Clunk Thunk Clackety Click!

Bent anti-sway bar linkage

When I have a problem I cannot diagnose, my first call is to Bruce at Bogart Engineering. He has helped me solve many issues by tracking down the sound. I persuaded Bruce to share his knowledge with us.

You’re driving home after a great day of off-roading and notice a new noise coming from somewhere in the Jeep. Dayum. Whattheheckisthat?

Well, as off-roaders we are always seeking new challenges. One of those challenges that’s a little unwelcome is the appearance of those new noises. You wonder what’s going to happen. Will the motor quit and leave me stranded? Will it suddenly steer itself off the highway?

So you pull off the road and open the hood. You look inside. Yep, the motor is still there. Good. You look under the vehicle. Nothing hanging down. Now what? You call a friend who’s a good mechanic.

“What does it sound like?” he asks.

You answer as intelligently as possible “Clackety clackety clack”.

He replies “Sounds like the clacker to me. Better have it towed.”

We don’t want this scene, do we? Well, I’m gonna tell you how to identify what’s happening in your vehicle and how to better communicate remotely with your buddy the mechanic.

Yep, the engine is still there.

The Source of a Noise

The source of a noise is identified by a combination of characteristics and a process of elimination: Speed (frequency)-under what circumstances does the speed of the noise increase and decrease?

  • Does it speed up in direct relation to the road speed of the vehicle? Wheels, brakes, axles, differential, and driveshaft speeds are in direct relation to the speed of the vehicle. The driveshaft spins about four times faster than wheels and axles.
  • Does it speed up and slow down depending on which gear the transmission is in? The engine (along with the accessories; alternator, water pump, power steering, and air conditioning) and transmission speeds are relative to the gear you’re in.
  • Does it happen when the vehicle is sitting still with the motor running? If yes, then it can only be in the engine and accessories or transmission input. What happens when you depress the clutch, thus eliminating the transmission input? Further narrow it down by speed relative to the engine rpm. The rotation of the crankshaft and travel of the pistons define the speed of the engine. The valve train (tappets and rocker arms) runs at half the speed of the engine. The accessories vary according to pulley size.

Nature of Sound

  • Is it a result of impact? “Tapping” or “Banging” would describe two solid metallic parts directly impacting each other. These are usually fairly easy to identify since there really aren’t many places that can happen. In the engine, the pistons can directly impact the head or crankshaft, and the rocker arms and associated valve train can have direct impact. Since the valve train operates at half the speed of the engine, you can hear a difference in speed and narrow it down. (tip: remove the oil filler cap in the valve cover and listen to the valves operate to hear half-engine speed) If it’s in the engine or accessories, it’ll happen with the vehicle sitting still and the motor running. If it happens while you’re driving, note if it’s aggravated by bumps and which corner hitting the bump aggravates it most.
  • Does it squeal? “Eek-eek-eek” would describe a rotational noise that’s metal-on-metal. Usually it’s a bearing. The rate of change of the speed of the noise (as well as your directional hearing sense) will point you to the location of the bearing. So if it’s a road-speed eek-eek, it’s probably a wheel bearing. An eek-eek that varies with engine speed is probably an accessory bearing, often the alternator. A word of caution here: bearing eek-eeks often disappear when the bearing gets hot, so the disappearance of the eek-eek is not a good sign.
  • Does it thunk? They’re usually isolated and not regular. If you can make it thunk by hitting a bump with a certain corner of the car, it’s a shock absorber. If you can make it thunk by hitting the throttle, it’s a motor or transmission mount. If it thunk-thunk-thunks at road speed, you’re probably losing a tire tread.
  • Does it click? Chipped or broken gears click. Transmission or axle gears, depending on where you hear it coming from.
  • Does it whine or even howl? Feed it or leave it home the next time you go out. Gears whine too. Usually the sound will change significantly on-throttle versus off-throttle. That’s never a good sound, but check yer freakin’ fluid level where the noise is coming from now! You’ve probably sprung a leak or gone dry. If you do it RIGHT NOW you might save those gears!
  • Does it pop? Pops are the result of explosions. IE, valves in the engine open at the wrong time or not opening at all. Often accompanied by tapping because of a rocker arm problem. It can pop out the intake or exhaust end. Either way, it’s a pretty serious engine problem. UNLESS…one of your joker friends swapped some spark plug wires while you weren’t looking. Death threats often uncover or cause such behavior.
  • Does it vibrate? Everybody knows the vibration of a flat or out-of-balance tire. How about a vibration at four times that rate? That’s probably a driveshaft, bent or with a bad u-joint. Usually isn’t accompanied by noise, but we’ll include it here, and who could hear it anyway over all the other squeaks and rattles and flapping of the top?


  • Place a long screwdriver, dowel, or mechanic’s stethoscope (get one on your next trip to Harbor Freight) against your ear and the various parts of a running engine to hear normal operating noises. Try the valve cover, crankcase, alternator, power steering pump, and air conditioner compressor. Caution: Don’t touch any moving parts or wiring!
  • Tie a piece of nylon strap to a u-joint yoke just long enough to strike a frame rail, spring, exhaust pipe, or other part, and drive a bit. You’ll hear it slap against the part at about 4 times road speed. You may have to turn off the motor and coast to hear it. You can do this with a strap tied to a wheel spoke to hear road speed rotation. Keep it fairly slow or the strap will just coil up.

So to summarize, now you can call your mechanic and tell him: “I’ve got a four-times road speed eek-eek in the rear. Whaddyathink?” To which he can reply: “Sounds like a bad pinion bearing. Check your gear lube. Drive slow with steady throttle. Watch for leakage at the rear of the driveshaft. If it gets worse, get it towed. Bring it to me in the morning.”

Bruce Bogart, AKA “Pappy”, has been swappin’ lies around the campfire for over twenty years. He’s the inventor of the Plugzit and Starterita. After 45 years with cars of every description and ten trips across the Rubicon, he’s surely heard every bent and broken part imaginable. Although he’s become something of a recluse, he still enjoys hearing new lies and war stories at

Wick it up, Bud!

One of the many benefits of being an instructor is learning from my students. Usually it’s regarding some cool product. Such was the case in January. During my Tread Trainer class, a student mentioned oil-absorbent sheets. It sounded like a great product, so I stopped by West Marine ( and picked up a few.

Designed for boats, these oil-absorbent sheets soak up engine oil so you can safely pump out the bilge. Turns out the sheets work quite well on dry land, too. A recent experiment proved that.


My experiment with an oil-absorbent sheet

West Marine’s oil-absorbent sheet comes in one size, 17” x 19”. You can buy them individually at about a buck a piece or a five pack for $4.49.

