Warren Sprigg

By Warren Sprigg

Traveling around the Australian Outback, Some tips to consider when traveling in remote areas

These are simple basic things that may help save a life, it could be yours.

Be safe, have a ground Charlie.

My Number one rule is to have a “Ground Charlie” Atagalong Tours always have a trip itinerary and a “Ground Charlie”

This is the most important piece of advice I can give you, have an itinerary planned and share that itinerary with someone at home.

  •  That person is your “Ground Charlie”.
  • Charlie should be a responsible person you can trust to always have your back!
  • Charlie should be intelligent enough to understand your movements and know all about your vehicle details – including registration number or numbers.
  • Charlie must be able to read a map, understanding your travel routes.
  • Charlie should have current picture of your vehicle including a tow unit if applicable.
  • Charlie needs to know of any medical issues including any medications required by you or any other persons in your party.

Why so many details?  

Should the occasion arise Charlie can give the authorities the following information quickly. See the following examples of the information Charlie can give out.

Your Names.

Ted Traveller and Jaine Traveller.

Regular Contact Time Slots.

Charlie can report that Ted and Jaine have missed two regular communication slots in a row, this is uncharacteristic for Ted to do this.

Location and Intended route.

Charlie knows that Ted and Jaine were two days out from Birdsville when the last contact was made. Charlie knows that Ted is crossing the Simpson Desert from East to West on the French Line. Charlie knows that they should be at Dalhousie Springs by now but have not checked in.

Vehicle Type.

Charlie explains that Ted and Jaine are driving a White Toyota 200 series Landcruiser with the Victorian registration number plate of TJTRVL, plus pictures of the vehicles. Charlie can advise that Ted does carry some spare parts and tools.

Contact details.

Charlie has tried to contact Ted and Jaine over two days finding that there is no answer on Teds Sat phone. Neither Ted or Jaine are answering their mobile number as well.

Charlie can give out the Sat phone and mobile phone numbers to authorities.

This is important as Ted and Jaine could be now on the Stuart Highway nearing Alice Springs and only had a Sat phone problem with a flat battery, or Ted simply forgot to contact Charlie to let Charlie know all is well.

As soon as Ted or Jaine turns on a mobile phone the voice mail messages will tell the story that Ted needs to contact “Charlie” The authorities will also be quick to pick you up by tracking your sim card when you pass a mobile phone tower. “Ping” they know where you are!

UHF Radio

Charlie can also advise authorities that Ted has a UHF radio in the vehicle plus a hand-held unit. They will both be tuned to the appropriate channel for the area Ted is travelling. Should an aircraft be sent out to look for Ted then Ted can communicate with the aircraft when in sight. Simpson desert for example radios should be on to the desert channel 10, Charlie can advise that Teds radio call sign is “TT” for example.

Food and Water

Charlie can advise that Ted and Jaine carry enough water to replenish the vehicle’s radiator if required, plus a week’s drinking water, supplies for two people for the trip along with emergency food rations for a week.


Charlie can advise authorities of any general health conditions and medications required by the Travellers.

When to Contact Charlie

Contact your ground Charlie every day or two at the most updating your location, your intended route and time and place of your next contact. Weather events may force changes to any itinerary, vehicles can break down or any manor of things can force you to change your plans. Always let Charlie know your plans and stick to your regular contact times. Discuss the maximum time allowable before Charlie contacts the authorities should you not contact Charlie. Example two days maximum, then Charlie goes into action on the third day.

Mobile phone coverage in the outback.

Generally, as soon as you leave an outback town you will start to lose your mobile phone coverage.

Satellite phones or an epirb?

Don’t travel the remote outback without one, you can rent either cheaply these days.

Medical Kit

Carry an emergency kit that’s quick to grab anytime,

Atagalong tours or its operators carry a Kit that includes

Heart Defibrillator, Blood Pressure monitoring machine, breathing support ventilator, multiple bandages including snake bite along with most other critical items that could be required.

Atagalong Tours operators are all certified first Aiders.

UHF Radio’s

Don’t travel the outback without a good UHF radio permanently mounted inside your vehicle. Purchase a good branded quality radio / aerial from your local retailer, a hand-held unit is also advisable. Always be aware of the channels required for your location as they can change.

UHF Radio’s - Outback Tours

I have two UHF radios mounted in the 6×6 vehicle, one for convoy use on channel 15 for example, and one for highway use on channel 40. In remote areas I can constantly scan channels on my secondary unit if required whilst maintaining constant communication with my group following. Picture by W Sprigg 2023.

Hand held UHF units

UHF radio

Our 5-watt hand held UHF radio pictured, this unit is not recommended for vehicle-to-vehicle communication due to its limited transmission range. Picture by W Sprigg 2023.

A hand-held UHF radio for backup to your vehicle mounted unit, or to communicate with others when you are out of your vehicle. On a walk or a vehicle recovery, communication is the key.

Whatever mounted radio brand you purchase have it installed professionally if you are not confident with installation yourself. A UHF radio could save your life! It will definetly make traveling safer and easier.

Note: Atagalong tours does not recommend one UHF radio brand over another, nor does Atagalong tours receive any benefit what so ever from any UHF radio manufacturer. For our use we aim for what we consider to be the best unit fit for purpose at any given moment in time.

UHF Aerials.

In the picture below you can see two different sized UHF aerials fitted to the 6×6. Both are fitted with rubber under the mounting base, this is to help with the vibrations the aerials are subjected to on the bull bar. The base of the unit is also sprung; this is also to help with vibrations and any obstacles encountered allowing for the aerial to bend.

What is the difference between the long and short aerials?

The short aerial is better in the Victorian high country, desert swales or around town, whilst the longer aerial is all about overall distance. Seek further information from a reputable radio retailer. GME have a great video on the subject.

Atagalong tours 6x6 desert touring

Atagalong tours 6×6 desert touring unit above shown with twin radios and aerials fitted. Picture by W Sprigg 2023.

Important message

If you are stuck in the outback for whatever reason, never leave your vehicle. Your vehicle still provides shelter and importantly high visibility for emergency responders to find you.

Don’t panic, don’t wander off, stay with your vehicle,

Someone will find you; patience is a virtue.

Atagalong Tours

Our staff or our representatives always adhere to the above policy carrying, a Satellite Phone, Mobile Phone, mounted UHF Radio in all of our vehicles along with hand held UHF radio’s. We always have an itinerary and a daily regular communication slot with our “Ground Charlie”. We are trained first aiders and carry a first aid kit with a defibrillator and blood pressure monitoring machine as part of our kit.

Safety first always, traveling in the Outback should not be hazardous, preparation is the absolute King.

Feeling Adventurous?

Book a 4×4 Outback adventure and tag along with Atagalong Tours in your 4×4 on any of the following remote trips, Anne Beadell Highway, Canning Stock Route, Madigan Line, Simpson Desert or our big one, the Trans Continental East to West to name a few.

Written by Warren Sprigg 2023, Pictures by Warren Sprigg, C Johnson. Copyright law applies.