Essentials list for Kimberley trek

by Peter
(Perth, WA)

Giday Birgit. Thanks for your website and book "Destination Kimberley". I've been using them as well as other resources for a couple of years now to get ready for my long service leave trip to the Kimberley. My wife and I hope to take our two youngest girls 13 and 16 this June.

We own a Diesel Prado 202 and we've purchased an off road camper (Cub Escape) and hope to tour through Karijini and Purnululu on our way to explore the Gibb River Road and the Mitchell Plateau. The following list offers suggestions as to what I propose may be "Essentials" and "Non essential but helpful" items to take.

I would appreciate your thoughts on whether there is anything on this list of "essentials" that is over the top or that you think is missing.

Regards Peter Smit

Essentials list for a Kimberley trek
(Visiting Purnululu, Gibb River Road and Mitchell Plateau)

1. Essential 4x4 recovery gear:

  • Snatch strap and recovery points on vehicle.
  • D shackles to attach snatch strap.
  • Shovel.
  • Tow rope.
  • Tubeless tyre repair kit.
  • 12 volt compressor or tyre pump.
  • Leather gloves.

2. Other Essentials:
  • Adequate water and food supply.
  • UHF Radio.
  • Roof rack.
  • 2 Spare wheels and good quality tyres.
  • Fire Extinguisher.
  • Flat wooden plank or similar for jacking.
  • Tool Kit spanner and socket set to suit the vehicle.
  • Electrical (zip) ties.
  • Gaffer tape.
  • Insulation tape.
  • Tie wire.
  • First Aid kit.

2a) Spare items for vehicle:
  • 6 spare wheel nuts.
  • Spare Oil.
  • Spare fuses.
  • Spare engine hoses.

3. Non essential but helpful items:
  • 12 volt fridge/ freezer.
  • 12-240v inverter to charge batteries for electronic devices.
  • Maxtrax – self recovery tracks (for beach driving or bull dusk bogs).
  • Roof rack dust proof bag.
  • Compass or GPS.

4. Unnecessary items. (Assuming we're travelling June and July)
  • Snorkel.
  • Satphone.
  • Hand Winch.

Comments for Essentials list for Kimberley trek

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Apr 13, 2010
Kimberley trip essentials
by: Birgit

Hi Peter, that looks very good!
You are certainly better equipped than I am. (But my carelessness will bite me on the... you know, one day.)

I don't consider a UHF radio essential but many of my readers do. I know everybody who has one thinks everyone should get one. It does make roads more secure when you can tell someone that you are about to overtake them etc., but I wouldn't call it essential. I never had one and don't intend to get one.

Ooops, I never carry any of your essential vehicle spares. Shocking, ey? All good to have for sure and don't take up much room or weigh much, so definitely good to take.

I agree the fridge is a nice to have, not essential. That's what dry and canned food is there for. But again I know many of my readers disagree and consider it essential.

Same for the roof rack. That varies, depending on travel style, passenger number, car size.

The maxtrax seem overkill to me, but then again I don't know what exactly you're up to south of Broome, or how far off the track you'll go on the Dampier Peninsula. Or elsewhere. I find just dropping the tyres right down is good enough for any sand I've encountered.
I guess that makes them helpful but not needed, just as you say.

One thing I would not want to be without is a snorkel. See what the weather does. If the wet finishes late you may well need one in some crossings in early June. (Though come to think of it, the crossings that I am thinking of are all over east in the NT.)
I also really like the snorkel for all the dust on the Gibb.
It's not essential, especially if things dry up early, but I'd upgrade it to "non essential but helpful".

Otherwise, I can't think of anything that's missing. With your camping gear you'll have a torch to shine under the car or bonnet if needed, that leaves only tooth brush, dunny paper, can opener and cork screw :-).

Thanks for sharing! It's an excellent list.

Apr 13, 2010
by: Peter

Thanks Birgit,
Your local knowledge is great to learn from. Thanks also for the tip about the snorkel.

Apr 13, 2010
Other items to consider for your kit
by: Melinda

Dont forget torches and batteries! We also carry replacement fluids - coolant concentrate and oils. We do have spare belts and selected hoses too, but thus far have not needed those!

Also, the UHF is very handy for travellers/ tourists since they arent as knowledgeable of the environment Birgit, so if they get in strife there is an effective way to contact someone. I wouldnt ever suggest travelling in the outback without one.

An alternative to Maxtrax is to cut the walls off a bread crate.....

We are tackling the Gibb and Kalumburu Roads in July so we may meet you along the way.

Apr 13, 2010
by: Birgit

Thanks, Melinda.
I knew every UHF user would disagree about the UHF :-).
I actually do agree with your comment. UHF is very handy, as you say.
Just in my opinion not essential for this particular trip. The Gibb River Road is not exactly a deserted area any more, not in June. It's also not exactly flat, so your reach will often be limited.
But then again, if I owned one I might also agree that it is essential. I am sure my opinion is coloured by my own (lack of) experience.

Apr 22, 2010
by: John

To buck the trend, I have a UHF but don't put it in the essential category.

