One constant in four-wheeling is the need to pack properly. Because we’re off on our own – away from the conveniences of city life – we have to be self-sufficient. Not only do we prepare for the expected (camping, cookouts, and such), we must try to prepare for the unexpected. So we pack axles, U-joints, starter motors, and other parts just in case.
All that in addition to a full complement of automotive and camping gear.
Over the years I’ve realized the need for many other incidentals. Some seem obvious; others not so. But all serve a very good purpose. Considering adding many (or all) of the following to your preparation checklists.
- Emergency cash. Even deep into the Digital Age, there are times when cash is the only currency. Many people these days don’t even carry enough cash for a cup of coffee. You might need it to cover a tow or an after-hour’s repair at the mechanic’s house. I’ve heard of truck and trailer rentals that were done on a cash basis. Nothing talks louder than a couple of 100 dollar bills to induce a tow truck driver to pull you out of a remote stuck! I suggest big cash somewhere between $500 and $1,000. Hide it in your vehicle or split it with a buddy. Make sure your buddy has lots of cash too. So you can borrow it. As my dad always said – “if you can buy your way out you don’t have a problem”.
- Wash basin and trash bag to catch fluids. Never drain your oil, coolant or other fluids directly onto the ground for a field repair. That’s true anywhere, but never more so than while on the trails and at campsites. You can really mess up the environment. The basin need not be large – 12” x 12” x 4” is sufficient. And it can be used for washing dishes, storing equipment, and other tasks. If gear oil is involved, double bag ( even triple bag) the trash bag. The smell of gear oil never comes out of the wash basin or your car’s carpet if it leaks. You can get a really nice collapsible version at the Container Store. Once extended you might not realize it is a collapsible basin.
- On the subject of money, stash $5- $10 dollars’ worth of quarters somewhere in the vehicle or your gear. The car wash, laundromat, and shower facilities at campgrounds often require quarters. Same is true for water dispensers at convenience stores. Don’t assume the machines will accept dollar bills or there will be a working bill changer. I once had the longest solar heated warm shower you can imagine for seventy five cents. Of course, I had my stack of quarters ready in case it quit before all the soap was rinsed off. If you pre-run a trip that requires clean drinking water mid-trip from the machine at the convenience store, test that your water container will fit in the space both widths and height.
- And since we brought up the subject of requiring a tow, buy long-distance (200-mile) towing insurance from AAA. You’re usually allowed one long tow per year, but that will be enough to save your hoard of big cash. Typically it is $10 per mile. The plans may also offer several 100-mile tows. If you’re ever in need of a long, professional tow, you’ll be glad you bought the coverage. AAA’s Plus plan is $90 per year and provides four 100-mile tows. The Premier Plan, at $120 per year, gives you three 100-mile tows and one 200-mile tow annually. You could save $2000 if you have to use it. If you are just beyond the 200 mile or 100 mile limit, do what you can to get inside the limit and save cash or save the 200 mile tow for next time. Check with your auto insurance carrier or go online for more options.
- Chamois cloth and squeegee. These are great for cleaning the windows. One example the Rubicon trail in the summer is very dry and dusty. The Rubicon dust ( no matter how much you like the smell – ahhh I am on the Rubicon!) really coats the windows. The interplay of light and dark light through the trees makes it very hard to see the trail with dirty windows. Start fresh each morning with a clean windshield. To help conserve drinking water, consider using your old dish water (use the wash basin above) to rinse off the windows. It really works, and you don’t get soapy streaks like you’d expect. [Ed – we could make a fortune if we could bottle and sell the Rubicon Dust Smell!]
- Pack a spare key for your vehicle. You may need to be airlifted out, at which point a buddy can drive your vehicle out. Lend a key to a guest so he can access your vehicle for supplies or gear. If you lock yourself out, your buddy can open the door for you (for a beer, of course). Finally, if you need to get towed out, you can leave the spare in the ignition. That allows you to keep the main set of keys on you.
- Speaking of helicopters, sign up for helicopter insurance. In Northern California (think Rubicon Trail) it is provided by CALSTAR. However, they are providers in the AirMedCare Network, America’s largest air medical membership program. The AirMedCare Network is an alliance among REACH Medical Holdings (REACH Air Medical Services, Cal-Ore Life Flight, CALSTAR Air Medical Services, Sierra Lifeflight, Woman’s AirCare and CareConnect), Med-Trans Corporation, Air Evac Lifeteam, and EagleMed. One of those companies should be available in your area. Membership costs just $85 a year for an entire household–or $65 a year for a senior household–and covers out-of-pocket expenses for a medically-necessary flight by any AirMedCare Network providers. This could make an excellent Christmas gift for your 4-Wheeling friends. https://calstar.org/membership or(800) 793-0010
- Keep a few pieces of silverware in the glove compartment & a small salt and pepper shaker too. It can save you from digging out you camp box for lunch. Or you might get invited to share a pineapple upside down cake by neighboring campers provided you bring a fork. Perhaps you do not have your camping gear in the rig, but you pick up a ready to eat hot chicken and an all in one salad bag at the super market. Along with a beer from the cooler and the utensils / condiments from the glove box supper is served. Now to be really prepared, slip a metal shot glass into the glove box.
