Despite some seasonal track closures, there are still places you can 4WD in the Victorian High Country if you do your research. If you can get there, you’re guaranteed an adventure you soon won’t forget. As the old saying goes, “with great power comes even greater responsibility”, and the responsibility of you and your travelling party is to be prepared.
Winter driving presents different challenges to summer driving in the Victorian High Country – one minute you could be on a lovely dirt track and the next your 4WD could be buried axle deep in mud. By having these seven really simple bits of equipment with you, you’ll go a long way to ensuring a fantastic time in the Aussie bush.
We hope you see some snow but please respect those seasonal track closures and don’t forget these 7 things you’ll need for any Victorian High Country 4WD adventure.
#1 – You’ll need a chainsaw up here in the Victorian High Country
Fallen trees in the Victorian High Country are a given and you’ll encounter trees blocking the 4WD tracks. If you’re lucky, someone will have beaten you to it and removed the offending wood. However, we wouldn’t advise surviving off luck. So while we definitely recommend having a chainsaw on your trip, ensuring it is in good condition and knowing how to use it safely are even bigger considerations.
A chainsaw course is a brilliant idea and at least one member of your group should be certified. The elephant in the room here is legalities. In national parks, carrying a chainsaw is not permitted. It pays to contact the park’s office of the areas you are travelling through to see what their take on the matter is before heading off.
#2 – Alpine diesel could save your bacon – or at least get your car started
If you own a diesel-powered 4WD and are visiting the Victorian High Country in winter, you need to run alpine diesel. If you don’t, I can assure you your 4WD will be pretty darn unhappy in the morning if you’re parked up for a few days. The reason for this is diesel waxes or coagulates at approximately 1-2°C (it gels up, basically). This blocks fuel filters and lines, resulting in poor running – if the vehicle starts at all.
The good news is that alpine diesel is available out of the pump at most service stations in the Victorian High Country. So you don’t need to do anything different, just remember to use it when filling up before heading for the hills. Alternatively, you can use additives and carefully mix your own.
Heating oil is another option according to online forums but when there is fuel readily available, it begs the question as to why you would bother. If you do have trouble starting your 4WD in the morning, you will need to warm the fuel system somehow. Of course, we’re not telling you to light a fire under your fuel tank either … that’s bad advice. Warm water or waiting for the sun to do its thing is the smart call.
#3 – Your mum is right, you need to pack warm clothing
As a good mate of mine once told me, there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. You will need some very substantial warm weather gear when you 4WD in the Victorian High Country. The big thing to remember is to have good quality warm shoes and socks. You can rug up or get warm around a fire but your feet still need to touch the ground. A woollen beanie and a weatherproof jack are another solid investment. You will experience all seasons in one day from the sun to snow so it’s not just about keeping warm, keeping dry is just as important.
#4 – Invest in a waterproof paper map
GPS units and apps are fantastic these days but as far as I’m concerned, a good paper map is still a very handy addition in the Victorian High Country. Rooftop or Hema maps are available cheaply and readily from service stations, 4WD stores and tourist information centres throughout the region and I wouldn’t travel without one.
A quick look online at HemaMaps shows the Victorian 4WD High Country maps sell for about $15, which is beyond cheap insurance. A paper map makes planning your adventure easier as you can lay it out and get an overview of the trip you’d like to do. I’d still recommend a GPS but for the cost of two pies at Omeo Bakery (worth a stop, by the way) a paper map is hard to beat. Also, it makes a great souvenir for later.
Pro tip … buy the waterproof version of your map.
#5 – Bring the right recovery kit … no, I don’t mean Berocca
I feel you can sometimes bring too much recovery gear and not what you will actually use. If you don’t have a winch, why do you need a snatch block and extension strap? Now, I know that isn’t a popular thing to write but hear me out as I’m certainly not saying don’t bring recovery gear. If you’re travelling in a group, share the load. You won’t need a full recovery kit per vehicle as that’s extra weight that you don’t need to lug around. However, if you’re travelling on your own and have a winch, then yes, bring a full kit.
A bit of pre-trip planning will go a very long way here. So, what would I suggest? Here are my 10 most used 4WD recovery items in the Victorian High Country. Also, please ensure you have rated recovery points front and back, that should go without saying.
- A shovel
- Recovery tracks (bring one for each wheel)
- Correctly rated snatch strap (per vehicle)
- Recovery damper
- Rated shackles
- Drag chain (handy for moving trees)
- Winch extension strap
- Tree trunk protector
- Snatch block
#6 – Bling up your tyres with snowchains
If you’re planning on visiting the Alpine National Park in the Victorian High Country with your 4WD you will need to carry snow chains. Diamond-pattern chains are the widely accepted type of snow chain for Victoria and many Alpine Resorts won’t let you past the gate if you have ladder pattern and spider chains. So while snow chains won’t apply to all, it’s something to put on your radar as the cost of purchasing or hiring them could hurt the alpine diesel budget.
If you’re hiring chains, have them show you how to fit them to ensure a good fit. Once installed, please keep your speed down to 20 or 30km/h or whatever speed is recommended to you. If you can hear the chains making anything other than a rumbling sound, they are most likely loose and will need adjusting.
#7 – Swap your butane cooker for a liquid-fuelled cooker
You know those small butane lunchbox cookers that every 4WDer seems to have? Yeah, they suck in cold weather, take my word for it. Even if you can get it to ignite, it will struggle to boil water. Sure there are ways around this, like warming the canisters in your jacket but the reality is butane (even when mixed with propane), doesn’t perform well in cold weather.
The preferred cooking source for really cold climates is liquid-fuelled such as a kerosene cooker. Or use that fire you should have roaring! I always bring my Biolite 2 stove with me personally, as it uses small sticks and leaves to heat. This saves carrying additional fuel too.