Working for Petersen’s 4-Wheel & Off-Road, as you can imagine, has many perks. The tedious and unpleasant aspects that are part of any job are more than made up for when we get to test new off-road vehicles and parts like tires, shocks, and transfer cases. But probably our favorite perk of this job is getting paid to spend time on the trail. We are enthusiasts first and automotive journalists second. We love it, and we occasionally have to remind ourselves that we are at work and remember to take pictures when something cool happens.
One thing we almost always do when on the trail or even at the trailhead is spend time checking out other off-road rigs. It’s a great way to borrow (steal) great ideas that other people have come up with. Whether it’s a new way to mount spares, a new tool, or adding storage, we love looking at other people’s rigs when we’re out in the dirt. It’s also a great way to pass time in a traffic jam. Here are some of the good trail tips we’ve stumbled across.
Ian Johnson’s 1968 M-715 has approximately 100 cool ideas for storing stuff. What first caught our eye was this yoke (that from the other side looked like it was about to fall out of the truck). The yoke is bolted to the floor of the M715 and the spare driveshaft held in place with a band clamp. You can read more about his M-715 in the feature at bit.ly/2Jz3md0.
We haven’t heard of too many folks breaking GM full-floating 14-bolt rear axleshafts, but just in case the 5.7 Hemi and Offroad Design Magnum Box sends too much torque to one wheel, Johnson carries spares held in place with U-bolts. A neat idea would be to use spare driveshaft U-bolts and nuts to hold something in place, assuming they fit around anything.
A spare leaf spring, mounting hardware, and bushings? This might seem like overkill until you need the parts and are far from anywhere. Also, let’s face it, on a truck like this an extra leaf pack isn’t going to add much to the total weight of Johnson’s rig. Maybe that’s why he’s got those spare rear ’shafts.
So you might think we’re going to talk about the fire extinguisher. We will say that carrying one is always a must, but we also like his license plate location. Clearly the tag got torn off once (we’re guessing from a bumper). Now mounted on the back of the cab, it is easily visible and very unlikely to get damaged on the trail—but, Ian, where’s your license plate light?
Ammo cans are a great place to store tools, fluids, spare parts, rags, food (we’re not picky eaters), or whatever! These nifty mounts from Swag Off Road help carry your ammo can goodies securely on the trail.
Chase Davenport from Corrola, North Carolina, owns this TJ with a few tricks up its sleeves. The Jeep has onboard air and these nicely mounted air chucks front and rear. The air lines are repurposed from big rig air brake systems and move plenty of air for this Jeep’s needs.
Davenport also figured out a trick way to build a shock mount for the kingpin Dana 60 swapped under the front of his TJ. Instead of using the bar pin–style lower shock mount, he built eyelet-style mounts on the axle just behind the coil springs.
Check out this innovative idea that not only strengthens the aftermarket fender flares on the Jeep but also adds strength to the rear bumper and body tub. Now Davenport can lean the Jeep on either side’s aftermarket flare with abandon. Of course the passenger side is a bit more open to allow the swinging tailgate to function.
Jeep baskets, or Jeep racks, have been around forever, but this one is nifty. It holds an Engle fridge, an air compressor, and a toolbox. Underneath is more space for more tools, camping gear, spare parts, clothes, a spare tire, whatever. The best part is that unlike a rack mounted to the roof or the top of a spare tire, the weight is relatively low down.
Keeping tools you need easily accessible, secure, and organized isn’t always easy on the trail. A great idea for keeping box-end wrenches together is a carabineer, Velcro, or a reusable zip tie. Just run the holding device of your choice through the closed end, and keep the wrenches in order of size so they are easy to find. It will also be easier to notice when one is missing. You can attach the whole shooting match to the body or cage of your trail rig to keep it from falling out on the trail.
Lots of folks carry a Hi-Lift jack on the trail, and that’s great, but bottle jacks are sometimes indispensable. Christian Hazel keeps an ancient factory Mitsubishi bottle jack in the UACJ-6D Jeep by securing it to the foot of the B-pillar of the rollcage with a sturdy Beachwood Canvas military-grade strap. The strap runs through footman loops welded to the back of the rollcage and jack body to ensure that the strap doesn’t slip off in a rollover. It’s secure and handy with the passenger seat flipped forward.