Red Dirt Rentals Road Test
There are two questions on everybody’s lips when you get back from touring the Outback.
Where did you go?
And what rig did you do it in?
We have already covered the first question in our blog Rock, River and Reef, so lets talk about the rig that Red Dirt Rentals supplied us.
First of all we need some wheels and that was a Toyota 200 Series LandCruiser with all the fruit. It’s one big unit, especially when negotiating Perth traffic. But once we hit open roads, the big V8 diesel with equally big suspension truly came into it’s own. The ride from ‘smooth as’ sealed roads to bone rattling corrugations makes the long hours driving feel like a walk in a park. Not towing a camper trailer or off-road caravan certainly improves fuel economy as well as driving pleasure.
The Red Dirt Cruiser had all the things you need in the outback: UHF radio, all terrain tyres, bull bar and dual batteries. In the dark outback nights, the LED light bar shines brightly. The 4WD is one thing, but it’s the complete package that really counts. Firstly, we got a rooftop tent. And, as we were travelling during October and November in WA’s Gascoyne Murchison region, we need a big shady awning.
The Roof Top Tent
Alu-Cab is a South African company founded by Jeremy Bergh in 2000. For his 4WD adventures in Africa, Jeremy created camping setups that were quick and easy. There’s no doubt that the Alu-Cab rooftop tent that came with the Red Dirt Rentals LandCruiser is quick and easy.
There are several things we really like about the rooftop tent concept. First of all, it is the quick and easy bit. What we didn’t want is pulling into a camping site and muck around setting a bulky tent or complicated camper trailer. It’s a simple one-person job setting up the Alu-Cab rooftop tent. First you grab the expandable ladder out the back and climb up a couple struts. The next bit is unclipping the latches and letting the gas assisted struts effortlessly pop up the tent in seconds. Two tensioned metal bars are slotted in creating an awning, again taking seconds. Just reverse the process to pack up. It couldn’t be easier.
On windy nights, flapping canvas can make a good night sleep rather problematic. Although we encountered a lot of wind, the tightly tensioned canvas didn’t flap all that much. One tip, the hard sloping roof partly deflects the wind. On arriving at a campsite we always attempted to park into the wind.
The other rooftop time saver is that there’s no need to make the bed every time you pull into a campsite. But the biggest thing, the 75mm high-density foam mattress is exceptionally comfortable, ensuring a good nights sleep. Within easy reach are handy storage pockets and a lighting system.
Being high up has a couple advantages and disadvantage. When you wake up with sun peeping above the horizon you just sit back and soak in the views. It’s pure magic. Ample insect screen windows keep the bugs out and being so high up, it works well for those with snake phobias.
While the height provides a room with a view, clambering up and down a ladder in the middle of the night for a leak is not so much fun. For a short 18 day trip like this one, that inconvenience is not a deal breaker. On the other hand, I wouldn’t do the 6-month around Australia lap in a rooftop tent. You are living outside a lot when your accommodation is a rooftop tent. On this trip there was plenty of heat, wind and flies. It is at those times that we miss being in a caravan where we can have respite from the elements. Having said that, most of the day we were out exploring so it didn’t matter so much.
When we get back into the market again for an outback-touring rig, the one certain purchase will be the Alu-Cab awning. The local station owners in the Gascoyne/Murchison region were winding down their tourist accommodation with the onset of months of extreme summer heat. Some of our campsites had no shade, so a big awning was essential. Most awnings are a pain to set up and even more of a pain to pack up, but not this one. The Alu-Cab awning setup complete with aluminum support arms fits neatly into a zip bag mounted on the roof rack. The genius bit is that it only takes one person to swing out the awning to its full 270degrees and lock it in. Walla, instant 10 square metres of shade from the midday sun. At times the wind on the coast was gusting over 20 knots, no place for an awning.
Red Dirt Rentals also include all the extras required to get out into the outback. Two slide-out drawers are easily accessible from the back of the 4WD. One drawer contains the safety and recovery gear, just in case something goes wrong. We were lucky we didn’t have to use any of it, but it is essential to have. The other drawer holds all the food. The 40litre Engel fridge sits on top of the drawer, which created a bit of an accessibility issue for the height challenged like us. Also supplied was a 2 burner portable gas stove with crockery, cutlery, cooking utensils, bowls, plates, mugs, fry pan, saucepans and a collapsible washing up bowl. All this kitchen gear is stored in hardwearing canvas bags. We did bring our own wine glasses.
Water is essential in the outback and there was a 20l water container.
Then to put food on the table you have a trestle table and one chair per person.
All in all, we were pretty happy with our outback touring setup. We wanted hassle-free, simple camping. It delivered. We didn’t want to tow anything and the rooftop tent delivered there. We wanted the extra bits required to get in the 4WD rental and take off for the wild blue yonder. It delivered there too.