NT Planning a lap on Highway 1 - Including the Savannah way

Jan 14, 2019
28
17
3
Victoria
#1
Hey,
I'm planning to do a lap around highway 1. I've got 3.5 months off work, from the start of July to early October. We will be traveling anticlockwise starting from Melbourne. Our two kids who are both at the tail end of primary school who will be coming!

My van is a new Jayco expanda outback - a 17-56.2. It has a 160w solar upgrade which, along with the shower and toilet should help us be more independent when free camping. The tow vehicle is a 2013 Pajero thats in good condition with 140k on the clock.

I've been doing a lot of research on the route, and we would like to have a crack at the scary bit: The Savannah way, across the top of the NT! The road includes some significant unsealed sections, including river crossings. I've never done any serious 4WDing, but I would like to give the Savannah way a try. Its one of the reasons we went with the outback model. Our current plan is to research, learn and keep an eye on conditions across the top as we get nearer. If by the time we reach Normanton its looking like the Savannah way isn't for us, we can always divert south through Cloncurry, Mount Isa and the Three Way roadhouse. This would keep us on sealed roads the whole way.

Given my lack on 4WD experience doing a course is a must - and I would appreciate peoples suggestions on good courses to do in Melbourne.

The main thing on my mind though is what gear to bring! There is a huge list of potential extras to pack. So far my list looks like:
  • External solar panel and plug - Already fitted to the van!
  • UHF radio mounted to the car - Done.
  • Solid rubber car floor mats - Already fitted to the car!
  • Various essential caravan bits like sulage hose, water hose, ground mats, etc - Done
  • Bump up the dust protection by sealing everything and securing all the pipes underneath the van - In progress
  • Weight distribution hitch for the onroad bits - Working on fitting one. Got some space to stash it all when we go offroad.
  • A toolkit - Putting one together at the moment. Including all the essentials like loads of duct tape, cable ties and rope!
  • Air pump and tire repair kit - Sounds essential, but the good ones seem HEAVY. Will probably pick up a 170l/min unit soon though.
  • Handheld UHF radios - Still wondering how much to spend and what wattage to get. Will probably buy some 1 or 2w versions soonish
  • A better jack, possibly a high lift jack. The high lift jacks equally fascinate and terrify me. Seems they are great tools for separating cars from mud, and bits from your body! I'm wondering if I actually need one, or what a better alternative would be?
  • Recovery tracks - I guess I need these? Wondering how much I should spend?
  • Snatch straps, rated shackles and other pieces of recovery kit - Again, do I need these?
  • A Winch - Wondering if I need this? Potentially a high lift jack can winch us out if we are super desperate? Or if somebody comes along they can pull us out with snatch straps?
  • Shovel - Again, no idea how much I will really need this
  • Spare water and fuel jerry cans - No idea how essential this is? Seems like there will be some long sections with no fuel on highway 1.
  • Stone protection - Kinda worrying if it will fit and if we can take the weight at the moment. Would probably get a mesh stone shield on the front of the van.
  • Spares for the car. I've seen suggested: Oil, Coolant, spare radiator hoses and fan belts - Which seems kind of crazy, but who knows?!
  • Saw for firewood - Seems a shame not to throw this on the pile of bits! Particularly since we enjoy camp fires!
I think I'll be able to make a better call on what I actually need after doing some 4WD courses and gaining some experience. However I'm interested to get everybody else's perspective. It's beginning to dawn on my though, that if I brought every possible bit of kit, I'm going to need a second car just to carry it all!

Luke
 

Drover

Well-Known Member
Nov 7, 2013
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Cooloola Coast, QLD
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#2
Recovery gear being snatch straps etc, if you know how to use them a strap, and some shackles yes, if you don;t know how to use them don't have them, they can kill you, easy as pie......................You also need recovery points on vehicle and van if your going to use these things the rings and things that come with the vehicle shouldn't be used as they can break, ideally 2 points on the front so the load is shared between the chassis rails, pulling off one can stretch things, snatch from tow bar can be iffy but we all do it just not off the ball,.....................I travel with a snatch strap, bridle and 3 large shackles, shovel only any good if someone there to tow me, usually used to help others......traks can be good, are light but easily destroyed.

I have had a HI Lift Jack for 45 years, on the old 4x4's it got used, not so the modern ones as no where to lift from and where I used them you wouldn't take a van once again they are very dangerous and can take you out or leave some damage to a vehicle, its heavy and would possibly never get used BUT if your van has a Scissor Jack then throw it in the bin and buy a bottle jack for your van, it will lift your van easier and way safer than a dangerous scissor jack....the scissor jack must have a hard flat surface to lift from and any sideways movement it will topple over.