Why? It depends on what you're doing. If travelling with friends, I wouldn't be without it. You can chat down the road, relocate each other as you separate in towns, arrange the next comfort stop, etc. Apart from the fixed one in the truck I also carry a couple of hand helds. These are handy if you go for a walk. Like my wife will often go for an early morning walk solo and grabs a hand held as a security blanket. Then she wakes me up extolling the beauty of the sunrise over the beach at Cape Leveque! I've also had fascinating chats with local residents who have broken in as I've been chatting to travel companions on the highway.

As for emergency communications, UHF really doesn't cut it. As Birgit said, range is too limited. I've had 20km plus on the Gib when trying to locate a friend who'd travelled ahead to an indeterminite campsite. But if you're much more than that off the main track, making contact with anyone will be unlikely.

If you expect to be in such situations, HF and satellite phones are your friends. Each has pros and conns. Briefly, HF gives access to a long range network and the likelihood of contacting help within the region. Satellite phones cost more in calls but that's a non-issue in an emergency. Unfortunately, they cannot broadcast for local help so you end up calling someone in a big city - like the RAC or the emergency services. You can call home though. Both HF and sat-phone have somewhat comparable hardware costs.

For the record, I carry a sat-phone. I chose that for its portability as my business can take me to the back blocks of Asia and Pacific islands. The phone is easy to stick in hand luggage.

Hope that helps put a perspective on things for people.


Apr 22, 2010
UHF essential or not
by: Birgit

Thanks a bunch for your input, John! Appreciate the voice of experience, and also the detail. Your comments will be very helpful for anyone trying to decide whether they should get one or not.

Jan 03, 2011
by: nellie

Hi All
I'm travelling alone to the Kimberley starting in April. Have travelled much of Australia on my own.
I just carry a epirb on me at all the times, just in case of emergencies.
Family know I will call them only in towns a few days between, just to let them know I'm safe.
A radio or sat etc is not very helpful if you fall somewhere and break a leg :)
Makes hubby feel a lot better knowing I have this on me also.
Many people take farrrrr to much stuff they never use.
Just take the essentials, much better.
See you along the way
Cheers, Nellie

Jan 05, 2011
Which kind of satphone?
by: Ulli-M

Dear Kimberley Fans,

What kind of satphone is recommended in the north western part of Australia - the perfect Iridium or the less expensive Thuraya?

Is Thuraya working in this area?

Greetings from Germany - and from the Kimberleys in June 2011!

Jul 01, 2012
Hand Winch
by: Chris

We hope to travel Gibb River Road and visit the Bungle Bungles in July/August. We do not have an electric winch fitted to our vehicle. Could someone please advise us if it is neccessary to carry a hand winch? We are trying to keep the weight down in our vehicle so are wondering if we might regret leaving the hand winch at home?

P.S We have just found this great webpage and appreciate all the helpful info and comments found here.

Jul 01, 2012
by: John

Hi Chris,

Unless you're going far off the main drag, my experience is that the Kimberley is crawling with enough tourists at that time of year that you won't be stuck anywhere for long before you have company. Maybe throw in an extra can of baked beans and carry plenty of water?

That said, I found the hard way that a weighty 4x4 cannot rely on help from an average sedan. Stuck in mud you'll need more than a rope or a helpful pair of hands pushing. For that reason I learnt to always leave my trusty hand winch in the back of my Troopy whether I expected to need it or not. They are actually more versatile than a bull-bar mounted one and can be used in any direction including sideways! Most of the bull-bar mounted winches you see are installed by weekend mud-warriers who go out looking for mud. It's their idea of fun. With a hand winch you have security but, given the hard work of using them, you won't go looking to get bogged! I've noticed more 4x4 vehicles from the east with fitted winches than local vehicles in the top end. That tells a story.

BTW, my present truck came with a hydraulic winch fitted. I haven't had the need to use it to recover myself but when I've used it for tree stumps and other domestic chores it has been a phenomenal gentle giant. I love it. Slow, smooth and strong and no flat batteries as it runs off the engine. Other side of the coin is it won't pull me out of the river if I can't keep the engine running. That's what friends are for...

Does that help?


Jul 03, 2012
Hand Winch
by: Chris

Many Thanks John for you advice, we appreciate your words of wisdom and experience.

Apr 20, 2013
Hand Winches
by: JT

Hand winches or turfers are a handy bit of gear, but have disadvantages; mainly their size and weight. In my humble experience of growing up in NW QLD and NT remote towns a wallaby jack is a better alternative. It can be used as a jack and as a winch. Most times you only have move a vehicle 1 metre to free it up. Like mentioned earlier there are always people around on the Gibb to help you if you are in trouble .Remember when travelling remote tell someone where you are going , take 40 litres of water per person and don't leave your vehicle if you break down.

Jun 14, 2013
Radios & Satphones.
by: Stewart

I've read through posts in relation to communications that one should take with them, and what others are recommending.

Satellite Phones:
One thing people don't seem to understand is that Satellite phones, just like Satellite TV or GPS units will not work everywhere, every-time. There are locations where they will not work, and weather conditions can effect them.

