Where and when to get fuel on a long trip is a bit of a vexed subject.
My view on fuel is much the same as water. Never let a chance go by, within reason, of course and keep records. There are many, many apps available for Windows, iOS and Android that can help with that. We use Fuel Map Australia for iOS.
We carry two 20 litre Jerry Cans of diesel as well as what’s in the tank which reputedly holds 95 litres. Given our worst case fuel consumption of 17 litres / 100km that means that we have a range of around 800 or so kilometres plus or minus a hefty margin for error. I generally work on a maximum of 550km’s between refills which means that we very, very, rarely use the fuel in the cans. Of course, for example, if I come to a fuel stop and the cost is $2.00 / litre after 550km’s and I know for sure that 100km’s down the road I can get fuel for $1.20 / litre I’ll pour the jerry can’s in and carry on and top off everything for the cheaper price.
In the trip planning process I create a spreadsheet which has our overnight stops, distance between stops, expected fuel use, description of stop (caravan park, bush camp, etc.), whether or not we need to do shopping, where we’re going to eat, etc. This spreadsheet comes along with us on one our tablets and is updated almost daily. We record what we actually did alongside what we had thought we’d do – in our experience plans rarely go to plan.
The dreaded spreadsheet
Very often there is no better way to do something than to put it all in a spreadsheet. For us, fuel planning comes into the spreadsheet category. Please keep in mind that I’m no fan of spreadsheets but for this task it’s about the best tool for the job.
Because I detest all things spreadsheet I assume that you are also not in a happy, loving relationship with the things either. I make a workbook with each sheet covering a week so if, for example, you discover after a week or so of the trip that your fuel consumption is not averaging what you originally thought, simply change the number in one place and the whole spreadsheet will be recalculated. I’ve put 52 sheets together with a front page that has all the aggregate numbers on it – total distance, total predicted fuel use, tot predicted fuel cost, etc. You’ll get the idea if you have a squint at it.
Anyway, here’s hat I’ve done so far for the Big Trip. I’ve done it with Open Office so that you won’t run into any vendor specific “isms”. It’s free and as good as any other offering.
As you’ll see our trip is a little bit planned but you can just delete the bits that you don’t want such as the places in the “Destination” column and the “Distance” and “Driving Hours” columns. A lot of the cells are calculated so try and leave them alone. The distances and driving hours are from Google Maps and as such should be taken with a grain of salt although the do provide a “ball park” idea of how far and how long each section is.
If you find it useful or you think that it can be improved please let me know.
That’s it for fuel planning
As for fuel planning, that’s it apart from a couple of final thoughts.
Fuel, like water, is something that a lack of will stop the trip so we need to make sure that we have more than enough to get us to the next top-up point.
We had an issue on the Old Strzelecki Track when a water tank seam fractured and we watched about 100 litres of precious water ended up in the dirt. Whilst this was a concern it wasn’t a real worry as we had about 30 litres of water in containers packed away for just such an incident. Similarly, we always carry about 60 litres of extra fuel in Jerry cans just in case. I’d rather get home with a few full Jerry cans than need it and not have it.