Your 4wd camper hire, may be the first time you’ve driven a 4wd vehicle. Whilst it is likely to be one of the best adventures of your life to get off the beaten track in outback Australia, there is always the risk that you might get the vehicle stuck out there. To help you get out of these situations you are going to need to know what recovery gear is and when you need it to use it.
What your 4wd Camper Hire Should Come With
The major 4wd camper hire companies in Darwin supply some camper recovery gear as standard or as an extra option. Recovery gear really is not an “option” when going 4wd-ing so if your quote doesn’t include it, find out how much it is to include it in the hire and add in on to your budget.
The item that all the major 4wd camper hire companies supply with their 4wd campers is a safety beacon, also known as an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon). This is a small device about the size of a walkie-talkie that, when activated, will send a distress signal that gets picked by satellite. It is a use-once device and costs a couple of hundred dollars. You will be charged if you use it, so don’t use it unless it is a real emergency. Not only will you be charged by the hire company, but an aircraft will be sent out to look for you – you are likely to be charged for that too if you are just playing around with it.
After this item, what is supplied by the 4wd camper hire companies changes a bit, but here are some of the items that they supply and what they are for:
Shovel: The bigger the better. The bench seats in 4wd campers are quite long and it is a good place to store a shovel in the cavity underneath. Chances are you will be given a folding shovel by the hire company, if you have access to a bigger one, it is suggested that you take it too.
Snatch Strap with D shackles: This is a long strap that is designed to help one vehicle pull another out of a bogged situation. It looks much like a flat firehouse and and it quite elastic. As the pulling vehicle moves away and the strap reaches full length, it will stretch a little before reaching maximum length and jerking the bogged vehicle out of position. D shackles are solidly made metal hooks in the shape of a D that are used to attach the snatch strap to the anchor point of the camper. It is very UNWISE to use a tow ball as an anchor point – it breaks off too easily and becomes a missile. If using the tow bar region, dismount the whole tow bar and use the tow bar anchor point as the snatch strap anchor point. As you can see, you need another vehicle around to recover a camper with this method.
Air Jack: an air jack is like a giant, toughened balloon. It is inflated by running a pipe (included) from the exhaust pipe to the bag. You put the bag under the bogged camper and it will lift the vehicle up as the bag inflates. You then fill in the tyre ruts with dirt, sand, sticks or whatever you can find to drive away. This can save hours of digging the campervan out.
The most likely thing that will happen to you in your hired 4wd camper is that you will blow a tyre (tire). You are not likely to blow the tyre when going slowly on really rough roads or in boggy situations, it is more likely you will blow it when you are on a sealed or dirt road. This being the case the ground will be hard and it will be easy to use this jack to change the tyre in fashion that is was manufactured for.
Hi-lift jack: This is a special kind of jack that can lift the campervan significantly higher than the normal bottle jack. It is designed for use when you need to lift the camper out of holes or are on uneven or boggy ground. The jack doesn’t go under the car, rather to the side of it and then it inches it up. Use this to get out of bogs by lifting the car out of the hole and then fill in the hole and drive away.
With a chain in your aresenal this can also be used as a winch. It won’t get the camper too far but if you only need to move it 3 ft to be able to get some grip with the tyres it can be very handy.
Jacking plate: a jacking plate is a plate that is used to put under a jack, particularly a hi lift jack, when you are on soft ground and the jack is likely to sink in the ground before you lift the camper. Some 4wd camper hire companies supply this when they supply the hi-lift jack.
Tyre pressure gauge with Tyre valve tool: this is not so much recovery gear as much as preventative gear. It also wont’ be supplied by the 4wd camper hire company. When travelling on dirt roads it is essential that you lower the pressure in the tyres. Put simply: if you drive dirt roads with full pressure in your tyres, you will blow a tyre. In the case of a 4wd camper hire, you will be paying for a new tyre. It is cheaper to stop in to a fuel station or a car accessories store and spend $20 on a tyre gauge with a little spigot to let air out of the tyres before you hit the road. A new tyre will set you back at least $80 and lost time. The best and simplest explanation of tyre pressures for dirt roads can be found at the Oodnadatta Pink Roadhouse site. Download it, read it , print it, keep it, obey it!
One last thing, the most important thing to do before heading off to the outback is to let somebody know where you are going and when you expect to be there – family, friends, facebook, whatever. If going somewhere really adventurous from a town that you plan to come back to, you can even tell the local ranger or police. Better to be safe than sorry. People die in the outback all the time.