According to their website, each sheet absorbs 13 to 25 times its weight of #2 oil. Unfortunately, we don’t know from the label how much that is. Because they’re designed to absorb petroleum products, these sheets will not work on any water-based liquids. So, if you spill anti-freeze, use a paper towel.

With the gracious support of my friend Bruce at Bogart Engineering, whose garage floor provided the ideal surface, I was able to experiment with an oil-absorbent sheet.

The result was quite impressive.

At 17” x 19”, the sheet was a bit large for my use, so I cut it in half. I poured about 8 ounces of 10W30 on the garage floor. It created a circle about 5” wide. (See image – notice I had already used the sheet to wipe up a few drips.) I laid an oil-absorbent sheet on the oil spot, and within seconds the oil was wicked up. the next image shows the oil stain on the underside of the sheet. It wicked up all that oil in just a few seconds. Notice how clean the floor is above. I didn’t even wipe up the floor. That’s where the puddle of oil was. The oil-absorbent sheet worked that well.

As my next experiment, I dumped the entire remaining contents of the quart of oil on to the same sheet. It held most of the oil. I should mention, though, that the sheet was dripping oil. I must’ve maxed out its capacity. Remember, this was only half a sheet.

How often can you use each sheet? I don’t know. According to their web site, you can wring out the oil – into the proper receptacle, of course – but I believe the sheets are best for single use the way we use them. I don’t want to ride around with one partially soaked in oil any longer then I need to. Make sure you dispose of them properly.

When you might need oil-absorbent sheets

With all the abuse our vehicles take while off-road, it’s a wonder they don’t drip more than they do. Oil absorbent sheets should be placed on the ground any time your vehicle is dripping oil products. They are handy for spills, as well.

Use oil-absorbent sheets at home, too. Place one under any vehicle that drips oil, and you won’t have that ugly stain to contend with.

Packing oil-absorbent sheets

Because they are so effective, I highly recommend you pack a supply of oil-absorbent sheets. The West Marine sheets are quite large, whereas most spills are rather small. Cut your sheet(s) into halves or quarters, and place in a plastic zip lock bag. Leave at least one sheet full size. One advantage to a large piece is you can hold it down with rocks or other objects. That will keep the wind from blowing it away.

With over 300 retail stores in North America, it is easy to pick up a supply (or replace your stock pile) and they are quite inexpensive. Other oil-absorbent products are available. These include an oil-absorbent bilge pillow from 3M ( and Spill-Sorb (, which is specially activated peat moss.

Regardless of which product you purchase, it’s important to add an oil-absorbent solution to your spill kit. As good stewards of the land, we take care of the property we drive on. Leaving an ugly oil stain on the ground is no different than dumping your trash.

Oil-absorbent sheets and similar products are cheap and effective. Pack a supply so you’re prepared for your next off-road adventure.

For related reading, see, “Clean Up Toxic Spills Promptly, Thoroughly”.

Build Your Own First Aid Kit

Much of the time in the outdoors, you will be on your own for immediate medical care, with definitive medical services 2 or more hours away. Provided, of course that you can even signal for help!

In preparation for an outing or expedition, you need to make sure everyone has a first aid kit. If you don’t — build one now! If you have a first aid kits make sure it is in good order. This is a good time to look at the contents and replace expired drugs and damage supplies. If your first aid credentials have expired, see if you can squeeze in a class before your next expedition.

Since we all have significant cargo capacity in vehicle dependent travel, I recommend each vehicle take a fully stocked first aid kit. I like the duplication and I like the idea that if you get separated (on purpose or otherwise), a first aid kit is at hand.

Multiple First aid Kits

In addition to your main first aid kit, you want a smaller kit for side trips without the vehicle. Plus you may want to make up a “boo boo” bag for Advil, IBU, Aleve (or your favorite NSAID), band aids, anti acid tablets, splinter kit, etc. for the headache, scrapes, and bruises that do not warrant breaking out the big box.

Make a list of expiration dates

Update Expired Drugs

Heat is hard on drugs, band aids and other items in your first aid kit. So is riding around for a year or more in your off-road vehicle. Packets break and dry out; Bottles leak; drugs expire, etc. It would be a good idea to inventory your drugs and update ones that have expired or show signs of deterioration. Epinephrine should be clear. If not replace it. Replace all damaged supplies. Take the time to type up a list of drugs and when they expire in each of your first aid kits. The list makes it so much easier to check for expired drugs in the future. Make sure the batteries in your headlamp / flashlight and watch are fresh. This is a good time to refresh yourself with what you actually have in the kit and where it is located.

First Aid Kit vs. Survival Kit

Many find the first aid kit a convenient and logical place to store small survival items – matches, whistle, signal mirror, knife, compass, etc. It may be ok to have survival items in the kit if you have room. If you decide to include survival items, make a hard separation of your survival items from your true first aid items so they do not get in the way.

Individual Packets vs. Larger Containers

I prefer to include a bottle of NSAID tablets rather than numerous individual packets with 2 tablets each. I prefer a tube of Neosporin rather than individual one time use packets. While the packets are convenient, I feel they are more expense and waste drugs. Once a packet is opened any unused contents are discarded.

Pelican cases make an excellent vehicle dependent First Aid container

Build Your Kit

I think the best kits are ones you build yourself with the tools, equipment, and supplies you know how to use. You can start with a commercial kit, however, and supplement the contents. The Adventure Medical line of First Aid Kits is one I recommend. When I travel by plane and leave my other gear home, I carry the Sportsman model. They have several larger kits that I like for vehicle dependent travel.

You want the kit to be as waterproof as possible and you should try to segment the supplies into separate areas or small bags based on categories of need. In the attached list you can see the suggested categories. I am providing this list to get you started! Feel free to make modifications. One item that merits inclusion on top of every smaller bag (or sub section) is gloves for personal protection. They will be handy and a visible reminder to wear them no matter which bag you go to first.

