Have you got the power to cross the Simpson Desert?
Six 4wd-based tips to keep your gear energised for off-road adventure
If you mention you’re planning a Simpson Desert trip, your friends will either:
- Be green with envy …or
- Think you’re a little crazy.
So, tell me, do you get it? That sense of adventure, challenge, and raw beauty? As beautiful as it is harsh, the iconic Simpson Desert is on many mad-keen off-roaders’ bucket lists.
But hold your horses there, Clancy. The ‘Simo’ should not be taken lightly (or heavily, for that matter). The remoteness, vast distances and rugged terrain mean this journey needs careful planning.
One important consideration is how you’ll keep your essential and ‘nice to have’ gear charged.
Read on to discover how to keep up the power for your Simpson Desert adventure.
“Yeh, yeh – my 4WD’s got a battery. Tick. Let’s move on to the fun stuff”.
Well, let’s talk about this not-so-fun scenario. You’re in the middle of the Simo, a long way from Mount Dare and Birdsville. It’s still minus two at 8 am, and you’re ready to hit the dunes. Except you’re not going anywhere because your fourby won’t start.
Being stuck in the desert is not fun, is generally expensive for recovery and can be dangerous. It’s crucial for your safety (and your relationship) that your vehicle is mechanically healthy.
You’ll be working your off-roader hard in extreme terrain, conditions, and temperatures.
Check the health of your battery before you set off.
There’s a stack of gear you’ll want to take, and some can be charged regularly in the front of the 4WD. Smaller equipment and regular go-to items include:
- Satellite communicator: Some form of EPIRB, communicator or satellite phone is recommended for remote travel.
- Mobile phone: But there’s no reception out there, and the ‘G’ in 4G stands for ‘gone’, right? Mobiles are great for all those red dune photos and action videos. And don’t forget all those handy Apps for star gazing, music and interacting with fridges, dash cams and communicators.
- Handheld CB radio: Great for having a spotter help with a driving line. Or when you’re standing on top of a dune, camera ready, and need to tell the driver, “Go-Go-Go”.
- Battery pack: Keep a small battery pack ready and charged. Murphy’s law will give you a flat phone battery at that glorious ‘golden hour’ of photographer bliss.
- Head torches
- Torches, lights
It’s logical to charge this small gear while bouncing over those dunes, plus you can keep an eye on progress and swap them over when ready. Your car generates power as you drive, meaning you preserve your stored energy.
- Install extra 12V cig or USB plugs in the front of the car
- Use a small pencil case to store your cables when not in use
- Double-sided Velcro is a camper’s best friend. Use it to wrap around each cable to control length and tangles.
Auxiliary battery or secondary power source
Your Simpson Desert journey will be more enjoyable with a secondary power source. Whilst not essential, many off-road travellers consider stored power as not negotiable. Some equipment your Auxiliary/secondary power can run:
- Car fridge: Many 4WDers love the convenience, practicality, and options a car fridge provides. It’ll keep the beverages cool and the sausages safe, cos no one wants gastro in the middle of the desert. Plus, it saves the “not baked beans for dinner again” complaints.
- Freezer: Extend the range of your menu and impress the kiddies with ice cream in the middle of the desert.
- Travel ovens: Hot pies anyone?
- Stationary charging: Charge while based at camp without the risk of draining your starter battery.
You’ll need a way of isolating the starter from the secondary battery, which prevents your equipment from draining your starter battery when stationary.
You can use a simple isolator, but many modern cars and battery setups benefit from a DCDC charger to assist with isolation. A DCDC charger works with smart alternators, controls voltage drops, and uses the best charging profile for your specific battery.
It’s worth getting some expert advice when it comes to your secondary battery. You’ll need to consider the type (e.g., AGM/lithium/contained power pack), size and capacity of your auxiliary setup. Other considerations include where to site the battery, wiring size, and what connections and plugs you need.
Inverters convert the power in your battery from 12 volts (e.g., a cig-plug in your car) to 240 volts (like your wall plugs at home). When travelling, we use 240-volt charging for our camera gear and the laptop to store and edit photos. We also charge the battery packs for tools like our cordless drill.
Inverter capacity and physical size vary depending on your charging needs. To charge our camera gear, we use a 150-watt inverter. But if you want to run a coffee machine or heater, you’ll need to go much higher.
Have a chat with a battery expert to discuss your individual needs.
Solar is the darling of many a 4wd adventurer. Solar allows for greater range and the ability to truly escape. A quality solar setup will enable you to generate free power to input into your battery. Solar can keep the camping fun going.
Solar is beneficial when you stop for multiple days.
We often use solar to boost our auxiliary battery if we use our travel oven for an extended cook (e.g., a roast) while at camp.
There are also many neat camping gadgets with small solar panels for charging. We love our blow-up solar light – it packs flat, doesn’t need much charging, and lasts ages. We sometimes turn it on and hang it in a nearby tree to attract the bugs away from us at night.
Of course, don’t forget spare AAA, AA, C, D, 9V and button batteries for your other gear. A battery headtorch is simply an ugly lumpy headband if it’s flat.
Are You desert Dreaming?
Powering through the Simpson Desert is a cinch with careful planning and a great setup. With 1,100 dunes to challenge you and stunning vistas to entice, the Simo should be on every 4wders bucket list.
Visit Battery World to make your Simpson Desert travel dreams a reality