When the manure hits the fan it makes quite a mess, but every sticky situation can be handled with a cool head and a toolbag of survival equipment. There are certain "always" rules to off-roading-always stay on the trail, always go off-roading with a buddy or two, always tell someone where you are going, and always scout the trail ahead to see what's over the next hill or around the next curve. But "always" doesn't always happen, and sometimes "always" is ignored completely. Then you might just end up sleeping in the rain, at the bottom of a hill, with your truck on its roof. That might sound terrible, but if you're alive and your passengers are alive, then the situation's not so bad.
If you've ever been in one of these situations, it's important to diagnose your state of affairs first, and then decide on your action. Every survival scenario is different, but surmountable by those with a calm demeanor and a will to live. It doesn't hurt to have a few items of survival already in the truck either. Take an afternoon this weekend to gather some or all of these items, stuff them in a bag or toolbox, and stash them in your 4x4. You may just thank us later.
If you are stranded in bad weather, be it deep snow or hot desert, then rule number one is to stay with your truck. You'll be easier to find by rescue crews or airplanes. Also, either get a signal mirror or bust a mirror off your truck and use it to reflect sunlight back at the pilot or other people. And the old rule of shooting your gun three times still applies, but aim at the dirt or soft sand, not up in the air.
Digging yourself out of an off-road emergency is easier with a shovel. Glock, the handgun company, has reinvented the age-old field shovel with some upgrades. Though the shovel is still steel, the handle is made of a lightweight plastic and stores a hardened saw blade perfect for cutting wood for emergency shelters or fires. A good sharp knife can be used a million ways in an emergency, and Glock also offers a line of outdoor knives like the spring steel and polymer-handled Survival knife shown here.
Bringing food along is very important to survival, but here is a tip: Take the worst-tasting food you can find. Like this can of peas and carrots. Reason being that if you pack cookies, peanuts, and jerky, you or your buddies will snack on them during a wheeling trip. Then when you really need food, nothing will be left. A can of veggies or beans might survive years in your truck. No one will snack on them. The water in canned goods is a bonus. And don't worry-in an actual emergency, they'll taste great.
Firewood is good for keeping warm, cooking food, and making a signal fire. If you're hiking you can find some. If you're driving, why not bring some? You could slide a 2x4 under your bench seat or a sheet of plywood in the bed, and then you'll always have dry wood for a fire. Feel free to burn your old issue of 4-Wheel & Off-Road to get the fire started-you do have a copy in your truck, don't you? Forgot your lighter? We've started fires with gas-soaked paper and jumper cables. It's not safe, but it's better than dying. Don't forget a fire extinguisher.
Headlamps are still our favorite type of flashlight, it leaves your hands free to fix your truck, bandage your buddy, fight off a bear, or cook some beans and carrots over your plywood fire. Any headlamp is good, but Surefire makes a powerhouse headlamp known as The Saint that is bright enough to guide you home even if your headlights burn out but your truck is still running.
Sometimes fixing your 4x4 will get you home. Although it may not be pretty, the recipe of duct tape, bailing wire (or clothes hangers), zip ties, a rope, bungee cords, a plastic tarp, and a chain can often be used in amazing ways to patch a battered 4x4 back into shape. These things don't take much space and can be used in any number of ways to help keep you alive.