What’s your camping style?

What’s your style? Do you need the best of the best and all the creature comforts of home or are you happy with just a swag, esky and the stars above you?

It’s such a personal preference isn’t it, and of course it comes down to the type of travel you do and ultimately how much you can afford as well.

When we first met and started travelling, for a few years we were just sleeping in the back of the Prado. We’d pull out the cargo barrier, fold down the rear seats and we had a piece of wood that screwed into place to make our ‘bed’. Throw an air mattress on top and we were set! Shelly even made up curtains for us! There was certainly nothing fancy about this set up, just the 4WD, an air mattress and an esky! Pull up wherever we wanted and we were set for the night. There was this one particular car park in Port Macquarie that we stayed in quite a few times …. shhhh! It was on the top of a hill, right next to a walkway to the beach and there were public toilets there too, it was the perfect overnight spot!

After a while we purchased our Waeco fridge which gave us a little bit of luxury with cold drinks and food and not having to worry about ice all the time.  For a while there, whilst we still slept in the back of the Prado, our little Waeco got it’s own little tent to sleep in!

Next we upgraded to a little 3 man dome tent which was great and we used it for years, including our first Simpson Desert trip. We had an air mattress and sleeping bags, but later upgraded to self inflating mattresses.

Finally we decided to spend a little more money on a tent (ok significantly more money!) and we purchased our Black Wolf tent which basically goes up in a few minutes. At around the $1,000 mark, this tent wasn’t cheap, but for the quality, the extra space and the speed and ease in which we could be set up, it was totally worth every cent! We still own this tent and do still use it on occasions, like our Cape York trip last year. We now also have stretcher beds to keep us up off the ground. These tents may have quite a hefty initial outlay, but the ease of putting it up, the quality of the product and the service from the company itself far outweighs that expense if you are going to be using it a lot.

Lastly in 2016 we finally caved in and purchased our brand new Cub Camper trailer.  Now this was a big investment compared to our previous camping setups, but we are so glad we spent the money. 

We had a brand new camper built just for us and we absolutely love it! We are now spoiled with storage and accessories and we sleep on a comfy double bed with a real doona!

We have a gas stove, a real sink, running water (no more making trips to and from the tap!), a freezer and so much storage space …. which in reality just means we now take way more than we need because we obviously never had the room before and didn’t miss it!

What will be our next upgrade you ask? Well definitely for the foreseeable future we will be sticking with the camper trailer, it is perfect for our needs and because we purchased a full off-road model, it is able to go anywhere the Prado does. Who knows, one day we may settle with a caravan and a little more luxury, never say never! But for now we are more than happy with what we have. Although there have been constant talks of maybe getting a swag as well to add into the mix! It would come in handy for the local overnight stays when we’ve been out 4WDing all day.

So there you go, it just goes to show that it really doesn’t matter what you have or what you can afford, you just need to make do with whatever you have at the time. Our type of travel has never changed from sleeping in the back of the car to sleeping in a $30,000 camper trailer. We are still exploring and making memories every step of the way. What you start with now may not be what you end up with, what your friends have may not suit your needs, budget or lifestyle and that’s fine. You just need to do what you can to make it happen so that you can get out there and experience our wonderful land for yourself.

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Keeping in touch while on the road

With the privilege of outback travel comes great responsibility. Recovery and medical help can be hours, if not days, away once you get into ‘remote’ territory. Travellers need to be equipped with the appropriate tools to contact the outside world should anything go wrong.  Now yes, we do live in a world of mobile phones and technology overload and this is probably the very thing you’re trying to escape by going on holiday, but there are a few very important things you should take with you if you are venturing off the highway.

With all the technology of today, we are actually in a much better position than ever before, as long as you use common sense and carry the appropriate equipment, you can be assured that you have taken all precautions possible and will hopefully be able to make contact should something happen.img_0102-1

We all rely on mobile phones, computers and social media so much these days, sometimes I think a little too much (yes, us included!), but there can be a place for it and it’s now made travelling and keeping in touch so much easier.

