High country travel essentials
Hankering to head for the hills? Check out our guide to where you need to go and what you need from your rig.
What is it about crossing those crisp knotty borders between Victoria and New South Wales? The cool trout-filled creeks and rugged, breathtaking bare-gum lined tracks have real a way of getting under your skin leaving you just itching for more.
It looks untouched but when you go here you’ll discover rich history in some wildly inaccessible places. What, with ghost towns like Talbotville near Crooked River, Walhalla, or Kiandra within the Kosciuszko NP, NSW or the famous high country shacks far and wide through Mansfield, Bogong High Plains and even Licola.
Planning your route
If you haven’t done too much high country travel before you’ll find plenty of action east of Mansfield on Mount Buller Road. You can turn off here for the Howqua Hills camping area, or the pastoral Sawmill Settlement further east. There are heaps of pretty drives here to hone your technical skills too or you can push on towards the challenging and iconic Razorback Hut track if you’re looking for something more. Those who live north of the Great Dividing Range will find good 4WDing along the northern end of the Great Alpine Road in places such as the Porpunkah Rest area near Bright. There are some beautiful campsites north of Mount Beauty near the Kiewa Valley Highway.
Sydneysiders can simply head west and hit Lithgow between the pristine crags of the Blue Mountains in a little more than an hour. The tracks and camping opportunities here are almost endless.
In East Gippsland, there’s Licola, and Dargo a little further on. Jamieson south of Howqua Hills provides plenty of challenge for the mad keen 4WDer.
As your drive to discover the region increases, so will your kit and skills, but no matter how you get here or your level of experience make sure you travel with family and friends.
Preparing your 4wd
Low-range 4WDing churns through the fuel, especially if you’re towing a camper trailer. And as High Country touring is all about the lower gears it pays to fill up a few extra jerries or think about having a long range fuel tank installed.
Fit an electric winch, hi-lift jack, and decent recovery points that are rated. It’s a good idea you and your convoy to install UHF communications and familiarise your crew with repeater stations for when you dip into those valleys. A quarter-size aerial fitted at an angle will receive signals from valley walls and the side of mountains, unlike Satphones and GPS, which struggle to reach satellites from beneath the tree line.
Take along a good chainsaw for clearing tracks, fishing gear for those trout, a first-aid kit, and matt to place underneath your camper trailer’s floor.
Camper trailers for High Country touring
Camper trailers geared for high country touring should be light, compact yet sturdy with decent weatherproof seals. And sturdy recovery points are definitely recommended. Look for a decent departure angle and go for coil suspension. Heavy-duty leaf springs have less clearance but are tough enough to survive high country tracks if you’re looking for a simpler system.
You’ll want a tent with waterproof canvas walls and a PVC floor, which is easy to clean. Internal zips on your windows are reassuring after dark, for when weather quickly changes.
Although mobile and GPS coverage are improving in the region they’re still far from reliable, so download your maps before you leave if you’re using digital devices, or a pack decent paper version such as Hema’s High Country maps, or Rooftop Adventure Maps by Feathertop Mapping Service.
High Country weather is unpredictable at best and conditions rapidly change so carry an emergency stash of non-perishable food to last three or so days in case you get stuck. High country wood burns hot so you really do need to adjust your cooking to suit. You may have heard that water boils at a lower temperature too but it’s a matter of two or degrees tops in Australia’s relatively modest ranges and will barely impact you at all. The weather is pretty cool, though, so you will get better economy out of your fridge and the heat emitted from gas appliances will be less of an issue for you too.
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