Explaining the Essential Parts of 4×4 Gear
Off-roading during the day or night requires good handling skills but also a set of essential gear to help you get through the obstacles and dangers of the Australian outback. In these situations, you need equipment that you’ll be able to rely on, no matter the circumstances. While you can’t be covered in every possible scenario, having a set of specific 4WD gear is going to give a huge advantage regarding staying safe and feeling carefree.
Handheld UHF Radio
This is basically a better version of a walkie talkie which operates at higher frequencies making it ideal for carrying as they operate at extremely high frequencies which gives this 4×4 gear the ability to get through interference. Most handheld UHF radios today give you features such as income alerts (to let you know of an incoming transmission); headphone jack (for when you want to go hands-free); channel saver (so you can save your most used channels); and weather radio (so you can listen to weather reports).
First on the list here is the snatch (recovery) strap – the main part of recovery 4×4 gear. The elasticity of the strap makes it easier to extract a vehicle as it allows the strap to store the kinetic energy when it’s fully extended. The release of this energy is what pulls the vehicle out.
Since the strap can store a lot of kinetic energy, if it snaps it can go flying and eventually hit someone or damage another vehicle. A damper is basically a safety blanket that sits on it in order to prevent this from happening.
D-ring shackles are what makes winching work, as they connect the winch to tree trunk straps, snatch blocks, line extenders and the bumpers of other rigs. It’s always wise to carry at least a couple of 3/4 inch (2cm) shackles.
A tree trunk (saver) strap is exactly what it sounds like, a strap meant to provide protection for the tree and also the winch line. These straps are made out of polyester and should be part of your winching equipment.
With a winch extension strap, you can achieve some additional length to extend its reach. This is a low-stretch polyester strap that will give you a peace of mind when doing a recovery on your own.
Although a snatch block may not be an essential part of recovery gear it can help you increase the pulling power and change the direction of the pull. In case you have a synthetic winch rope, get a block with high-density plastic pulleys so you don’t wear it out as easily.
Floodlights are something you can’t go without on a nightly adventure and having a quality floodlight alongside your regular narrow or spot beam front lights is a must. Since you are off-roading, there are no limits to how bright your floodlight can be but most of them are at least 5000 lumens , which is enough. Alongside brightness levels, you also need to make sure your floodlight is scratch-resistant, has durable lenses and an IP rating of 67 or above.
Flashlights are a handy 4×4 gear which gives you a lot of options when it comes to compactness, light colour and beam distance. The wider the beam, the shorter the distance of the light and vice versa. While the light of a flashlight comes in various additional colours, red is the most efficient and it gives you better visibility. The IP rating on most flashlights omits the first number so if you encounter an IPX4 rated flashlight, this means the device is protected from water splashes from all directions.
Lanterns are great for 4×4 camping, since they can only light up a small area. But despite that, they can have a lumen output up to 2000 but this depends on the power source. Isobutane canister lanterns can this high output but they are not as safe and as efficient as LED lanterns. There are also hybrid lanterns which have two power sources usually wind-up or batteries and plug-in power. Wind-up lanterns have a handle which you turn in order to generate power – this doesn’t give you light instantly.
Portability is the number one thing you need to look for in air compressors as this helps immensely in emergencies. 4×4 air compressors can weigh up to 2 kg but there are also smaller ones which can fit in the glove compartment. Lighter air compressors are less powerful since they are made out of plastic but there are plastic air compressors that can operate for 30 minutes straight before having to cool down. To make things even easier air compressors work with all sorts of attachments such as air hoses, nozzles, ball needles and various connectors for tires.
PSI or pound-force per square inch is the amount of pressure an air compressor is able to handle and of course the smaller it is the less it can handle. Before you buy this piece of 4×4 gear, check the pressure of your tires so you can get a compressor that will have 30-50 PSI more than your tires.
An awning can be attached on the roof of your vehicle which makes for a fast and convenient shelter protecting you from the sun and rain. Awnings can be made from either polyester or canvas/cotton and while both materials are waterproof, the latter becomes very heavy when wet. Other features to consider are UV protection, stitching, thickness, the seams and shape of the awning.
The best UV protection is offered by awnings with a silver coating, while rigid awnings have quality stitching and are made with a ripstop fabric. Seams should be sealed or heat taped if you are after a watertight awning but you should also go for an angled shelter so water runs off of it. Thickness is expressed in D (denier) which also shows how durable a fabric is – the higher the denier number, the thicker and stronger the fabric.
Tire Repair Kit
Puncturing your tires is more likely to happen in a remote area than in the city and that is why having this kit is a must – it contains everything you need in one place. In order to get a quality kit, look for tools and plugs made of steel or aluminium. Plugs can come in different sizes or with a rubberized cement in order to accommodate various sizes of punctures.
Tire repair kits are smaller and lighter than a spare tire and they are also very easy to use, no matter the level of experience or physical strength you have. But remember these type of kits cannot repair sidewall punctures as the plug won’t stay in place since the cord can’t reach it and there is also the risk of a blowout.