5 Questions to Ask Yourself BEFORE You Travel Outback

Just how ready are YOU to travel the outback?

No, we don’t mean your car or your finances.

We mean YOU.

Not your vehicle.


There’s a myriad of general tips about vehicle preparation out there, but how do you go about getting yourself ready to travel in our amazing backyard?


To help you think beyond just your car and what kind of tyres you might need, we’ve come up with five questions you need to ask yourself before you go.

We’ve written this article for people who’ve either never travelled -or haven’t done much travelling- in the outback before.

However, you more experienced adventurers might also like to read and reflect upon how you prepare yourself for your big trip.

1. Have You Done Your Research?

Sure, you’ve got the maps and you’ve got the 4WD… but have you really done your homework?

This sounds really obvious but…

It’s not just about knowing where to stay and what the road will be like – it’s so you can prepare yourself.

Do you have the ability to drive to the places you want to go?

Driving into somewhere like Ruby Gap Nature Park requires previous creek, sand, mud and rocky track driving experience.

What kinds of new skills will you need to learn?

If you’re planning on doing the Gunbarrel Highway, you really do need to know how to change a tyre, use a sat phone or SPOT device, how to set up your tent, light a safe fire, know basic first aid and know how to find yourself on a paper map.


What equipment will you need and can you use/operate it?

It’s great to have that flash new tent, or top-of-the-range recovery kit, but learning how to use them before you leave home is something many people overlook.

2. Are You Mentally Ready?

Travelling in the outback is not like travelling in a city.

It’s not like travelling in Europe, nor is it like travelling the East Coast of Australia.

Distances are vast.

Shops and services –even mobile phone and internet- are sometimes non-existent.

You’ve probably thought about these things already… but how will they affect you?

How do you manage isolation –going for hundreds of kilometres without seeing anyone?  For some people, such isolation is unknown, and being alone or away from the bustle of cities is a very scary thought.

How do you manage boredom and find joy and amazement in travelling long distances?

Do you have an injury or condition that might be aggravated by long hours spent sitting in a vehicle or travelling over rough roads?

Dalhousie Springs, Witjira National Park, South Australia

Who will you be travelling with? What are their needs and expectations?

How do you cope with camping?

Can you cope with dirt and not being able to shower or blow dry your hair?

How would you cope if the place you wanted to visit was suddenly closed due to heavy rainfall or extreme heat?

What about disappointment? Imagine you go to Uluru and it’s underwhelming. How do you cope with these kinds of mental let-downs?

Many of these issues are part of everyday, normal outback travel.

Think carefully about your answers. It’s not ideal to get halfway across the French Line and discover you don’t like sleeping in a swag.

3. Can You Go the Distance?

It might seem obvious to ask this question, but have you really given distance much thought? Long road trips can be very demanding on you as well as your vehicle.

Have you ever driven more than 500km in one day? Suddenly driving big distances when you’re not accustomed to them can be exhausting, and for some people, unpleasant.

Check that your travel plans are realistic… Spending two weeks to drive a total of 8000km may not be the best way to ‘see’ the outback.

You may return home needing a holiday after your holiday!


Another thing to consider is how long you’re planning to spend in each place.

If you’re camping or travelling with a camper trailer this question is important. How will you cope with setting up and breaking down your camp frequently?

This can become a real chore if you’re doing it every day and travelling big distances.

Lastly, think about QUALITY over QUANTITY.

A rushed trip where you visit many places may leave you deeply unsatisfied.

Visiting fewer places for longer might be a better choice than trying to squeeze everything into two weeks.

4. What’s in Your Luggage?

Travelling in the outback requires savvy packing skills and a bit more thought than if you’re just popping over to Bali for a week or two.

Packing too much will drive you insane trying to find things, lug it around and keep it organised.

packing your 4WD, outback travel

Yet packing too little can be equally frustrating. If you forget something, you might not be able to just call into the local shop and buy another.

Make sure that you pack appropriately for the season – and even in summer, pack a jacket as air conditioning in some places can be positively Arctic!

Learn what to pack for the outback here.

What special medicines, foods or equipment do you need?

Make a list of items such as prescription medication and any special dietary requirements or foods and stock up on them before you head off for a remote area.

5. What Are Your Limits?

This is the one question that many people forget.

The outback is a place where you need to know and define your own limits – before you go.

You’ll also need to re-evaluate those limits at times whilst you’re on the road.

Some outback destinations and adventures will require years of slowly building experience and confidence in your skills to drive, camp, navigate and even pack right.

Simpson Desert, French Line, South Australia

For example, if you’re never bush camped before (no facilities whatsoever) or needed to let down your tyres to drive in deep sand, then you might want to reconsider that Simpson Desert Crossing and try the Oodnadatta or Birdsville Tracks first.

Being able to identify your limits –and know when you’ve reached them- could save your life and avoid costly mistakes.

Getting Yourself Ready

Our aim is to inspire and show ordinary Australians that it’s possible to travel in the outback safely – if you’re realistic about your plans and your abilities.

Giving a bit of thought to yourself -not just your vehicle and equipment- is an important part of trip planning.

Asking yourself these five questions will ensure that you not only enjoy your outback trips, but also that you stay safe and in control of your experience.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, PLEASE share it on Google+, Facebook or Twitter.

And… let us know your tips for getting yourself ready in the comments below.


Before commenting with about VEHICLE PREPARATION below, please note that this article is about mental preparation.

Comments about vehicle preparation will be deleted.


  • Ern Reeders says:

    This is an important and usually overlooked part of any adventure and a very good thing to talk about. I was surprised to see a column by a counsellor in the early issues of the Adventure Rider magazine but it makes good sense.

    We’ve all heard of people who’ve made a major commitment to eg. doing the Big Loop – selling their house and spending a bomb on a rig – only to find not far in that they don’t like van or camping life.

    One of the tricky things about a major adventure is of course that you often don’t know your limits ’til you reach them and you don’t get to this point ’til your out there. Maybe the advice should be to have a go in a context where the stakes are low.

    I’m a fan of pushing your limits. Again, you can do this in a low stakes context and the pushing can be minor but the experience of success builds confidence to try more things. The safety net is in place, and for one dazzling moment you’re in mid air between one trapeze and the next.

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Ern,

      As always, thank you so much your insightful comments. We totally agree – it’s incremental and about challenging yourself at a level where you feel you can pull back safely. To steal a well-known yoga adage: “Find your edge, and play with it…”

      Thanks for taking the time to comment – we really do appreciate it,


  • Karol says:

    “going for hundreds of kilometres without seeing anyone? ” – dream came true 😉
    I’m just planning my June-July trip to Simpson from Brissie. Thank you for all the info on this site!

  • Timbo says:

    We have travelled for 4 or 5 months each year for ages and thought we can cope with most situations but rain halfway down the Oodnadatta track this year caught us out. Three days stuck in the mud!

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