Five things I don't go off-road without
1. My Toyota Hilux
As a kid I was a Scout, and in my uni years I backpacked a bit. I’ve tested many new cars and 4x4s in 25 years and I’m involved in motorsport. All of that has taught me lots: environmental respect, the importance of simple, sensible design and the benefits of light weight. That design philosophy is here in my Toyota HiLux. It’s equipped with everything I need for a bush or desert trek and pops ’n’ packs in four minutes. I’ve taken it plenty of places – High Country, Simpson, Moreton – in my role with 4X4 Australia.
2. Air compressor and gauge
What’s more useful than a snatch strap? An air compressor! Tyre pressure is one of the most overlooked recovery aids for off-road driving, ever. A pump is essential, as is a good tyre pressure gauge. I also carry a string-type puncture repair kit. From bush to freeway, it’s all had a good workout. Your tyres are your link to the terrain, so spend wisely on them – and on their maintenance, too – before you buy all the brightly coloured hero gear.
It’s not much fun when you’ve set up camp, cracked a sunset beer and have a beaut steak to cook… and no way to light your fire. It’s worse if it’s raining and you’ve been winching up the Victorian High Country’s famously soapy clay. Yep, been there, done that! So I always carry two zappy fire lighters. Not only are they more reliable than matches or a conventional ciggy lighter for starting your stove, they’re great for burning your dunny paper before you bury it, too. Bush streamers are disgusting.
Like many travellers, I’ve seen plenty of morons in the bush, loaded-up on beer or bourbon and putting on a show for their mates’ cameras with wrecker-spec trucks. But the idiocy of some doesn’t prevent me having a relaxing drink – or three – if I’m perched high on a mountain, or sheltered in a lush valley, staring at the golden-red glow of a warm campfire with a group of good mates. Mine’s Tooheys; cans not bottles, because having broken glass around vehicles isn’t too sharp, is it?
Even for a journo, I don’t take many pics. Work-wise, I almost always have professional shooters around me that have more experience and can do a better job.
And not having kids means I’m not trying to catalogue their lives for their 18th birthday happy snaps! Plus, when I began in magazines, it was $1 per pic. I soon learned you could smash a week’s wages in one afternoon if you were being blasé with the button. I’m re-discovering photography with my little Olympus.
FAVOURITE 4X4 DESTINATION
I grew up in Sydney’s outer fringes, climbing on the honeycomb-coloured bluffs of ancient Hawkesbury sandstone and catching cicadas from gum trees. I’m lucky enough to have parents who took me on holidays in the NSW Snowies and today, I try to visit this beautiful region for a few nights’ camping each year. But after being a spectator/journalist at Australian Speed Week in 2010, I decided to participate in this top-speed event held on the dry salt of South Australia’s Lake Gairdner. It’s an outback trek and motorsport. Excellent! I’ve run a VW there three times. Participating is equal parts privilege, pain and passion.