This blog post is intended to give you an overview of how you can keep in touch with loved ones while you are travelling and also what is required to make contact in the case of an emergency.  If you are reading this you will know that we use blogging as a way of keeping in touch with family and friends while we are away. This also has the added bonus of people like you being able to read our blog and live our holiday with us! You may not know us, but we can hopefully inspire others to travel to the amazing places we are fortunate enough to visit.

Below are a list of what we use to keep in touch with family and friends (and our social media followers) while we are away. Some are for safety, some are for communication and updates and some are just for a little fun.

Everyone has a Mobile Phone these days and they are so easy to keep in touch with people. In saying this, please don’t rely solely on this for emergencies. Australia is a big place and there is a lot of nothing in the middle of it and this nothing includes no mobile phone towers! There are plenty of places that you will not have phone or Internet reception, even in many towns.  Some people will think this is a great thing as part of getting away is getting away from technology and work aswell, so they don’t want the distraction. BUT what happens in an emergency?  What if you have an accident, someone gets sick or you get lost or break down.  IMG_9202

Telstra is by far the best provider as far as outback travel is concerned, you still won’t have reception in a lot of places, but it is available on and off in many places. We always have a Telstra phone with us.

Not only do our phones come in handy for communication, we also have our HEMA Maps app loaded onto the Iphone and Ipad.  Once loaded this app doesn’t need cellular coverage to run, which makes it perfect for our remote travels.

This was a great purchase, don’t know how we ever lived without this app now!

Satellite Phones have progressed a lot in recent years.  They’ve become much smaller and lighter and more affordable aswell.   Whether you buy a phone outright or hire one really depends on the length and frequency of your trips.  For us, it made sense to purchase a phone rather than having to hire one each time.  But if you are doing a once-off trip through remote country for a few weeks, then hiring would be much more affordable.  Also keep in mind that satellite phones do have to go on to a phone plan and call costs can be very expensive, so it’s best to thoroughly investigate all of this before making any decisions.  In Australia, we have access to four satellite networks. Two are Geostationary (GEO) systems (which the Inmarsat and Thuraya networks use) and two are Low-Earth Orbiting (LEO) systems (which the  Iridium and Globalstar networks use). The latter two seem to be the more common ones, we use Iridium.

img_0835The benefit of having a satellite phone in remote areas is that you will generally have phone reception at all times, regardless of whether there are mobile phone towers in the area or not.  Satellite phones work off the satellites, therefore, as long as you can see the sky, you can generally make a call.  Our satellite phone is used for emergencies only (luckily we’ve only needed to use it once when a friend’s car broke down and nothing more serious), but it’s always there just in case.  We also leave it on when we are out of normal mobile phone service areas for an extended period of time in case family back home need to contact us in an emergency.

EPIRBS & Personal Locator Becons (PLB) are lightweight to carry and relatively cheap to purchase.  We use SPOT, which we’ve detailed below, but there are numerous options to choose from.  In an emergency you activate your device and they transmit a distress signal, along with your GPS coordinates, to the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite network which then relays the information to your nearest search and rescue authority.

SPOT MessengerNow this one we love!  We love our ‘SPOT’, he is one of our favourite purchases (yes it’s a ‘him’ and his name is SPOT!).  There are numerous ways that we use SPOT to keep in touch while travelling.  Like the satellite phones, SPOT uses satellites to communicate, meaning that he works as long as he can see the sky.  While travelling we always have SPOT sitting on the dash recording where we are going, if we go for a bushwalk we clip him onto our backpack for safety aswell.

So, how do we use SPOT ……. firstly, we use the tracking feature.  Once you turn this on, SPOT plots where you are every so often and records a detailed map for you.  We have this displayed on our website while travelling so our family can always see where we are.  We can also then download the map and save it as a record of where we have travelled.

Then there is the Check-In button which allows you to let family and friends know you are ok.  You can customise your message and set up who you want it to go to (whether by email or SMS) before you leave home.  You then just click on the Check-In button and it sends them your preset message.  This also sends your exact GPS co-ordinates of where you are at that point.  We use this every few days if we don’t have phone reception, just so they know we are alive and well!

There is also the Help button which you also customise before leaving home as per the Check-In button above.  This would be used if you are in trouble, but not in a life threatening situation.  Eg, you might be broken down, but have plenty of food and water so not in any trouble, but it allows your family to give your GPS location to local authorities and they can go find you.

