Graham: Remote Trip Prep

 Graham’s been wondering what ‘remote’ actually means…

Just this month, I had reason to seriously question a subject I’ve long toyed with, namely what exactly does it mean to be ‘remote’? Routinely the concept of remoteness gets defined as being in a spot where you find yourself a significant number of kilometres from civilisation, or to bring it back to basics, when you are in the middle of nowhere. Yet in reality, your proximity to civilisation may in no way define your remoteness. Instead, remoteness may instead be a gathering of external factors and less to do with location.

A couple of years back I did a crossing of the Simpson Desert, a location I’d easily get away with calling remote. Yet on any given day, I saw at least a dozen or more vehicles. I don’t define that as remote. Similarly, on a recent run through the Centre I saw more traffic than I ever had in the past. The Cape last year was crawling with people, far from being remote. The Kimberley even, that last bastion of wilderness, is at the wrong time of year less remote than you might ever imagine.

Yet just this month, I found myself only an hour and a half from home, having navigated then pushed my way in through a maze of at first forestry tracks, then single-lane goat tracks, before ending on an overgrown, never used faint sniff of a track that necessitated axe and saw to make progress towards the river I had in my sights. The nearest farm house would have been less than 50 clicks away yet as far as human contact was concerned, I could wait a year and not see a soul. That really got me to thinking – that old track, as far as I’m concerned, was as remote as it gets.

Think about it: we all carry comms these days (you do have long-range communications of some sort in your truck right?), so contacting an external party for help is a no-brainer, mostly. However, when down in that rich, overgrown South-West river valley, I found even my satphone struggled for signal thanks to the dense overhanging forest canopy.

Should I have needed assistance, getting it would have been bloody difficult. As for guiding a support party in, again, tricky to do. Yep, I could have relayed GPS co-ords, but with scrub thicker than the hairs on a dogs back, locating the goat trail I followed in would have been an effort. By definition, my actual location on a map may not have looked remote, but for all intents and purposes, I was about as remote as you can get! So just what am I getting at? Well I’ve been guilty of this myself, if I’m honest it has happened on numerous occasions: heading out for just half a day, close to home with zero planning or thought given to plan B. What to do if it all goes pear-shaped? Yet conversely, prior preparation before a bigger, far more iconic trip means I’m loaded with every form of backup and comms device known to man. Yet which trip needs planning the most?

The correct answer is both, but I am inclined to lean a little towards the former. See, we tend to get pretty cavalier about anything close to home base. We don’t worry about the implications of something going wrong, as we are lulled into a false sense of security, often based on the premise that we are not, by definition, heading anywhere remote. Perhaps we don’t bother with the recovery gear, the first aid kit gets left on the shelf or the satphone stays in the study. After all, we will be back by lunchtime…

These days, if I am planning on locking the hubs, I pack accordingly. I mean, I don’t make a big deal out of it, but I do keep the following items either in the GU at all times, or stacked in the shed ready to grab and go with no fuss or effort required.

Firstly, 20L of water lives in a metal jerry in the tray at all times. A full recovery kit (designed for solo recoveries) stays in the GU. A comprehensive first aid kit is strapped into the centre console. A fire-extinguisher resides in the cab at all times. I have a toolkit that lives in a drawer plus a host of basic spares (fuses, wire, hoses, clamps) that have a home in an old toolbox in the same drawer.

I have both an axe plus pruning saw as well as a shovel that never leave the truck for garden duties. I have a HF radio plus satphone that I check weekly, both left in the truck permanently. Two GPS units also have a stable residence on the dash.

Sure, as the saying goes ‘dung still happens’, but I figure just because I’m only heading out for a few hours, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be as equipped as possible to deal with it when it does! Until then, you know the drill – work to live, don’t live to work. Oh, and always carry a few tins of baked beans. You just never know… Food for thought perhaps?