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4 Wheel Off Road Camping Guide - Outdoor Adventure Guide

Posted in Features on December 1, 2003
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Contributors: Frank Ramierez
Photographers: Drew HardinC.B. Grove

*Boot Camp: Keeping Your Feet Warm & Dry in the Cold & Wet*Camping Essentials: What to Pack for You and Your Vehicle*Six Must-Have Multitools*How to Carry Firearms in Your 4x4

Other Essentials For The VehicleMake sure your tires have proper pressure, including the spare. We like to bring along a tire-sealant kit, just in case a tire does get stabbed. Try Prestone's Tire Jack (available at most automotive and discount-retail stores), which seals slow leaks with acrylic resin until you can fix the tire. Check out our story "Multipurpose Tools" for why a QuickAir2 is another good product to pack.

Top off all fluids.Change your oil.Make sure belts, pumps, and hoses aren't cracked, leaking, or worn out.Confirm that your fire extinguisher is charged and your flashlight has fresh batteries.

Pack handtools for tightening anything that could come loose when traveling to your destination over rugged terrain. Duct tape and zip-ties are also good to throw into the mix.

Clean up any corrosion around the battery connectors. While you're under there, make sure the battery itself is secure. Jumper cables are a good idea, but be sure to read about the Xantrex XPower Powerpack 400 in the story "Multipurpose Tools," also in this section, which might just save your hide if your battery is dead and yours is the sole vehicle on the trip.

Make sure your rig has a CB. Channel 9 is the standard emergency channel.

For The PeopleWater. Water. Water. High altitudes, desert heat-it all means you can get dehydrated before you know it. Remember, if you're thirsty, you're already dehydrating, so you need to keep the liquids coming throughout the day. The advice is a gallon each day per person, but we calculate water supply like this: When we think we have already packed way too much, we grab a few more gallons. Gatorade, Powerade, or some other sports drink laden with carbs and electrolytes is also good to mix into the bunch.

Get maps to the area you'll be visiting, and also talk to the Forest Service to make sure trails you're headed to aren't closed due to fire damage or forces of nature. If you're planning to hike or four-wheel, think about getting a GPS to keep track of where you've been and where you're going. If you don't want to invest in a GPS, at least bring along a compass-and your cell phone, since it just might work in the middle of nowhere.

It may sound obvious, but if it were to all people, we wouldn't mention it: Check in advance what the weather will be so that you're not dressed for summer in a monsoon. Fleece, wool, windproof, waterproof, breathable...there should be clothing featuring these buzzwords in your baggage.

The West Nile virus is alive and well in many states, so wear a bug repellent that contains DEET. Stock up on sunscreen (no lower than SPF 15) and lip balm with sunscreen too. Even on overcast days, you can burn.

Make sure that you don't take food into your tent or keep it around the campsite when you go to sleep. Bears can be cute, but not when they are tearing off your arm to get to last night's burger remains. Stuff leftovers or waste into food-storage containers so they can't smell it.

First-aid kit. Companies sell complete kits, but if you're making a homegrown one, be sure to include such items as: gauze rolls and pads, different size bandages, latex gloves, scissors, tweezers, alcohol and antiseptic wipes, plastic bags, Benadryl and Tylenol, a snake-bite kit, and splints. Although, if you're going to the effort of gathering all of that, why not just invest in a kit (and a CPR class) and leave it in your vehicle even when you're not camping?

Multipurpose ToolsSix Products, More Than 25 UsesGetting away from it all doesn't mean taking it all with you. When you've got a truck stuffed to the gills with family members and gear, no one is going to like your idea of drawing straws to make more room. You don't need to carry tools for every job you might encounter off road. Minimalism is the goal, so we've put together this list of tools or kits that fit into one hand yet still manage to do a variety of tasks. Bring 'em all and you know you're prepared for anything.

Boot CampTreat Your Feet Before Hitting The TrailEssentials. On the short list of must-have outdoor gear, proper footwear is vital. Quality boots that keep your feet warm, dry, and well protected are as important as a trusty pocket knife when venturing off the beaten path.

Modern outdoor boots come in an almost overwhelming range of styles and materials. The key to finding the right boot is to first consider the application, conditions, and season in which they will be worn. It may be advantageous to own more than one pair of boots, especially if you enjoy year-round outdoor adventures in a variety of terrain. The proliferation of activity-specific footwear provides many choices; narrow the options by reflecting on how you plan to use your new boots.

