OUTBACK IN COMFORT
BY MAX TAYLOR
Mulga scrub and ghost gums stretch towards the horizon, a blanket of red earth unrolls in all directions, and the sun shines a brilliant orange as it fades in the western sky. That’s the outback: an endless, gorgeous, scenery. But the trails are bumpy, often difficult, so it’s essential to prepare accordingly.
I’ve learned the hard way that you don’t have to do without when heading into remote
areas, or that you have to skimp on certain comforts.
My first trip to the outback – the Flinders Ranges – was… trying. I under-estimated the fuel usage and the amount of food I’d need, having made the mistake of expecting the famous Prairie Hotel to be open. It wasn’t. The nearest supplies were in Angorichina (Northern Flinders) and it was slim pickings. Tinned soup for dinner, crackers
But the sheer beauty of the Flinders has brought me back, time and again, only nowadays with my portable compressor fridge – a CFX – stocked with eggs, fruit and vacuum-sealed meat. A few beers, too.
Here’s a tip: make sure your portable fridge has an insulated cover to aid its efficiency against the extreme outback temperatures, not to mention to protect it from dust ingress. A fridge slide and the appropriate tie-downs are essential, too, especially on undulating tracks.
In Australia’s outback, from the Flinders Ranges to the Tanami Track, there’s no such thing as a free-camp with 240V electricity. Consider a portable battery pack to run your 4WD’s fridge, camp lights and even to recharge your devices. Even if your vehicle is already running an auxiliary deep-cycle battery, a portable battery pack, such as the Cool Power RAPS 44, will allow you to use the fridge away from the vehicle. Imagine pulling up alongside the Darling River on your way to Mungo National Park and taking the fridge, stocked with cold drinks and fresh food, to the riverbank to watch your kids splash about or float on inflatable tyres. Now that’s mobile living.
A solar panel mounted to the roof rack of the vehicle will keep the battery pack charged during those long stretches on those outback highways, but consider a portable set that you can plug in once at your destination.
My ill-fated Flinders trip taught me a valuable lesson: in the outback, never take anything for granted. Food, water, fuel and, yes, even those home comforts. When you’re comfortable in an inhospitable environment, it’s much easier to enjoy yourself.
Have you thought about how you’ll keep cool in extreme heat, or how you’ll keep warm when the mercury drops to 4°C at night? How will you cook your food, especially if you’ve left the RV behind for a day of 4WD exploration? Don’t expect free gas barbecues at every tourist attraction.
A unit such as the Origo 3000, a two-burner cooktop fuelled by denatured alcohol would be worth considering. Denatured alcohol is safer than gas and anything that improves safety when you’re 100km from the nearest town is a good thing.
The simple ability to heat food easily makes the world of difference. Again, a lesson from the Flinders: I had tried reheating that aforementioned tinned soup on a barbecue hotplate in an Angorichina caravan park but, try as I might, I couldn’t get the can’s contents above luke warm. I would’ve killed for a portable stove that cold night.