An Ounce of Prevention is Better Than a Pound of Pain

Remember the good old days when you could leave your bike outside overnight? Or your front door unlocked while you ran an errand? (Yes, I know I’m dating myself.) Sadly, those days are long gone. Theft is now a part of our lives. But we can minimize its occurrence.

Four wheelers already know that their vehicles are quite attractive to the wrong crowd. Yet it’s good to be reminded occasionally of the simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your property.

It always amazes me to read about a vehicle being stolen because the owner left the keys in the ignition. (And in some cases, left the engine running. Can you believe it?!) Needless to say, as you exit your vehicle, turn off your engine, grab the keys, and lock your doors.

Thieves can attack a vehicle in many ways. You need to be as resourceful to thwart any attempts. Let’s review some of the products out there that help you protect your vehicle and possessions.

Before, we go any further, it is important that you appreciate the impact when off-road of having everything “locked up”. The worst time to find that you forgot your special lug nut key is when you have a flat in the middle of the desert. Or discover that the lock to remove the hood latch is rusted beyond use.

When you start your off-road trip, remove all the locks. Cut them off if you have to (in town with access to a lock smith and lots of power tools). Avoid devices, when possible, that require the lock as an integral part of the design to remain fastened. Replace them with non locking straps, caps, etc for the duration of the trip. Take all your locks with you in case you need to stay overnight in town or abandon your vehicle.

The Club®: Very effective at keeping the steering wheel locked. Master Lock has a similar product that connects in four places on the steering wheel and is more difficult to be defeated by cutting the steering wheel. If you are looking for a quick, cheap solution, run a heavy chain through the steering wheel and around a seat leg. Secure with a big lock. This might just be the answer, when you have to leave the vehicle unexpectedly.





Engine disabling components:

If you own a Jeep or Chrysler brand, pull the ASD (automatic shutdown) relay. It’s quite accessible in most new vehicles. It is a lot easier if you install a hidden cut-off switch to the ASD relay. It disables everything –fuel pump, starter, battery. A quick search on the Internet will give you instructions on how to install these parts. If you can’t remember to throw the switch everytime, install a RFid Kill switch. It works off a “dongle” on your key ring which must be within 16” of the hidden antenna to allow the vehicle to start.


Hood locking mechanisms: J.C. Whitney ( and Savanna Jones (, among others, offer locking mechanisms for most vehicles. In use, I like the lock on the center safety catch. It can be left unlocked on the trail, for easy access under the hood. Locks on the outside hood latches, become part of the latch and must always be locked to hold down the hood.





Protect your gas: Some crooks like to pour sugar in the gas. Protect your tank with a locking gas cap. Keep the non-locking cap, though, and swap it in before you go off road.

Keep a hold of your doors: Jeep owners know that the doors are made to pop off easily. Make sure a thief doesn’t do the same with a door lock from Tuffy Products at

You can bolt in some small pieces of angle iron inside the doors, at a 45 degree angle above the key locks. A Slim Jim will hit that on it’s way down and slide off instead of being able to work the lock.





Tie down External items:
Coolers, gas cans, and other items can be secured with a steel strap from Steelcore ( The strap is encased in fabric to protect your stuff and your vehicle’s finish.



Store your keys and cards:

HitchSafe ( makes a nifty device that attaches to your trailer hitch to hide your keys, credit cards, and other small valuables. Don’t use a hid-a-key. That is the first thing a thief looks for.





Bolt locker: Tuffy Products offers a really sturdy device for securing a winch or just about anything else you’d attach to your vehicle.



Other items to consider include:

Items stored internally should be secured to keep them from flying around. Even at off-road speeds a small tool can put a major league dent in your skull. Use a sturdy strap to secure those items.

Assorted small objects can go in a spare cooler or tackle box. Just remember to secure or bury that item as well.

Concerns about security must consider your personal safety as well. That topic alone can take up a column or two. But we can cover some basics here. First, always be aware of your surroundings: who is nearby, where possible escape routes are, and such. Consider taking a self-defense course where you can learn some simple moves that could get you out of a jam.

