The internet is packed with sad and bizarre stories of unprepared tourists getting lost in the Australian outback. Let’s be honest, you don’t even have to travel that far out of Sydney to be deep in the wilderness. But with a bit of planning (and a lot of common sense), there’s no reason you can’t safely explore some of the most spectacular and remote regions of NSW
Plan like a pessimist
When it comes to travelling through remote areas of NSW, flying by the seat of your pants just won’t cut it. Plan every detail of your trip, like where the petrol stations are, where you’ll pick up supplies and where the Visitor Information Centres are located. Download any apps you may need (like Emergency+), pack a first-aid kit and basically be prepared for the worst. The chances of it happening are unlikely, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Since remote areas don’t have reliable mobile coverage, it’s a good idea to hire a satellite phone and GPS to take with your phone and car charger. If you’re going deep in the outback, you should also stop off at the Visitor Information Centre to pick up a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) and Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). Be sure to let friends or family know where you’re headed and when you plan to reach each landmark, so they know roughly where you are at all times.
Take the right vehicle
Roads in the outback range from beautifully-paved highways to dirt strips that could easily be mistaken for kangaroo tracks. Some roads aren’t suitable for 2WD vehicles and some aren’t passable after rain, so you’ll need to check the weather and road conditions before you set out and make sure you have a 4WD if needed. Your vehicle should be in top condition and have extra fuel, spare tyres and tools for repairs, just in case.
Check the facilities
Who wants to turn up to a campground and then realise there’s no drinking or cooking water available? Nobody, that’s who. Whether you’re camping or staying in accommodation, it’s always best to check what facilities are available and come prepared. That means plenty of water (way more than you think you’ll need) and a shovel if there are no toilet facilities available.
Ranger’s tip: Most campsites don’t have drinking water, so you’ll need to bring your own or boil the water for at least 20min.
Remember, you can’t gather firewood in NSW national parks, so you’ll need to BYO if your campground or accommodation doesn’t provide it (don’t forget, you can only have fires in designated spots). You should also check the alerts for NSW National Parks to see if there are any fire bans in place. Otherwise, a fuel stove is a good backup for cooking on the road. Just don’t use it in your tent or an enclosed space, because carbon monoxide poisoning is not fun.
Did you know: The outback is a thirsty place. You’ll need to take a minimum of 10 litres of water per person, per day. Yes, we’re serious.
Drive in the sunshine
If you’ve never travelled through the outback, you may not realise how dark it gets when the sun sets. At dawn and dusk, animals are more likely to jump out on the road and the angle of the sun makes it difficult to see other cars (or rogue cows). It’s also hard to see if the road is flooded or blocked, especially if you’re tired. The moral of the story? Stick to driving in full daylight, when you’re alert and can see any hazards in the distance.
Always stay with your car
This is definitely one of those last-but-not-least things. If it all goes pear-shaped and you need help, do not under any circumstances leave your car. Wandering off is a sure-fire way to turn a difficult situation into a fatal one.
In most cases, the best strategy is to use your mobile or satellite phone to bring help to you, rather than going rogue with limited food and water supplies. If you’ve prepped well, you’ll have enough food and water to keep you going until someone comes along to help.
Staying with your car also means you’ll be visible to emergency services from the air. To make sure they can see you, put up your car bonnet while you wait.