Car spare, hoses and belts a must along with some engine oil, fuses and spare hose clamps, if you get a mechanic to fix having the right spares on you can save a week or so sometimes.
Shovel always needed.

Winch, waste of money and expense, they can also get you in deeper Doo Doo, they are also an item that you need to know what your doing, a winch needs other gear as well for it to perform at its best.......when outback trees are scarce so a shovel is needed to bury your spare.

UHF in car good, handhelds for guiding driver or carrying if you split up on walks, not any good for calling for help though, limited range even with a 5watt, for emergencies a HF or rent a Satphone.

If you need a WDH then fit one but only if its needed , you use them on sealed roads as well as dirt roads just take them off when driving white knuckle dirt roads.

Savannah Way is a decision you would make at the time it could be a lovely dirt road or the road to hell, if its been damp it will be closed.... notify local cops when travelling it.

Tool Kit, is a personal choice depending on handiness, I used to cart enough to strip down my engine, now basic spanners and stuff, charged phone and a full Bic lighter.... oh and insurance up to date..................duct tape, zip ties and some locking wire a must.

Sealing up underneath van good idea anyway, dont seal the external fridge vents but do remember to put the plugs in sinks/shower etc forget them and the air rushing past the drain pipe can cause a venturi effect and a low pressure in van which will suck in the dust.......test run on the odd dirt road is the best way, rear light wiring loom is a good spot to bring dust inside van.

Since you like camp fires, then 2 things always check what the Fire Warning is and carry a bucket so you can put it out with water when you leave the fire, dont bury a fire, too many folks get burnt feet later on and bush fires can be started as the fires burn thru the dirt........................biggest problem at free camps is you go to set up and someone has buried a fire in the spot.......

A Jerry can of fuel and some water as back up is a must when west of the Newell I reckon not forgetting funnels for both..
Air compressor and tyre repair kit is a must I have used mine quite a few times, if you can change tyres then a rubber mallet and levers, being able to plug a puncture can be just whats needed to get to town.....oh spare wheel nuts too....in a lot of cases if you have the gear, someone coming along will know how to use it, have helped out folks and was quite happy as they had the equipment, I had the knowledge and didn't have to use my own stuff............
.
Your list is good, I have found just the basics is better, less weight, takes up less room and with wise selection can do many jobs.

Again just my view and others will have a totally different approach to whats needed........................should gain some more views to your thread anyway...............
 

DRW

Well-Known Member
May 29, 2013
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Beautiful Burrum Heads QLD
#3
What he said is pretty clear, as for stone guard have a look at Stone Stompers arguably the best protection on the market (no affiliation and no longer have one but have used them in the past) we have a $200 mesh guard off eBay only because apparently i'm not allowed to go bush any more
 

Bluey

Well-Known Member
Mar 31, 2014
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victoria
#4
This is sposed to be very good
Screenshot_20190221-142720.png Screenshot_20190221-142800.png
I know one of the trainers hes very knowledgeable i see him at my daughters Karate class his daughter dose it too
 
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Smergen

Well-Known Member
Jun 8, 2014
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Bacchus Marsh
#5
First things first... you really need to decide how "off road" you really want to go. The Savannah Way can be variable in condition and there's hard and easy bit. I default to @crusty as SW expert. He spent a lot of time on it with his big Jayco.

If you are unsure of your abilities with 4WD and the like, I'd be steering well clear of any tough bits with a van on the back. Drop it off somewhere and go vanless.

That way you can ditch a lot of the need for winches, recovery gear and all of that kind of stuff.

I'll try and get around to replying to the rest of your list. But on our trip we got by with:
- a sensible toolkit (few spanners, adjustable wrench, universal spanner (hammer), race tape, cable ties, home clamps.. You can carry a lot of excess weight with stuff you don't need. Also, people on the road are from our experience, really warm and helpful.
- UHF... We had cheap small ones... they didn't last (kids might have had something to do with it) We splashed out for a decent quality single 5W version to compliment the mounted one in the Colorado.
- spares... there's shops most of the way around on Highway 1. There might be a bit of lead time to get stuff into Supercheap Kununurra... but they'll get it. Don't overdo it.
- Just looking at it all... be wary of your weights... It's easy to carry more than you can just in the interest of "just in case". If you are sticking to Highway 1, it's not nearly as scary and remote as you might think. There's lots of people out there....
 
Jan 14, 2019
28
17
3
Victoria
#6
Thanks for the good advice everybody! I would definitely prefer to travel lighter if we can, so it's good to know there is some stuff on the list we can leave off.

With getting a bottle jack, how do they go in terms of height? It looks like many of the ones I have seen wouldn't have the height necessary to lift the van up enough to get you out of trouble. I'm presuming that you would also need to get some kind of solid base for the jack to stop it sinking into the sand.

