CORONA ROUGH NOTES: GUIDE TO RUGGED ADVENTURE
Getting off the beaten track and up to your doors in mud will often lead you to the bounty, and we’ve been stuck in the mud, the sand and the river doing just that. Like many things, preparation is key to ensuring you can take on whatever terrain your upcoming adventure may throw at you. So, learn from a few of our past mistakes and follow these simple tips to make sure you are geared up and ready to find the most beautiful yet remote places on offer.
1. VEHICLE PREP
Preventative maintenance is the theme here. No one likes to be stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, and the piece of mind you receive from knowing your vehicle can go the distance makes the trip that much sweeter. With all adventure rigs there’re some common things to do before you hit the open road:
- Visual Inspection: Check under the bonnet and the car for any visual leaks, signs of overheating or signs of wear. Look out for things like coolant or oil leaks, and make sure there’s no visible wear or cracks on the drive belts (fan/power steering/AC) or water hoses. Lastly, take a walk around the car while your buddy plays with the car’s lights to make sure everything is working. Replace any bulbs that aren’t.
- Fluids: None of that “She’ll be alright,” or “It’ll make it.” If it’s a long trip, make sure your engines oil and oil filter are fresh. Then check the coolant, transmission fluid, diff oil, brake/power steering/clutch fluid and make sure all is topped up and where it needs to be. Even on shorter trips, make sure all fluids are up to scratch before you head off.
- Tyres/Brakes: These two come in handy sometimes ya’ know? Make sure your tyres are well above the tread depth indicators and are up to pressure. Check your brake pads and rotors have plenty of life left in them too.
- Finally, check the spare tyre: Make sure the spare is fully inflated and that the jack and all other tyre-changing accessories are in the boot.
Now relax! Your vehicle is ready to be driven to the back of yonder. Whatever happens from here on in, take pride in knowing you’ve done the hard slog and prepared your rig fully for the journey ahead. If all of the above sounds a bit out of your depth, ring that friend of yours or get a local workshop to have a quick look.
2. WHAT TO PACK
A place for everything and everything in its place, at least, until the chaos of the trip gets hold of it. Digging around in a messy boot space is no fun for anyone. Bins are the best investment you’ll ever make. We have four regulars that get taken on every trip: cookware, food, tools & miscellaneous camping gear. Knowing where everything is at all times helps along the way, and it means that if a spur of the moment trip pops up, you’re not going to forget the little things.
Here are a few things to pack for your vehicle that may save a few headaches along the way:
– Spare oil and a decent sized bottle full of water.
– Tools; Screwdrivers, a socket set and some good pliers will take you far. Also, make sure you have enough gear to change a wheel.
– Air pressure gauge and air pump (whether it’s a foot pump or powered off the car battery). We’ll fill you in on why you’ll be needing this soon.
– A tow rope, good jack and a spade. This trip is going to get interesting.
3. ESSENTIALS WHEN ON THE ROAD
All those hours behind your desk daydreaming up your ideal road trip usually includes your mates and some laughs. When you hit the road, there are some key ingredients to pack in the back, to make sure everything inside the cabin goes smoothly on long hauls.
- Good tunes are crucial. We’ve got a hill just south of us and as soon as you get over it, no radio signal. From here on in it is static filled rubbish for the majority of the rural countryside. Whether you’re the super organised or the wing it type traveller, for your sanity plan some music. Spotify and Apple Music playlists are good. We’ve had to resort to picking up a CD from a small town op-shop before, and trust us; it got old quick.
- Mates (try to get some good ones too). As cool as it is to travel solo, it’s much better to share the driving load, that surf and that coffee with good company. There’s always going to be that one mate that will try to pull out last minute too. Make sure you remind them about the waves you’re going to score and the places you’ll see. Hopefully, they change their tune!
- Snacks and drinks are vital to keeping the crew fresh, alive and happy. A phone charger is a must. Phones are often a drag on a road trip, but you’ll need them in an emergency, and they come in handy to ring the crew at home to let them know how much you’re scoring.
Pack a good camera. A mental picture is great, but no matter how good your memory is, it will eventually fade. Grab yourself a camera so that you make those trip memories permanent.
A good old fashion map. Your smart phone’s built-in maps is a must, but you can’t beat a traditional paper map. They can be purchased at your local store and are an excellent companion on any trip. Scribble on them, jot down handy tips, warnings, good coffee spots and whatever else your heart desires. When planning future trips, it’s epic to go back and reference previous places on your trusty paper map.
4. CHOOSING A SET-UP LOCATION
When you’ve got time on your side, it pays to shop around for that perfect spot. Give yourself plenty of daylight and if you’re planning on a waterfront wake up, make sure you check the tideline.
When you think you’ve found the perfect spot, firstly, check you’ve got some firm level ground to avoid the blood rushing to your head when it comes to getting horizontal of an evening. Be sure also to look out for shelter from the prevailing wind. A good tree line or solid cliff face can keep things still and calm through the night. No wake-up spot is complete without a killer view, and sometimes you’ve got to compromise. Waking up on the dunes or overlooking a river can be well worth a night of wind or noise.
5. SETTING UP YOUR ROOFTOP HOME
We might be a tad biased, but rooftop living really is the life. Leave the pegs, blow up mattress and poles at home. There are no poles required for basic setup and the Crow’s Nest tent is up in less time than it takes to boil the billy. There is a built in queen mattress so you’ll never have to pump up a bed again, and with your sleeping bag and pillows stored inside the tent (even when travelling) your car is free for more mates, surfboards and gear.