Lastly there is the SOS button.  This one is to be used in life threatening emergencies only.  By pushing this button, the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center provides your GPS coordinates and information to local response teams to act immediately.

UHF CB  Radio Due to their convenience and relatively low purchase price, this really should be one of the first things you purchase.  Whether you are travelling the outback or just spending a day in the bush with mates, a CB is one of the most handy things you can have.  Not only can you use it to keep in touch with fellow travellers in your group, but you can use it to help when passing trucks or vehicles towing.  Quite often you will hear things over the CB to warn you of traffic, accidents or incidents up ahead which can be handy.   IMG_9201

We will quite often make contact with a truck or long vehicle up ahead to advise that we are wanting to pass and they can let us know when it’s safe to do so.  We will also make contact with vehicles behind if they are going faster than us and let them know they are free to go.

When used correctly, this can be a handy piece of equipment.

Remember that there are different channels which are used for different things, so it’s handy to know this.  Generally when travelling we tend to stick on channel 40 which is the one all the trucks use (keep in mind that you do sometimes get some interesting stories and questionable language on this channel, which can be quite entertaining, but maybe not always suitable for little kiddies ears!)

We initially started our Website purely as a place to display photos when we got back from holidays and it was an easy, central location for family and friends to view them.  Our website has changed from the early days and now includes informative information for others, but it’s still as much for us as it is for everyone else.  It’s our go to place for our photos and notes from all our trips.  Since we first started the website we have moved on to blogging and using social media much more and we’ve now incorporated this into the website aswell and everything is intertwined together! Eg All of our blogs and Instagram posts are displayed automatically on our website as they are posted and Spot tracking automatically shows up on the website when we are travelling. Shelly built our whole website and manages this, so if you are a little tech savvy, you could do this too. All it takes is a little time and a yearly fee for your domain name and hosting fees. 

Blogging can be a great way of letting people know what’s going on.  To put it simply, a blog is basically an online personal journal or diary.  Years ago you would have written in a travel journal and documented your trip, but now we do it online.  You have a record of your trip that you can refer back to at any time, but it also allows you to let family and friends (and anyone who follows your blog) know exactly what you are doing.  When we are away we try to write a blog post every few days.  We use a blogging site called ‘WordPress’ for our blogs and this in turn is embedded into our georgeandshelly.com website.  People can ‘follow’ a blog and by doing so they will be emailed a copy of your blog every time one is posted.

img_0836Itinerary.  Personally we have an itinerary (or trip plan) for every big trip we do.  I know a lot of people don’t agree with this and just go day-to-day, but we like to have an idea of where we will be.  We sit down and plan out our holiday and have an itinerary for each day, but this isn’t set in stone.  Nearly every trip we make changes along the way, we add a day in here and there, skip a place or change the route altogether!  There are even people who you can pay to prepare a trip plan for you which is what we have done on occasions.  Not only does the itinerary help us, but it’s a great security measure to leave it at home with family and/or friends.  If anything unfortunate should happen, at least they have an idea of the area you should be in at any given point. 

Social MediaOK so who isn’t on Facebook these days! We all love sharing photos and posts of what we are up to with life and we all love prying into everyone else’s lives by seeing their posts!  Most of our family and friends are on Facebook so it made sense for us to create our own page “George & Shelly . off the track” to use, rather than our personal pages.  This way, anyone (not just our family and friends) can like our page and join in on our adventures and be inspired.  It’s so easy to upload a photo or ‘check in’ and let people know where you are and what you are doing at any time.  

Instagram is another social media app that is very popular.  It allows you to post photos or short videos for your followers to see.  We have been on Instagram for a few years now (georgeandshelly.offthetrack) and have gained quite a few loyal followers.  We don’t know these people personally, but it’s nice to be able to share our adventures with like-minded people, or even share ‘Australia’ with many of our followers who are from overseas.

Once you get set up using social media you will see how handy this can be.  For example, we post a photo via the Instagram app and it auto posts onto our Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr & Flickr profiles without us doing anything. 

