Click for Coverage
  • JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler

Trail Tools List - Tech

Posted in How To on May 1, 2009
Share this

Nothing replaces a quality set of tools. Nothing replaces the right spare part you happen to need at that moment, either. That's why being prepared for the worst possible situation is your best means of trail survival. But what tools and parts do you carry? While this will vary from vehicle-to-vehicle and also depend on individual needs, we decided to offer a list of the items we carry for short and long trail runs. Use this list of tools and equipment as a guide for building your own stash of necessary goods for your rig.

We published a similar list a few years back and readers have requested that a return of the article appear as an update. This is simply a list of all of the necessary tools, parts, and accessories you could carry with you. By all means, you may not need all of these items for every trip, but if you participate in extended adventures away from civilization and out of mobile-phone range then it might be a good idea to carry everything you can. Remember that each item you include adds more weight to your vehicle. If you 'wheel with the same group of guys every time try to spread out the spares and tools that will be needed so each vehicle carries a portion of the gear.

Remember that the trail is not a place to carry out parts installations or tackle routine maintenance. Stuff like this should be completed before you even leave home. The better running condition your 4x4 is in before you hit the trail the better your chances are of making it home in a running vehicle.

The Every Trip Stuff
This stuff goes everywhere with my 4x4. I used to keep most of it in a plastic box but the bottom kept wearing out and the box would crack. Now I store most of it in MasterCraft tool duffle bags, which are much stronger than the plastic crate and are also easier to stow. Although I have 'wheeled with just the "Every Trip Stuff" on board I prefer having my whole tool kit along for the ride. This stuff may save my ass in an emergency but it's no replacement for being properly prepared.

Survival gear (see list for items included)
First-aid kit
Duct tape
Electrical tape
Zip-ties (variety of sizes)
Baling wire
Ratchet strap
JB-80 or other H2O-penetrating lubricant
Brake cleaner
RTV silicone or gasket maker
Multi-tool pocket knife
Tow strap
Fire extinguisher
Flashlight or headlamp
Drinking water
Ground tarp
Matches or lighter
Warm jacket
Folding shovel
Small socket set
4-in-1 screwdriver
4-in-1 Torx screwdriver
Channel Lock pliers
Vise-Grip pliers
Large and small adjustable wrenches
Tire repair kit with valve core tool and spare valve cores
Air pressure gauge
Air hose and chuck (for OBA system)
Jumper cables
Mechanix Gloves
Clif Bars
Lug wrench
Hi-Lift Jack
Shop rags or paper towels

Tool Box
This includes everything you'll need to fix most anything on your vehicle to get home.
Wrenches (standard & metric depending on your vehicles need)
Socket set (-, -, & -inch drive, standard & metric depending on your vehicles need. Don't forget deep and spark plug sockets)
Adjustable wrenches
Pliers (needle-nose, Vise-Grips, Channel Locks, wire-cutters and crimpers, and snap-ring)
Allen wrenches
Multi-meter and/or test light
Screwdrivers (Phillips & flathead-small, medium, and large)
Hammers (medium mallet, 5 lb. sledge, and small and large ball-peens)
Pry bar/breaker bar
Telescoping magnet
Chisel and punch
Sand paper
Wire brush
C-clamps (variety of sizes)

Special Tools & Extras
King pin socket (as needed by vehicle)
Locking hub/spindle nut socket
Pickle fork
U-joint tool
Flex-joint tool
1/2-inch air impact gun
Flaring tool
Soldering gun
Welding rod
Welding goggles or shield
Extra set of jumper cables
Torque wrench
Die grinder w/sanding disc and cut-off wheels (for use with OBA systems)
Bench vise for bumper
On board welder
OBA system, 12V air compressor, or CO2 tank
Ratchet straps
Garbage bags
Zip-Lock bags
Vehicle repair manual
Grease gun
Latex gloves
Spare batteries for flash light and tools (as needed)
Hand cleaner
Garden hose repair kit (works in a pinch on radiator hoses)
Miscellaneous pieces scrap metal

Having the right hardware with you on the trail can be a life saver. Copper State Bolt & Nut Co. offers its very well stocked Portable Fastener Kit, which includes more than 100 pre-sorted fasteners organized into 5 plastic drawers. The Copper State Fastener Kit includes an assortment of popular grade -5 to grade -8 coarse thread, hex head cap screws measuring -inch to -inch diameters, and from to 3 inches in length. The kit also includes coarse thread, grade-8 hex nuts, all metal crimped-lock nuts, hardened flat washers, high-alloy lock washers, fender washers, sheet metal and machine screws, hex head self-drilling screws, one bottle of medium strength Loctite, three sizes of hose clamps, a variety of electrical terminals, rivet nuts, and much more.Each slot of fasteners is labeled, making it easy to reorder from Copper State Bolt & Nut Co. as supply diminishes. Apair of heavy duty carrying handles on the durable,steel organizer makes it easy to take the Portable Fastener Kit with you wherever you go.

