Brian Joss – Before deciding on what off-road vehicle to buy, Mitsubishi Motors ambassador Francois Rossouw says planning your (first) off-road adventure with the family determines what vehicle you are going to need.
“So, for that reason, let’s look at what you want to do and where you want to go first, before you decide what vehicle to buy,” says Rossouw, the 71-year-old off-road specialist who has more than 500 000 km behind the wheel of a 4×4.
Nic Campbell, General Manager of Mitsubishi Motors South Africa, agrees one of the most important decisions before going on a shopping spree is to decide what you want to do.
“It’s like going out for dinner, but before you study the menu, you decide what kind of take-away you would like or what type of restaurant you would like to go to, keeping your budget in mind.”
Rossouw looks at it from a similar angle, but includes what to take on that trip, whether it’s your first or umpteenth off-road adventure.
“Many people think the more, the better, and the tendency is to pack too much, including equipment or gear you might never use. But a few things need to be in every off-road vehicle, regardless of where you want to go or what you want to do,” says the experienced Rossouw.
Going off-road means you will probably be far away from immediate medical help, so having the basics in the event of a mishap is extremely important.
“Giving the wrong treatment or medication is often more dangerous than doing nothing, so my kit has no prescription drugs of any kind. I carry headache tablets, anti-inflammatory medication, something for diarrhoea, ointment for insect bites, paraffin gauze for burns, over-the-counter medication for scratches, plasters and bandages, and basic equipment to splint a broken arm or leg. I also carry disinfectant for wounds, over-the-counter cough medicine, ointment for sunburn, basic cold medication, definitely some antihistamine and general eye drops. And nowadays, because of Covid-19, I always have sanitiser in the vehicle, not hidden somewhere or packed away.”
Unlike the regular “licence and registration” often seen in movies, South Africans do always have to carry a driver’s licence when they are behind the wheel. “Also check that the vehicle’s licence disc is still valid, especially when going on a long trip. If you stay within the national borders, you do not need other documentation, but when you travel to neighbouring countries or deeper into Africa, you need all vehicle documentation as well as passports. Keep it all in a safe place. Entry requirements to other countries may differ, so make sure you know what paperwork to take along.”
Don’t rely on your mobile phone’s GPS app – one of the reasons you’re going on a 4×4 adventure is to “get away from it all”, and a good cell phone signal will most likely not be available. Some vehicles have built-in units, and make sure you download the latest version of maps such as Tracks4Africa.
“We live in Africa. A road that was still tarred a few years ago might now be an off-road challenge, so make sure you know where you are going.”
Recovery equipment: If you plan to go off-road, make sure you have the right recovery equipment for that area. A winch is not always necessary, but things like a snatch rope and tow rope are essential. If you don’t get stuck, you probably didn’t really go “off the road”, says Rossouw. Make sure your vehicle is equipped for recovery and keep that in mind when shopping for a new vehicle.
Tools and spares: Most vehicles have a spare wheel, a jack, and a wheel spanner, but that’s it. Modern vehicles have so many electronics that you probably won’t be able to fix much yourself, but something small, like a blown fuse, can easily be replaced. The same goes for things like silicon tape for a leak, depending on the problem. Take the basics and make sure you have the details of your dealer in the event of an emergency.
Before you go: Always test and double-check everything before you go on a trip, but do not leave it until the day of your departure. “Make sure the vehicle is properly serviced and tested, check the spare wheel, tyre pressures, water and oil levels, lights and plugs and even things like brake fluid.”
CAPTION: The new Pajero Sport from Mitsubishi. Picture: Quickpic