Many people are now turning to social media outlets to find information or photos, just in the last year we have been contacted by GWN News in Western Australia asking could they use one of our photos on one of their nightly news segments and by Department of Commerce in WA asking to use one of our photos in a publication.  Both of these parties searched via social media to find photos relevant to their stories and then contacted the owners (us!) to ask for permission to use.  Just goes to show just how big and how important social media is becoming.

Who doesn’t like to receive an oldschool letter or Postcard in the mail! This is still a great way to let people know what you’ve been up too and let them know that you are thinking of them.  As a kid I collected post cards from every place we visited, it was nice to look back on these years later and be reminded of all the amazing adventures we had as a family.

Hopefully this will give you a little insight into how and why we use some of these services or devices to keep us safe and in contact with family and friends while we are travelling.  Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or let us know your own tips.

Warmer Weather = Increased Snake Activity

img_5496With summer now here and the weather definitely warming up, we need to be more alert to the possibility of snake encounters.

Our local snake catcher has been very busy in the last month or so with relocations.  Snakes are not only found in the bush, they are now venturing into backyards and city areas, so it’s not just campers who need to be alert.  This is especially important for people with young kids or animals (we have one dog who is obsessed with our pet snake and that’s not a great mix for a dog that goes out bush 4WDing with us!).  As our housing and building starts spreading further and further out, we are removing the snakes natural habitat and their food source and they are therefore venturing closer to humans.

We thought it timely to re-share an old blog post that we wrote about snakes and first aid in relation to snake bites.  Click here to read the blog Snakes ….. do you know what to do if you encounter one?IMG_5312With the warmer temperatures, there has definitely been increased snake activity and therefore the potential for snake bites.

The experts say that this summer is shaping up to be extremely busy with snake activity due to a number of factors:-

  • The increased rainfall through winter and spring has brought about some perfect IMG_5311conditions of snakes.
  • These conditions have promoted snake breeding activity.
  • The abundance of water has also promoted breeding activity for all of the small animals snakes prey upon.
  • The now hot and dry weather is the perfect weather for snakes, they like nothing better than to bask under the sun and increase their body temperature.

The main things to remember are to treat all snakes as if they are venomous, never try to catch a snake, keep quiet and still and slowly back away.  Generally snakes are just as surprised to see us and are far more scared of us and will happily slither away if left alone.

FullSizeRenderKeep your local snake catchers details handy in case you encounter one around home.  If travelling the outback, pick up one of the Snake Bite First Aid kits from Reptile Awareness Displays of Australia (RADOA) to ensure you have something available should you be a distance from help.  Of course, read up on the correct first aid tips should you or anyone around you get bitten, you can view this on our website.

Link to our previous blog post – Snakes ….. do you know what to do if you encounter one?

Camping Etiquette

The people around you can make a camping experience great or it can be your worst nightmare.

People go camping for a number of different reasons, but regardless of why you are there it’s important to respect others and the environment around you. No one wants to spend their holiday arguing with others, so by following these simple rules you can help create a happy camping experience for all involved.

1) Respect other people and their space.  This should be such a simple thing to do, but it’s something that so many people just don’t understand. It’s all about good manners and common sense (which seems to be lacking with a lot of people!)IMG_3101.JPG

Don’t set up camp too close to other people. Obviously if you are in a campground with pre marked spaces you don’t always have the option, but if you are in a free camping situation or in a large area, spread yourself out, make the most of the room! We’ve stayed on properties where there are acres and acres of camping area, yet you get people setting up camp within a couple of meters of you! Why??!

DO NOT WALK THROUGH OTHER PEOPLE’S CAMPSITES! Why is this so hard to understand? You don’t take shortcuts to the shops via your neighbour’s front yard or by jumping the back fence into someone else’s property, so why is it ok when you are camping ….. oh that’s right, it’s not!  It doesn’t matter if it takes you 5 extra steps to get to the toilet, that’s not our problem. You should walk around other people’s campsites, not through them. You should also teach your children to do so as well. Yes they are kids and they don’t understand, but they are led by example, so teach them early the right way to act.

If you do need to walk close by a campsite, at least acknowledge the people there, a simple ‘hey mate’ will suffice. At least it’s something after your whole family has just trudged through our campsite!

