16 “Must Haves” Before You Hit The Trail


If you are planning to get out and drive on the dirt/snow/mud, especially in more remote areas where cell reception is poor and the terrain is not tow truck friendly, then carrying the right gear and equipment is of utmost importance. Perhaps you’ve been out on the trail a few or more times already, and you’ve never had to carry some of your own equipment because someone else in the group was already carrying shareable equipment. Perhaps you’ve been very lucky, and you’ve never been stuck in any dire situation requiring use of various items. The fact is, running on luck or remaining totally dependent on others, is eventually going to get you into trouble.

Before your luck runs out, let’s go over a list of “16 Must-Have Things,” listed in no particular order.

1. Matching-sized spare tire
No matter what tire type you happen to be running (ig All Terrain, Mud Terrain, All Season, etc.),  you absolutely must carry a spare wheel that fits your vehicle, with mounted tire that is the same diameter as the other 4 tires on your vehicle.

2. Tire plug/patch kit
Punctures, cuts, and gashes…are a matter of “when” rather than “if” they will occur. Be ready for this. Pick up a combo kit that includes the super-gooey orange plugs, with reamer and insertion tools that have larger T handles for grip and leverage. We’ve used this one with great results.

The tire on William’s Tundra had a sidewall puncture while we were out at Johnson Valley. After we removed the wheel/tire and plugged the puncture using three (3) orange plugs, William was able to make it all the way back home safely.

3. Lugnut wrench (or breaker bar) and torque wrench
Your vehicle’s lugnut size and wheel clearance for each lugnut, is likely to be different from that of someone else’s vehicle. Take your pick or bring them all: lugnut wrench, breaker bar and/or impact gun. Make sure to include the socket that fits your wheel and lugnut configuration. Also, bring a torque wrench, so that you can torque your vehicle’s wheels to spec.

4. Off road jack
A proper off road jack should have large non-swiveling wheels with sealed bearings, skid plate for the sand, and be rated for the weight of your vehicle. These folks make some awesome off road jacks.

Jack-in-the-box: Pro Eagle 3 Ton Off Road Jack, secured inside a custom-built wooden box.

5. Air compressor
Get a reliable air compressor with battery terminal clamps, or an air compressor that is “hardwired” in to the battery, so you can air your tires back up for any reason.

ARB Twin Compressor, mounted to the bed in the Dodge Ram.

6. Kinetic recovery rope with D-ring and soft shackles
There are countless situations where a recovery rope can be used. Make sure the Working Load Limit (WLL) and Minimum Breaking Strength/Load (MBS/L) are rated to handle at least your own vehicle’s weight.

7. Recovery/traction boards
Recovery boards can come in handy in situations that don’t require a recovery rope or a winch. Many choices are available, ranging from lower cost to higher cost options.

8. Flashlight
Keep a larger flashlight in the vehicle, and keep a smaller flashlight in your pocket.

9. Water and food
Bring enough water and snacks to not only cover your needs for your anticipated trip duration, but also to cover yourself in case the trip duration is extended for whatever reason.

10. Fire extinguisher
Carry a Halon, Halotron, Purple-K, or other proprietary type fire extinguisher such as this.

11. Extra clothes/blankets
In case you are stranded out in the middle of nowhere, you may need some extra layers of clothes to keep yourself warm through the night.

12. Shovel
Shovels are good for “emergencies” and for general recovery use. Stick with well-reviewed USA-made shovels.

13. Miscellaneous hand tools
Socket sets, wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers, pliers, etc.

14. Fuses
Keep a set of spare fuses in the styles and ratings that match your vehicle.

15. First aid kit
A basic first aid kit will have bandages, gauze, tape, disinfectant, etc. Add trauma-related items, such as hemostatic granules/gauze, tourniquets, etc. to expand your overall kit’s capabilities. Also, if you have not already done so, get training on first aid, CPR, and use of trauma-related items.

16. Comms
VHV/UHF handheld radio is pretty standard these days. This is not only needed for basic communication with others in your group, but also useful as a safety item to communicate with others outside your group when the situation calls for such use.

This list is by no means a comprehensive list. But, if you are missing items from this list, then now is the time to get caught up on said items. Don’t procrastinate.