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Off-Road Necessities

Contributed By: Dennis "Doc" Fariello

After many years of four-wheeling, and ownership of MANY vehicles of various shapes, sizes, and reliability, and upon referring to various published sources, I have come up with the following kit, that I feel is a requirement for anybody to have with them before they venture off-road. Most of the items herein are also a good idea to carry even if you never venture off-road.

You may, of course, modify this list to suit your own needs. This is merely either what I personally carry, or feel anyone should. Not everything in this list is necessary, I do indeed carry some extra stuff, and that will be marked as such. This also does not reflect everything I carry, just that which I feel would apply to most people. I don't think most of y'all would have much use for a tracheal intubation kit and an ambu-bag, etc... <grin>. So I just tried to show y'all some of the more common stuff that I'd consider optional and reasonable. Hope this helps.

First off, EVERY vehicle should have two things:

  • A First Aid Kit. A decent one, not excessively expensive, but not a dime-store special, either. Highly recommend a waterproof case, hard shell. The basic first aid kit I carry under the seat is made by Eastern Safety Equipment Co, of Maspeth, NY 11378, slightly modified. Mine has the following stuff in it, plus some more in a jump kit in the tool box, but not all of this may be considered necessary...
    • Various band-aids
    • Triangular bandage for slings, etc.
    • Ace bandage
    • Kerlex
    • 2x3 inch dressings
    • 4x6 inch dressings
    • ammonia inhalants
    • iodine pads
    • benzalkonium chloride pads (another cleaner/antiseptic)
    • suture kit (yeah, this is one of the "not necessary" items... if you have the training and the balls to use it on yourself and your loved ones, then fine, if not, then don't take one)
    • wire splint
    • adhesive tape
    • tweezers
    • instant cold packs
    • sting relief pads
    • 5 x 9 inch "abdominal" pad for big boo-boos
    • roll of cotton gauze
  • Fire extinguisher. At least one. Rated for A, B, and C (wood, liquid, and electrical) fires is best. 10A is the one to go for. Should be mounted in a sturdy bracket, somewhere within easy reach of all passengers. I recommend either two, mounted outboard of the front seat on either side (assuming bench seat), or one mounted to the tranny hump. On Timex, the fire extinguisher is mounted horizontally, fore and aft, to the right of the gearshift.

Ok, now for tools. You have to keep in mind a couple of things when making up your tool kit.

  • One, how much expertise do you have? Is changing spark plugs beyond you, or can you yank a tranny in the field?
  • Two, how much room do you have for the tool box? I use one of those briefcase style tool cases, it's big enough to hold all the basic tools, small enough to fit in my cross-bed tool box, and easily transported from vehicle to vehicle. It also fits quite nicely in the back of a wagon-type SJ (like Drippy).
  • Three, look at the various tools... some can be combined into multi-purpose tools, some can be eliminated, depends on how much room you have and your own experience.
  • One note of caution. I cannot emphasize enough that there is NO SAVINGS in cheap tools. Spend a little bit extra if you can for quality tools. Not only does it suck if a tool breaks the first time you use it, in the middle of the night, and the creek's rising, and you've got to get something fixed before you and your truck both drown, but CHEAP TOOLS CAN GET YOU HURT! And please, please... take care of your tools. Don't let them get rusty, don't let them get all chipped up and bent, replace them if they get that bad. It'll make your life a lot easier, and perhaps longer.

Here's what I personally carry in the way of tools. Unless otherwise noted, all these items are carried within the aforementioned tool case.

