‘Bakers dozen’ must-haves for 4X4 touring

By Mark Allen 11 Min Read

I’ll always advocate purchasing quality gear from reputable brands and suppliers rather than buying el cheapo bargain-based garbage. However, it’s simply not necessary to hock yourself to the hilt to deck out your 4×4 steed. 

My must-haves list is certainly far from exhaustive. It also needs to be altered depending on your specific vehicle, especially regarding particular tools and spare parts. Still, I’d bet my bottom dollar this top 13 list of must-haves would cover most of the necessities for getting out and about in our great country. 

Kids with marshmallows around campfire

1) A little humour, etiquette, common sense and a sense of adventure

If you can’t bring all these with you on any 4×4 trip, stay home or visit your local shopping centre. 

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Sooner or later, you will get bogged, geographically misplaced, knock a bit of bark off your shin (hopefully not too severely) or require vehicle or personal repairs. 

Don’t bugger the bush for the next person. Leave it as you found it. Or better still, fix something that isn’t right instead of leaving it for someone else. 

Idiots ripping up the bush, drunks annoying fellow campers, driving on closed tracks, creating bonfires to cook a sausage only give authorities a reason to close tracks.

Recovery gear

2) Recovery gear

The contents of your recovery gear may vary. However, the minimums of a long handle shovel, correctly rated straps/ropes and shackles, plus some means of helping to move your vehicle forward or rearward is paramount. That opens up a plethora of gear but generally includes recovery /traction boards (brilliant on most terrain) and a winch (electric is easier than a manual version, although the manual hand winch can pull rearwards and sideways).

Don’t leave it to learning how to use your gear when you’re in the heat of battle and rushing to get yourself out of a bog. Make sure you are well-versed in safely using all your recovery gear. It only takes one minor slip-up to end in disaster.

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Shoe on tyre

3) Footwear

I always carry three types of footwear for myself: Double Pluggers are my preferred protection for casual wear (rubber soles and roll bars built in), but I always wear either steel-capped boots or hiking boots when straying away from the vehicle.

While fitting boots, or tyres, to your 4WD may depend on the terrain you’re aiming at; a good LT rated all -terrain is your best bet. They’ll get you to most places, offer decent on-road handling and return excellent puncture resistance.

4) Communication

Keep in mind the shortcomings of a mobile phone when away from major cities and town centres, but at least try to use it in an outback emergency. If nothing else, load an app that utilises the GPS or have some way of knowing your location via coordinates, latitude and longitude or other information from a mapping app.

Technology is on our side these days with the availability of Satphones, EPIRBS, UHF radios and the increasing number of GPS positioning devices available.

Snake bite first aid kit

5) First aid kits – two of them!

One for the vehicle and one for the people are two must-haves. Yep, carrying a comprehensive list of spare parts without overloading, plus the tools and knowledge on how to use them, is paramount. Any 4WD can break down, and having the basics with you may get you out of strife. Even if you can’t fix the problem, a fellow traveller can help you if you ask nicely. Remember to undertake a comprehensive pre-trip check-up; if you can’t, get it to a dedicated 4×4 mechanical workshop to cast their eyes over your vehicle.

A first aid kit catering for the people in your group, plus the remoteness of your trip, plus knowing how to use it, is crucial. Remember a dedicated snake bandage. Consider doing a first aid course; even better if a few people in your party do it. 

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Bull bar

6) Bull Bar

The Bull Bar is always one of the first items I like to have fitted to my 4WD. While it’s not a ticket to slam into everything, it does provide a good protection from animal strike and minor brushes with Terra Firma. Plus, it’s a perfect spot to lean on while you’re pouring over the maps you’ve got spread over the bonnet. 

Driving lights

7) Driving lights

While many will preach that you shouldn’t drive at night, that’s only sometimes feasible. A decent set of driving lights will help you keep safe while on and off road. Beware of overly blue (looks bright white), high temperature/high kelvin rated light outputs, as they tend to increase eye fatigue and don’t allow for easy viewing of that part of the colour spectrum that most of our rogue night-time-wondering animals tend to be… brownish, orangish. 

Food being cooked

8) Food

While I’m no fancy cook, I like to eat well on the road rather than scoffing down a can of baked beans.

Meat is easily stored if frozen or cryovac, which seals and helps rid the sloppy mess and provides longer storage periods without being frozen. There’s no reason you can’t eat similar fresh food to what is dished up at home with all the 12-volt fridges on the market. 

REDARC Battery

9) Battery power

Battery power is one of my must-haves as its crucial in this day and age. If you’ve got a 12-volt fridge, you need a dual battery system and a decent-sized secondary battery to last the distance. Of course, if you’re driving daily, you have no problems replenishing the battery. Still, if you choose to camp in one spot for more than a couple of days, you need to think about alternate power sources, along with the latest lithium instead of lead-acid batteries.

Solar panel

10) Solar panels and generators

Solar panels and generators are must-haves. They’re the two main ways of keeping the batteries topped up, other than the alternator while driving. I’ve relied on solar panels for years and have never been caught out with a dead battery. If you’re going the generator route, please consider fellow campers by not running them nearby at night, as noise travels so much more in the still air of a perfect campsite. Remember the fuel to keep them going.

11) Accessories

Apart from the aforementioned bull bar and driving lights, the other component I always change early on in owning a 4×4, is suspension. Factory original suspension (springs and shocks) is no match for quality aftermarket replacements, especially when you’ve got a load on board. A snorkel should be high on the list, not just for river crossings, but it helps deliver cool, clean air into your engine. Differential and gearbox/transfer case breathers, especially if you’re tackling river crossings, are a great idea to prevent costly repairs.

An air compressor, gauge, and puncture repair kit always get a place in my 4WD must-haves, regardless of the terrain. Maps, maps and more maps; you can never have too many maps and having them digitally makes navigation so much easier. While you might get lost, at least you’ll always know where you are!

12) Tell-tales

Many conform to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” theory. I’d rather know what’s going on with my 4WD’s vital organs so I might pre-empt any problems that may occur, which is always at the worst possible moment in the worst possible place – Murphy’s Law. I’ve got aftermarket gauges to monitor both batteries voltages, engine and gearbox temperatures, as well as turbo boost and exhaust gas temperatures. If a gauge starts to read differently from the norm, do something about it as soon as possible. You can easily guess why this is one of our must-haves.

13) Storage

You can’t go away without taking your favourite toys; where’s the fun in that? Be it the kid’s games, the good cooking gear or your fishing rods. Leave them at home, and you’ll regret it. But you’ll need somewhere to store your gear.

It’s hard to beat a set of dedicated storage drawers for a proper touring four-wheel drive. Storage drawers allow you to make the most of the available space you have, as well as give a home to items you use (or used to lose) regularly. You’ll always know where your gear is when you have storage drawers.



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