For weapons, consider a nonlethal approach first. Pepper spray is quite effective, yet doesn’t carry the legal consequences of a firearm. If you feel you must carry a firearm, be sure to get some training from a certified instructor first. Study the laws pertaining to the transport and possession of firearms, keeping in mind that the rules may be different on federal lands. And please think carefully before using a firearm. Once you pull that trigger, there’s no going back.

Overall, our world is a safe place. Following simple steps like those listed above will help keep you from being victimized. We know how that can spoil a weekend.


Fly Prepared: Pack A First Aid Kit That Will Get Past TSA Bouncers

As everyone knows, going through airport security today is a hassle. All your belongings are screened, and if the security guards still are not satisfied you’re legit, they’ll pull you aside and pat you down. (While all the other travelers are staring.)

Yes, we need some level of screening. Unfortunate events in recent history have proved as much. It just seems at times that they over do it. And this can affect those who like to pack a first aid kit in carry on luggage.

I thought about this recently while flying. I wondered how many people carry first aid supplies with them when they fly.
Why might you want to carry a first aid kit with you? I can think of a couple reasons:

  1. You’d like to be prepared in case something happens while in the air. My wife once had scalding coffee spilled on her. Fortunately I had some burn cream with me to help soothe the pain. I’m sure the aircraft has a first aid kit somewhere, but you can reach your carryon much quicker.
  2. You want to have a first aid kit with you when you arrive at your destination, and can get by without checking any luggage. Or, you’re concerned your checked luggage will get lost.

Because you never know when or where an incident will occur, I feel it’s important to have some first aid supplies with you at all times. I usually have some band-aids,gloves, tape and handi-wipes on me, and keep a penlight and bottle of Advil in my suitcase.

Plus, many of us 4-wheelers carry first aid supplies all the time. We’re so accustomed to having a first aid kit while going off-road, we naturally pack some supplies when flying.

What kind of kit should you pack? It should be small yet compact (that is, stuffed with useful items and supplies), and its case should be waterproof. Start with a typical first aid kit found at the store. It will contain most of what you need, and can be improved with some tweaking.

I suggest either the Sportsman or the Smart Travel model from Adventure Medical. You can find these kits at better outdoors retailers. BTW, I like the wound care list of supplies better in the Sportsman model. But I like the medication selection in the Smart Traveller model.

First, inspect the contents for items that may raise eyebrows at the airport. The most likely candidate is a pair of scissors. Thankfully, the government has loosened restrictions items with sharp edges. As long as the blades are less than 4” long you can bring scissors aboard. I believe tweezers are also permitted, but keep under 4” to be safe.
The restriction pertaining to liquids and gels still applies, so you will need to put burn creams, hand sanitizers and other first aid items into a one quart plastic bag along with your tooth paste.

The TSA’s Web site offers more information on permitted and prohibited items. Note that many items that cannot be packed in your carry on are still permitted in checked baggage.

One drawback to first aid kits is that they’re slim in some supplies. You may find just one or two single-use packets of Neosporin®, for example, and a couple small packets of ibuprofren (Advil, Motrin) and Tylenol. Pack a tube of Neosporin and small 10 tab tubes of Advil and Tylenol (found at many drugstores).

Inspect your kit frequently. Certain products, like pain killers and other pills, have a shelf life. Others deteriorate over time. Band-aids are known to lose their stickiness after several years. Foil packets occasionally get torn or punctured, allowing the material inside to evaporate or dry out. There’s nothing more frustrating than opening a first aid kit and finding everything is shot.
It’s always better to have a thoughtfully designed first aid kit. Take the time now to create a useful first aid kit for flying. It’ll be nearby should the need arise while flying, and at your fingertips when you arrive at your destination.

Save Money by Buying An Annual Federal Recreation Passes

These days we all need to find ways to reduce our expenses. The American the Beautiful Annual Pass does double duty to get you into all the National Parks and covers the Adventure Pass required in many Southern California National Forests. If you visit or wheel frequently on federal Lands (National Parks, National Forest, BLM, etc.) the Annual pass at $80 a year is a money saver.

For individuals 62 and older there is a lifetime pass for $10!

Use this link to read the details from the government web site.