  • Screwdrivers
    • Flat head
      • 1/4" stubby
      • 1/8" x 4" long
      • 1/8" x 6" long
      • 1/4" x 4" long
      • 3/8" x 10" long (old beat-up piece of kronk, usually used as a beater or pry bar)
    • Phillips
      • #2 stubby
      • #1 4" long
      • #2 4" long
  • Wrenches
    • Combination wrenches- from 3/16" to 1" in 1/16" increments. I don't carry metric wrenches in the tool box anymore usually, although I do have them.
    • Crescent wrench (at least one, say 8" long, perhaps a 10")
    • Socket sets
      • 3/8" dr. set. These usually come with sockets from 3/16" to 7/8", with a ratchet, u-joint, and 2" extension. The one I use is made by Alltrade, it's in a small plastic molded tray that fits quite nicely in my tool case. It also has a lifetime warranty, and although it isn't quite up to Snap-On or Craftsman standards, it so far has done the trick.
      • MAKE SURE you have a spark plug socket of the proper size for your vehicle! Yes, you can use a 13/16" or 5/8" deep wall socket, but have you ever used one and broken a plug?
      • 1/4" dr. set. Same as above. Not absolutely necessary, BTW, but I have the room, and it comes in handy sometimes, especially say for hose clamps and other small items. If you're limited on room, don't bother with it. Optional, in other words.
      • 1/2" dr. Not a whole set, just the following:
        • 1/2" ratchet
        • 5/8" through 1 1/4" deep wall sockets
        • 1/2" breaker bar
        • 6" extension
    • small pipe wrench
    • Allen (hex) keys. There are excellent pocket-type kits available, with many different sizes in a metal pocket-knife-looking thingie. I carry two different sets, small and medium, and also separate 3/8" and 1/2" keys. Mostly used for your hubs, or the rear axle drain plug.
    • Torx keys. Same as the allen key kits I carry. Not at all required, I just happen to have one, and that's where I keep it.
  • Pliers
    • Needle nose
    • Lineman's (side-cutters)(Klein's)
    • Dikes (diagonal cutters) - not necessary
    • snap ring - either both internal and external, or one that can accommodate both
    • channel locks - at least 8".
    • regular normal combo pliers
    • there is probably no more versatile tool than VISE-GRIPS
  • Hammer - only one is really necessary, I carry four... a small ball peen, a large ball peen, a 5 lb. hand sledge, and a 16 lb. sledge (in another tool box). If I were only going to carry one, I'd probably carry the 5 lb. hand drilling hammer.
  • Knife - razor knife (utility knife) with retracting blade is best.
  • File. This is one I've read you should carry in many many books, but personally I don't recall ever having to use it.
  • Feeler gauges, both flat and spark plug. Once again, not really necessary, but they're small, and if you have the room...
  • Lug wrench. Duh. Ah, but I'm not talking about the stock pain in the butt. I'm referring to one of those large 4-way "star" wrenches. The bigger the better, usually. The one I use is rather small, but I'm stronger than most people, and it also fits in my passenger side tool box.
  • Lug wrench. Stock. Yep, keep it. It makes a great pry bar. Matter of fact, that's about all it's good for.
  • Jack. Duh. Ah, but I'm not talking about the stock pain in the butt. (haven't we heard that somewhere before?). I've found it WELL worth the $50.00 or so investment in a Hi-Lift Jack. It's kinda large and heavy and unwieldy, but it'll pick up one entire end of your truck with no problem. Matter of fact, it's rated at 7,000 pounds! Also useful as a come along, or for bringing those spread bed-sides back together on a pickup. Beats the living daylights out of any other jack I've seen. I keep mine in my passenger's side toolbox.
  • Awl. Never know when you'll need one.
  • Wheel bearing socket. Yep, I keep mine in my tool kit.
  • A Flashlight. With working batteries.
  • Better yet, a 12v trouble light, plus a flashlight. Much better light, you don't have to hold it, etc. They don't cost very much, and are rather rugged and durable, and put out excellent light. But make sure to keep a good flashlight, in case your truck's battery goes to the happy hunting grounds.
  • Hacksaw. If you have the room, a good hacksaw and frame is the way to go, but not absolutely necessary. If you're short on room, leave the frame at home, just keep a hacksaw blade in your tool kit. You can wrap one end with tape to keep from shredding your hands.
  • Axe. Probably not necessary, but I've been carrying mine since I was still working construction. Might be handy for removing fallen (small) trees, branches, etc. I keep mine in the passenger's side tool box.
  • Duct tape.
  • Electrical tape (plastic, not friction)
  • baling wire
  • grease gun (not necessary, but if you've been in deep water.....). Kept in the passenger's side tool box
  • adapters for grease gun
    • adapter for 4WD u-joints
    • needle adapter for CV joints
    • get a long flexible hose for your grease gun... the metal tubes bite.
  • TOW STRAP - every vehicle used off-road should have one. They're about $50.00 for a 3" x 20 ft, good for 20,000 lbs. I've used mine to pull a bus out of the mud. I have a winch accessory kit, which includes the following (and I don't have a winch). I keep it in the passenger's side tool box. I'd recommend at a minimum the strap, chain, and clevis.
    • snatch strap
    • tree-saver strap (only really needed if you have a winch)