First Aid Kit

  • A water proof case or bag



  • 4 (at least) pair non latex Gloves (also put a set in each of the other sections)
  • Ear plugs
  • Purell hand sanitizer


  • Headlamp / Penlight
  • Watch
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • 60 cc syringe
  • Suction bulb
  • Oral / digital thermometer
  • Sterile scalpel blade
  • Fine hemostat x 2
  • Blood pressure cuff
  • Stethoscope
  • Sterile needles for splinters
  • Pocket rescue mask


  • Tooth Brush – new
  • 2 4×4 inch sterile gauze dressings
  • 2 2×2 inch sterile gauze dressings
  • 1 small bottle of tincture of benzoin


  • 2 4×4 inch sterile gauze dressings
  • 2 2×2 inch sterile gauze dressings
  • First Aid Cream
  • Neosporin
  • 1 2×2 mole skin for blisters
  • 6 band-Aids
  • 1 roll 1 inch flexible tape
  • 1 roll “vet” wrap
  • 1 small tube Povidone iodine ointment
  • 1 small bottle liquid soap
  • 2 inch elastic bandage


  • Epinephrine
  • 1 cc syringe x3 or Epipen
  • 4 tablets Benadryl


  • Large Triangular Bandage
  • Xeroform gauze dressing
  • Sam Splint
  • 4 Diaper pins
  • 4” & 6” Ace bandage
  • Burn sheet (100% cotton t-Shirt fresh from dryer kept in plastic bag)
  • Large dressing (Sanitary Napkins / diapers work well)
  • Handful of big plastic cable ties
  • Duct Tape

In addition, make a mental note of all the other stuff you have in the vehicle to make a splint (tent poles, tarps, ropes, blankets) or can be used to stabilize someone prior to transport.

MEDICATIONS – Nonprescription

  • Tylenol aka Acetaminophen (Pain, Fever)
  • Advil aka ibuprofen (Pain, Fever, Inflammation)
  • Aspirin (Pain, Fever, Inflammation)
  • Aleve aka naproxen (Pain, Fever, Inflammation)
  • Allegra-D
  • Imodium
  • Benadryl
  • Stool Softener (e.g. Colace)
  • Syrup of Ipecac
  • Liquid activated charcoal
  • Cake mate / small packets of honey
  • Dramamine (motion sickness)
  • Cough & cold preparations
  • Sun block
  • Chap Stick

MEDICATIONS – Prescription

(Talk to your doctor)

  • Antibiotic tablets
  • Antibiotic eye ointment or drops
  • Epipen
  • Prednisone
  • Albuterol Inhaler
  • Medication for severe pain
  • Steroid cream
  • Diamox (if going to altitude)

If it has been a while, I recommended you take a First Aid Course. Wilderness Medical Associates offers course from 2, 4 or 8 days. These courses are geared for the kind of first aid we need when calling 911 is not an option.

Use a checklist for Every Outing

Every have one of those trips when, after arriving at the campsite and unpacking, you realize you forgot something important? You smack yourself along the side of your head and say, “Jeez. How could I forget that??!!”

It happens to everyone at some point. Even to me. That’s why many years ago I started using a checklist. I have several, but for this column I want to impress upon you the value of developing and using a checklist. One is enough, though it can be rather comprehensive. The benefits of using a checklist are very clear:

You’ll depart confident that you remembered to pack everything you were supposed to, and your packing goes quicker. A checklist brings order to your packing, so you’re not scrambling around haphazardly.

Create Your Checklist

Your checklist need not be fancy. Create a list in Word or Excel, and print it out before each trip. Having the file on your computer allows you to quickly add or change items as needed before or after each trip. That keeps you from having to develop a new list before each trip. Merely open the existing file, make any changes that come to mind, and print it out. It’s that simple.

The format is totally up to you. It can be a simple list with checkboxes before the items so you can check off each item. One page will be easier to use, so if need be, create two (or more) columns to accommodate all your items.

Group your items into categories to make it easier to review them. Some suggestions for categories include:

  • Vehicle Essentials (oil, tool kit, tow strap, tire repair kit, for example.)
  • Camping (tent, sleeping bag, pads, chair, firewood, etc.)
  • Reference material (trail books, emergency package, shrub and tree book, as well as paper and pencils.)
  • Food and food preparation (stove, grill, gas, cooler, matches, pot holder, or camp box, if most of that is in there.)
  • Clothes (for warm and cold weather, toiletries, medicines, etc. )
  • Last In (frozen food in freezer, cell phone, lap top, meds, etc. )

You get the picture. I recommend you also have a category titled Miscellaneous. This group includes a hat, extra pair of glasses or readers, extra key, cell phone charger, binoculars and so on.

Some categories could be seasonal. A Winter category, for example, might include snow shovel, snow chains, and other relevant gear.

Don’t have a checklist yet? Start one by visualizing yourself in the situation. Take for example, Camping. Write the heading and list all the items you can think are needed to establish shelter and bedding for a comfortable night. Visualizing pounding in the stakes – put a hammer on the list. Are your tent stakes and poles bundled with the tent? If not, put them on the list.

Update Your List

Keep in mind that your checklist is an evolving document. During your trip, feel free to write notes in the margin if you think of items that didn’t come to mind initially. Along those lines, if you have room on the page, create a space just for notes. When you see or think of a better item to bring, write it down.

In this area you will also record supplies that need replacing. During the course of your camping trip, you may run out of salt, pepper, coffee, Band-aids, or other basics. Jot a note in the open section of your checklist. That will save you from having to dig through your supply boxes or camp box later to determine what needs replenishing.

After arriving home, pull up the file on your computer and make the necessary changes. Then your checklist is ready to go for the next trip.

Final Thoughts

The key is to use the checklist. Print it out before each trip, and review it item by item as you are packing. Don’t gloss over this step because you’ve used the list several times already. The point is to keep you from forgetting items. If you don’t pay attention to your list, you’ll forget something. Then you’ll be kicking yourself.

Another important point is that you don’t check off an item until it’s in your vehicle. All too often we see an object (perhaps in the garage) and think, “OK, it’s in.” We assume we’ll toss that into the vehicle in a moment. Well, you know what happens? Yep. We forget. Remember: Nothing gets checked off until it’s in the vehicle.

Over time a checklist will become as much a part of your supply kit as a tent and sleeping bag. You’ll become so accustomed to using a checklist that you won’t feel comfortable packing your vehicle without it. Believe me; a checklist adds tremendous peace of mind to the trip. Develop and use a checklist for your vacations.

Pocket Survival Kit

The devastating earthquakes and tsunamis that hit Japan have many people thinking about survival techniques. Especially here in California, where we’re constantly wondering when the Big One will hit. I’ve discussed various aspects of survival in other columns, including Your Gear Is Not Complete Without An Emergency Packet! and Get Layered Before The Big One Hits

Reading those you’ll notice that we discuss preparedness on a larger scale. That is, we start on the outside and work our way literally closer to your body.

In this column we’ll discuss survival at the micro level: creating a survival kit that you can tuck in a shirt or pants pocket.

You can never be too prepared nowadays. You may not face an earthquake and tsunami where you live, but other types of disasters can hit. Tornadoes, blizzards, severe storms; even civil unrest can cause a disruption. Are you prepared to go it alone for a few hours or longer? Because I spend so much time off road, I have multiple survival kits, including stuff I carry in a pocket. This column will show you how to create a viable pocket-sized survival kit. Take the time to build one. It could save your life someday.