Boot uppers can be made from a wide range of materials and construction techniques. The factors to consider are weight, breathability, protection, and water resistance or waterproofing. Nylon and split-grain leather are good choices if light weight and foot ventilation are important, but they also tend to be less water-resistant. Full-grain leather is much more water-resistant, durable, and supportive, but it won't breathe as well and adds weight to the boot. High-tech waterproof barriers like Gore-Tex (and other brands) are designed into many boots to protect feet from moisture. Advanced boot designs are also engineered to wick moisture away from feet. Advanced insulating fabrics, like Thinsulate, help keep heat in and cold out. Hunters can also benefit from the latest in odor control materials that are designed to contain human scent and keep from tipping off sensitive noses in the wild.

Once you find the ideal pair of boots, be certain the fit is right. It's critical that you try on the boots and actually walk around in them. Shopping at a specialty outfitter or large outdoor superstore will allow you to get a feel for the fit before buying. Proper fit starts with socks. Make sure you try the boots on with the style of socks you will be wearing on the trail. Next, have your feet measured to find a starting point for the fit. Boot sizing varies widely from manufacturer to manufacturer and even from style to style from the same manufacturer.

The right width is just as important as the right length. A boot that is too narrow will pinch your foot, cramp your mobility, and cause blisters in short order. Finding the right size requires lacing up more than one pair of boots. Go a half size up and down and try on various widths if they are available. Lace them up, stand, walk around, stretch, and bend. Your foot should be held snug around the instep and ball, yet feel loose enough to allow proper flexing of the boot. Your toes should not touch the tip or sides of the toe box, and your heel should be held comfortably in place and not lift easily when the boot is flexed forward. Pay attention to anything that doesn't feel right inside the boot. A noticeable pinch or rub inside the store may become a real pain when you are miles from nowhere.

How To Carry Firearms In Your 4x4Boxes, Cases, Racks-What's Right For You?There are a number of factors to consider when deciding how to transport firearms in your truck. Are you carrying long arms, handguns, or both? How many of each? Are you transporting them in a daily-driven 4x4 or a dedicated hunting rig? How much space are you willing to give up? How much money do you want to invest?

When making the decision, consider the laws in your state (and/or the state where you hunt) regarding the transport of firearms. Some states have no restrictions on how firearms are carried in a vehicle. Some do for handguns but not for long arms. Other states require firearms to be carried unloaded, with the action open. Still others demand that firearms be locked in a car trunk, locked in a case or other "secure container," or somehow rendered inaccessible from inside the vehicle. If you're unsure about the laws in your state, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action Web site has a guide to the interstate transportation of firearms ( GunLaws.asp).

After you've determined your needs and what's permitted by law, look for a matching transport system. The systems we've included should help you decide. You'll note that we opted not to include the various types of gun cases. Instead, we concentrated on those systems designed to work with or in a vehicle. In doing so, the options fell into one of two categories: vaults and boxes, and racks.

Vaults & Boxes"Smashing a truck window and grabbing a rifle or shotgun can take less than 10 seconds," said Al Chandler, CEO of Truck Vault. "A shotgun in a case just gives the thief a handle to carry it by."

For the ultimate in secure storage, Truck Vault and other companies manufacture dedicated gun vaults or lock boxes for pickup trucks and SUVs. These range from toolbox-like cross-bed units to custom-built storage systems. In a box or vault, firearms are out of sight of potential thieves. Even if a bad actor guesses that a box contains hunting gear, "a thief doesn't have the time or the patience to do what's needed to steal" from these containers, Chandler said.

Racks"Not everyone has the room or is a serious enough shooter to invest in an expensive product" like a gun box, said Bruce Kelly, general manager of Rugged Gear. How expensive? Vehicle boxes range from several hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars for a custom vault. For those outdoorsmen looking for a less expensive means of carrying firearms, there's a wide variety of racks available, and most rack systems cost less than $100.

Current rack technology has come a long way from the old-fashioned, back-of-cab rifle rack. Now you can mount them on the roof of your truck cab or on the floor between the front seats, hang them behind the seats, or even mount them over your truck's windshield.


Sears Craftsman
Hoffman Estates, IL
Highway Products
White City, OR 97503
Sidney, NE 69160

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