With the stone stomper they do look really nice, however they are also not cheap at all! I also worry a bit about how long they will take to setup and pack away when hitching and unhitching the van. How do they compare weight wise to the mesh guards that sit across the front of the van?
 

CarlDry

New Member
Jan 5, 2019
3
0
1
Bundaberg
#7
I'de check with someone who's done the from Hell's Gate to Borroloola recently regarding taking the Expanda. Last time I was through there (10 years ago)there was one river crossing that the van would not go through due to entry/exit clearance (I didn't have a van). I know this is ten year old info but road condition isn't the issue on this road, the river crossings are, and they can change year by year.
 

CarlDry

New Member
Jan 5, 2019
3
0
1
Bundaberg
#8
And if you stop at Heart Break Hotel and have tea the thing I remember is the mixed grill with a sausage that was raw in the middle. Again that's ten years ago so conditions may have changed?
 

Johnanbev

Active Member
Jul 7, 2013
83
110
33
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Sunbury VIC.
#9
Hi Luke
Get yourself a decent set of levelling ramps.
They can be used to level the van when parked and can be used to place under the wheel adjacent to your flat tyre.
Just run the van up onto the ramp, this will lift the flat wheel so you can place the bottle jack on a couple of blocks.
I carry some blocks made from treated pine "sleepers" sold at the big green shed. Cut to 300x300. I use them for both
jacking and for placing under the front or rear stabilisers where necessary.
Some vans run up on the ramps as above will actually lift the adjacent wheel suficiently to clear the ground
Safe travels John
 
Likes: Luke.sleeman
Mar 25, 2015
88
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62
Turramurra, NSW
#10
Hi Luke,
You may want to think about joining the Pajero Club of Victoria. In addition to driver training they will be able to provide lots of advice on car set up, good workshops and so on.

Sounds like a great trip.
 
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Jan 14, 2019
28
17
3
Victoria
#11
Hi Luke,
You may want to think about joining the Pajero Club of Victoria. In addition to driver training they will be able to provide lots of advice on car set up, good workshops and so on.

Sounds like a great trip.
Yeah, I looked at joining. The forum they run is full of great info and it looks like they also put on really good training days. Unfortunately it sounds like the process of joining is a bit more involved than just filling out a form. They suggested I turn up to some events to get a feeling for the club, then I will need a current member to propose my joining, and another to second!

I got the impression they are mainly interested in people who will be active attending their 4wd events, which is fine. The problem is I've got no time at the moment for going 4wd'ing or attending club meetings - all my free weekends and evenings are already taken up getting ready for this trip!
 
Mar 25, 2015
88
65
18
62
Turramurra, NSW
#12
That’s a shame about the Pajero Club. I have the same set up as you, NT Pajero and 17.56.2 OB. It’s a great combination but you’ll need to be very careful about weights and make sure the loaded van doesn’t weigh more than 2.5 tonnes.

In response to some of your specific questions:

Air compressor and tyre repair kits are a must. You’ll want to change tyre pressure to reflect the conditions. Tyre repair kits are cheap and light weight. Just good insurance.

UHF - Definitely have a hand hand held, preferably 2w (more power is definitely better for comms.).

Better Jack - Not sure you’ll have any jacking points for a high lift. I have a suspension lift so use blocks of wood under the factory jack. To be honest, it’s not a great solution, but I haven’t found anything better.

Recovery gear - I always travel with snatch strap, equaliser strap and rated shackles. BUT, you need to understand how to use them. They are life threatening if not used properly. I don’t think you can buy recovery points for the front of the Pajero, but the tie down points in conjunction with an equaliser strap can be used in most situations assuming the van is not connected. I have checked this with the trainers in my car club (Triple Diamond) and my mechanics (Artarmon Automotive). I have been snatched strapped with a camper trailer in tow without problem. For rear end recoveries, use the hitch pin in the gooseneck receiver. Do not use the tow ball.

Winch - heavy and expensive. If I am travelling alone I’ll avoid tracks if I think a winch may be needed.

Shovel - just useful becoming essential if you do any beach driving. Recovery boards also useful. I don’t have any, but they are on my shopping list.

Spare water and jerry cans. Yep, just good insurance.

Stone protection, yep, but there are lots of options. We use Rock Tamers, but I’m sure there is better. Stone Stompers look pretty good.

Spares - when remote we travel with spare belts, fuses, fuel filter and I’m sure some other stuff I can’t think of right now.

Saw /axe yep. Also handy if a tree has fallen across the road (which has happened to us).

Couple of other thoughts:
Have you changed your tyres to a good all terrain tyre? If my tyres are more than half worn I tend to replace them before a long trip.
Bull bar and suspension upgrade?
Sat phone (can be rented and very useful in case of an emergency)
Maybe a booster antenna for mobile phone.