    • chain (use to hook strap up to sharp objects, hook-less vehicles, etc.)
    • snatch block (only needed if you have a winch, or a buddy with a winch and no snatch block)
    • clevis / shackle (gotta have it... grin)
    • gloves (always handy)
    • a nice case to keep it all in
  • fuse puller. You can use your fingers sometimes, or the needle nose pliers sometimes, and sometimes even the fuse puller works.
  • a shovel. A full-size is easiest on you if you have the room, but those folding camp shovels are pretty neat. I keep one in the passenger's side toolbox. I used to keep a full-size one, but I have no idea when or where it disappeared. I used to just keep the folding one in Drippy.
  • a GOOD set of jumper cables, as long as you can find. Mine are #2 wire, 25 ft. long, with big fat healthy clamps on each end. And I've had them for 20 years, with lots and lots of use, and no problems.
  • a siphon hose, about 6' long or so. You'll notice that nowhere in this entire article did I mention bringing extra fuel. This is because exterior mounted gas cans can be very hazardous, and even though I've been known to carry between 5 and 25 gallons of extra fuel, depending on where I'm going, it's not necessary for a day trip to the woods. However, if you puncture your fuel tank, you're going to need to get enough to get to a gas station from somewhere. It also comes in handy if, like me, you carry your gas cans and water cans inside the bed of your truck... it makes it much easier than climbing into the bed, moving stuff out of the way, unbolting straps, lifting a 50 lb. can up and over and out of the bed, etc. etc. etc. Just stick the hose in, suck, and go. Just make sure you don't swallow any fuel. Yuck.
Ok, now for parts and pieces and supplies. Once again, your own experience will dictate the particulars.
  • 2 extra spark plugs
  • some wire
  • at least 1 of every fuse in your fuse box
  • a spare u-joint, complete with straps and/or u-bolts and nuts and bolts, etc. Wrap it in duct tape or electrical tape to keep the bearing caps on the yoke till needed. Make sure you either pre-install the grease fitting or keep a suitable tool to install it with you. Personally, my spare is an old one that survived the trashing of the one on the other end.
  • complete set of spare belts, or at least the minimum necessary to get you home. I don't know about the 360s or other V-8's, but the only belt I can do without is the AC belt ('85 w/ 6-cyl). Then again, living in Florida, I'd almost consider the AC a necessity.
  • baling wire (gee, I mentioned that already in "tools")
  • duct tape (ditto)
  • electrical tape (ditto)
  • this is a good one. Carry a spare for whatever has broken twice in your ownership of the vehicle. Of course, with a manual tranny at least, a spare starter wouldn't be necessary. You can also usually get home without an alternator. So use some common sense.
  • a spare fuel filter. If your vehicle uses more than one, than keep one of each flavor.
  • fluids - I carry enough of everything for complete fluid changes in the field, but then again, I routinely play in VERY deep water.
    • grease for the grease gun
    • at least a couple of quarts of oil
    • gear oil is optional. You'd be surprised how long you can run a diff or manual tranny dry without serious damage.
    • ATF. If you play in deep water, I'd say try to carry enough to dump and refill your t-case.
    • water. I don't normally carry antifreeze with me, but I do carry 10 gals of water. That takes care of the cooling system, and also an emergency source of drinking water. I've also been known to use it to bathe in.
  • blanket
  • tarp
  • nuts and bolts and screws, etc... coffee cans work great for this
  • extra hose clamps
  • if you have the room, it may be a good idea to carry an extra set of radiator hoses. At least on the sixes, I've seen that whenever a belt breaks, it'll take out your lower radiator hose, guaranteed. It's MUCH easier to replace it than to try to patch it, believe it or not. So maybe just carry an extra lower hose. If you bust a heater hose, you can just bypass the core and it won't stop you. Of course, if it's the middle of January and you live in North Dakota, then some extra heater hose, or a suitable sized piece of PVC pipe and hose clamps would probably be a good idea.
  • A SPARE TIRE. You'd be amazed at the people who shred a tire out in the woods and don't have a spare. I'm not talking about a good, brand-new tire, you just need one good enough to get you out of the woods and either home or to where you can have the flat repaired or replaced.
  • changing 100 lb. tires is a pain, so I carry a couple of large cans of Fix-A-Flat. True, the guys at the tire store hate it when you use that stuff, but I figure they're not real fond of the big, heavy tires anyway, especially when they're caked with mud. But, I look at it this way... better they get pissed for having to smell fix-a-flat than I get a hernia pulling and replacing a 100 lb. tire in the mud.
  • I also carry a tire plugging kit, complete with plugs. In my case, it would void my tire warranty if I use them, but given a choice between saving the warranty and walking home or fixing the tire and driving home.... you get the point. Once again, it doesn't take up much room at all, and ya never know. Actually, I've just been carrying the kit around since I was running bias-plies many many many moons ago.
Communications Stuff:

