. So, cooking was often a challenge, I ruined/melted quite a few chopping boards and plates trying to make wind barriers. Despite the setbacks I made it work, but if I could go back and do it again, I’d do it in my own 4x4 and with the right gear. I missed out on some of the best parts of Western Australia, as so many people told me about secret spots you could only get to with a 4-wheel drive.  

  1. A decent 4x4 awning 

Without a good awning it’s very difficult to set up somewhere beautiful for a long period of time. I found myself trapped in the van, underneath a tree most of the time because there was no escaping the scorching summer sun. The humidity was above 90% most days up north and if I wanted a breeze, I’d have to deal with the swarm of flies inside. Fly nets just couldn’t hold up in the strong afternoon winds. I’d look over in envy of people with awnings, reserved to sitting in the driver's seat for hours.  

fter doing some thorough research, this time I’d choose a Rhino Rack Compact Batwing awning -  for 270 degrees of coverage from a side door to the rear. I’d also bring with me two extra Rhino-Rack Batwing 2.5m awning extensions -  and plenty of spare tie downs. A lot of thought went into this choice of setup. Looking back, the wind made it so difficult to cook, often leaving me with no choice but to buy food or have cold unsatisfying meals. In WA, everyday like clockwork the wind picks up at about midday. So, to battle this and the sun I’d need full coverage and two walls, secured tightly to the ground, providing a breeze free kitchen area that won’t buckle in those extreme conditions. Western Australia being almost all sand I would strongly suggest packing a 10 pack of SUPA-PEG Orange POLYPROP Sand Pegs -  at least the 300mm long one to make sure the awning is firmly secured when that Western Australian wind whips up. 

 

  1. The best off-grid electrical set up for a 4x4  

This one is a no brainer. Not being able to at the very least charge a speaker or phone was very frustrating. I’d have to spend a few hours at the pub taking up every available socket hoping that someone didn’t steal my things, or swap over each item I wanted to charge whilst driving at 100km an hour with the single USB port in the front. The fairy lights I managed to tape to the ceiling did the trick for most of the journey but changing the battery's every few days seemed like a waste. If I could go back, I’d make sure these basic needs were covered with a simple solar-to-battery box system. This is more than enough for one person. Electrical systems get very complicated very quickly, so to avoid any issues with wiring, these are the only products you need to charge a phone, run some lights and keep a fridge going: 

That’s it! This is more than enough power for one person and eliminates any tricky wiring or light installation. Having a portable plug and play system is great if you need to transport it into another vehicle, but mainly the quality of equipment will ensure you don’t have to worry about power running out. Personally, I’d be okay with charging my laptop or camera gear at a pub, as it’s always great to talk to locals and meet people doing similar journeys. Getting off grid is great for solo trips, but a definite highlight was the friends I made along the way. The bonus feature with this set up is the ability to jump start a vehicle safely. I left my lights on one too many times and did not seem to learn my lesson, which is huge news for forgetful travellers.  

  1. A camping fridge 

Any fridge would have been nice on the previous trip. Not having to shop every single day and being able to branch out from tinned and jarred foods would be the only requirement for next time. An Esky simply doesn’t cut it in the outback. There are so many types of fridges out there, it’s overwhelming. However, there are only two choices in terms of function. A fridge that opens sideways or a fridge that open upwards. Both require different fitouts to make them work, but after long deliberation, if I could choose based on style and reliability, I’d go with a Camec 55L fridge/freezer-  Having the option of freezing a portion of your food, ensures nothing goes to waste. 

It’s always been my dream to open a fridge from the front and be able to see clearly what's at the back. But when taking on more extreme 4x4 tracks, the chances of any food surviving that kind of beating are slim. Installing a MSA 60L Fridge slide -  is a great way maximise reach. This lets you open the top all the way, leaving you with two hands to grab as many tinnies as you want! Camping fridges are designed to maximise space and compartment separators ensure you can clearly see what's inside. Simply plug into a battery box to start cooling. This is a huge fridge for one person, but I love cooking and being able to meal prep at the beginning of the week makes maintaining a healthy diet on long trips possible. It also means being able to carry extra tinnies to share with friends! 

  1. Water tanks in a 4x4 

A 10L water jug from Coles was the best I could do at the time. It made washing dishes impossible and when stored in a van at 30+ degrees, very un-tasty drinking water. One of the simplest solutions to all of these is having a water tank. Not only is it necessary for survival, the bigger the tank, the longer you can stay parked up at that perfect spot. A human needs an average of 4 litres of water a day, 10 litres to shower with and around 5 litres per day for washing up. A Front Runner 67L water tank -  is my pick for shape, quality and size. This means you could go roughly 3.5 - 4 days without needing to fill up again. With the added benefit of being compatible with Front Runner Roof racks, securing it properly should be a breeze. For drinking water, it’s always best to keep a few reusable bottles in the fridge and for those longer trips you’re able to dip into that roof supply.  