The first challenge we notice is finding the proper container. As you know, pockets aren’t very big. Yet we still want to pack a lot of useful items in this survival kit. You’ll want something that’s roughly 3” x 5” and no more than about 1” deep. I like Altoids® boxes, but they’re rather shallow. Metal is better than plastic, as you’ll see in a moment. If you decide to go with plastic, take a look at the line of Pelican micro cases. They are easier to acquire and are water tight.

What do you include? Here is where we review the basic components. A good survival kit includes matches, a flashlight, water, whistle, map and compass, knife, 1st aid kit, extra food and extra clothing. Some people like to add a water container, paper and pencil, and toilet paper.

As you can see, we won’t be able to fit all of that in a pocket-sized kit. So let’s zero in on the truly essential items. By examining the most crucial needs of survival, we can see which items have to be in our kit. Then it’s a matter of determining quantity and/or size to fit the limited space.

  1. Fire. Crucial for providing heat, cooking food, and as a signaling device via the smoke. Matches are great, but store them in a watertight container or get Storm Matches that are individually waterproof. A Butane lighter is also OK. Just make sure it’s full or nearly full. You never know how many times you’ll need to use it. I like Fire Lite. They offer a mini version that’s rated to 5,000 strikes. You want 3 ways to make fire, if possible.
  2. Signaling. A small whistle will do the trick. Many are surprisingly loud, and the shrill tone cuts through most background noise. Another way to signal involves using the box to reflect light. This is why I don’t recommend using a plastic container. Make sure at least one side of the container is unpainted. The bare metal will reflect far better.
  3. Navigation. A button compass is sufficient. Don’t bother with maps. You’ll never know where you’ll be when you get stuck. No point in trying to guess. Plus, you just don’t have room.
  4. Water. Another critical component; even more important than food. Of course, you won’t pack water in your pocket kit. Here, we’re interested in a container to carry water you may find. A gallon-sized plastic bag is sufficient. To save space we will use the Reynolds Oven Bags cut down a bit. Include about 20 water purification tablets. They’ll probably get crushed over time, but will still work. We cut out the instructions for purification and included it in the bottom of the box.
  5. Cutting tool. You’ll need some way to cut material. A multi-purpose knife would be too large. Consider adding a cable saw to your kit. They come in numerous sizes, and can be used to cut branches and other material.
  6. Tinder. Tender Quick Fire Tabs work well. You can buy additional packets at most camping outlets. You can use them to fill in the voids in the tin. If you want a cheap alternative, cotton balls embedded with Vaseline are great. Just a fingertip’s worth of jelly worked into the cotton is sufficient. Create three or four, and wrap in plastic. These will ignite any kindling or other material you use for your fire.
  7. Flashlight. Nite-Lze is a single LED designed to put on your jacket zipper so it fits nicely into the pocket kit. Photon Micro-Light II is another small LED.
  8. Something to write with. Space permitting, include a chunk of pencil and a couple scraps of paper. Those can also be used to place markers along your path in the event you leave your vehicle, which is not recommended.
  9. Extra string. An all-purpose tool, you should always have some string handy. Make it fishing line, add a few split shot sinkers, a few hooks and you can use it to fish or build a shelter. For something more substantial, grab about 10’ of parachute cord. To save space, we’ll wrap it around the box. I left the ends out in the picture so you can see how I wrapped it.
  10. If you have any space left, toss in a couple Band-Aids and perhaps 2 feet of aluminum foil to make a cup.

Wrap the seams of the Altoids box with tape. Put as many layers on as you like. You might need some tape!

Take the time to create a pocket survival kit (or two with the extra supplies). If you ever need one, you’ll be so glad you did.

Get a Lock on Your Position: A Primer on GPS

You arrive home after a long drive, turn off the GPS receiver, and say to yourself, “Boy, am I glad I have that!” How often have you used your GPS system – whether in your vehicle or a handheld model – while going for a drive or walk?

Time was we relied on maps, memory or, in a pinch, the person behind the counter at a gas station. Now, GPS units are so cheap, many people own one, and they’re standard equipment on many vehicles.

You can find a basic handheld model for $200 to $300. Better ones, with larger, color screens, maps, and other features, average closer to $400.

But like all technology, GPS units have their limitations. Once you understand how the whole process works, you’ll better appreciate what it can and cannot do.

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. Note the last word. The unit you carry and the one in your vehicle are just one component in a complex system. To be technically accurate, your unit is a GPS receiver. It’s a multifaceted receiver, but a radio receiver nonetheless.

How GPS works

Operated by the Department of Defense, GPS relies on a constellation of 24 satellites orbiting approximately 11,900 miles up. The first satellite was launched in 1978, and the system became fully operational in 1994. Each satellite continuously transmits a series of data, which your GPS receiver uses to determine the time, your location and, in advanced models, altitude and direction of travel.

The satellites are in constant movement, making two full rotations around the planet each day.

Satellite data contains three parts:

  1. Pseudorandom code: An I.D. code unique to that particular satellite.
  2. Ephemeris data: Used to calculate the position of each satellite in the system.
  3. Almanac data: Contains important information about the status of the satellite (healthy or unhealthy) and its current date and time (as determined by onboard atomic clocks).This part of the signal is essential for determining a position.

(For a really in-depth explanation of GPS, check out the page on Wikipedia.)

At any given time your GPS unit is receiving signals from four or more satellites Your GPS receiver takes that information and, using its own computer, provides the information you see on your screen. So, the more satellites it “sees” the more accurate its information will be.

The satellites transmit at relatively low power (about 50 watts) using two microwave frequencies: 1575.42 MHz (known as L1) and 1227.60 MHz (L2). In addition to preventing jamming, using two frequencies makes it easier for your receiver to account for ionospheric delay error.

The satellite information is sent at a fairly slow speed, around 300 baud. Your receiver needs about 25 seconds to download all the information. That’s why it takes so long to orient your unit when you power up.

As long as your GPS receiver is on, it is continuously receiving streams of data from the satellites within range. The GPS receiver compares what time it thinks it is and what time the signal was went it left the satellite (included in the data received); that difference is how far away the satellite is. Triangulating from other satellites, the receiver calculates your location.

Initially, the DoD placed limitations on the quality of the data being transmitted. Accuracy of the early receivers was about 100 meters. In 2000 the DoD removed that limitation, known as Selective Availability, so current receivers are accurate to within 15 meters (three meters for those with Wide Area Augmentation System capability).

