Photo: Régis Matthey
1. Do your laundry while you drive.
There is one benefit to the rough and tumble roads of Australia’s Outback: they make a great substitute for your usual wash cycle. Keep a big container (with a solid lid) of water and detergent in the back of your ute and wash your dusty, dirty clothes while you drive. Let the bumps do all the hard work. After you find a place to roll out your swag for the night, just pull out your clothes, give them a quick rinse, and hang them out to dry.
2. Say goodbye to relying on technology.
When driving through the Outback, you will have no cell service for full days of travel. Yep, you heard me. No more Facebook. No more iMessage. No more Spotify. Be sure to get a GPS device or get to know some good old-fashioned maps to keep you on track toward your destination because Google Maps will not get you there this time.
3. Buy a swag straightaway.
Don’t bother with a tent and sleeping bag when roughing it across the Outback. The Aussies designed the perfect solution to setting up camp in seconds: the swag. Made from weatherproof canvas, this carefully crafted mix of tent and bedding rolls out instantly and is ready for you to crawl in and drift off to sleep in any random patch of dirt you find. Make sure to get one with a full length mesh layer to keep cool during the harsh summer heat (and keep the mosquitos away).
4. Invest in a quality esky.
Shit gets hot in the desert. If you don’t have an esky (cooler) easily accessible, you’re doing this whole road tripping thing wrong. Cold beverages and unmelted chocolate will keep you going through those endless patches of red dirt and gum trees. For the real savvy travelers, invest in a cooler than plugs into your car and refrigerates while you drive. Nothing better than an ice cold XXXX or VB when you pull off for the night.
5. Road trains are appropriately named.
When you find yourself driving behind a semi-truck, heed the “Road Train” warning sign hanging between the tail lights and think twice before gearing up to pass. This is not your standard semi; it is five of them strung together to create a massive road warrior ready to smash your speck of a vehicle whenever you let down your guard. Don’t let them psych you out! Just wait for the right moment when nothing else is in sight and put the pedal to the floor. It’s much better to enjoy the endless open desert road when you’re not stuck crawling behind these cities on wheels.
6. Four-wheel drive is not optional.
Unlike most developed countries, Australia’s national highways don’t always live up to normal standards. Don’t be alarmed when the one major road randomly turns from pavement to dirt for several kilometers. Plus, it’s no fun exploring the desert from the main drag! Pick up a 4WD map and head out on a real adventure through the sunburnt soil.
7. Fuel is not something to be taken for granted.
Waiting until your fuel gauge reminds you to fill up is not an option in the Outback. With service stations scarcely scattered across the desert, you never know when your next chance to fill up will come along. If your car doesn’t have a long range fuel tank, make sure to pack a couple containers with extra petrol. No one wants to be stranded on the side of the road with 300 kilometers to the next servo…
8. Pick up proper sun gear.
Don’t ignore the rumors of Australia’s cancer-causing UV rays. They are beaming down from everywhere ready to singe your skin. Invest in some polarized sunnies and a quality Acubra hat before hitting the road. Oh, and don’t forget to put sunscreen on your window-side arm or it’ll be burnt before you can say Coonabarabran (or whatever fun-to-say town is coming up next).
9. Always keep a knife in your car.
There will always be a need for it. If you’re one of the (un)lucky ones that happens to have a minor run in with a kangaroo, emu, cow, or dingo, you might need to switch into Crocodile Dundee mode and humanely put your roadkill out of its misery. Or maybe you just need to slice open some cheese. Either way, don’t head Down Under without a sharp knife and the ability to use it.
10. Give up and make friends with the black flies.
They will not go away. They will fly into your eyeballs, up your nostrils, around your eardrums, and straight down your throat. If you feel them tickling your arms, feel lucky and let them be. If disturbed, they might remember how much they love to infiltrate your facial cavities.
11. Don’t wait for the next service station to go pee.
Have a fear of dropping trough on the side of the road? Get over it fast or your bladder is going to hate you. Pack a shovel and toilet paper in an easily accessible part of the car for those post-coffee BMs and get used to being violated by those friendly black flies anytime you need to make a bio break.
12. Be weary of all snakes and spiders.
Yes, Australia has a shit ton of deadly animals. And yes, you’ll probably run into some of them on your trek across Oz. A general rule of thumb is that venomous snakes can’t climb, so if something is in a tree, you’ll be fine. If it’s curled up next to your swag in the morning or weaving a web over your head at night, be weary. The next hospital is most likely too far away to save you.
13. Stock up on snacks and water at every opportunity.
As stated before, service stations are few and far between. If you’re known for bad bouts of “hanger,” make sure to pack lots of snacks. Who knows, that Violet Crumble might be the one thing that saves your relationship from an epic road trip blowout. Be sure to wash those snacks down with heaps of water as well. Dehydration can definitely ruin your day, so make sure to fill those bottles up to the brims any chance you get.