  1. Talk to the locals more often 

On my first day in Perth, a local Super introduced herself before borrowing some sunscreen. From that single interaction, she made my entire trip so much better. We spent hours going over where to stay, what to bring, who to avoid etc. She invited me to dinner and even lent me a sleeping bag for the colder climate down south (I’d return in a month on the way back up). It’s interactions like these that gave me the courage to meet other travellers and be open to adventures. If you are unsure about a particular person, listen to your gut. Don’t put yourself in a situation you're not comfortable with or have a bad feeling about. Other than that, chatting to surfers in carparks is by far the best insight you will get on the local area. Most people just want to share with you the best spots Western Australia has to offer, with the occasional odd ball that will talk your ear off for hours.   

  1. Safety gear on 4x4 tracks 

This one is entirely depending on what you're comfortable with doing. There are some extreme tracks out west but for the most part a basic recovery kit should do the trick. Lowering the PSI of your tires when doing tough tracks or driving on sand is always the first step. If you want to be really prepared, it’s always a good idea to carry a Dr Air 4wd compressor -  and a Mean Mother 2-1 Tyre Deflator and gauge kit -  Inflating your tires at a petrol station isn’t always an option and you may have to drive for hundreds of kms on deflated tires to do it, which is never recommend. A tire gauge helps to protect your tires from being damaged on rockier tracks and you know exactly how much air to let out. If you’re unsure what you need and want to cover every basis and every possible recovery situation on a 4x4 track, the Saber 8K Ultimate recovery kit -  has been making a lot of noise as one of the best quality all-in-one kits with kinetic rope technology that allows for 50% more stretch when towing a vehicle out of the stickiest bog holes.  

Depending on your vehicle, tools and spares may vary, so it’s a good idea to have a designated storage area free from dust and water for all your safety gear. Recovery tracks are a must on soft sand and muddy tracks. The obvious choice for quality is the Maxtrax MKII recovery boards - , their bright orange colour makes them easy to spot after being buried in mud. If you don’t want to spend too much time looking for them, it’s recommended to attach the Telltale Leashes -  before losing them in knee-high muddy water. To be honest, you aren’t going to know what you need until you get there and try it! Taking your time with choosing a line and being careful is often the best defence on tough tracks and water crossings. I’ve even used my surfboard to paddle ahead when scouting out boggy coastal tracks and don’t be afraid to turn back if it looks too deep or dangerous. Lastly, a fire extinguisher –  a small compact 1 kg dry chemical fire extinguisher is all you need to keep you safe. A fire extinguisher is an absolute must when traveling with gas or appliances. Make sure it’s easy to reach and mounted correctly near the kitchen area.  

  1. A different season 

During winter Western Australian beaches get absolutely packed. I could only get time off in the summer, which is not the most ideal time to go. The only benefit was having beaches all to myself for hours and hours. By the time I made it up to Broome, a lot of locals told me I was crazy for braving the north roads in peak wet season, but the season started late that year and by chance I had completely bypassed the bush fires in the middle. This was extremely lucky and if I could do over, I would not have been so ignorant. WA is a harsh environment all year round and many travellers fall victim to floods and dehydration. Autumn and Winter are always the best time of year to travel but staying on top of weather reports and listening to your instincts will ensure your safe return home. You are also more likely to get the most out of the wildlife, with Whale Sharks and wildflowers in absolute abundance along the coast. 

  1. Extra jerry cans for fuel 

There was a track near Shark Bay called Useless Loop, when you look it up on google, you’ll see why travellers attempt to make it out there. This track not only requires a 4wd but lots of extra fuel. A long-range tank running diesel would be ideal but according to the locals it’s always safe to carry about 40L of spare fuel with you as the nearest station is over 235km away. The ideal set up would be a 2x 20L Front Runner metal jerry cans -  and Front Runner double jerry can holder -  Make sure your extra fuel is secured; fuel is extremely expensive in this part of WA so locking it up tight is the way to go.  

  1. Roof storage on a 4x4 

Storage space was really lacking in the rental van, this was fine for one person but keeping it tidy was another story. Not to mention a surfboard I’d bump my head on every day. Roof racks would be essential next time round. The Front Runner roof tray -  options with accessories to match means there’s plenty of room for a water tank, spare fuel, a swag, recovery tracks and best of all a surfboard! Adding Front Runner expedition rails -  make it easy to strap down anything you want to store on the roof of a vehicle. Transporting rubbish on long trips was also a very difficult process. I’d often clean up parts of the beach over there to pass the time and lugging around bags of rubbish in the passenger seat was not pleasant. Being able to store rubbish securely on a Tuff Terrain rear wheel bag -  would have really made dealing with flies and seagulls that much easier.  