Data on the satellites can degrade over time, so new ephemeris data is uploaded on a daily basis (less frequently for the almanac data).

Limitations of the Global Positioning System

Despite the relatively high-tech nature of the system, GPS has its limitations. And it’s those limitations that cause the inaccuracies you often see.

As mentioned above, your receiver relies on signals sent from satellites in constant motion. As such, anything that affects the signal to ground will affect the information displayed on your screen. Such factors include:

Ionosphere and troposphere delays

The satellite signal slows as it passes through the atmosphere. The GPS receiver uses a built-in algorithm to partially correct for this type of error.

Signal multipath

This occurs when the GPS signal is reflected off objects such as tall buildings or large rock surfaces before it reaches the receiver. This increases the travel time of the signal, thereby causing errors.

Receiver clock errors

A receiver’s built-in clock is not as accurate as the atomic clocks onboard the GPS satellites.

Orbital errors

Also known as ephemeris errors, these are inaccuracies of the satellite’s reported location.

Number of satellites visible

The more satellites a GPS receiver can “see,” the better the accuracy. Buildings, terrain, electronic interference, or sometimes even dense foliage can block signal reception, causing position errors or possibly no position reading at all. Also, GPS units typically will not operate indoors, underwater or underground.

Satellite geometry/shading

This refers to the relative position of the satellites at any given time. Ideal satellite geometry exists when the satellites are located at wide angles relative to each other. Poor geometry results when the satellites are located in a line or in a tight grouping.

What’s the bottom line? A one-microsecond delay in receiving a signal can cause an error of 300 meters. That’s a lot!

Looking ahead with GPS

A whole new generation of satellites is expected in orbit after 2013. They will feature beam antennas to boost effective power and an enhanced civilian signal structure. Expect to see search and rescue capabilities through use of beacon signals triggered by the receiver. Overall, acquisition time and accuracy should improve, as well. It is believed that the new system, scheduled to be in place by 2020 or 2021. What that means for today’s receivers is anyone’s guess but expect to buy a new receiver to take advantages of the new capabilities.

Regardless of what happens with GPS, you should keep traditional methods at hand. Those include a topo map and compass. And, make sure you can read the map! For more on that, see “Know How To Read A Map, And You May Stay Alive” Remember to carry extra batteries for your receiver, and be careful with it. It is sensitive to drops and other hazards.

How to Survive in Your Vehicle Stuck in Snow

Photo by Snoopy

Winter has arrived in many parts of the country, and that means a hazardous situation awaits you nearly every time you get behind the wheel. You may know how to drive in snow, but do you know what to do if you were stuck in snow?

Recently, drivers on I-90 near Buffalo, N.Y., were trapped for up to 12 hours when a massive blizzard hit the area. Some cars were literally buried in snow. If you were caught in a situation like that, would you know how to handle yourself?

You don’t have to be out in the country to encounter a hazardous situation. You can get socked in while driving home from work one day. If you’re stuck, you can bet that hundreds of other motorists are, as well. Help could be hours away.

Every situation is unique, but the following guidelines apply in all situations, and could save your life. I highly recommend you copy this article to your laptop or other device. You’re likely to have that with you, but you may not have access to the Internet. A PDF copy is available here.

Prepare for winter driving

“Safety is no accident,” as the old saying goes. We discussed that before in 10 Safety Rules For Off-Road Driving and in a related column, Your Gear Is Not Complete Without An Emergency Packet! Winter presents its own set of hazards, which require additional preparation. It starts with a survival kit. Make sure yours includes at least some of these items.

More of a collection of items, a winter survival kit includes extra food and clothing, items to help you prepare food or water, signaling/communications gear, and some means to free yourself.

Food should be dry, packaged goods that have a long shelf life. These include granola bars, snack mix/trail mix, canned nuts, graham crackers, and hard candy. Thick canned food, like ravioli, may be added. Avoid soups as the can may freeze and burst. For a few extra dollars you can add military style MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) available on line and at military surplus stores.

Make sure the packages and cans are easy to open. It’s unlikely you’ll have a can opener or scissors with you.

Extra clothing can include boots, gloves, a blanket or sleeping bag, and a hat. This stuff can be bulky, so choose wisely. I pack a Thinsulate™ sleeping bag. It’s warm but thin, and compresses into a nice, small size (more likely to still be in the vehicle when I need it).

It’s easy to get dehydrated in the winter, so you should carry some liquids. Even if you normally carry a water bottle, be prepared to produce water by melting snow. (Avoid eating snow, as that will lower your body temperature.) Pack an empty soup or coffee can along with a small stove or burner. Jetboil® offers a line of nifty mini cookers. They work great with food, as well.

If you become stuck, you’re likely to reach for your cell phone. Keep an extra battery pack or the cord for tapping into the car’s cigarette lighter. You should also keep some fresh flashlight batteries.

Pack a red or orange flag that you can attach to your antenna. That will help rescuers spot your vehicle. (If you don’t have a flag, a large piece of fabric will work.) A small shovel can come in handy, also. Buy the kind with a curved blade and collapsible handle.

Ham and CB radio equipment can be very useful, especially when you’re outside of cell range. If possible, take along some radio gear (but remember that ham radio requires a license). Flares are useful, too, especially at night. Have one or two in your vehicle.

Consider packing small pieces of carpet or a set of Sand Ladders. Also, being stuck can be boring. Have some reading material or puzzle books with you to pass the time. Speaking of reading material, newspapers and magazines can be used for body insulation.

Get in the habit of keeping your gas tank at least half full. You’ll need the fuel to run your engine on occasion. More on that later.

Another “item” you can pack is awareness. It’s easy to get distracted or start daydreaming while behind the wheel. Memorize mile markers or street/highway signs as you pass by. You’ll help rescuers immensely if you can tell dispatch where you are. A GPS is useful to pin point your location.

What to do if you’re stuck

If you’re ever stuck in a blizzard, follow these suggestions.

  1. Try not to panic. You’ll need a clear head to work yourself through this situation. Maintain your composure, and calm down your passengers as needed.
  2. Stay with your vehicle. It’s a lot easier to spot from a distance. Leaving your vehicle, and the comfort and protection it offers, can be dangerous. You may think you’ll be able to get help. Odds are you’ll become disoriented and freeze to death.
  3. Attach a flag or colored piece of clothing to the antenna. This helps rescuers and lessens the possibility of being hit by another driver.
  4. Run the engine only 10 – 15 minutes each hour. Sure, you want to stay warm, but you need to conserve your gas. Also, the less often you run your engine, the less chance for lethal levels of carbon monoxide to build up.
  5. Crack a window on the downwind side (leeward side) of the car. That air will be chilly, but it’ll also be clean.
  6. Clear the exhaust pipe periodically.
  7. If you decide to dig yourself out, start on the leeward side of the car. Don’t exert yourself, because you need to minimize sweating. Getting damp and cold can be deadly. Brush off the snow before reentering your vehicle.
  8. As a last resort, burn your spare tire. The smoke (or fire) will be visible for miles.

