Fresh from a three-week trip to The Tip, Unsealed 4X4’s Matt Scott takes us through the gear he used
For many four-wheel drive enthusiasts, Cape York is the trip of a lifetime.
Whether you are heading up the Old Telegraph Track, going for a cruise on the Peninsula Development Road, or intent on exploring those little sidetracks to parts unknown‚ it’s important to have the right gear. While there’s plenty of room for fun and enjoyment up the Cape, there’s also little room for error. It’s isolated, so invest in quality products.
S/T MAXX Tyres
Whether you’re commuting to work or exploring the bush, a quality set of tyres is one of the most important upgrades you can make to your 4X4. If you’re not sure where you are going on the Cape, or exactly what conditions you’ll encounter, you’re going to want a tyre that’ll handle almost anything you throw at it. We used Cooper’s Discoverer S/T MAXX, as it is a proven choice and a great all-round tyre. Its medium-void tread pattern is aggressive enough to handle the muddy bits and has enough surface area to float above the sand, yet also provides plenty of traction on bitumen.
Price varies by size, coopertires.com.au
Cape York is filled with soft sand, muddy tracks, and slippery creek crossings. So there’s a good chance you’re either going to get stuck, or you’ll need a little help to make sure you don’t get stuck. MAXTRAX lift you up and out of the dirty bits and keep you moving forward. They’re tough, and almost anyone can use them – another important feature if it’s just you and the family (who might not be trained on more complex recovery equipment). They make quick work of beach recoveries, and if you’re on the Telegraph Track, they’ll make getting up some of the steeper creek crossings a piece of cake.
MSA Water Bra
This keeps as much water as possible out of your vehicle’s vulnerable engine compartment by creating a water barrier that takes less than 10 seconds to fit. Constructed from 420 denier PVC-backed nylon, it’s designed to put up with the repeated abuse your 4X4 will put it through. It also helps to create a better bow wave, reducing the level of water your vehicle actually drives through. For those tricky water crossings in Cape York, this could mean the difference between a big tow bill and continued adventures.
Don’t Forget to Call Home
Mobile service isn’t brilliant in Cape York – and that’s great! But if you absolutely must make a call, then you’ll want to look into a satellite phone. We used a phone on Thuraya’s network, which covers Australia in its entirety, and had great service throughout Cape York.
Overloading Your Suspension is Bad News
On your trip up the Cape, you’ll see long distances on shock-killing corrugated roads with spring-sagging heavy loads, and muddy technical terrain thrown in for good measure. On our trip, we had quite a few vehicles in our group with suspension setups ranging from Terrain Tamer to TJM to Old Man Emu, and we experienced no failures. However, even the best suspension systems will fail if they are improperly selected or overloaded. If you carry a heavy-duty load, make sure you have a heavy-duty system. Fit airbags if your load requires it.
Still Need a Paper Map
Even though our main form of navigation in Cape York was HEMA’s suite of digital map apps for the iPad, there was something special about their paper map for the region. Not only did it prove to be a great souvenir, it was also incredibly handy for when you’re out of the car, trying to figure out which of the stunning sights you’d like to visit next. Passing an iPad around the campfire just isn’t the same.
There’s a good chance your headlights and auxiliary lights will come back from Cape York filled with water and looking like fishbowls. That’s because most lights are water-resistant, not waterproof. If you’re buying lights before your trip up the Cape, you’ll want to make sure they’re rated to be submerged.
If you drown your diffs in water, your oil will break down rapidly and your ring and pinion gears won’t have the lubrication they need to work. Fitting diff breathers relocates your important factory differential vents to a higher location that’s less likely to get flooded during a creek crossing.
Your Engine Needs Air
Your engine doesn’t like to run on water. In fact, it hates it. If you’re trying to drive through a deep water crossing without a snorkel, you’ll almost be sure to hydro-lock your engine, rendering it as useful as a boat anchor. There are several options on the market, and you’ll want a quality unit as almost all of them require the cringe-worthy task of drilling into your bodywork. Look for UV-stable materials, quality engineering, and durable construction.
Rubbish With You
Cape York is not your personal rubbish bin. If you use it as one, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will make you clean up your mess. Or you can just get a spare tyre rubbish bag and carry your junk out with you. They’re cheap, easy to use, and they keep those nasty smelling bits out of your vehicle’s interior. There’s dozens of them on the market. Find one that suits you and use it.
Enjoying a drink
You can have a good time on the Cape, but it’s important to recognise that most of the area is under some form of alcohol restriction. Generally speaking, you’re okay to have a reasonable amount of alcohol for personal consumption, but read the signs and stipulations for each area.
Simple Advice for the Cape:
1 Pack only what you need. Less weight means better performance and fuel economy.
2 Give your vehicle a
thorough check before
you leave and replace
anything that is suspect.
3 Carry spare oil and fluids.