2) Rubbish.  This is a big one as many people seem to think that once you are away from home you can do whatever you like. So many campsites are littered with rubbish, anything from cans and cigarette butts to toilet paper, chip packets and dirty nappies. It really is a problem, it’s unsightly, it’s unhygienic and it’s the reason some of our camping areas are being closed down.

*If there are no bins in the camping ground, take your rubbish out with you and plIMG_5066.JPGace it in the first bin you find. Don’t just dump it somewhere and leave it for someone else to deal with.  These spare wheel rubbish bags are a great idea.

*Don’t leave your rubbish lying around the campsite overnight or when you aren’t there (even if it’s in a bag).  There are lots of wild animals just waiting for you to leave so they can rip open the bag and spread your rubbish far and wide.

*Don’t drop cigarette butts on the ground, put them in the bin or carry something with you to put them in.

*When you leave a campsite it should be spotless, the next people don’t want to clean up your dirty mess. Everything you bring in should be taken out.

3) Watch your kids. Kids will be kids and most people realise this and have a little tolerance, BUT at the end of the day, your kids are your responsibility and you need to teach them how to act while you are camping. Teach them not to run through campsites, not to be too loud, not to play in the bathroom. So many times we see kids acting up and parents sitting around not doing anything.

4) Travelling with dogs. Dogs are part of the family right, so why wouldn’t they go camping with you.  But there are a few points to remember, one in particular which so many people seem to forget about …….. pick up all your pet’s droppings! It’s not a nice job, but unless you can train your dog to pick it up themselves, unfortunately it’s your responsibility!  Always keep your dog on a leash if required and don’t just let them run up to everyone and every other dog. Not all dogs are friendly, and while yours might be, the dog it runs up to trying to play with might not be so friendly and the outcome may not be nice, so be careful.img_2316

Also remember that while you love your dog, not everyone else will (our little Gelly needs to learn this rule too!). Some people don’t want your dog running through their campsite or jumping in their caravan, they may not want to be covered in fur and doggy kisses or they may just be scared of dogs. Never let your dog visit someone else’s campsite unless they’ve made it clear that it’s ok.

5) Noise levels. Be respectful of your fellow campers. Yes you are on holidays and want to have a bit of fun and a few drinks, but be mindful that not everyone around you may want to do that. Remember that large groups are obviously loud, so be mindful as the night draws on and try to lower the noise accordingly. By around 10pm at the latest noise should cease (and most caravan parks have their own noise curfews of around 9-10pm). Remember that as things quieten down at night, the noise can travel far and wide, so while you think you may be away from the other campers it doesn’t mean that they can’t still hear you clearly.  Same goes for early mornings, as a general rule most campers tend to rise early and make the most of the day, BUT if you are up really early try to limit your noise so as not to disturb others around you.  If you are packing up early, do it as quietly as possible.  The other big thing is mobile phones, if you are talking early in the morning or late at night, be as quiet as possible!  We recently stayed next to someone that thought it was acceptable to talk very loudly on her mobile phone at 5.30am.  Was she in her caravan, no, because that would disturb her husband, she was wandering around outside waking up and annoying the rest of the campers!

6) Toilet. If the campground has facilities, make sure you leave them clean and tidy for the next person.  If the toilets flush, make sure you flush them!  Seems like common sense doesn’t it, but again, a lot of people seem to lack this!

img_4224If you are using a pit toilet make sure you put the lid down to avoid attracting flies (why would they want to hang out there with that smell anyway!).   Don’t put anything down the toilet that shouldn’t be there, basically if you didn’t eat or drink it first it shouldn’t be going in that toilet!

If there are no toilets and you need to do a bush wee (or the other) make sure you clean up after yourself.  This means, girls, take a zip lock bag with you so you can put your used toilet paper in it, don’t just leave it lying around.  If you are doing a No 2, go well away from any camping area and dig a deep hole to do your business in, once you are done make sure you burn the toilet paper and cover up the hole.  No-one wants a dingo or wild animal to dig up your business and spread it around, so make sure you dig a deep enough hole!