Spare Parts
Drive belts
Radiator and heater hoses
Hose clamps
Fuel line
U-joints (front axle & driveshaft)
U-joint U-bolts/straps/bolts
Leaf spring U-bolt and nuts
Leaf spring center pin
Axle shafts or Birfields (as needed for vehicle, front/rear)
Locking hub assembly or drive flange
Assorted nuts, bolts, washers, and fasteners
Cotter pins
Electrical wire and connectors
Brake lines and unions
Tie rod and drag link
Tie rod/drag link ball joints (or Heims for custom steering setups)
Suspension joints (Heim joints, flex-joints, etc.)
Lug nuts
Lug studs
Spare tire

Spare Lubes and Fluids
Motor oil
Gear oil
Brake fluid
Power-steering fluid
RTV silicone or gasket maker
Multi-purpose grease
Radiator coolant
Radiator stop-leak
Carburetor cleaner
Brake cleaner
Gasoline (depending on distance to be traveled)
JB-80 or WD-40

Winch (an extra remote control is a plus)
Winch cable weight
D-ring shackles
Snatch block
Hi-Lift Jack or equivalent
Snatch straps (multiple lengths)
Tree saver
Come-along (ratcheting cable hand winch)
Chain (10-ft. or more)
Leather gloves

I used to carry most of my tools and spares in a plastic crate but the crates kept cracking and spreading the gear throughout the rig. I'd carried a Craftsman tool bag for many years and never had issue so decided to try something similar for the rest of the gear. MasterCraft offers a variety of tool bags, rolls, and totes that keep your tools and gear safely and neatly organized in the vehicle. The large and small tool bags include footman loops and buckle straps so the gear bags can be stowed away and secured in place. I also found that the plastic drawers from the Copper State fastener kit fit neatly inside the large MasterCraft tool bag, which made transporting them much easier. Also shown is the MasterCraft Walker duffle, which is a great bag for carrying warm clothing and rain gear as well as other personal items you want to keep out of the elements. The bag is made from weather-proof and tear resistant material and is padded for durability.

Navigation & Communication
CB radio
Ham radio
Cell phone
Satellite phone

Survival Gear
Emergency radio
12-hour green light sticks
Emergency strobe
1 gallon of water or more
Sleeping bag or bivouac & sleeping pad
Tent or emergency shelter
First-Aid kit (worth mentioning twice)
Warm clothing & rain gear
Toilet paper
Bug spray
Energy bars and electrolyte drink mix

The Extras
This is the stuff you might appreciate during extended adventures or in the event that the 4x4 breaks and you're stuck for a while.
Satellite radio receiver
Folding chairs
Umbrella or sun shade
Gasoline generator
Portable toilet
Sun Shower
Ice chest/cooler

Another great item offered by Mac's Custom Tie-Downs is its VersaTie Track kits. The VersaTie tracks are available in various lengths and can be installed along any flat surface to create strong tie-down anchor points. Each VersaTie kit includes 2 lengths of track, quick-release single stud tie-down rings, and stainless steel installation hardware. For creating suitable anchor points in areas of the cab with limited space you can use Mac's VersaTie Anchor Plate kits, which use an anchor plate and a backing plate along with the quick-release single stud tie-down rings.

The Jack Tool Kit from Mac's Custom Tie-Downs is designed for use with Hi-Lift-style jacks. The Jack Tool bolts to the Hi-Lift to increase the lifting surface area and can also be secured to some style bumpers for increased safety. The kit also includes a ratcheting keeper strap to secure the axle to the frame. As the vehicle is jacked up the keeper strap holds the axle in place so the suspension won't extend and leave the tire and wheel on the ground. The Jack Tool kit is a great aid when changing tires or completing repairs.

Another great item offered by Mac's Custom Tie-Downs is its VersaTie Track kits. The VersaTie tracks are available in various lengths and can be installed along any flat surface to create strong tie-down anchor points. Each VersaTie kit includes 2 lengths of track, quick-release single stud tie-down rings, and stainless steel installation hardware. For creating suitable anchor points in areas of the cab with limited space you can use Mac's VersaTie Anchor Plate kits, which use an anchor plate and a backing plate along with the quick-release single stud tie-down rings.

While you could use a hammer and a couple of sockets to change out an axle shaft U-joint there's actually an easier way. This U-joint tool is available at Harbor Freight and sells for about $30. It includes a C-clamp-style press with a variety of fittings to accommodate different sized U-joints and can also be used for ball joints. It's a very simple tool that can be carried in your rig for emergencies or even used in the garage for maintenance and repairs.

You should always carry spare fluids in your 4x4. I carry the usual oil, ATF, anti-freeze, power steering and brake fluid, but also keep one or two cans of Justice Bros. white lithium grease and JB-80 on board. While bringing extra fluids for your vehicle are important to its survival don't forget that bringing extra water is important to your own survival. For a day trip I bring at least 2 gallon of drinking water as well as a bit extra in case the radiator needs some. Often I'll carry multiple jugs but for long trips I fill a 5 gallon can.

Off Road Trail Tools Broken Axle Tool is designed to allow a vehicle with a broken C-clip axle shaft to "limp" off the trail. Axle assemblies that use C-clip axle shafts include Dana 35, Ford 7.5- and 8.8-inch, Chrysler 8 1/4, and Chevy 10- and 12-bolt axles. Should a C-clip axle break the rest of the unsecured axle and brake assembly, along with the wheel and tire, will simply slide out of the axle tube. When strapped to a vehicle frame the Broken Axle Tool will effectively hold the tire, wheel, and axle shaft in place on the vehicle so it can be driven off the trail. I have seen a large log or piece of wood combined with chain or ratchet straps achieve the same effect, but the Broken Axle Tool is much more efficient. Other options include calling a flat bed tow truck but the cost of the tool is much less.

Another must-have trail tool is a reliable air supply. We have used onboard air compressors and portable units, as well as air tanks such as that available from Power Tank. Power Tank offers a wide variety of tank sizes and regulator selection and can also supply air hoses and chucks. Power Tanks use CO2 as its air supply, which can be used to air up tires, power air tools, and even to operate ARB Air Lockers. Whether it be a Power Tank or a 12-volt air compressor from the local auto-parts store, some form of air supply on your vehicle is one tool you don't want to leave home without.

PhotosView Slideshow


Mac's Custom Tie-Downs
Sagle, ID 83860
Copper State Bolt & Nut Co.
Justice Bros.

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Browse Articles By Vehicle

See Results