Being stuck in a snowstorm can be a terrifying experience. With the proper preparation and response, you can enhance your chances of surviving and being rescued.

Keep Your Fridge Freezer Clean

Outdoors folks know how challenging it can be to keep food and other perishables chilled properly. You’re constantly adding ice and putting up with soggy food that fell into the big puddle at the bottom of your cooler. After each camping weekend, you turn to your better half and yell, “There’s gotta be a better way!” Thankfully, there is.

Amazing as it may sound, you can buy a refrigerator/freezer for your vehicle. Known as a fridge freezer, it’s about the size of an ice chest on steroids and runs on 12 volts. Most have dual capability with two separate power cords so they can run off 120 volts while parked near established power.

They’re called fridge freezers because they can do both. A dial lets you set the temperature to either chill or freeze. You can’t do both, like your machine at home. (Some units out there are just refrigerators. If you want to keep food frozen, make sure you buy the proper type.)

Fridge freezers are surprisingly efficient. I often run mine even when the car is parked in the garage. I usually plug it into an outlet, but a few times I let it run off the car battery. It’ll run upwards of four days before draining the battery.

I have owned an Engel brand for many years, but am quite partial to the redesigned ARB fridge freezer . The latest version incorporates all the features that are missing from the Engel. Overland Journal magazine, in its summer 2010 issue, gave the ARB its Value Award.

Like the fridge in your home, the fridge freezer must be maintained or mold will build up. That’s what happened with mine. As you’ll note from the photos, most of the mold occurred at the bottom. The mat was encrusted pretty well, also, and there was some mold along the seam.

What to do if you have mold

What if you have mold? Don’t panic. While the inside of your fridge may look like something out of a horror movie, you don’t need any special effects to remove it.

Mold A rag and some hot, soapy water did the trick for me. Water with a touch of bleach is supposed to work well, but keep it away from the rubber seal. I have heard that a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water works well in a spray bottle, too. Let it sit for 10 minutes and wipe it off.

Use an old toothbrush for mold along the seam or stubborn spot. Actually, most any softer brush will do. Avoid using a metal object like a butter knife, as you can damage the lining.

How to prevent mold build up

Mold forms where moisture and food are, so eliminate both. Double-bag meat and other juicy foods, and wipe up any leakage or spillage. As long as the inside stays dry and clean, there is little chance for mold to form.

Mold If you’re not using the fridge, empty it, and clean it as needed. Prop the lid so the unit vents properly. Some people roll the edge of transit bag over and tuck that under the lid. On the new ARB, just push the latch in first to prevent the lid from closing completely. I often use a paint stir stick. It’s about 1/8” thick, but that’s enough to allow air to flow into the unit.

Once you return home, clean the fridge thoroughly and – assuming you won’t keep it running – leave the lid propped open. If you have problems with strong smells leave a tray of baking soda in the bottom until your next use.

Is the mold harmful? Probably not, especially in the amounts you’re likely to find in your fridge freezer. Even so, if you’re really sensitive to mold, you may want to wear a mask or (my favorite) ask someone else to clean your fridge.

Once you purchase a fridge freezer, you wonder how you got by without it. Spend a few moments on cleaning, and you’ll be assured of many happy trips outdoors.

Tie Yourself In Knots

You’re always tying something down when you travel, especially off road. You might be storing cargo on the roof of your vehicle and/or materials inside. Securing supplies onto a trailer. Putting up a lean-to or staking down a tent. You can sometimes use a ratchet strap or rubber strap. Other times require the use of rope. That’s why it’s helpful to know how to tie certain knots.

Former Boy Scouts remember having to learn five types of knots. The square knot and double half hitch are very useful. Brush up on those if you need to. For off-road purposes, it’s helpful to learn several others as well.

I’ve been fascinated with tying knots since I was introduced to the Ashley Book of Knots as a kid. (Link to The Ashley Book of Knots). Over the years I’ve mastered a number of different types of knots, but this column will concentrate on a few that are most suited to off-road activity.

Along with the square knot and double half hitch, it’s good to know the Trucker’s knot and the rolling hitch (sometimes called the taut line hitch). I won’t describe how to make these, because you can see for yourself on the Animated Knots by Grog Web site. Check out all the amazing videos by clicking on a knot.

The Trucker’s knot is useful any time you need to cinch up the rope. A good example is when you’re securing supplies to the roof of your vehicle. You want to get that rope as taut as possible; the Trucker’s knot allows you to do that. As long as you have two points to tie down your materials, this knot works really well.

A rolling hitch knot comes in handy when you’re staking down a tent. The rope in essence becomes a guy line. After securing on both ends (the stake and the tent grommet), you tie a knot in the middle of the rope. To take up the slack, simply move the knot downward. For you Scouters, who learned the taut line as a boy, the rolling hitch is only slightly different but significantly more secure.

How much and what type of rope to buy

You don’t need much rope for most applications. My pieces tend to be 6’ or 8’ long. You can do a lot with those lengths. Several standard 25’ packages will be enough. Your needs won’t change much from one trip to the next, so once you’ve cut a few segments, you’ll find yourself using them repeatedly. I usually carry 6 to 8 8ft ropes in a zip lock bag.

I tend to buy white nylon rope. It’s thin (usually 1/8” or 5/16”) and slippery, but is very strong so it holds up well. A lot of people like parachute cord. Stay away from clothesline. It’s made mostly of natural fiber, and just doesn’t hold up well over time. It also isn’t as strong as nylon.

The most important factor, of course, is strength. Make sure you buy the proper rope for your need. If you’re just tying stuff to your roof or doing things around camp, a thin line is sufficient. Buy thicker rope for rescues and other tasks that involve a lot of stress. Climbing rope works well for that.

Respect your rope

Make sure your load is secure, that it’s tied down. Tug on it from every direction. If there’s too much play in the load, tighten your ropes. Anything on the roof of your vehicle will undergo tremendous forces both on-road and off-road. This is a good area to use extra rope.

The Grog site mentioned above has some additional safety information on its home page. I’ll recap the major points here.

Always wear gloves when working with rope. Thin rope, especially nylon, cuts into skin easily, and rope burns are possible under the right conditions.

A knot weakens the rope by upwards of 50%. This is why you never tie a knot into ropes and straps used for recovery or any other use that puts the rope under severe stress.

