6 Tips and Tools To Plan An Epic 4wd Adventure

6 Tips and Tools To Plan An Epic 4wd Adventure

It’s been 3 hours now since the last glimmer of sunlight disappeared over the horizon, taking with it your last hopes of making camp before dark. The short cut became an obvious bum steer long ago, but you keep hoping the end is around the next corner. To make matters worse your mate has just hit the fuel light…. It’s a fact that can’t be ignored; if you go venturing into the unknown, you can’t possibly know everything that’s going to happen. But arm yourself with these tools for planning and you can find a lot of enjoyment in the unknown with less of the “dreaded” scenarios.

1: Paper and other hard copy maps

_DSC0403Flicking around in a GPS, tablet or even computer just doesn’t allow you to see the big picture in enough detail. I start with a huge wall map of the country where I can gauge the relative distance between towns, see any national parks along the way and know which roads are highways or gravel roads. Because I use a Hema Navigator GPS, I also have a Hema map book. This shows much more detail than a wall map and will help you pick out all of the small tracks to link your adventure together, and also shows points of interest that you might try to work into your travel plans.

2: The Internet

Hands down the most powerful tool in your arsenal, yet it comes after paper and wall maps simply because you can’t search the Internet if you don’t know what you’re searching for! Pick out a town or area name from the route you have penciled in and Google search it. Try search sentences such as “4wding Murchison region”,  “free camping Gascoyne Junction”, “hiking trails Mount Augustus” or “things to do in Esperance”. Many websites might be commercial and closely tied to a locality to plug the attractions the town has on offer. Example: Margaret River where we did a cave tour recommended, and we often look at local museums. If you want the real unknown though, look for results from forums or blogs (like this one!).


3: Google Earth

4wd-planning-maps-google-earthIt’s like panning for gold. Put in hours of work sifting through hoping to find that glimmer, but when you spot it you’re glad you did! The ability for users to place pictures in Google Earth is awesome; I will stay zoomed out and click on images as I see them. If the picture looks awesome I might zoom in and follow a track to figure out how best to get there. Be wary though, not all images are correctly placed. When you have exhausted all of the pictures, zoom in a bit and start looking for clearings, tracks or anything else out of the ordinary. Using this method I have found rock formations, secret camp spots, secluded beaches and even ruins!  You can place a pin at locations of interest, and get the location data to put on your GPS; but as of yet I have not found a way to save tracks and waypoints in a format that a GPS will read. I also like to print out a few screen captures; good enough to show the tracks and get a rough idea where to head and to scribble a few notes on.

4: Locals and Mates

If you’re thinking of it, chances are somebody has done it already. This is the reason that web forums are so good for trip planning. Consider putting a call out on social media for any mates that know some good spots in the area; somebody might even be keen to come along as your tour guide! And of course when you roll into town to grab tackle, bait or camping supplies; strike up conversation with the people that know the area better than any. Support their business and they will likely drop secrets galore.

5: Plan Your Campsite

Okay, So they are just flies. But they COULD have been bees!

Okay, So they are just flies. But they COULD have been bees!

Soooo many times I have just chucked some food in the Engel and driven off late in the afternoon with the intention of worrying about a campsite when I’m tired. And it goes one of two ways.

  • Scenario 1: you drive around until 1am looking for a spot, but are awoken at 5am because you couldn’t see the beehive you camped next to or the house who’s front yard you rolled the swag onto.
  • Scenario 2: there was literally nowhere to set up a tent, so you spent the night curled up on the back seat in a busy truck stop.

Aim for a place you KNOW you can camp, and if you find a better spot on the way then go for it. Same goes for out on the tracks; never expect that you will find a camp somewhere along the way. It’s likely that you might but if you don’t plan, Murphy’s law might sting you.

6: Planning “On The Fly”

Things don’t always work out the way your plan intended, which is kind of the intention of an adventure I suppose. Lets say your epic 4wd adventure was to get to the southern most tip of Western Australia in West Cape Howe national park. But severe weather had forced the closure of all tracks in the area. Turn around and go home? Everyone’s gonna be pretty upset! But it doesn’t come to that because as it happens you heard of a few tracks worth exploring in a state forest not 50km from here. Carry those paper maps and map books with you and in the space of a 15 minute tea break you can have an entire new route laid out and your adventure continues!

You could look this happy too! Just put in a little time to plan your adventure.

I have got much better at planning an excellent trip with just the right amount of unknown over the past few years. But I am always picking up new idea’s (printing off  Google Maps screenshots is actually the newest one). As always I welcome comments, and especially input on what YOU do to plan for your epic 4wd adventures!


Alex Garner



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  1. Aaron at 4WDing Australia
    December 09, 17:38 Reply
    The net has made life very easy when planning; you can pretty easily get up to date track conditions and by checking out multiple sources its not hard to find where the best places are. Apps are very handy too. Wikicamps is one of the best apps I've bought, and its only going to get better. Above all though, the more research you do the better. As they say, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!
    • Alex Garner
      December 12, 19:30 Reply
      I can't imagine a world without the net to help plan trips haha. Might have to give that Wikicamps a look Aaron!

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