7) Generators.  All caravan parks will have rules on when and where these can be used, all will have cut off times of when they must be turned off.  A lot of national parks won’t allow them and the ones that do often have a separate area for people using them.  Even if you are in a place where there are no set rules, be considerate of your fellow campers, is there really a need to leave it running all night and annoying everyone around you?

8) Watch your speed. All caravan parks have speed limits (generally of about 10km per hour).  If there is a speed limit, obey it.  These are there for safety, particularly for kids that tend to run around.  Caravan parks are quite often very crowded and busy areas and you won’t have much chance of seeing someone as they run out from behind a tent or caravan.  They are also there to reduce dust, no-one wants to be sitting at camp and then be covered by sand/dust/dirt as you speed by.

8) Wildlife. Everyone has seen the signs that you should not feed the native animals, well there is a number of reasons for this.  One being that what we thinimg_6671-copyk might be a nice snack for the animals to eat could actually be harmful for them or even deadly.  Secondly, these are wild animals and they shouldn’t be allowed to become reliant on humans as their main food source.  What if one day there are no more humans in that area to feed them?  These wild animals need to remain ‘wild’ and know how to hunt for their food. 

Lastly and most importantly, we don’t want animals becoming too tame, as at the end of the day they are still a wild animal.  This is particularly important in the case of dingos.  While these are beautiful dogs and to a lot of people they are just a cute little puppy that looks like it needs a feed, we don’t want them to get used to being fed by humans as that ultimately could turn into someone being bitten or attacked.  It is a well-known fact that dingos that become too tame or brazen with their approaches to humans end up being killed to ensure that there is no potential for an attack.IMG_3397.JPG

 

All About Tyre Pressures

IMG_5032When you head off road, there are many things you need to think about and prepare for, but the most important thing is tyre pressures.  Whether you are out for a day on the beach, a play in the bush or dealing with mud holes or corrugated roads, ensuring you have the correct tyre pressure for your situation can mean a happier, safer and easier drive for you.

So many times we have seen others in situations that could have been avoided had they let their tyre pressures down.  It is very important to have a little know-how in this area, but do remember that you need to know what works for your vehicle.  Vehicle type, weight, tyre size and terrain will all have an effect on what tyre pressure to run.  You want to give your vehicle every chance to perform the best it can and correct tyre pressures can certainly help with this.

Factors to keep in mind when dealing with tyre pressures?

  • HeatRemember that as you drive, your tyres heat up and this in turn will increaseIMG_5752 the tyre pressure, so always keep this in mind. You may start your day at 40psi on the road, but after a while the pressure can increase to say 43psi.  In the same respect, you may have been driving and then reduced your pressures to drive on the sand to 18psi.  When you get up the next morning, your tyres are cold and you may find that the pressures are now actually a lot lower.
  • How long have you been driving for remember that tyres heat up as you are driving, and therefore, the pressure inside will go up, so always take this into account when adjusting tyre pressures.
  • Speed Generally, the quicker you drive, the hotter the air in your tyres will get, and thus the higher the pressure will go.
  • TerrainIf you are driving on rocky or corrugated roads your tyres will be flexing more than normal and this will also have an impact on them heating up quicker.
  • Weight – How heavy is your vehicle and how much extra weight have you added for this trip?  Adding more weight should be a factor in adjusting tyre pressures, but also remember that more weight will mean higher temperatures and therefore higher pressures occurring as you drive.

Why do you need to adjust tyre pressures when off road?

IMG_2031Traction is very important when driving! Losing traction (or grip) when off-road can result in sliding and losing control of your vehicle, which can be very dangerous.

Punctures are not something you want to encounter when you are driving off road. We always carry spares with us, but obviously hope we will never need to use them!  By running the correct tyre pressures for the circumstances you can lower the risk of punctures and also prolong the life of your tyres.

Floatation is important, particularly for sand driving. When driving on sand, your 4WD will want to sink and dig in to the sand, so you need to lower your tyre pressures significantly to ensure that you can ‘float’ along the top of the sand, rather than digging in and trying to push through it.  You will definitely notice the difference and it’s so much easier on your vehicle as well. This is also noticeable in mud as well and helps to preserve tracks.