Final comment is try to avoid putting heavy gear into the front tunnel. You will need to work hard to keep the tow ball weight under 250 kgs.

Hope this helps.
 

jacbaz

Well-Known Member
Feb 6, 2011
456
678
93
Eastern Suburbs, Melbourne
#13
We did the 4 wheel drive course that @Bluey talked about and it was well worth the day out. We learnt heaps and it has definitely come in handy during our travels.
In regard to the stone stomper, we have one on our van.
We then bought a second hand camper and took it to Cape York and totally sand blasted the camper without a stone stomper. We have since purchased one for the camper as well and it definitely saved a lot of stone chips on the repainted camper when we did the Oodnadatta track last year.
And like @Smergen said ... there are a lot of people out there willing to help when you need.
Enjoy your trip
Ps ... once the stone stomper is set up, its just a case of undoing the elastic straps on the back of the car and the stomper rolls up under the front of the van/camper
 

greynt

Active Member
Dec 15, 2012
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43
Yarra Valley
#14
Hi @Luke.sleeman we did a half lap 4 years ago with the same combo that you have. Our Paj was a 2009 NT. We had done a 2" lift and bought new All Terrain tyres before we left, and made life less stressful knowing that was less things to worry about. We also had the factory "bullbar" and a long range tank fitted, dual batteries and a few other things. I have since bought a set of Maxtrax that have been used a few times and have no issues in carrying them. Air compressor for me is a must as if you are travelling on dirt roads you will want to lower your tyre pressures to make it more comfortable for both car and van. Apart from that, we did get and still have a longer hose to suit the compressor so we can leave it near the front of the car and pump up all tyres on the car and van. Everything else as well that has already been said above. There are heaps of people travelling and if you are stuck they generally are willing to help out.
Most of all, have fun and don't stress the little things.
Any other questions let me know, happy to help out.
Cheers
Matt
 
#15
We were fortunate to do the Savannah Way east to west in August last year. Had a Stone Stomper but still broke the rear window with some considerate people going the other way slowing from 100km/h down to 98.5km/h and a rock coming back off the van. Take some foam mats and tape up your rear window. River crossing weren't too bad with the Calvert River probably the worst - 30-40cm but steep on the way out. Had a winch but didn't use it. The only times I thought I would get stuck there was nothing to winch off. A shovel and some maxtrax would be a better spend. Drop the van tyres to 20-25psi (depending on your weight and tyre type) and stick to max 60km/h. There are a lot of unsigned dips that will catch you out. Usually when you think 'this isn't too bad' :). We did Lawn Hill to Hells Gate, Foelshe River and a gravel pit a bit past Borroloola. Original plan was to head up towards Limmen NP but broken window and no fuel at Roper Bar canned that idea. Fuel is available at Gregory, Doomadgee, Hells Gate & Borroloola with the 320km between Hells Gate & Borroloola the longest section. Worst bit is the last 100km in to Borroloola.

Add a tube of silicon to the tool kit to dab any screws that fall out and enjoy the ride:D
1-20180805_083338.jpg 1-20180805_102108.jpg
 
Jan 14, 2019
28
17
3
Victoria
#16
Thanks for all the great advice here! As @PeterV mentioned, we will need to be careful with the weights. I loaded up the van with all our gear, filled up all the water tanks, added a 20l Jerry can of water to the front to simulate carrying fuel, then put the whole combo over a weight bridge. After doing all the maths it looks like we have 140kg spare ATM in the van for food and clothes (all our cooking gear, and other equipment was in the van. Fridge was empty and no clothes or beer :D) and once you count the weight of the passengers we have 130kg spare GVM in the car for gear. So it's tight but doable.

I'm currently looking at what will be involved in upgrading the cars suspension and tires. I'm unsure if I want to go for it - in the end I guess it will come down to cost. At the moment the car rides quite well with the van. Hower I am worried about what effect the corrgation will have, particularly on the shock absorbers.

I'll be taking the 4wd course @Bluey suggested in a few weeks. Hopefully after that I should have a better idea about if I want to upgrade the tires or suspension.
 
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Drover

Well-Known Member
Nov 7, 2013
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Cooloola Coast, QLD
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#17
If it rides well, doesn't wallow around corners or hit the bump stops on woollies speed bumps then all should be okay, sorting your suspension out usually around the $2K mark or more for decent gear....a steering/ suspension shop is often better than a OffRoad Shop for price and quality of fitting.....Tyres, if you have rubbish brand then replace but if a good brand and over half life leave them, most damage on the dirt is often driver error, namely too fast and rarely kicking tyres, rougher means slower.
 
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