Snorkel - Fitting a snorkel is like buying insurance for your vehicle (although, you only have to pay for it once!). It’s not that you are then indestructible and can drive through water up to your windows. It’s for those times that maybe you misjudged the depth of a water crossing and the water would otherwise have been sucked into your air intake and then into your engine (a really good way to destroy your engine).
BTW, if you do happen to drive through deep water your carpet will get wet. It will pour in if it’s deep enough, even in a new vehicle. The water only has to be deeper than the bottom of your doors for it to come in, especially if you stop. Oh, and the back end of 4WDs float really well too, which can be fairly off-putting for the driver.
Dual battery system - A fridge makes touring that much easier and a dual battery system properly installed, makes your power needs a breeze. It’s also essential for LED lighting and charging all your gadgets. Get your fridge "hard wired" into your vehicle. An Anderson plug is a good way to ensure your fridge's power supply doesn't rattle loose on corrugations.
When I’m away on long trips, I don’t freeze anything. I cryovac my meat and it lasts for ages (red meat with no bones lasts for months). By not using the freezer I use significantly less power which means I can rely on my second battery if I’m parked up for a day or two.
Get a reputable brand of dual battery system and have it installed by a professional.
A word on power and camper trailers. Having led numerous Outback tours with customers towing camper trailers, the main thing that goes wrong is the power supply to the trailer. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “my fridge isn’t working”... then I’d have about $50 (you get the idea!). Make sure your plugs and wiring are not down low at the back of your vehicle because they will get hit by a stone or smashed off on a steep section.
While I'm on the subject of towing, make sure your back window is protected because sometimes a stone will riccochet off your trailer and smash it. I have seen this a few times now and it's a real pain to stop the dust coming in for the rest of the journey and can be quite difficult to get a replacement.
LED Lighting - An LED light strip attached to the ceiling of your vehicle with a separate on/off switch makes a world of difference. The same is true for the top of the Cruiser-style rear doors or a side opening rear door. Once you’ve had it in a vehicle, you will never be without it.
Apart from spotlights which were covered in the previous “Top 10 Tips”, small flood lights attached to the roof rack are brilliant for lighting up your campsite if you arrive late or for cooking on the barbie.
Recovery gear - One day you will get stuck. You’re also likely to come across someone else who needs your help. Unless you are doing a lot of four wheel driving, I don’t recommend a winch. They are heavy and can be really dangerous. If you don’t use it for long periods, it will often not work when you really need it.
A snatch kit, spade and Max Trax will get you (and others) out of most situations. In your snatch kit you’ll need a minimum of a 9m snatch strap, two 3.25t shackles and two dampners (also called air brakes - they wrap around the strap and in the event of a breakage, prevent it from flying off and killing someone. Fit them 3 metres from each end and fill the pockets so they weigh about 5kg each.
Try to tow the stuck vehicle out slowly the first time. It's much better to use minimal force than have something break which could very really injure or kill someone. If it doesn't budge, go a little faster the second time. And make sure the bystanders are a good distance off to the side (20m or so is good).
If you do have a winch, you’ll also need a 20m winch extension strap, two 4.75t shackles, a tree trunk protector, a 5m chain and a pulley block (snatch block) or ring.
Please get trained on how to use recovery gear. There’s a lot more to it than most people think. It could save your life or the life of those around you.
Underbody Protection - Yes, it sounds like you’re wearing a bulletproof vest. It’s kind of like that for your vehicle. Also called “bash plates” these steel plates under the front half of the vehicle protect vulnerable components from potential damage from rocks, sticks and uneven ground. It’s still not an excuse to drive like a maniac, but it does offer some peace of mind in rough terrain.
Diff breathers - If there’s water involved on your trips, it will find its way into your diffs and transfer case. When the water mixes with the oil that’s in there, the oil is degraded and the milky-looking mess becomes useless in protecting all those moving parts. These components are expensive to replace and if they fail on a big trip, then it’s party over. Diff breathers are just long tubes that prevent water getting in.
At the very least, after a trip where you have driven through deep water, have your mechanic change the oils.
Upgraded Jack 4t - Once you've added all the extra "fruit" to your vehicle, the factory supplied jack sometimes doesn't cut the mustard. There's nothing worse than being stranded in some remote spot simply because you couldn't change a tyre.
While you're at it, make sure all your tyre changing bits and pieces are where they are meant to be. Also, have a practice of changing a tyre before you head away so you know where your jacking points are. Hint: under the axle (or independent suspension), close to the wheel. The vehicle should lift as soon as you start jacking. If it doesn't, you might be in a spot where the body of the vehicle is being jacked up, which can result in the vehicle falling off the jack when it gets too high.
Folding step and telescopic ladder - There are some really cool ladders that mount onto the back or side of your four wheel drive to give you access to the roof, but for $55 on eBay, you can get a telescopic ladder that does the trick. A good quality folding step is also quite valuable if you're vertically challenged!
Tool kit - Depending on how handy your are will determine what you take with you. Don’t just shove all the tools you have into a bag and take them. They’re heavy and you’ll probably never use most of them anyway.
I recommend carrying a selection of screwdrivers, ratchet ring spanners, a couple of shifters (crescents to us Kiwis), a pair of vice grips, some nuts and bolts and screws, side cutters and pliers (normal and needle nosed), a hacksaw and a cordless drill and bits. A tyre puncture repair kit (plug kit)
can get you out of an otherwise stressful situation of having no spares left if it's a simple puncture in the tread.
Some other really useful items are duct tape, rescue tape, cable ties, some tie wire and epoxy metal putty. These are great for putting things back together when you’ve been on corrugations for several days in a row.
Spares - Having a range of spare parts on hand can be the difference between being stranded in the middle of nowhere or getting mobile again under your own steam. A few items such as an air filter, oil filter, fuel filter, fan belt, oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid and second spare tyre on a rim (or having the tools to change a tyre) will help you out of a lot of situations.
Shake it down - Always go out for a “shake-down run” for a few days to iron out the kinks before heading away on a big trip. And don't do anything major to your vehicle just before embarking on a trip, it's a sure-fire way to mess up your adventure.
I'm sure there's lots more things in my Cruiser that I wouldn't be without, but this is enough to get you started.
Happy Touring, Tony.