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Trail-Tested Must-Haves

Posted in How To on December 1, 2001
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Contributors: Wendy Frazier

The outdoors await. You know that you’ll do practically anything to get out there but what, you might ask, is the least I can take to survive the rugged and sometimes brazen elements in my 4x4? While the great outdoors will wait patiently until the end of time for you to enjoy the external majesty, we won’t. Don’t let your life pass you by. So get it together, pack it up, and head on out. Our recommendations come in sections of what we’d take if we were going out for a short, impulsive day jaunt, a longer couple of day open-air trip, and finally a more planned extended alfresco. Here are our trail-tested must haves.

Field Day

While your peers are cavorting over their egg-salad sandwich in the employee lunchroom, you’ve decided that you will take a “sick” day and head for the hills in an impromptu off-road fest. You’ve already promised yourself and your boss that you will be feeling better tomorrow. Today is going to be a let-loose, the-weekend-was-way-too-short kind of day. For what you think will be shorter than a 12-hour trip, we recommend that you take the following items:

•A Hi-Lift Jack. Why? It can be used as both a lifting tool and a recovery tool. It weighs about 30 pounds and it is rated to a 4,660-pound capacity. While you have to put a little back into it, the Hi-Lift is by far the most multitask kind of tool. Space per usefulness, the Hi-Lift is unquestionably the most important tool to take on the trail, along with a lug wrench.

•A Spare Tire. 4x4 systems require that you use a same size spare tire. It’s worth every dime, especially if you have tire warranty insurance. If you’re like us, you have a useable fifth tire that is rotated regularly in your tire rotation schedule.

•Water. Plan on bringing at least one gallon per person per day. The great thing about bringing along extra drinking water is that it is dirt-cheap (.56 cents a gallon at Wal-Mart) and it can double as water for your radiator if you need it.

•A Strap. Oh brother, if we need to tell you why you’ll need a strap, then you shouldn’t be out. Next item.

•A Lug Wrench. Get a flat and guaranteed you won’t want to take a 10-mile hike to the nearest phone to call your buddy to bring his lug wrench up to you. And it’ll be even worse if it’s during the middle of a late-night wheeling urge. Take one that fits your lugs. Rated the best tool to have on board when you’re driving on the street or in the dirt.

•Snacks. For a short trip that initially was supposed to take “a couple of hours,” you should take along the snacks that will make you the happiest. Corn Nuts, Doritos, Cactus Coolers, Lunchables, Fritos, and some chocolate chip cookies will do nicely. We know you wanted us to recommend some healthy stuff like a Power Bar, Nutri-Grain bar, or apples but, really, apples are not that filling when your legs are covered in mud, dark is turning to morning, and you are starving.

•Duct tape in a plastic bag. The plastic will protect the adhesive from getting wet and mushy. The tape is good for practically all on-trail, hold-my-bumper-on-’til-I-get-home kind of fixes. We’re sure you’ll be inspired to use the bag in one way or another as the situation presents itself.


As always, your vehicle’s mechanical systems (brakes, fuel system, electrical system, clutch, and so on) should be in near perfect condition or at least working well before heading out for a planned overnighter. We know that sometimes circumstances have a way of making a day trip into an overnight affair, but even a little bit of foresight will help comfort and enjoyment levels tremendously. For an overnighter, plan on bringing the above listed items plus the following:

•Extra gas

•Food and more water

•A tool box with ratchet/ socket set, pliers, screwdrivers, wire, JB weld, tire plugs, zip-ties, and so on.

•At least one communication tool—CB, cellular phone (or at least some waterproof matches to make a Castaway rescue fire).

•Sleeping bags or blankets to keep you warm through the night.

•A Vehicle Recovery Kit including D-ring shackles, snatch block, and gloves.

•Multiuse clothing packed in a stuffable duffel bag. Include a lightweight, compact windbreaker, sweatshirt or jacket and don’t forget extra socks!

•A First Aid Kit for medical emergencies.

•An all-in-one tool and/or pocket knife

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