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What to Pack for Ultimate Adventure

When you get the nod to come on the world’s most extreme off-road event, here’s what you need to bring

Every year since 1999, well, with the exception of 2000, the staff of Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road has put on an amazing event that was the first of its kind. We take about 20-25 hardcore off-road trail rigs that are able to tackle the toughest terrain in the country, pack them full of enough gear for two people to live out of for a week, and then drive from one extreme trail system to the next. There are no trailers allowed on Ultimate Adventure, and you need to be fully self-sufficient. We don't have a fancy catered dinner set out on linen tablecloths or a team of mechanics who will change your tire while you sip organic lemonade from your sun chair. Ultimate Adventure is your chance to live the hardcore 4x4 lifestyle alongside a passel of other like-minded ultimate off-road enthusiasts. So, when and if you ever get the call to come tag along with your 4x4, you'd better have everything you need to wipe your own arse. Outside or the official Ultimate Adventure Vehicle/Driver Requirement list, we can't create a complete checklist of must-haves to be successful on Ultimate Adventure because every vehicle and every person is different. That's part of the fun of being a high-level off-roader. You need to find what your own needs are and then pack for that and only that, so you don't wind up bringing a bunch of crap you don't need. And though every vehicle and person will want/need/have something different on their list, here's what has worked for us in the past.

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Official Ultimate Adventure Vehicle/Driver Requirements

There will be a tech inspection at check-in before Ultimate Adventure even starts. Your vehicle will be inspected for all of the following equipment and paperwork. You will not be allowed to join Ultimate Adventure if your vehicle fails this inspection and/or you don't have the requisite items.

  • Vehicle must be road-worthy and capable of sustained highway speeds of 60 mph and fuel capacity to provide a range of at least 200 miles.
  • Vehicle must be street licensed and insured. Driver must have a valid driver's license, current registration, and current proof of insurance. Yes, we check. Have your documents with you at check-in.
  • Front and rear axle locker/spool (limited slips do not suffice)
  • Must be self-sufficient (bring your own spare parts, fluids, tools, food, and water)
  • Front-mounted vehicle recovery winch and winch controller
  • Winch accessory kit (tree saver, snatch block, clevis, chain, gloves)
  • Rollbar with safety handles or grab bars (full 'cage preferred)
  • Adequate first-aid kit per Red Cross requirements
  • Seatbelts for all occupants, always worn when vehicle is in motion
  • Adequate recovery tow hooks and/or shackle/clevis attachment points front and rear
  • Secure battery hold-down
  • 35-inch minimum tire size and adequate fullsize spare tire
  • Functional parking brake
  • VHF Communication System
  • Fire extinguisher mounted in reach of occupants
  • Snatch strap/recovery rope-without metal hooks
  • Adequate jack and jack points
  • Spill kit and PETT kit

You are responsible for all of your own expenses.

Camping Gear for Ultimate Adventure

You want to strike a balance on Ultimate Adventure between having enough camping gear to live somewhat comfortably after a hard day on the trail or behind the wheel and not overloading your rig in bulky, weighty gear that you may only use once or twice all week. We always tell the participants where we're going at least six to eight weeks in advance. That allows you to fine-tune your camping kit. If we're heading somewhere super-dry like when we went to Arizona in the summer on UA2017, we'll bring maybe a sleeping mat and a sleeping bag with no tent. Or, if there is the possibility of rain like we had on UA2018 in New England or UA2019 in Alaska, a folding tent cot provides plenty of shelter and comfort without being too bulky. If you're planning on perishable food or insist on having a cold beverage, don't count on being able to always get ice, so a trail 'fridge like those from ARB, Dometic, Engel, Smittybilt, or others is always a safer bet to keep your vittles cold. For a sleeping bag, we run the lightest, smallest possible given the weather forecast. Add in a single-burner camp stove and pan to boil water for freeze-dried meals, some MREs, a flashlight and headlamp, coffee mug, and utensils, and we're fully able to survive for a week on UA. Check out what Christian Hazel brings in his camping survival kit in this story.

Vehicle Tools and Spares for Ultimate Adventure

Your tool and spare selection will obviously be dictated by your rig and its weaknesses, but know this: If you think you're going to have a problem with something on your rig ahead of time, you can be fairly certain UA will shake out any known weaknesses and some you haven't thought of. In addition to the must-have items on the checklist like recovery gear, a spill kit, and so on, you'll want all the tools you'll need to effect any repair on your vehicle. That means having the right size socket for all your output yoke nuts, wire crimpers, a multi-meter, maybe spanner wrenches for your coilovers, some welding rods, jumper cables, a compressor or some other means of airing up your tires, a tire plug kit, tie downs for all your equipment, and especially a place to put it all. You don't want to look like the Clampetts coming into Beverly Hills with all your worldly possessions strapped to the outside of your vehicle. You get pro points for having an onboard welding setup like a Premier Power Welder and ingenious storage methods we haven't seen before. Every year we're always learn as much from our invited readers and other participants as they may from us.

Personal Gear for Ultimate Adventure

Again, what you bring will be as individualistic as your vehicle, but for us, less is always more. For starters, you'll be getting a ton of T-shirts, so don't pack too many of those. Closed-toe shoes (preferably hiking boots) will help stave off severe foot injury. No matter how hot the weather, a long-sleeve shirt to keep the sun off you and help prevent dehydration through your perspiration wicking away is always a good idea. And conversely, a good heavy jacket to keep your warm and double as a pillow at night. If you're in an open-top vehicle having a dry bag to house anything not waterproof is a good idea. And in addition to the regular regime of clothing (fresh socks, underwear, etc) we bring along a laptop, digital camera, charging cords, spare external phone charger battery packs, a power inverter, an insulated tumbler, sun hat, sun screen, sunglasses, and a sunny disposition.