Simply unzip, remove and roll up the travel cover. Release the velcro side straps and with a swift pull of the ladder the ready-to-use tent unfolds all by itself. An effortless setup for carefree adventures. If you're planning on staying more than just the one night, climb up and add the spring poles to gain some extra shelter and protection.
6. COOKING IN THE WILD
You might be a wizard in the kitchen, but cooking in the wild is something else completely. Preparation space is tough to find in the forest and even more pesky on the sand. If we can give you one key bit of advice, it’s to keep it simple with a basic setup.
With a good quality dual burner gas cooker, a range of cast iron skillets and some quality plates, bowls, cups and utensils, you’ll be set. Oh, and a kettle. Don’t forget the kettle.
There’s no need to be provision heavy when packing. Part of the fun of a long journey is collecting food on the road, stopping at local food stalls and taking as much of the local produce as possible to throw in the chilly bin. Make sure you pack some small essentials prior however; oil, salt, pepper and a range of herbs won’t take up any room and will improve the taste of all your on-the-go meals.
Keep cleaning up in mind while you cook with the aim of using the least amount gear possible. Don’t be afraid to re-use pots and pans, share bowls or eat straight from the skillet. The less mess the better.
7. GETTING TO HARD TO REACH PLACES
If you want to get away from the crowds, you're going to have to get off the beaten track and through some pretty sketchy terrain. Even if you get skunked at the end, the trip across the river or down the beach is always well worth it. Soft sand and rough terrain can be hard on your gear, so here’s some easy tips to help you get to the other side:
This is where that tyre pressure gauge you packed earlier comes in handy. Letting down your tyres spreads out your tyres footprint, which means more traction and contact with the sand/dirt/river bed. Depending on the size and weight of your vehicle, airing down to 20-15 psi is a must before hitting soft sand and troublesome loose areas.
Momentum is your friend when the ground gets soft, so switch your rig into low ratio (if you have it) and pick a low gear. Keep your speed slow and consistent. If you’ve hit some particularly soft ground and it’s looking like you are going to be forced to stop, make sure you ease off the gas early. The worst thing you can do in a situation like this is try to pin it and as a result, dig yourself in. Never take on tricky terrain without having another vehicle to tackle it with you and always take the time to walk your route to spot for any hazards.
Before driving on any beach, check the tides. You’d be surprised how fast the tide comes in when you're stuck, especially if there is a decent swell running. So avoid the risk at all costs. Stick to the hard sand as much as possible and be easy and consistent with the throttle. Sand driving is tough on your right foot and you don’t want to get her too hot, so keep an eye on the engine temp gauge.
You might think that getting onto the beach is reserved only for raised up trucks with big aftermarket mud tyres yeah? How wrong you are. A nice wide street tyre loves the sand, won’t dig in like a mud tyre and you’ll find yourself getting places you’d never thought you’d go. Remember, tyre pressure and momentum! Two sure fire elements to make sure a friendly local doesn’t pull up beside you, roll down the window and yell - “Mate. Looks like your diff’d!”
Lastly, after you’ve successfully completed your off road excursion, drive slow and cautiously when getting back to a gas station to re-inflate your tyres (or better yet, use an electric air pump/foot pump before you hit the road). Don’t forget wash your vehicle as soon as possible. Sand is horrid stuff for a vehicle and gets in all the hard to reach places, so a proper underbody water blasting is a must.
8. YOU GOT STUCK!
If you are out there exploring, no matter what you do, at some point you're gonna get stuck. After you’re finished having a good laugh (or cry), you’re probably going to want to start looking at how to get out.
Don’t stress! Everyone gets bogged and the fun part is getting out. Stand back and figure out the reason you're stuck. What wheel is spinning free and is the differential or any part of chassis sitting on the ground? If you’ve taken our advice and have a buddy with you, grab your rated tow rope or snatch strap, get your friend on firm ground and pull her out, no sweat. If not…
Try reverse out the way you came. You’ve dug yourself nicely into this mess, so the logical thing is to head back along the solid tracks you’ve already made. Slowly driving back and forwards, if possible, can also compact the surface and give you solid ground to gain some much needed momentum. If all else fails, get out your spade or hands and start digging. Know the direction you want to head and dig that way, clearing the ground from underneath your differentials, axles and chassis, you only want the tyres touching the ground, nothing else. From here get your friends to start lining your desired track with anything you can find for extra traction; recovery tracks (like Maxtrax) are ideal. But branches, sticks, dry seaweed, rocks, etc. can do surprisingly well if you're desperate. Once you’ve found some traction and got some momentum again, keep it up. Get out of the soft stuff and look for another way around.
If all of the above fails, don’t stress. Just do it all over again and make sure you try harder this time. Remember, no amazing road trip story is complete without getting your vehicle properly buried to the floor.
So you’ve serviced the car, packed it full of well thought out gear, picked up a pile of good mates, headed across the country, camped in amazing locations, scored uncrowded waves, driven on beaches and through rivers, got stuck and got yourself out again. That’s one good trip if you ask us!
A huge thanks goes out to Corona NZ for being part of this journey and helping us put together this guide. Enjoy!