I’d had a great weekend camping and was heading back into town but decided at the last minute to do a little bit of exploring on my way home.
I followed old tyre tracks on sand in an area I didn’t know and where there wasn’t a clear path. While I was in 4-high (high range 4WD), my tyres were still on road pressure. Up until that point I’d had no dramas so I was a little bit over-confident and a lot lazy.
I knew I was in trouble the second I hit the soft sand. With some experience it becomes an unmistakable feeling and there’s an instant difference in your vehicle’s handling. I whacked the Hilux into low range and started reversing. I’d got in that way so I was hoping I could get out that way.
Er … Nope.
I carry a fair bit of weight over my rear axle so my rear tyres weren’t able to lead the way. I had successfully reversed about six metres before she started digging in. I was going nowhere.
And it was my fault.
I had three choices.
- Keep trying to reverse. But spinning my wheels would have been dumb. No matter how hard I hit that accelerator she wouldn’t have gone anywhere other than further down into the sand.
- Try rocking forwards and backwards. That is, go forwards and back trying to get some momentum.
- Swear. Get out of the car. Assess the situation. Swear some more.
I went for Option 3.
On this occasion I didn’t try #2 as there was no point. I was foolishly running my tyres at 40psi. (It hurts to admit that.) Any further attempts to drive out of there would have only resulted in my wheels digging deeper into the soft sand.
LESSON #1. Stop immediately when you realise you’re bogged. You’ll only make things harder for yourself later on when you try and dig your vehicle out if you don’t.
PLAN AND PREPARE
Okay. You’re stuck. Now what?
Take your time to work out how you’re going to approach your situation. It can be overwhelming when you’re realise you’re in a bit of trouble but a cool head is critical. Take a deep breath and apply the “oh well” rule. Getting flustered and angry or worried or screaming at your partner isn’t going to help. I mostly travel solo so screaming at someone else isn’t going to work.
It was bloody hot and humid when I got stuck east of Broome. Two people had died of heat exhaustion in WA in the week prior. One was a hiker at Kalbarri, the second was a well-prepared motorcyclist on the Gibb River Road. Getting out of a bog can be long, hard, physical work. Heat exhaustion is a serious threat and I was keen to avoid it.
Despite being foolish with my tyre pressure, I like to think I redeem myself a little by carrying some essentials in my vehicle at all times. A hat, sunscreen and at least 20 litres of water are permanent features. And there’s usually a bottle of scotch in there for when I’m really in trouble.
I lathered on sunscreen, put on my hat and put my water where it was easily accessible so I could have regular water breaks.
LESSON # 2. Slip, slop, slap and slurp.
LESSON # 3. Sips of water don’t cut it. The experts say you need a glass of water every time.
LESSON # 4. Take a photo for use on social media for when you’re back at camp and feeling a lot better about your situation.
LESSON # 5. Tell someone if you can. I was in phone range so I rang a friend, sent him the photo and discussed my plan with him. He wasn’t particularly helpful when he asked if I had a winch. He knows I don’t have a winch and the photos clearly show a lack of bloody trees to attach my non-existent winch to.
My plan for the Great Unbogging was a text book plan for a text book soft sand bog.
- Drop my tyre pressure.
- Dig out the sand behind all four tyres.
- Put my recovery boards/MaxTrax behind the rear tyres.
- Reverse out.
- Vow never to drive on sand again without dropping my tyre pressure.
- Take photo to prove the Great Unbogging was a success and, in some small way, redeem my credibility after stupidly getting stuck in the first place.
The most important thing you need to know about driving on sand is don’t be lazy like I was. PUT YOUR BLOODY TYRES DOWN. The less air in your tyres, the more the tyre is able to spread out on the sand, giving you more surface area for traction. The prime objective is to maximise the length of your tyre so it behaves more like a track on a bulldozer or tank.
On soft sand I usually run my tyres at about 13-15psi. Sure, ask ten people about what tyre pressure they run and they’ll all give you different answers because tyre size and vehicle loads all vary. You can go down to 10psi apparently if you’re in real strife but I’ve never done that. Keep in mind that running low pressures in your tyres increase the risk of rolling your tyres off their rims. Avoid cornering and sharp turns and it shouldn’t be a problem.
You can’t dig out your tyres if you don’t have anything to dig with. Always carry a shovel of some sort. Shovelling sand isn’t too bad. Shovelling mud is the worst thing ever so a pissy little spade won’t cut it. Buy your shovel accordingly.
My rear tyres needed my attention most. They were the ones that were going to save the day/save my arse. But they were also the tyres that were buried the deepest – no surprise there because of the weight of my canopy.
So I dug the sand out from my back tyres and laid my recovery boards (or MaxTrax) firmly against my tread. The boards work best when not laid flat, instead protruding at an angle. That will guide your tyre onto the top of the sand.
HERE WE GO!
So I’d let my tyres down, dug out the sand from around all four tyres and laid my recovery boards behind my rear tyres. The hard work was done and took less than half an hour. (The last bogging I was involved with took 6 people, 2 shovels, a winch, an airbag, 4 maxtrax, 2 snatch pulls and 5 hours to rectify. (In Top End mud, not my vehicle).
I walked my escape route and worked out that the best place for me to reverse was on the path I had driven in on. I’d planned to follow my tracks until the sand was relatively solid again – about 25 metres. There were no obstacles that I had to dodge.
All going to plan, my low tyre pressure would give my tyres lots of traction on my recovery boards and I’d be on my way.
I started the engine, took a breath, checked I was still in low range, put her in reverse and accelerated slowly. The slow wheel rotation allows your tyre to grip your boards. If it doesn’t work, stop and reposition your boards. You may even have to dig some more to ensure the boards are firmly wedged against your tyre. Spinning your wheels now would only wreck your boards and dig you further in.
My tyres gripped my boards easily and the Hilux reversed effortlessly.
YAY FOR ME, MY PLAN, MY PREPARATION, AND MY EQUIPMENT! 😊
NAY FOR GETTING STUCK IN THE FIRST PLACE. ☹
I drove out of the sand and once I was on solid ground I used my trusty air compressor to pump my tyres back up.
Phew. Time to go home!
No heat stroke, no hissy fits, no damage (except to my pride) and no scotch required.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER:
Lisa Herbert is houseless not homeless. She’s the author of funeral planning guide ‘The Bottom Drawer Book: an after death action plan’
She’s been travelling around the country for about four years, occasionally filling short-term contracts for the ABC in places like Kalgoorlie, Broome, Tamworth and Darwin.
Lisa enjoys blogging about the unusual graves, memorials and cemeteries she finds on her travels.
Get in touch with Lisa via Facebook .