THE wealth of camping gear and four-wheel-drive accessories available these days is absolutely staggering.
So much so, it can be tricky deciding what is really useful and necessary for your particular needs. After all, you only have so much room – and cash! One of the best bits of 4WDing or camping gear that has become widely available in recent years is the vehicle awning. Being able to quickly set up some shade or shelter from rain is an absolute boon, whether stopping for lunch or smoko or when camping.
We have a Supa-Peg awning fitted to our Land Rover Discovery 4, which not only extends out from the side of the roof rack but also swings around to cover the tailgate area. It’s very practical. And although it cost a little more than imported versions, the Supa-Peg is a truly quality product, and also made here in Queensland.
Regardless of the brand you buy, it is vital to peg down the poles if there is any chance of even a moderate wind. Many are the disaster stories of awnings being wrapped around roof racks and otherwise being fatally rearranged during unexpected wind gusts. We often rope down the poles to tent pegs or trees as well as peg down the bases. This proved to be a lifesaver on our recent trip to Tasmania, when gusty wind changes were virtually the norm – and usually occurred in the middle of the night.
We’ve also had a couple of years now to thoroughly test the rear drawer and fridge slide, fabricated and fitted by Outback Touring Solutions at Beerwah.
Sometimes you don’t realise how good or important 4WDing or camping gear is until you haven’t brought it along, for whatever reason. On my way back from a trip to the northern Cape recently, I decided to drive down a mostly dry riverbed for an overnight camp. Storms had caused a small run in the river, so I got out and checked two places for softness before crossing and found it to be all good. The third one I didn’t check, and my old Landy sank deeply into it. If it wasn’t quicksand, it was a close relation!
It was then I remembered having recently transferred our set of MAXTRAX (the Australian-designed and made traction aids) over to the new Discovery. I’d also failed to bring along the hand winch. So to make any progress I had to resort to using the high-lift jack, long-handled shovel and some plastic camping floor mats and rocks to place under the wheels. Had I had the MAXTRAX, I would have got out in probably 10 minutes or less. Needless to say, each vehicle now has its own set of TRAX!
Recording your fishing and camping trips with still images or film has become so much easier these days, with a wealth of high-tech cameras and smartphones as well as editing programs available. Having an aversion to getting non-waterproof cameras splashed by salt water, I now use a compact Nikon Coolpix for fishing outings. Shockproof for up to a 1m drop, waterproof to 30m and featuring a reasonable zoom, it’s an ideal camera for both in the boat and kayak and snorkelling as well. Photos and films are not as high a quality as a DSLR camera but are still pretty good.
Over the past few years I’ve got into making nature/outdoor documentaries and initially bought a Canon 70 for this as it had good reviews for both still pics and video ability. It has been a great camera and filmed a lot of country and wildlife without any problems. Looking for a second, backup camera a year ago, I ended up buying one of the mirrorless, ‘Micro Four Thirds’ cameras; a relatively new design. This was a Panasonic Lumix G85 along with a macro and zoom lens, the latter from Olympus. The camera is compact, really easy to use, weather and dust sealed, and best of all, films in 4K, which is roughly four times the resolution of high definition.
It’s simply brilliant, and has actually become my main camera. It is so much lighter to carry and use than a traditional DSLR, which makes it an invaluable bit of camping gear. Both cameras are housed in waterproof Vanguard cases for protection from shock and the elements, which I painted yellow over the original black plastic exterior to reduce heating when in the sun. Both Panasonic and Olympus make a range of Four Thirds cameras with plenty of lens options, and they are well worth considering if you are new to the camera scene or thinking of upgrading.
Once again that magic time of year is here: the opening of the barramundi season in Queensland on February 1. The slight dampener is of course this is slap bang in the middle of the wet season, which limits travel and thus fishing options on Cape York. And while fishing in pouring rain is not that bad, care needs to be taken in thunderstorms due to the often-abundant lightning. At this time of year it is best not to venture too far north.
The Cairns to Cooktown area is a good option for run-off fishing at this time of year, as is the area around Karumba and Normanton, so long as there is no risk of flooding. As I’ve written about previously, targeting any drains, creek junctions, or waterfalls/cascades can be hugely productive for barramundi during the wet season, with soft plastics often dominating as the most successful lure types. As always, it’s important to be mindful of crocodiles, which are particularly active at this time of year.
Don’t even consider going into the water for any reason (like trying to retrieve a snagged lure) because it’s just not worth the risk. Anyway, here’s hoping for a good wet season to rejuvenate all the aquatic ecosystems and allow species such as barramundi to breed big time.
Have fun fishing!