- Always pack an extra shirt. Even when going out only for the day. You never know when you will spill a cup of coffee (or much worse) on yourself. Put it in a zip lock bag if no other alternatives. Stores like Walmart and Target sell 2 gallon and 2.5 gallon zip lock bags. They make clean storage possible for a much larger range of items. For example, the toilet seat on one of those cheap aluminum X frames (about $12?) will just fit in the larger bag. That keeps the seat from rubbing on the aluminum and looking soiled when in fact it is not. Motor Vehicle Users Maps (MVUM) from the Forest Service fit in the big bags. Use one for each Forest.
- Pack a can of dog food as part of your survival rations. Why dog food? No one will eat it before its time. If someone has suggestions on brands to stock, I’m all ears – saves me a lot of taste testing.
- Download PDFs of important manuals on an electronic devices you take with you. Down load Instructions manual for cameras, first aid, camping equipment, GPS, Phone, Radios (FM, Ham, CB), solar panel, vehicle repair, water filter, winch operation, etc. Back it up with the key paper manuals in case your device breaks or loses power. Specs and drawings are just a few taps away. If by chance you have the repair PDF for every Jeep made from the CJ to the JL, think how useful that would be to trouble shot a buddy’s vehicle.
- Make copies of important documents. These can include your driver’s license, passport, ham radio license, national park pass, and recreational licenses. All these papers can be stored in a medium-sized envelope in the glovebox ( & maybe keep a duplicate copy at home?).
Some of these items may be familiar to you. Others, like the spare cash, may feel awkward. Once you encounter a situation calling for one of the extra handy items, you see why I included them here.
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Did you miss the previous article?
- 2018-09-12 Pros and Cons of Four-Wheeling Alone
- 2018-08-24 Top 10 Fears of a 4WD Trail Leader
- 2018-07-18 Mild AMS?
- 2018-06-13 Fire Restrictions Shouldn’t Extinguish Camping Trip
- 2018-05-20 Put a Spark in Your Camping with Kid-Friendly Jokes
- 2018-04-20 Offer a Helping Hand
- 2018-03-14 Pony Express Trail a Fun, Interesting 4WD Trip
- 2018-02-14 How to Know When to Retire Your 4WD Vehicle
- 2018-01-18 How to Beat the Cold While Camping
Some Upcoming Events (click on the link for details)
The 2019 schedule of clinics and adventures trips has been established.
All dates are posted to our web site with the exception of the Wilderness First Aid class, Easter Safari, and Rubicon trip. We are taking reservations now for those three events and will open up registration Jan 1, 2019. A Day 2 Getting Started Driving off-road for Women only is new.
January 12 Getting Started Off-Road – LA area
January 13 Day 2 Getting Started Off-Road – LA area
January 19 Winching & Recovery – Mojave, CA
January 26 Sand & Dunes Pismo
January 26 Getting Started Off-Road – San Diego area
San Rafael Swell Off Road Guide Book & Companion Map $35.50
If you want to order one:
(Let me know if you would be interested in a trip to the Swell in April 2019.)
At almost 300 pages, “San Rafael Swell Off Road: A Trail Guide to 42 Destinations for Automobiles, 4WD Trucks & ATVs” is a guide to the in the San Rafael Swell area of Emery County. The desert area is ringed by small towns like Price, Green River and Castle Dale.
“Every chapter includes helpful advice for novice or experienced explorers of the area, such as, “Easy dirt road for high clearance automobile, although four-wheel drive is recommended to several sandy sections along the road. “according to Ed Helmick the author.
The San Rafael Swell is an area of south-central Utah. This is an area that provides approximately 2,000 square miles of fantastic scenery, fascinating history, and fun off-road adventures. The only paved roads in the San Rafael Swell are Interstate 70, which bisects the Swell in an east-west direction for 67 miles, and a spur of I-70 called the Moore Cutoff. The major difference between off-roading in the Moab area and the Swell area is fewer people, and the area is more remote in regard to the distances to small towns with services. Utah towns that ring the Swell are: Price, Green River, Hanksville, Cainsville, Emery, Castle Dale, Huntington, and Cleveland.
The companion map, the National Geographic San Rafael Swell (#712) comes as a package deal with your book order.
Only 2 Yellow Bandanas Left!
To celebrate, we will send a Winch Recovery DVD with every Bandana order for a limited time. Limit 1 DVD per order.
The Bandana layout follows the “Vehicle Recovery Plan” with pathways to more detail. A unique section of the Bandana, gives the steps for a “Winch Rigging Check: Walk through” so that you verify every element of the rigging before you commit to the pull. Stuff this in your recovery kit and you will always be ready. Warning – the Bandana is not a substitute for proper training and use of quality equipment used within the bounds of their safe working load. We advise you to use the information provided in the Winching Recovery Bandana at your own risk. We cannot control the quality and specifications of the equipment used and the methods actually employed. The original press release with larger graphics is on the website.
I hope to see you on the trails!
Tom Severin, President Badlands Off Road Adventures, Inc.
4-Wheel Drive School
Make it Fun. Keep it Safe.
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Copyright 2018, Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Inc.