  1. A portable hand-powered washing machine 

When packing for Western Australia, before flying over, it never occurred to me just how dirty those clothes were going to get. White sheets are a huge no-no when traveling in a vehicle. Dust, coffee, salt water, sand and oil are all inevitably going to ruin them. I was not pulling off the homeless gypsy look back then, so next time round I’d bring with me a way to wash clothes on the go. Finding laundromats was rare and started to add up. Although I didn’t mind waiting around for my laundry to finish, if you can avoid it, you should. My choice of portable washing machines would be the Companion Ezywashing machine - . Being able to wake up and wash your clothes on a beach or in the middle of nowhere might not seem like a big deal but saving that trip into town in this part of the country can easily mean saving a whole tank of fuel. 

  1. Fishing gear or a spear gun 

Western Australia is famous for its natural abundance of seafood. It’s so common to catch your own dinner and I was lucky enough to be invited out on fishing boats on three different occasions without even trying, it’s just the norm. There really is nothing like building a campfire and cooking fresh fish over it. The smell was unbelievably memorable and by far the highlight of the whole trip. Living off the land is a very raw way to travel but anyone can have a go at it if you're following the rules. There are numerous sanctuaries and native reserves along the coast which is why the sea life is so abundant. Before you get in the water it is important to look up regulations on what you can and cannot catch, locals won’t be afraid to call you out on being greedy. WA is also known for being sharky. Learn about their behaviour and always spear with a friend. Mounting your gear is easy with a roof tray, just make sure you always wash off with fresh water before packing up. There is so much to learn about catching seafood over there, so never be afraid to ask for advice before diving right in. 

  1. A camping kitchen 

Ask any camper and they will tell you that a functional kitchen is a make or break on any holiday. I had to make do with a plastic table, a single gas burner and a chopping board as a wind guard. This became very frustrating when a meal that should take 20 minutes to throw together, took over an hour just to simmer onions. No expense will be spared this time round. Choosing a reliable burner can be a real toss-up depending on your style. I’m leaning towards a Camec Lido burner -  because there really is nothing like a crispy piece of toast with breakfast. The option of a grill is a luxury in the outdoors or on a beach. This product doesn’t come with wind guards, so depending on your set up, it’s best to have an inbuilt slide out kitchen. If you’re travelling in a 4x4 you will likely be setting up camp for a few days, so it’s always best to establish an enclosed canopy for optimal cooking conditions.  There are still so many other options to choose from, but as mentioned before there really is nothing like cooking on an open fire. So, when the opportunity presents itself chuck a grill on the hot coals and enjoy! 

  1. A comfortable swag 

Sleeping inside a vehicle has its perks, but the humidity was just too unbearable, which meant driving on very little sleep sometimes. Ask anyone who has done a lap of Australia. Sometimes simple is the best was to go. I’ve tried hard top rooftop tents; they are great, but you lose a lot of valuable storage space this way. They also require packing down if you want to move the car and run to the bottle shop in a hurry. The Darche swag 1400 -  is all the new rage apparently, pumped up in minutes and packed away neatly, this is something I’d be keen to try. Much cooler to sleep in and you can leave it set up if you want to go for a short adventure down the beach. It might be over-kill, but you can never be too careful in a state that’s famous for its wet season, so I’ve chosen to couple up with a Darche XL 100 ultra camp stretcher -  ready for the best night's sleep. 

  1. Go with friends 

Although travelling solo is life changing, going in a convoy is something I’d love to try. Sharing experiences with friends and family in the privacy of the outback just doesn’t compare to anything else. When doing 4x4 tracks it always pays to have mates around that have your back and can pull you out of sticky situations.  

  1. Bonus tip! - A key locater  

For anyone that hasn’t done a long trip like this the best tip I can give is to have a key finder attached to your car keys. I once spent two hours looking for them, ripping apart the entire van, only to find them zipped away in a GoPro case. That’s what no sleep and 6 hours of driving will do! 

It’s been a dream for so long to get back out to Western Australia and experience it in a totally different way. I hope this future rig becomes a reality someday soon and thanks to the team at Outback Equipment it really looks like it will come together. Always seek out advice before purchasing gear you aren’t sure about or just want to know if it’s right for you. The emphasis here is on connecting with yourself and nature and being able to come back with a whole new perspective on what travelling means to you. If you have a plan to do this, don’t hesitate. Lock in a date and go. 

By: Jessica Pritchard

Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up.