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Trail essentials

Trail essentials

 Whether you're just starting out or have been wheeling for half a century, there are a always a few things that you need to bring with you every time you go out. As much as we don't like to think about it, bad things happen when you're off-highway and how bad they are can quite often be defined by how prepared you are.


The list, at its most basic needs to include these few essentials..
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Communications - CB, HAM, FRS, Cell, smoke signals, etc.
  • First Aid kit
  • Recovery Tools
  • Tool Kit

Ryan already has an excellent post that covers the first two items, so this article will cover the remaining ones.

First Aid

pc: amazon.com
Having a basic first aid kit in your vehicle should be a given, regardless of whether you're heading into the hills or just down the road a piece. Most over-the-counter kits have everything you need. If you go this route, be sure to check on expiration dates regularly and remember to restock when something gets used. There's no point in having a kit with burn gel if you don't actually have any burn gel in it when you need it again.



At a minimum, your kit should include:

  • a variety of sizes of stick-on bandaids
  • gauze pads and medical tape
  • fabric bandages / bandanas - can be used for slings or to apply pressure
  • some antihistamine (for allergic reactions) - pills, lotion, etc.
  • burn gel or cream ​- for, you know, burns
  • Hydrocortizone - for rashes and inflamation
  • OTC pain medication (Tylenol, Ibuprofin, Naproxin, etc.)
  • Antiseptic wipes or gel - cleanliness, in addition to being next to godliness, is the first step to avoiding nasty infections
  • any specific medical items that you or your passengers might need, like prescription medications, Epi-pens or inhalers.

More advanced kits should contain a few of the following:
  • Instant cold packs
  • sunscreen and aloe vera gel
  • Tweezers
  • flashlight - either with spare batteries and bulbs or an crank-style
  • scissors - curved tip ones are great for cutting clothing away from an injury without adding to the damage.
  • sterilized water for wound cleaning and eye flushes
  • CPR mask (see the next part)

Finally, now that you've got a kit, it's a wise idea to take a class or two - there are a wide variety of options out there - The American Red Cross offers excellent training, as do a variety of others - including, occasionally, Cabelas or REI stores. 

Recovery Tools

pc : Library of Congress

Now that you've assembled the tools for taking care of yourself and your passengers, it's time to ensure that you can get home as well. To that purpose, you should have a basic assortment of recovery tools with you.
The following list is ordered from most essential to best to have, with the ultimately prepared person bringing all of them.


  • Shovel and Axe/Mattox - with these tools, you can make or remove nearly any obstacle that blocks your progress. Keep in mind, however, to repair any trail damage you create with them!
  • Traction Mat(s) - These can be a life-saver - especially when you've got a limited-traction situation and need just a tiny bit of help.
  • Tow Strap / chain - coupled with a come-along, one of these can help you get out of a pickle by yourself, but is best used with a friend's vehicle to get you out of that tight spot you got yourself into.
  • Winch - The ultimate in self-recovery tools. Given that there are already dozens of guides out there on winches and their use, I'm only going to cover a few points. First, your winch should be solidly mounted to your frame - either in a dedicated bumper designed for the task or on a receiver tray, also designed for the task, which is attached to a tow-rated bumper. Additionally, your winch should be rated for at least 1.5 times the weight of your vehicle and you should follow your winch manufacturer's guidelines for maintenance. A well maintained winch is a happy winch, and a happy winch is one that'll get you and your rig out of the woods.
  • Recovery Points - While not a tool, on it's own, having means attached firmly to both the front and rear of your vehicle from which to pull on your rig is quite important also.  These should be either attached to your bumper or directly to the frame to avoid damage to your rig.

 Tool Kit

pc: amazon.com

If you're going to wheel, you're going to break something eventually. Which means you need to be able to fix what you broke - or at least try to.

The list below should give you a baseline of what to bring with you for trail repairs.


  • a basic socket set that contains an assortment of sockets and extensions
  • cross-tip and flat-head screwdrivers in a couple of lengths and tips
  • an adjustable (aka Crescent ) wrench or two - I like to carry both large and small ones
  • pliers - again, having both regular slip-joint and a pair of needle-nose pliers is handy
  • tire gauge
  • tire patch kit
  • hammer - sometimes, there's a hammer is just what the doctor ordered.. I carry a 4lb hand sledge and rubber-tipped one
  • compact prybar
  • zipties
  • duct tape
  • WD-40
  • brake fluid
  • power steering fluid
  • a quart or two of motor oil
  • a compact toolbox to carry it all in. I currently keep it all in an ammo can with the hammers and prybar in a separate bag containing my towstrap and chain from above. 

If you've read this far, thanks and hope to see you on the trails soon!  

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Thursday, 06 August 2020

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