From a quick weekend beach mission to a planned outback adventure, how to make touring with others easier, safer and more enjoyable.
If you’re a solo traveller like I am, you know that being on the road alone is easier. No one but yourself to worry about, you call the shots and choose your own path. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from six months on the road is, sometimes following someone else’s tracks, can be a whole lot more of an adventure.
Safety in numbers
Every traveller or wheeler will experience a time when they find themselves in convoy. Along with additional laughs and extra fridges to share the beers between, travelling with mates has one other huge advantage, safety.
So last night, after one too many bush chooks, you and your mates hatched a brilliant plan and plot twist, in the morning, you actually remember to make it happen. The first step is communicating with those on board, and getting some organisation in place to make some mad memories.
The 5 W’s I swear by
To get organised in a way that is easy to remember, I’ve come up with Kate’s 5 W’s:
- Who? How many vehicles are making up the convoy, plus how many of your mates are along for the ride? If multiple bodies are in a single vehicle, account for everyone’s belongings and pack safely. Just because you can squish items in the vehicle, doesn’t mean they are safe while wheeling.
- What? Communicate with your convoy mates and check what everyone is bringing, this could be in terms of food, grog or activities. Discuss what type of recovery gear each vehicle has, if someone is missing something, one person is bound to have an extra.
- When? When are you planning on leaving, are you hoping to reach camp by a certain time, drive through the heat of the day or take it easy? Everyone travels differently so it’s good to make sure you’re all on the same page.
- Where? Where are you heading, what routes are you taking and where are you planning to camp up for the night?
- Weather? To me, this step is one of the MOST important. Have you checked the forecast? Have you checked whether wild weather has affected any tracks or roads you are taking? Has it been a high tide and changed a beach entry point? Will it be high tide by the time you plan to hit the sand? Weather plays a huge part in staying safe and ensuring everyone is having a good time.
The essential gear
I mention equipment, every wheeler believes some things are useful and others are a load of bull dust. There’s no debating that each vehicle should have a UHF or handheld, suitable recovery gear, spares and at least one form of satellite communication. A reminder, this is my opinion! Your gear could be as simple as it comes, as long as it works.
This leads me back to communication, in the light of any emergencies occurring, make sure you have a plan and all parties are aware of it, including medical emergencies and vehicle issues. Keeping a convoy together means not splitting up (unless completely necessary and two sat comms are available). There’s no I in convoy.
Safe separation is key
When it comes time to go wheels up, ensure safe separation between vehicles, especially if travelling on dusty tracks and arrange vehicles in a manner that aids recovery. By this I mean, don’t have a vehicle without a tow-bar in the lead, don’t have the vehicle without a winch at the rear. While conversing through UHF, act as a relay station from the front to the back and confirm information has been received by “closing the loop,” if hitting the country roads, ensure all vehicles are comfortable with overtaking road trains and hold strong communication while doing so. While arriving at turn-offs or junctions, ensure all members are in tow, informing the leader of any intention to pull over, including toilet breaks and fuel stops. Always check in on long distances and don’t hog the mic.
Invest in a decent UHF and know the different channels used around the country, channel 40 is the channel to contact truck drivers for assistance on safely overtaking. I want to stretch this piece of information out to van lifers as well, I have met copious amounts of you that seem to think you don’t need a radio. Well, spoiler alert: you do.
Ask the right questions
For newbies on the road, we all have to start somewhere. Do your research and ask people who have travelled the route or track before, but also longtime travellers. When doing my own research before I began my travels, I was lucky enough to have my stepdad, an ex-trucky and my nomad grandparents to lean on for ripper advice.
Stay vigilant on the roads and stick together, if you work as a team, you are bound to have more fun and arrive at your destination safely. When the keys are out of the ignition and the tents are up, remember to enjoy a cold frothy and appreciate the time with your mates.