Survive driving in the Australian Outback

Are you planning on driving through any part of the Australian outback? People die out there every year. With a little knowledge they wouldn't have to. If you're doing any outback driving then you must read this, it could save your life!

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A long straight dirt road through central Australia.
If this is considered a main outback Australian
road, it is might be a good idea to stay on it!

Unfortunately, just like how many of the most beautiful creatures around the world are also some of the most dangerous, the stunning interior of Australia is also deadly to those who don't know it or those who don't respect it.

But with a little common sense and knowledge you can survive the outback. Let's face it, thousands of people drive through it each year without a problem! It is only when you don't know what you're doing that you run a major risk of getting into trouble!

Tip 1.

If you look at past situations where people have died while driving through the outback, there is almost always one thing in common. They have left the main road. So unless you know exactly where you are going, the first lesson is... yes, you guessed it - don't leave the main road!

This has been told to many tourist and unfortunately some of them just roll their eyes, and you can see them thinking, "Right, whatever. What's the worst that can happen if I leave the main road?".

Many people underestimate the vastness of Australia. So let me paint a little picture for you... if Western Australia was a country it would be the 10th biggest country in the world. If someone got lost in the 10th biggest country in the world, where would you start looking for them? It can (and sometimes does) take weeks to find them. But by this stage, not many people have ever survived.

Tip 2.

A completely deserted dirt road through the middle central Australia.
Some outback roads are totally deserted & you
won't see anyone on them for days on end!

A normal human being can survive, in normal conditions, 3 - 4 days without water. Now imagine being stuck in the outback, where it is 40+°C all day long, and nothing for miles around, not even a small tree for shade.

Without water you will be lucky to survive 24 hours. So the second rule is take lots of water with you! The recommended amount is 4 litres per person/per day that you expect your trip to take.

Tip 3.

I should note that the above recommended water allowance will let you survive in the outback if you are not exposed to the sun, and if you are not being physically active. This means that the third rule is stay with your car! Not only does it offer you some protection from the elements, but it is more easily spotted by searches. It is very hard to find someone in the outback if they are not with their car.

Tip 4.

Should you find yourself lost in the outback, the next rule is don't do anything active during the hot parts of the day, and if you absolutely must do something physical, do it during the early morning or late afternoon when it is not so hot.

In 2012, a tragic accident happened in Queensland. Two men were out doing some work on a farm, only 14 kms from the homestead, when their car became bogged in sand. Instead of paying attention to Tip 3 and 4, they decided to try to walk back during the middle of the day. One man died, the other was only about an hour away from death when they were found later that very same night.


Both men were young and physically fit, yet they couldn't even walk the 14 kms to safety. Their car had lots of petrol, so they could have just sat in it with the air conditioning on. Searchers quickly found their car, yet because the men were not there it took another 2 hours to find them.

And these men were in a fortunate situation! They were close to other people, the other people knew where to search for them, and they came searching for them the very same day they went missing! But because they didn't stay with the car, and because they were physical active during the hottest part of the day one man died, another came very close to death.

Do not underestimate the Australian outback.
It can be deadly within a matter of hours!

Read less...

Tip 5.

As mentioned previously, Australia is a big place, and if you get lost out there it can be very hard to find you. You should tell someone your travel plans (when/where you are leaving and when/where you expect to arrive). If you expect your trip to take more than one day inform your contact person often as you can about where you are that day. When you arrive at your destination let your contact person know you have arrived.

They should contact the authorities if you have not contacted them within 24 hours of your expected arrival time. So please, keep people informed, but let them know when you do arrive! So this tip is: let people know your travel plans and organise for them to contact the authorities if you are more than a 24 hours overdue.

Recap of the above 5 points

  • So let me recap those points!
  • - Take lots of water with you - 4 litres per person/per day of your trip.
  • - Don't leave the main roads unless you know exactly where you are going.
  • - If something does happen, stay with your car.
  • - If something does happen, don't do anything active, keep your strength and liquids inside you!
  • - Let people know where you are going, and when you are expected to arrive.
  • - If you are really are going outback and away from all main roads, you should take enough spare water for an extra 7 days MINIMUM in case something happens. That's an extra 28 litres per person MINIMUM.
  • If you follow all these points you shouldn't have a problem travelling through the outback!

A group of 3 4WDs getting through outback Australia with nothing to see for miles and a straight horizon.
A group of fully loaded 4WDs getting across the
centre of Australia with nothing for miles around!

Getting back to the point about not leaving the main roads. Many of the outback roads are nothing more than dirt roads, and some are no more than just little tracks. If it rains these roads and tracks can trap and bog the most experienced of 4WD drivers in a top market special outback 4WD in a matter of minutes.

Unless you have lots of experience driving a 4WD out in Australia there are parts you should never enter. If a road starts to make you feel uncomfortable (it is getting too bumpy and you are scared you may crack an axel or bottom the car out), turn back!

Just like you wouldn't attempt to climb Mount Everest without a lot of previous mountain climbing experience, and only then with a group of other experienced people, the same applies to getting off the main outback roads and onto the little tracks. And remember, there is safety with numbers, try to travel in groups!

The topic of extreme 4WDing around the interior of Australia is beyond the scope of this website. If this is your plan, please fully research it before you leave!

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