An even cheaper way to enjoy the National Parks this summer.

NPS announced three fee-free weekends at more than 100 national parks.
June 20-21, 2009 (Father’s Day weekend)
July 18-19, 2009
August 15-16, 2009
Details on their web site

Go Romping in the Snow This Winter

With the snow we’ve been getting in the mountains lately, a lot of four-wheelers are itching to fire up their vehicles and go plowing through the white stuff. Whether over Cajon Pass, through Big Bear area, or just to Grandma’s house, driving off road in snow is a lot of fun. Winter driving offers its own set of challenges; the following tips will help ensure your trip is a pleasant one.

As with all four-wheeling, remember the buddy system. That is, always go out with at least one other vehicle. It’s fairly easy to get stuck in snow, and the cold just compounds any difficulties you may experience. More on that later.

Make sure you pack survival gear along with food and water. Remember that it gets dark early this time of year, and storms can hit in a hurry. Check the forecast before leaving. You don’t want to get caught in the mountains during a blizzard. Also, cold weather reduces the output of your battery. Replace it if it’s more than five years old. Consider installing a dual battery system as well. That way you’ll have a back up, as well as a source of power in case you need to use the winch.

Pack your vehicle accordingly. The basics include a snow shovel, air jack and tire chains, if you have them. Brightly colored equipment is really useful in a snowy environment. An ice scraper/window brush and recovery equipment are a must, also. You’ll want some communications equipment, as well. Pack ham radio gear if you have it. If not, consider getting licensed. The exam isn’t that difficult and gear is reasonably priced. If you don’t care to go that route, look into a satellite phone. Cell phones rarely work in the outback, so don’t count on one.

Make sure your headlights, tail lights, fog lamps, and license plate are clear of snow. As the old saying goes, you want to see and be seen.

Upon arriving, spend a few moments surveying the trail and surrounding terrain. One of the biggest problems with snow is that it covers ruts, ditches, and rocks. If you’ve driven the trail before, try to recall where the rough spots are, and avoid them. Don’t try to drive over them, as you risk getting stuck or damaging your vehicle.

Chains are great for driving in snow. They give you better traction and braking all around, and better steering up front. If you have just one set, place them on the back. Chains up front allow you to chew through deep snow, but the added braking capability could cause fish tailing. This happens a lot while going downhill on a slippery slope.

Air down your tires to a standard off-road level. For a 31-in. tire, that would be in the 18 to 15 psi range. Start off in single file as you normally do. The lead vehicle will blaze the trail, but often becomes stuck. Plus, the underbody usually gets packed with snow, so the vehicle doesn’t run well. Be prepared to pull out that vehicle, but also rotate the vehicles to keep a “fresh” vehicle in the lead at all times.

If you get stuck, try rocking the vehicle. You can usually gain a few inches each time, which often is enough to get you onto better ground. Avoid spinning the tires if possible. That just melts the snow underneath, which quickly freezes. Then you’re in worse shape than when you started.

If you’re still unable to drive out, use a recovery strap to pull your vehicle out. But be careful: The strap is under tremendous stress. Make sure no one is standing between either vehicle. If that strap breaks, it’ll crack the person in the head, and your trip is over. A Pull Pal® also works well in these situations.

Remember to drive slowly. As mentioned above, snow covers all blemishes in the trail. If the snow is firm enough you may actually drive on top. But more likely, you’ll cut through, and expose your vehicle to rocks and other hazards below.

Even with chains, your vehicle behaves quite differently in snow. Stopping and cornering are more difficult and braking distances are greater. Drive slower than normal and keep a safe distance between the vehicles. 4WD doesn’t offer any better braking than 2WD, despite what you may think. If you find yourself sliding one way, turn with it, but also apply some power and stay off the brakes. The 4WD traction will help pull you out of it.

Use gentle acceleration whenever climbing a hill. Quick acceleration can cause the tires to spin, which results in an icy trail. Speaking of hills, assess the trail before descending, and make sure it’s safe to drive. Can you get back up if you had to? If not, and that’s the only way out, take a different route.

Here’s hoping your next romp through the snow is a safe and enjoyable one.