How can you build the ultimate 4WD for touring?
We live in a truly amazing country. There are more beautiful beaches, pristine gorges and hidden gems in Australia than you could explore in a lifetime. Thousands of people every year spend weeks at a time travelling around this amazing country, and once you’ve done it a few times you’ll understand exactly why.
Touring Australia by 4x4 is unbelievable, and allows you to see some world renowned places, and have experiences that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Whilst you can see a lot of Australia in a standard 4x4 straight off the showroom floor there is a reason why countless hours and lots of money gets thrown at 4x4s by people all around the country; to tour Australia more easily.
When you literally live out of a 4x4, there’s a lot of things that you can do which will make your life easier and more enjoyable on the road. The most important step is to build a 4x4 that suits your individual requirements. There’s no point fitting every accessory under the sun if it isn’t going to help your situation. It’d be expensive, probably put your 4x4 over weight and not necessarily make your touring life any better anyway.
What makes the ultimate 4x4 for touring?
Quick and comfortable camping setup
A bad camping setup will wreck your touring experience. There’s no way around that. The good news is there are more ways to comfortably camp today than ever before, and you’ll have a ball looking through them all.
At the end of a long day behind the wheel, you want to be able to pull up, and quickly setup a clean, dry and warm (or cool depending on the weather) place to sleep. Whether this be a roof top tent, a swag under an awning, a quick setup tent, camper trailer or you climb inside your caravan, there are lots of ways you can spend a night in the bush.
It needs to be quick setup if you are moving often, with limited effort and most importantly you have to be comfortable overnight, or you are not going to have much fun at all.
Simple, reliable, capable and safe
Australia is a big place, with lots of distance between many of the towns and cities. The 4x4 you choose must be reliable, and simple. If it requires regular tinkering, roadside repairs and trips to the mechanic your trip will not be enjoyable. There is a saying about cars – fast, cheap, and reliable; now pick two.
Reliability is paramount when touring Australia, and often that means sticking with a proven setup that is not highly modified. Despite the huge 4x4 modification industry, a large number of those touring Australia by 4x4 do not have extensive lists of modifications.
Your vehicle doesn’t have to look pretty either; it just has to be reliable, do what you need it to do and be safe. It should be well looked after, gear stored correctly and have the right safety gear as part of the vehicle.
Capability doesn’t need to be a huge lift kit and big tyres; a good quality suspension setup and light truck all terrain tyres is the perfect combination for seeing the majority of Australia. Good tyres are by far and away the best bang for your buck modification you can do to a 4x4.
Functional for traveling
When travelling around Australia, you’ll get lots of lessons in functionality. How easily can you get yourself a drink, go to the toilet, recover another 4x4, prepare a meal, or navigate to where your next stop is going to be?
There’s a number of 4x4s out there today with modifications that provide questionable functionality (form over function!), and that’s OK. The issue when touring Australia is that if your 4x4 isn’t functional, you will have a difficult trip, and that’s avoidable.
There are lots of things that make a touring 4x4 functional:
Nothing beats having some well placed 12V lights that make packing and unpacking easy, along with meal preparation and your general day to day duties. If you are driving at night, a quality lighting setup will go a long way.
Clean drinking water that is easily accessible will make your trip so much more enjoyable. Jerry cans work, or water tanks are even better. If you can walk to the side of your car and turn a tap on to get water, you are onto a winner.
You won’t find too many people touring Australia without a fridge. They are economical today, and can easily be run without too much extra expense. Nothing compares to being able to take any food you want with you, or get a cold drink out at any time of the day.
Off the grid capacity
If you can travel away from civilisation for some time, you have a functional touring 4x4. This refers to water, fuel, food, toileting and power to run your accessories. None of which are overly complicated, but they make a big difference to how comfortable you’ll be.
Protection from the elements
If you don’t have something easy that protects you from the elements, you will have a difficult and unpleasant trip. Standing out in the sun, rain or wind when you don’t want to is soon going to ruin your appetite for exploring Australia, and there are lots of ways you can avoid this. Awnings are a great option, as are gull wing canopies or gazebos.
Easy roadside stops
Pulling up on the side of the road for a break and a bite to eat in a well thought out 4x4 is a pleasure. If you can have somewhere to sit in the shade, prepare food easily and quickly and do it all without unpacking the car or having half of your luggage falling out, you have a good system.
There’s a big link between how much you spend travelling Australia and how functional your 4x4 is too. If life is easy, you have less need to stop by the local bakery or pick up fast food.
It’s a challenge to fit what you need into a 4x4 when touring Australia. Well thought out storage that makes it easy to access the things you need regularly is imperative. Drawers are fantastic but can be heavy too, so think very carefully about how you set it up.
Lots of time and thought
The common denominator that makes up great touring 4x4s is time and thought. If you’ve been doing it for a long time you probably know what works and what doesn’t, but there’s always something to be learned, and a better way to travel.
Don’t be in a rush to deck your 4x4 out – use it, see what works and where it lacks, and then make a plan to improve on it.
Towing or not
If you are towing a trailer, it’s a game changer. You’ll have to think about extra fuel consumption, weight distribution, accessibility and storage. This is a hugely popular option for touring Australia, and is mainly done with camper trailers or caravans as they provide you so much extra comfort and storage.
Built to a price
4x4s are expensive. There’s no denying that. However, you can also spend far too much modifying a 4x4. Start with a plan in mind, and think long term. At the end of the day, the 4x4 is being built to travel, and if you have no money left to do this at the end of the build then you are going to be in a pickle.
You want quality tyres, good suspension, a way of communicating, recovery points and the rest can come later if needed!
Legal in terms of mods and weight
One last point is to ensure that your 4x4 is legal. Look into the GVM, towing capacity, axle ratings and put it on a weigh bridge. An overweight 4x4 is a big problem. There are also limitations in how you can modify a 4x4 in terms of tyre sizes, suspension lift heights and so forth. Keep it legal, and you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache.
Touring Australia by 4x4 is one of the most enjoyable things you’ll ever do. Secret beaches, amazing people, incredible scenery and wildlife make it a bucket list item for all!
To follow Aaron’s adventures, click here.