Inspect your rope before each use. Replace any that is cut, worn, or damaged from heat or chemicals. Rope is really inexpensive. The few bucks you spend before your trip can save a lot of grief later on.

Rope is one of those multi-purpose items that you don’t fully appreciate until you need it. Learning – or brushing up on – some basic knots can help you take full advantage of this very useful component of off-road adventures.

2010 Easter Safari in Moab, UT

I had another great time at the Easter Safari in Moab, UT. The Red Rock 4-Wheelers put on another excellent event. This was the 44th year they have been doing it!

I saw a number of new products at the vendor show and grabbed some quick pictures to share with you. There are one or two products that have been released for a while but they were new to me – I somehow missed the original release.

PTO Bail Pin

But first, I saw this clever solution to keep from losing your D ring. I only snapped one shot so hopefully the concept stands out. I have not tried it on the vehicle as I prefer to carry my D rings inside the vehicle. I did test several different D rings. Rings that have a fairly large hole in the 3/4″ pin were easier to make work with the bail pin. I found several D ring that required a lot of fiddling until I could close the bail. And I have one D ring, I just could not close the gap. Perhaps if I bent the 1/4 inch pin on the PTO Bail pin it would work. The only bail pins that worked are ones with a round bail as in the picture. The square bails did not have enough clearance. If you have experience with this technique, I would like to hear if it works well or if there are some down sides. These bail pins sure are useful. Someday I should put together a compilation of all the ways I have seen then used off-road!

Moses Ludel’s 4WD Mechanix Magazine

I met Moses Ludel in Moab and discovered he is publishing a new magazine. For the Jeep enthusiasts who want to understand their vehicle in greater depth, do their own modifications and field repair, this online magazine is just what you need. It is easy to read and understand Moses’s articles. It is just like having a coach looking over your shoulders as you work through mechanical issues. February was the first issue and it is totally free.

As his web site says “No subscriptions, no memberships and no renewals. Each monthly issue delivers professional feature articles and pages full of technical ‘Q & A.’ Want facts, instructive tips and integrity? Read the only magazine written, illustrated and published by the author of the bestselling Jeep® Owner’s Bibleâ„¢ and two Jeep© CJ Rebuilder’s Manualsâ„¢ from Bentley Publishers!”

Get it on line today at:

Quick Release Fire Extinguisher Bracket

Off Road Trail Tools has a new quick release for your fire extinguisher. The hose clamps are permanently mounted to the fire extinguisher and the base is fixed to your vehicle. Pick a location that is visible and easy to reach. Just pull the pin and you have your fire extinguisher in your hands. There are two size – see the one in the background. You can go even bigger if you provide larger hose clamps!
Off Road Trail Tools
7099 W Hutchs Pools Place, Tucson, AZ 85743
Phone: 520-579-2079
Fax: 520-579-2080



Security Box

Off Road Trail Tools had a prototype of a new security box for the Jeep TJ & LJ. OFTT is looking for your input. They will put the box into production if there is enough interest. The box bolts under the driver’s seat using OEM mounts. It will not work on driver’s side flip and fold seats, however. The manufacture’s suggested retail price will be $99.
Off Road Trail Tools
7099 W Hutchs Pools Place, Tucson, AZ 85743
Phone: 520-579-2079
Fax: 520-579-2080


Spare Oil Storage Box

As you will see, I got sucked into the Off Road Trail Tools booth for quite a while looking at all the neat ideas. This under the hood box for spare oil (or anything else you want to put in it) just jumped out at me. ORTT has had it on the market for a while. There is a cover that goes on it to keep out a lot of the dirt and water. And if you roll your rig the contents will not fall out. The cover doubles as a nut and bolt tray when making field repairs. They call this there Oil/Tool box part #5000. It is made of aluminum and comes in several finishes. The box is a drop in on TJs and LJs with an automatic transmission.
Off Road Trail Tools
7099 W Hutchs Pools Place, Tucson, AZ 85743
Phone: 520-579-2079
Fax: 520-579-2080

Automotive Escape Tool

This little device fits on your keychain. It will cut the seat belt and a spring loaded punch breaks a side window in the event you are trapped in your vehicle. It also has a whistle and a flash light. Even better, it will let you help someone else who is trapped in their vehicle. I don’t know about you, but the last time, I rolled a vehicle, I was upside down, lying on the steering wheel with no way to reach the keys in the ignition. My benefactor mule-kicked the window in my face. This would have been so much better!



Off-Road Heat

Boy, I really needed one of these for my 1970 CJ5! There was just no way to keep warm in that Jeep in North Dakota. I kept an ice scraper in one hand to clean the insides of the window. On long trips we wrapped up in blankets and sleeping bags on top of our winter coats and boots. There is still a need and one of these models can push out 38,000 BTU at 320 CFM. You just need to do a little plumbing to tie it into the vehicle’s coolant system.

Gasoline Fuel Pack

Perhaps you have seen in the ATV catalogs a flat plastic gasoline container designed to just fit into the rear cargo basket. These typically hold 3 gallons. I liked the low profile but wanted more gallons. It appears that RotoPax took the original design increased it to 4 gallons and cut it in half. Each half now holds 2 gallons. Buy two and you come closer to a 5 gallon can but in an easier to handle package. They have 2 gallon sizes for gasoline, water, diesel, Kerosene, oil, storage, first aid, and emergency preparedness. Yep, you can get an empty box to store stuff in. The jugs are leak proof so you can lay them down or on the side. They have several mounting schemes and they can interlock with each other. You really need to get on their web site to appreciate the product. I don’t know anyone with real world experience yet. The two key issues for me are: Will they stand up to the claim of being leak proof? And, can you easily get the fuel out of the can? Some of the new CARB compliant devices are a real bear to operate.


That is all you get. The only bad weather day was the day I was not on the trail. I didn’t spend too much time outside with the other half of the venders.

Store And Use Your Fire Extinguisher Properly

Like other four-wheelers, I keep a fire extinguisher in the vehicle. Don’t think about it much, as it sits there year-round, attached to the transmission hump. One day I had to take it in for a minor repair, and it dawned on me that we tend to take those things for granted. So I figured we could use a refresher on our fire extinguishers, including how to care for and use them. Call it Fire Extinguisher 101.

I won’t discuss the various types of extinguishers out there. We touched on that in “Pack A Fire Extinguisher So You Don’t Get Burned”. Instead, I want to review some maintenance tips, then discuss the proper use of a fire extinguisher.

