Depending on where your first auto rested on the reliability meter, you either became well versed at wrenching on the go or you didn’t. We think everyone should own at least one lemon. Sure, it sucks to breakdown on the side of the road, but learning how to get your rig back going in a pinch will come in handy in the off-road hobby.
Starting out, we used to pack our rig to the gills with tools and parts. The sad truth is that half the stuff we didn’t really need. Over the years, we’ve learned that packing for an off-road adventure has more to do with what you packed, rather than how much you packed. Gathered here are the absolute basics that every wheeler should have. Yes, you can always pack more, but we suggest starting here and then adjust as needed.
Wrenching on your 4x4 in the dirt is part of the off-road hobby. While you don’t need to carry the entire shop with you, it isn’t going to hurt to have a basic assortment of sockets, wrenches, and drives. Some others you need on your checklist are as follows: hammer, Vice-Grips, screwdriver (Phillips and flat), cutting pliers, needle nose pliers, wire stripers, wire, duct tape, electrical tape, picks, and adjustable wrenches. We like portable tool boxes too, so long as the sockets and/or drawers are easy to secure. Don’t forget your specialty tools as well. Never rely on your fellow wheelers to have that one odd-ball socket or tool that your rig requires.
Lighting isn’t the best on most trails, so you’ll need some extra brightness with you. A headlight is one of our favorite trail tools as will keep your hands free. A small battery-powered light is another easy to store item that we use plenty. For those who forget to charge the batteries in the flashlight (or bring new ones!), a hand-crank light is a great investment.
If you forget everything else on this list, don’t forget the water. We’re guilty of forgetting to eat on the trail, but we always have a bottle of water close by. In addition to keeping you alive, having a few extra bottles to wash up with or put out a small fire (it has happened!) will be worth it.
An easy-to-access tow strap has saved our butts more than once. This, along with a couple shackles and hitch pin, can be all you need to get moving again. If your rig is equipped with a winch, invest in a tree saver, snatch block, and winch weight. These items don’t take up much room and can make all the difference in a tough recovery.
We have learned that our “good” clothes no longer get packed in our wheeling suitcase. We’ve also found that keeping an extra set of clothes and jacket in a dry bag in the Jeep is a really smart idea. You never know when that quick step out of the Jeep will be the one that sinks you.
You should always have at least one fire extinguisher with you. The most common variety will have an ABC marking, indicating the different fire types it is designed to extinguish. We prefer to have one at the rear and one at the front of the vehicle. Always purchase extinguishers that are clearly labeled and have a gauge. It’s also good practice to have it accessible from the driver seat, as well as checked yearly.
Keep It In Place
The biggest packing mistake people make is forgetting to secure their gear. On the road, it might not seem like a big deal. Off-road, your gear needs to be secured in place. This will keep your stuff easy to find and in the event of an accident, it will keep it from becoming a projectile that could take you out!
You don’t need to bring every fluid your rig requires to fill to capacity, but a few quarts of each can help you limp off the trail. We’ve found that brake fluid, power steering fluid, and differential oil seem to be the most commonly needed, but load up with engine and transmission oil if you have the room. Don’t forget to pack a small funnel.
First Aid Kit
We get it. You’re not a pansy and don’t need any Band-Aids for your boo-boos. However, someone else might. Or, you may find yourself in worse shape than you ever thought possible. A compact first aid kit is worth the few bucks it will cost you.
Small spare parts like fuses, U-joints, worm clamps, and extra belts are easy to carry and don’t require a lot of room. Knowing your rigs weak links will also be helpful when planning ahead. If you’ve found that your rig tends to eat rear driveshafts, then yes, bring another with you. If you have onboard air, be sure to carry a plug kit and extra valve cores. Again, these are the basics. The more you wheel your rig and spend time on the trail, the more you’ll learn what extras you need to carry.