We all know that the Aussie tracks don’t mind dishing out a few complications here and there. A fallen log here or an unexpected water crossing there can really muck up your travel plans if you’re not expecting it.
Plus, breakdowns can and do happen when you’re in the middle of nowhere. As the saying goes, you’ve got to expect the unexpected in the bush and, believe it or not, it’s not always the fanciest equipment that gets you out of strife.
Although having the right gear on board can really help, it is knowledge and ingenuity that really make the biggest difference to solving problems out in the bush.
Blocked trails, unique obstacles and mechanical problems are pretty common problems to come up across in the scrub, so let’s take a look at a few of the key skills and techniques you’ll need to combat those trackside woes, along with a few ways to make the terrain work with you not against you.
You’d be crazy to try and move a big log by hand; why not just let your 4WD do the work? A drag chain can be an invaluable tool to help move a fallen log.
Simply wrap the chain around the log and attach it back on to itself (chain link) using the hook on the end. Then attach the other end (hoop end) to the recovery point on your vehicle. It’s best to put the vehicle into low-range when towing the log, which will not only increase the vehicle’s available torque but keep the speed to a manageable pace without allowing the vehicle to stall. Also, remember the chain’s position on the log will affect the angle it gets dragged initially. So if the chain is on one end of the log, it will swing the log from that end first until it’s in line with your vehicle before it actually drags the log from its position.
TOP TIPS FOR USING A CHAINSAW
Having a chainsaw on board can come in handy when it comes to clearing tracks of logs and fallen debris.
There are many different options out there in terms of size and power but, remember, bigger isn’t always best, especially for us campers. When choosing a chainsaw, be sure to pick one that is light and versatile so it doesn’t become a hindrance when it’s not in use, but still capable of cutting your average size log. A 30-40cm guide bar length is more than enough to get most tasks done for campers.
1. For larger logs, try cutting from underneath the log first until you’re about ¾ through, then finish the rest off from the top. This will stop the log from pinching the chainsaw bar/chain when it breaks.
2. Make sure the tip end of the chain can’t accidentally touch another solid object, as this can cause chainsaw to violently kick back.
3. Always make sure you’re wearing the appropriate safety gear.
USING SNATCH BLOCKS TO MOVE LOGS
The old recovery kit is a really handy thing to keep in your 4WD, and it’s not just for getting your vehicle out of strife. It can be an invaluable asset when it comes to clearing tracks of logs and debris.
One of the most useful items in a recovery kit for clearing tracks is the good old snatch block. It allows you to change the angle of the winch’s pull. This is incredibly handy if you can’t physically get your 4WD into the right position to pull the log in the right direction. After all, it makes sense to pull the log to the side of the track rather than just closer to your 4WD right?
All you need to do is attach the snatch block to a tree on the side of the track and continue to rig the winch cable up as per usual to the log, and it’ll be a job well done in most cases. Remember to use a winch damper on the cable before and after the snatch block.
SCRAPING THROUGH A TIGHT FIT
Every now and then, you come across a tree branch that’s fallen and is hanging just a little too low to make it past. Clearing the tree might be the best option in some cases, but if it’s not possible to do so safely, what can you do?
If you only need an inch or so of extra clearance, dropping some air out of the tyres could be a goer. You’d be surprised at how much the height of a 4WD will drop if you do this.
Or you could lift the tree branch higher, even if it’s quite large and heavy. In some cases, if the stars align correctly and there just so happens to be a good sized tree with a strong V in the trunk located right there, you might be able to use a snatch block mounted off the higher tree to effectively winch the fallen branch a few inches higher while the other vehicles pass underneath. You’ll need to assess the safety of each situation separately, but it may be an option.
Another option is to use a bit of old fashioned manual labour and dig a bit of a trench for the tyres to sit in and follow under the branch. Obviously, the deeper you dig the lower your 4WD will sit, but just make sure the diff won’t hit the hump in the middle.
Check out the full feature in issue #100 May 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.