Satphones are very expensive, one only needs to lookup pricing from various providers to see this. I honestly feel that you could better spend your money in other areas. Such as purchasing Birgit's excellent Kimberly and Top End guides.

There are those who say the are the greatest thing and those who disagree.

Whilst travelling on main roads, they can be handy to find out what is happening up ahead and also conversing with others if you are travelling in a group.

In the outback range is very limited. The hillier the terrain the less range you have. As a basic rule of thumb you can average your range on line of sight. This will vary with set-ups but it's a good starting point.

Another thing people seem to overlook is, these days most UHF CB radios have CTCSS.

As an aside - CTCSS is a sub-audible tone which is transmitted when you press the microphone button, if it is enabled. What this means for the user, if you have your radio with CTCSS (or tone as it's sometimes called) enabled you won't hear anyone else unless they have the same tone as you are using selected.

Would I stake my life on UHF CB? Hell NO!
Anyone who is considering installing a UHF CB or even worse purchasing a hand-held variant as a life-saving means is kidding themselves.

These are the ultimate safety device, a unit with GPS built-in will see you spending around $600. They also need to be registered with RCC Australia - so they know who they are looking for and have all appropriate details.

Before buying a EPIRB you need to considering how much time you are spending in remote areas where you may not see another soul for weeks on end. If you're doing this then they are worth the investment. Although if you're in areas where it may only be a matter of a day or two before someone passes by you, then it's probably $600 you could spend on something else.

NOTE: If you have any medical problems or conditions or life-threatening allergies, then a EPIRB would be highly desirable for you.

RFDS provides several bases around the country, as do VKS-737. Radios capable of this service will see you spending around $3000 for a new complete unit with auto-tune antenna. Most business operators selling these can also do the install for you as well, along with some training on how to use them.

If you 'really' want to take a radio I would strongly suggest spending your money on a RFDS/VKS-737 radio, such as those made by Barrett Communications or Codan.

Jun 17, 2013
by: Birgit

Thanks for the detailed input and for the recommendation!

Jun 17, 2013
by: Anonymous

Thanks for the details - I agree, but not to 100%...

Satphones like the Iridium offer connections if you have "a great" free visibility to the sky. Not between big mountains, but every time from a wide plain area 24 hours a day.

And satphones are for rent for about 80$ per week. I rented an iridium phone for 3 weeks and paid 180 Euro. So you need not to buy one...
Nice "insurance" if you are travelling alone or with your wife in a car.

I used it along the Gibb River Road, Old Mornington, Cape Leveque, Kununurra, Lake Argyle...

Jun 17, 2013
last post...
by: Ulli-M

sorry, forgot to mention my name in the begining of the above/last post... same like some posts above.

Jul 23, 2013
by: Ian

Add to the list a spare air filter and fuel filter especially if you have a diesel vehicle.

Feb 28, 2015
by: Ian (Canada)

Will be self driving Kimberly's May 15-May 29,2015. planning to do typical activities described in Kimberly Pocket Guide. What is appropriate footwear for typical conditions expected to be encountered?

Jun 17, 2015
by: Anonymous

hmmm reading these posts with some interest.

i have two vehicles, one with a uhf one without.

no they may not be life saving, however, nothing except an epirb thats registered ect is.

i personally will only take the vehicle with uhf out when i go bush. i have done remote work, and when i say remote, i mean remote. yes i had sat phones, never needed to use.

Now my reason for uhf, you will be shocked on the range you have, depending on your ariel, if you have a 6.5mghz. even in hilly country i have communicated with people on the other sides of the hills using my uhf. however, back to the reason for uhf, out there in the bush there are many recreational prospectors, and also business prospectors, as well as exploration teams, and if your lucky you can get out of strife. whilst i worked remote areas, quite often on the uhf would be tourists in strife on the uhf, had they no uhf, there was no way of knowing they were out there, but that said, its all about knowing where you are as well, so in a sense just having a uhf is pointless, but knowing your location etc and having one, could save your life.

i also use uhf prior to overtaking trucks, and caravaners etc.

the gibb though during peak is busy enough, and probably wouldn't need to use a uhf, but like on a boat, i'd always have that option. and it's probably busy enough when the road is open, worst case would be a couple days before seeing someone else.

just my 2 bobs worth

May 26, 2016
Some advice - suggestions please
by: Tony

Hi everyone,

I am slowly gearing up the 4wd so that my wife and I can do the Kimberleys and the Gibb River Road / attractions on the way.
I think we will be taking an off road camper trailer. Do we need:
# a small generator for camp sites? I will have the dual battery set up for fridge in the 4wd.
# Looking at comments when is the best time to do this trip? August / September?
# any other relevant / important advice would be very much appreciated.

Regards Tony.

Jun 30, 2016
Kimberley/ Gibb River Road
by: Ann T

Hi Tony, we are doing the same next year, we have a small generator, battery setup and considering solar panels as well to ensure we can have all the comforts in our camper trailer. I like to take the laptop and small TV, otherwise it's the Engel running off the Anderson plug and a few LED lights. We charge the phones etc. in the car and have a UHF. Have heard from friends that the corrugations on the Gibb River Road are horrendous!!!

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