Track damage is never a good thing. We all want to keep our tracks open for everyone to use and enjoy and one way to do this is by using correct tyre pressures.  If your wheels are constantly spinning because you don’t have traction, this in turn can damage the track.IMG_1957

Comfort for yourself and your passengers can be greatly improved by having correct tyre pressures. Driving on a gravel or corrugated road with road tyre pressures will result in you feeling every bump and rattle, but by reducing the pressures slightly you’ll be surprised at how much more comfortable the ride is.

How does it actually work?

When you reduce the pressures in your tyres you effectively increase the ‘foot print’ of your 4WD.  Remember that your vehicle is connected to the road purely by the four tyres, so it makes sense when you think that if you decrease the pressure, the tyre balloons out and you now have a larger area in contact with the ground …. A larger ‘foot print’.  This helps to spread the weight of your vehicle over a larger area and in turn, helps to stop it digging or sinking into the ground. The more tyre in contact with the ground surface, the more traction you should have.

IMG_3717If you think of your tyres as a balloon, you blow it up completely and put a pin to it, it will pop immediately.  If though, you only blow it up half way and do the same, it will probably take more to pop it.  This is what happens off road, if you are driving on rocky/gravel surfaces and you let a little air out of your tyres the tyre itself tends to mould or shape itself over the rock and takes a lot more to ‘pop’.

What is the right tyre pressure to run?

Well, that’s a hard one as all 4WD’s are different and many factors come into play.  It depends on your vehicle, how much weight you have on board, what size tyres you have, where you are going and what you are doing!  Personally we believe the following is a good guideline to follow.  Works for us, but may not necessarily work for everyone!

  • Road: We run our tyres at 38 psi, but you should use the tyre placard in your car as a guide for you.  Keep in mind that this will change when you have different sized tyres to standard, extra weight or load etc.
  • Beach (sand):  18 psi (you can go lower if the sand is very soft, we generally won’t go lower than 12 psi)
  • Mud:   18 psi
  • Rocks:  18 psi
  • Gravel:  28 psi  (again, depends on how rough the road is)

The above are an average of what we find works for us.  Depending on the surface we may need to go a little lower from time to time.  You will learn to read your vehicle and what works best forIMG_5044 you.  As an example, while driving on roads up around Cape York, we found that they were much more corrugated than a normal gravel road, so we found that we had the smoothest ride by running 22 psi on the front and 24 psi on the back.

Always remember

  • When your pressures are low, never brake, accelerate or turn sharply.
  • Always remember this saying, “low equals slow” ….. Meaning that the lower your tyres go down, the slower you need to drive.
  • Once you leave the track or beach always re-inflate your tyres to ‘road’ pressures as soon as you can.  Driving on the road for prolonged periods, or at high speeds, on underinflated tyres can be damaging for your tyres and can be very dangerous as well.
  • Therefore, when lowering your tyre pressures, always keep in mind that they need to be inflated again. Is there a service station close by once you leave the track? Do you have a compressor onboard?

So next time you are driving off-road, keep all of this in mind.  Knowing and having the correct tyre pressures for the terrain you are driving in is probably better than any other mod you can get, it will always get you further when driving off road, and it’s free! Not only will your passengers be more comfortable and happy, you will be safer, you will be helping to prolong the life of your vehicle and tyres and most importantly you will be protecting the tracks as well.

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Snakes ….. do you know what to do if you encounter one?

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Death Adder (highly venomous) we saw on Fraser Island earlier this year, he had just swam through Eli Creek

Do you know what to do if you encounter a snake while you are out and about?

We do a lot of outback travel and spend a lot of time in the bush and it may surprise you to know that we very rarely see snakes.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of them around, but they are more scared of us than we are of them, they do not sit there waiting for a tasty human to walk by so they can bite them!  Snakes will generally only bite as a last resort, when they are scared.

If you do encounter a snake, don’t panic, don’t go screaming and running through the bush!  Slowly and quietly back away and allow the snake to move.  Snakes do sense your vibration as you are approaching them and will generally slither away by themselves before you even realise they were there.

Snakes gain warmth by using heat sources such as basking in the sun on a warm rock or as quite commonly seen ….. in the middle of the road!  Therefore snakes are generally more active when the weather is warmer and they can raise their body heat.