It’s easy to ignore a fire extinguisher. You mount it one day, and then sort of forget about it. You see it every day as you hop into your vehicle. In effect, it becomes a part of the scenery. While the tank and chemical don’t deteriorate over time, experts recommend that you inspect your extinguisher at least annually, and get it repaired or recharged as needed. (Due to the nature of off-road driving, I suggest you inspect it every couple months or so.)

Start by looking at the gauge. Is the needle still in the safe zone? If not, the extinguisher must be recharged or replaced. Go online or check the Yellow Pages for a facility. Keep in mind that you may have purchased a disposable unit. Those can’t be recharged. (This is the one I use.)

Experts recommend that you replace or service your extinguisher if you notice any of the following:

  • The hose or nozzle is cracked, ripped, or blocked with debris
  • The locking pin on the handle is missing or unsealed
  • The handle is wobbly or broken
  • The inspection sticker or hang tag is missing

The chemical can settle over time, so some people suggest shaking the tank lightly every six months. In addition, make sure to recharge or replace your extinguisher if it’s been used at all. The nozzle can get plugged after a simple discharge, which some people do to test the unit. Plus, you’ve used some of the chemical, so the extinguisher’s effectiveness is diminished.

Extinguishers last years, according to the manufacturers, but without a label, how can you determine when you purchased it? Make a point to replace or service your extinguisher(s) every three to five years. That way you can be assured of a working unit.

Many fire extinguishers come with a paper hang tag. That can rip off easily from all the jostling around in your vehicle. If you take your extinguisher in for servicing, ask the technician to apply a maintenance label. That will stick forever.

How to properly use a fire extinguisher?

That may seem obvious, like riding a bicycle. Yet in an emergency, we tend to panic and forget even the simplest instructions. Think PASS. It stands for

Pull the pin
Aim at the base of the fire
Squeeze the lever slowly
Sweep from side to side

A typical 2.5 – 3 lb. bottle will discharge in about 10 seconds. The sweeping motion ensures that you cover the entire fire, not just one portion. Even so, the extinguisher will be emptied quickly.

This is a good time to discuss fire safety. While the western states are particularly prone to fires, due to all the dry brush in certain parts, everyone must take seriously the threat of a fire. Whenever you burn outside or otherwise use a heat source, make sure you control the scene and have a proper fire suppression system in place.

Don’t walk away from the fire pit until you’re absolutely certain it won’t re-start and spread. How to do that? The best way is to douse it with water. I mean flood it. The ashes should be floating in a pool of water. Use a shovel or steel rake to stir up the slurp, making sure all the hot coals are soaked.

If you must use sand or dirt, apply it lightly, and work it into the ashes with the shovel or rake. Don’t merely dump a pile on the hot coals. That may trap the heat, and keep the spot dangerously hot. You started that fire, so you have a responsibility to make sure it’s out.

Like a first aid kit or a cell phone, a fire extinguisher is one of those things you must have in an emergency. Inspect it regularly, and it will be ready when you need it. Don’t overlook this important component.

Your Gear Is Not Complete Without An Emergency Packet

Regular readers of this column know that I have stressed safety and preparedness several times. There’s good reason for that. When you’re off-road, especially several hours away from critical care, you have to be able to handle emergencies that may occur.

Previously I’ve touched on first aid kits and other gear. This time I’d like to cover another very important item, an emergency packet. As the name suggests, this is a packet of valuable information kept at your fingertips just in case something happens.

Emergencies are stressful situations. Common details like home phone numbers can be difficult to recall. An emergency packet becomes your “go to” source during difficult times.

If you are within cell range (or have a satellite phone) and have an emergency, by all means call 911. Not all situations are medical emergencies, of course. Your emergency packet contains other vital information that can help get you and your group out of a jam.

At a minimum the packet should contain the following information. Please note that certain details will change as you visit different areas.

  • A page of emergency numbers
  • Map(s) and directions to nearby hospitals, with phone numbers
  • Assessment forms for injuries and illness
  • First Aid & CPR booklets
  • Evacuation plans, including instructions regarding when and whether to transport out or call for evacuation
  • A page on vehicle recovery (safety reminders, planning steps)

Some phone numbers to list include:

  • Local sheriff’s department / police department
  • Park ranger of the recreation area you will be visiting
  • Federal Interagency at 909-383-5651. This is helpful if you’re on federal lands, such as Death Valley and Mojave Desert. It’s a central dispatch center. They’ll route your call accordingly.
  • Poison Control at 800-222-1222

Ham radio operators should retain a list of area 2 m and 70 cm repeater frequencies (and CTCSS tones), as well as the national calling frequencies (146.520 MHz and 446.000 MHz). Remember that those are simplex frequencies, so program your radio accordingly.

In addition to the contact information for area hospitals, I suggest developing a map showing possible route(s). Provide clear instructions on the map as well, so drivers don’t have to rely entirely on the lines or highlighter markings you’ve made. Review the area carefully, and note that there may be more than one hospital within range depending on where you are in your route.

Make several copies of these maps. The driver transporting someone out gets a copy, of course. But if you need to evac someone, family members can be given a map to help them find the hospital.

Speaking of transporting, make sure to send at least two vehicles. The additional vehicles act a backup, to make sure you’ll be able to get the person out (or at least send out a messenger). Not all transports need to get to the highway, either. I tell drivers to continue trying the phone until they make contact with emergency responders. They may be able to meet the driver part way, thereby saving valuable time.

As I said, if you’re able to place a call, dial 911. If you’re not, you’ll need to decide whether to transport the person, or send other drivers out to get help. Start with an assessment of the person’s injuries or illness. That’s why I suggest including an assessment checklist or SOAP Note (Subjective, Objective, Assessment, Plan) Tear sheets in the emergency packet. Once you understand what you’re dealing with, you can apply necessary first aid, and you’re in a better position to identify the resources you require.

The assessment forms and the SOAP Note Tear Sheets are available from a variety of online sources. Buy enough copies for your first aid kit, glove compartment, and go bag.
Any of the First Aid booklets from EMS Safety Services contains an assessment form that can be pulled out and copied. Here is the link.
It would be a good idea to carry one of these booklets in the packet as well as one in your first aid kit. The books are slim (44 pages) and only $4.50.

You can order a booklet of Soap Notes Tear Sheets from Wilderness Medical Associates at
The cost is $5.95 for a book of about 8 sheets. The book can be split up (or order multiple booklets) to put several sheets each in the emergency packet and in your first aid kit.

Wilderness Medical Associates also has a great First Aid Field Guide for $21.95.

Carry this one in your pocket!

As you can see, a emergency packet is an extremely important part of your “gear.” Spend a few moments developing one before your next off-road excursion. It could prove to be a life-saver.