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Kopycinski's Brain - Essential Off-Road Tools

Posted in How To on May 1, 2012
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You’re in the backcountry wheeling, far away from civilization. Maybe you’re out for a day run with your buddies, or maybe you’re overlanding for weeks at a time. Assume you have food, shelter (if you’re camping), and plenty of fuel on hand. What kinds of items might be good to have along in your off-road vehicle when in the backcountry for an unspecified amount of time?

The choices are many and varied, and could certainly depend on your local terrain and climate. We’ll list a few here that are fairly universal and give you some idea of the kinds of tools we find useful for any off-road outing.

Whether hiking or off-roading, it’s useful to have a quality multi-use tool along. This Leatherman Charge can be dropped in a glovebox or a fanny pack if you’re on foot, on dirt bikes, or on quads. It’s handy for the pliers, knife, saw, file, screwdrivers, and a bunch of other tool functions. We carry a well-stocked tool kit in our rigs, but this handy piece is easy to carry with us and can always be close by.

A good flashlight is a must-have whether you’re out camping or wheeling in the night. We often find that we’d like to have an extra hand when using one, so we like using a compact LED headlamp. They’re available in a wide range of prices (we’ve found them as cheap as $5) and brightness ratings. For basic nighttime use even the inexpensive ones can offer a light you can aim, while leaving both hands free to work. We can’t count the number of day trips that have turned into nighttime trail repairs.

Paper topo maps can help you find your way when out exploring. However, these days a handheld GPS unit can offer much of that information in a compact package. Units such as this touch-screen Garmin Oregon (left) can also show 3D terrain images. The Garmin Rino (right) has a built in FRS radio and can communicate with and track other users with the same type of unit. Both are also useful for recording waypoints to show the route you’ve traveled.

On our 4WDs we often have a winch on the front bumper. However, we’ve had many an occasion to use the popular Hi-Lift jack. We’ve, of course, changed flat tires with one. But, they also come in handy for jacking a vehicle upwards off an obstacle or sideways to clear a close canyon wall or a large boulder. We’ve used these jacks for everything from breaking a tire bead off a wheel to splinting a bent tie rod on the trail.

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