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Things to consider when planning your Simpson Desert crossing.



The Simpson Desert has no mobile phone service so you will need a plan for communication. Satellite phones are the best option as they allow two way communication. Other options include an EPIRB, Spot Tracker or HF radio. It’s important to note that a UHF radio will only reach a few dunes ahead or behind. Travellers are urged to use channel 10 to listen for oncoming traffic. Regardless of your communication plan, it is imperative that someone knows the date you expect to finish your crossing and who they should contact if you do not check in.


Food and Water

We cannot stress highly enough the importance of having adequate supplies. In a perfect world a Simpson Desert crossing goes exactly to plan and you finish in the expected timeframe. When things go wrong though, we want you to be comfortable and safe while help comes to you or while you wait for tracks to dry in the event of rain. It can mean spending an additional few days camping so we recommend planning for this from the start.


Emergency Safety

Have a plan in place in case you experience a medical emergency such as a vehicle rollover, medical episode or similar. Ensure an adequate supply of medications in case of delays. A satellite phone allows for two-way communication which is why it is our recommended method. An EPIRB or Spot Tracker can only broadcast your location, and at best whether it’s a life-threatening emergency. 


Things to consider include;

  • Who should be the first contact? In a medical emergency you should always dial 000. In a non medical emergency consider having contacts for local police, recovery operators and medical clinics on hand.

  • What is your location? Install Emergency + App on mobile for coordinates that work offline.

  • Which friends/family should authorities contact in the event of an emergency?

  • Be prepared to wait 24-48 hours or more for help to arrive.



Consider the balance between carrying unnecessary weight from too much fuel and ensuring you have enough to get from A-B. Your tyre pressure and ability to climb dunes gently will play a significant role in how much fuel you use.


Tyre Pressure

Your tyres should be at a low enough pressure that climbing dunes feels relatively effortless. The exact pressure will change depending on vehicle type, weight and environmental conditions. A good rule of thumb is to continually adjust as you go over the first few dunes until you find the sweet spot. Generally speaking a PSI that works will be less than 20, but best to go down slowly and readjust as needed. For further information feel free to drop into the Birdsville Roadhouse and have a chat with one of their friendly team.


Be aware of the weather forecast prior to starting your crossing and plan accordingly.


Weight of your vehicle

Given the harsh terrain it is important that your vehicle is not too heavy. Every year vehicle chassis' bend or break on the tops of dunes as the weight on the back becomes too much, and getting help into the Simpson Desert is a very costly experience.


Recovery Options

Your standard roadside assistance will not cover you for retrieval from the Simpson Desert, however depending on the problem, some insurance covers might. We recommend speaking with your insurer to make sure you have the cover that you need. Retrieving a vehicle from the Simpson Desert can take a few days or even weeks, and will likely cost in excess of $5000.



You will need a Desert Parks Pass to cross the Simpson Desert. You can purchase this online prior to departure, or at the Wirrarri Information Centre or Birdsville Roadhouse once in town.



Be aware of any fire restrictions in place for the parks that you pass through. Check out our pages for the Munga-Thirri NP and Witjira NP for more information.



Plan to take out everything you take in, and sufficiently bury or remove any human waste appropriately to ensure nothing spoils the experience of others. Do not leave toilet paper behind bushes; bury it at least 20cm below the surface.


In the spirit of Reconciliation, we acknowledge the Wangkangurru Yarluyandi people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land upon which Birdsville was built.

We pay our respects to their Elders; past, present and emerging, and encourage the continuation of their cultural, spiritual & educational practices.

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