How to protect yourself

  • Wear boots and long pants when bushwalking. Do not wear thongs!
  • Watch where you are walking and never put hands or feet under rocks or logs, especially important for your children’s wandering little hands!
  • When camping, always check inside your shoes, sleeping bags etc before using them as that might have seemed like a cosy resting place for a snake (or spider for that matter!).
  • Always use a torch when walking around campsites at night, never venture too far into the bush.
  • Do not handle snakes, especially an injured one.  Snakes will and do bite when scared.

Snake Bite First Aid

Australia has many venomous snakes and any bite could therefore be potentially fatal.  As it can be difficult to identify the snake, all bites should be treated as being potentially dangerous and immediate medical assistance should be sought.

What to do if you or someone around you is bitten by a snake:

  • Keep the patient as still as possible
  • Do not wash the bite site
  • Do not give food or drink
  • Do not cut or suck the bite
  • If you do not have a snake bite kit, use a crepe bandage or even clothing or towels torn into strips.
  • Do not apply or use a tourniquet

The Pressure Immobilisation Technique detailed below can greatly buy you time until you can reach a hospital or a medical team can reach you.

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This was George’s first time holding a snake (at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre)

Pressure Immobilisation Technique

Apply bandage to the entire limb immediately. Firmly bandage (with an elastic or crepe bandage) starting from the toes or fingers then continuing up the limb covering as much of the limb as possible.  Do not apply any tighter than you would for a sprained wrist.

After the limb is compressed, apply a splint. Immobilise the bitten limb with a splint, eg: a rolled up magazine, a stick from the ground anything that will help prevent muscle movement.

Keep the patient still and calm. Movement will increase venom flow. Calm reassurance should always be a main ingredient in any first aid situation.  Seek medical attention immediately.

Monitor pulse and breathing. Monitor pulse and breathing and if either cease, apply mouth to mouth or CPR until medical attention arrives.

Please note that, while pressure-immobilisation works for all snake bites, it is not the case for all other bites, so the best thing to do is undertake a first aid course to learn the exact first aid methods for all scenarios.  

Where to get more information

If you need any further information on snakes, or if you would like to buy a Snake Bite First Aid Kit, please check out our mates at Reptile Awareness Displays of Australia (RADOA).  Their website has loads of helpful hints to guide you through.

RADOA sell handy little kits which are small enough to carry on your belt or backpack or in your glove box.  Each kit contains a 15cm wide 2 metre (stretch to 4 metre) bandage, a triangular bandage plus instructions in case of a bite, all in a waterproof bag.   Currently priced at only A$10.00 per kit, plus postage & handling, they are a cheap and handy thing to have.   These can be purchased via the RADOA website http://www.radoa.com.au/shop

We keep one of these in each of our 4WD’s at all times, as well as our standard first aid kits.

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Our boy Sam, checking out the snake bite kit!

Meet Mr Sam!  Meet our pet snake, Sam.  Sam is a Childrens Python.  Now Childrens Pythons are a non-venomous snake, but that doesn’t mean they don’t bite, it just means that we don’t die when he does!  We got Sam as a baby and believe me, baby snakes bite …… a lot!  He was scared, he was in a new home, these huge human hands kept wanting to pick him up, he didn’t know what was going on, so he bit us all the time ……. because he was scared and that was his defence mechanism.

A few years down the track, Sam is the most placid snake and we can reach into the cage and pick him up, wrap him around our neck, let him crawl around the house, he hasn’t bit us in years because he’s now used to being handled.

SamSo I’m guessing you think we must love snakes so couldn’t be scared of them in the bush, well let me say that we are probably more wary of them now that we own a snake than we ever were before!  We now know the warning signs to look out for, we know how unpredictable a snake can be, we know how easily they can be startled and scared, we know how quick they can be and we have seen first hand the tiny little spaces a snake can squeeze it’s self into (yes we’ve had a few ‘lost snake’ moments!).

IMG_2934We are probably more concerned about snakes in the bush now than ever before!  I guess we used to be a little blasé, so it’s good to have a little more awareness.

The bottom line is, be wary of your surroundings and stay away from snakes and they will probably do the same!