One or more of the following would be a good idea to carry with you:

  • a CB. Most 'wheelers have 'em, the Forest Service guys have 'em, the Sheriffs in remote areas have 'em. Limited range under most conditions, but it'll usually work for ya. You could also go the (illegal) route of a large linear. Illegal, but in a life and death situation, who cares about legality?
  • a 2-meter ham rig. Pretty rare to get out of the range of a repeater, almost no matter where you are. You need a license to use 'em, though. But see previous note about CB linears. Just don't get caught horsing around on it. Not cool at all.
  • a cell phone, if you're not straying too far away from civilization.
  • a radio-telephone. NOT. I've got one, and the range is even more limited than on a cell-phone. If you go into an area where you know you've got coverage, then this may work for you.
Other stuff, like in case of an emergency and you're stuck out in the boonies, a week's walk from anywhere:
  • First off, I hope you brought a buddy. As in a buddy in another truck. Those who 'wheel alone usually are asking for trouble. It's not a good idea, as you NEVER know what'll happen.
  • If you strayed THAT far out into the boonies, I would hope you had been planning to stay at least a couple of days, and you at least have some food, water, and a blanket or something with you. You can live almost a month without food, especially in warmer locales. You need food in the cold stuff to keep your body temperature up. But you GOTTA have water, and lots of it. Hence why I carry 10 gallons with me when I 'wheel.
  • A compass would be good, but only if either you have good maps that you know how to use, or you know where you are and where you need to get to and the direction to travel to get there.
  • signal mirrors would be a waste, methinks. Use one of the mirrors off your truck if you have to.
  • matches. In a waterproof container. More than just a couple. Besides the fact that you're gonna want a fire at night, you can make a signal fire during the day, too. And if you smoke, then you're REALLY gonna hate yourself if you don't bring enough matches or a lighter or both.
Ok, optional, probably mostly useless, but really cool and impressive stuff to carry around with you...
  • A complete paramedic's jump kit, with the exception of IV materials (hey, I know guys that carry IV stuff, but not me)
  • An air compressor of some sort. I personally just don't air down so far that I'll blow a tire after a mile on pavement. BUT... I'm working on modifying an old AC compressor to be an air compressor.
  • A winch. Get a big one, especially if you're coming 'wheeling with me. On the rare occasion that I get stuck, it's usually because I've broken something, and it takes a couple of really huge winches to get me out, typically. (grin)
  • A cell phone. Actually can be of some use, unless you're out where all the good wheeling is, out in the boonies. But hey, it looks cool... and you can order pizza on your way back into town.
  • A rescue rope and rappelling harness. Too bad there ain't no rocks in Florida, I get absolutely no use out of it. Except for once off the Dames Point Bridge up in Jacksonville, but that's another story.
  • A big fat hairy spotlight, like in the 400,000 CP range. Great for spotting girls on the other side of a lake. And attracting their large, hairy, low-foreheaded boyfriends with sticks and such. Also good for locating road signs, campgrounds, and yeti, and blinding aircraft pilots.
Ok, well, that about covers it. Like I've said before, your circumstances and means and experience may dictate modifications to this, but this is what I carry. Of course, it means that I have the capability of fixing damn near anything, but I have the room to carry it all, and I've never been stranded. This may seem like an awful lot of stuff, but it actually doesn't take up that much room if picked and packed correctly. On Timex, I carry all the tools in a tool case in the cross-bed tool box, and all the fluid and larger stuff are in a bed-side tool box. On Drippy (an '80 Cherokee), I carried the same tool case, plus kept all the supplies and other stuff in a large Rubbermaid storage container, except of course for the hi-lift jack. I was going to put a rack for the hi-lift jack on the spare tire carrier, but never got around to it.

Borelando, FL

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