We all had to start somewhere… here’s how not to be a tosser off-road.
Despite the absolute vast majority of us being pretty decent bush-loving folk who just want to get our families out exploring this magic country and away from the cities, the place is being locked up all around us. A lot of the flak gets directed at the younger crowd; and yeah, you do get the odd imbecile. But then I think there’s been a bit of a disconnect between knowledge of what to do in the bush, and actually getting out there.
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For most, I don’t think it’s something that’s malicious in nature; folks new to our lifestyle (old and young alike) just don’t know proper bush etiquette. When I was a young bloke, my best mate’s old man used to take us bush and taught us the ‘rules’ of four-wheel driving and camping. So if you’re new to the game, don’t be afraid to ask those who are in the know about bush etiquette; or if you’re more experienced, try instilling a bit of knowledge in those who are less seasoned – without being a patronising know-it-all about it (nobody wants to listen to those guys). Anyway, here’s a quick rundown on some of the common things a lot of 4X4 owners simply have no idea about.
Getting the paperwork out of the way first… (yep, you guessed it, taking a dump in the bush)
Ever been to a pristine campsite that’s been ruined by used loo-roll strewn everywhere? It’s just not cool.
The hot tips:
- Dig a hole. Despite making life easier to get the job done, burying it gets it well out of the way.
- Make sure everything goes in the nice little hole you just dug (including the paper)!
- Take a lighter or matches and burn the paper. Whatever you do, don’t light the surrounding bush on fire. The reason to burn it is so wildlife don’t dig it up; and toilet paper takes years to break down.
- Once you’ve done all of the above, and not set fire to The Daintree (in total fire ban areas, dig the hole extra deep), bury the evidence, go wash your hands, sit back with a tinny and contemplate your job well done.
If you’re squatting over a hole, your duds only ever go down to your knees. If you put them down to your ankles, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Camping on the beach with a fire
Living a two-minute drive from Stockton Beach’s Lavis Lane access road, you’d be surprised how often I see people packing up from having a BBQ on the beach and covering the fire with sand. If you’ve got kids, you’ll know the first thing they do (when you let them out of your truck) is go digging in the sand. The problem here is that if the last group to have left that campsite an hour before buried their fire, you’re going to be packing up real quick and heading to the hospital with some pretty decent burns for your young ones, or yourself.
The hot tips (pun intended):
- When you’re done, if you’ve got something bigger than a 600ml bottle in the truck, make a few laps down to the water and douse the fire as best you can. You’ll keep the kids entertained for hours with this one, while you pack up.
- Don’t stress out about putting it completely out, as you’d need about a thousand litres of water. The coals will hold their heat, and it’s near impossible to get the leftover timber completely cool and drenched.
- Under no circumstances should you cover the old fire. Sand is a terrible heatsink, and the heat has nowhere to escape to – so it’ll hold heat for a bloody long time. Think days, instead of hours.
- And for the one bloke reading this saying, “But what if you start a bushfire?” sand won’t burn and your fire shouldn’t be close enough to any dry scrub to worry it. If it is a little close, throw some water at it to extinguish any active flame and give the coals a decent soak.
- If for no other reason, the next people along will see where your fire was, expect it to be hot, keep the kids away from it, and maybe even use your fire to quickly kindle their own.
Don’t be a clown. Whatever you bring in, take out!
This one is the simplest of all. People throw cans, bottles, foil into the fire – with the expectation it’ll just burn off. Unless you’re building a full-blown forge or incinerator with gas injection when you go camping, forget about it. Not really much thought needs to go into this one, and if nothing else is simple common sense: If you take it in, take it out. Leave the place clean and don’t be afraid to call out the idiot throwing cans into the fire.
Don’t drive like a Derryn.*
We all know that one bloke who leans out the window and yells, “Watch me do it in 2WD” while swinging on the stubby lever, revving his poor old 2Y-powered HiLux to 8,000rpm and stepping off the clutch. Despite the fact that nine times out of ten he doesn’t make it, and sits there and tears the boghole/track to shreds, then finally admits defeat and drives out in 4WD, the other one time out of those ten he’ll spear off the track into the trees or blow his driveline to pieces. If you really want to go a bit stupid, head out onto the beach where any marks or tracks you make will be gone next time there’s any kind of wind… and express your lunacy well away from people.
Don’t get me wrong. I grew up on Stocko’ Beach as a young bloke tearing around the dunes in a 2Y-powered ’Lux and I’ve watched the dunes move, shift and change weekly over the past 30-odd years. So long as you’re not tearing up the vegetation, whatever tracks you’re leaving are gone in a couple of hours. So if you are gonna go stupid, do it somewhere any impact of it is gone in a few days. And, just as importantly, keep as far away from other people as possible.
On that note, if you’re in or around a camping area where there are kids, take it easy and just crawl around. Going ripping through a camping area will either give us a worse name, or get you a bloke twice your size explaining the finer points of bush etiquette in not so nice words. Or both.
* No Derryns were offended in the writing of this article.
When you’re on the blacktop, remember you’re driving 3 tonnes of steel
If you want to drive like you’re in a WRX, go buy one and do that. Driving your 3-tonne, Gen 1 GU with a stonking 75kW out of your ZD30 like it’s a rally car is going to get people laughing at you first, then cranky at you second because you’re driving a fourby like a muppet. And that’s just other 4WDers. We’ve all seen the 6in-lifted 4X4 with P-plates tailgating the car in front, pushing them with the bullbar, and weaving through three lanes of heavy traffic (though the weaving may be the lift’s fault, not the driver’s – what castor correction?).
The hassle isn’t so much with other 4WDers, cause sure, we’ll shake our heads; but it’s the new mum that’s got two kids in the back of the Corolla, or the 60-something with the grandkids in the back. They’ll tell everyone they know, and the next thing, we’ll be on the telly again with Sandra Sully explaining how terrible and vile 4X4-owners are as humans.
What else can we do?
There is actually a heap we can do to get our image back where it should be.
- Get involved with a local club or group. There are only about a million of them out there – head down to your local 4WD Show, chances are the right one will be there.
- Tread lightly. In every sense of the phrase. Take it easy, be careful, don’t trash the joint, and keep enjoying the bush.
- Take rubbish bags, or use your dirty gear bag as a bin. They can be had for about $50 for a halfway decent one, and they’re great for cleaning up anything you’ve brought in (and cleaning up after the other knobs who just couldn’t be bothered).
- And if you are an inexperienced off-roader reading this and you’re not sure on what to do out in the bush, ask. Chances are you’ll find more than a couple of people willing to help out and explain the rights and wrongs.