Off-Road Must Have Gear | Inside Line
Tread Lightly and plan for anything—it's an off-road mindset that will keep you safely enjoying trails for years to come. On this Inside Line, we’ll go over our top ten must-have items to pack before you hit the trail. From the often overlooked to the absolutely critical, we’re showing you the foundation of where our adventure kit starts. While the focus is on the basics, we’ll also touch on some of the other helpful items that have made our off-road journeys a success over the years.
Pack It Out
As disheartening as finding trash on the trail is, it is a sad reality we often face. It’s one of the reasons we always keep a trash bag in the glove box of our vehicles. While just picking up a few discarded bottles and bits of trash might not feel like you are making a big impact, the fact of the matter is that a little removal can go a long way for our hobby and environment. For no more room than a trash bag takes up, be sure to carry at least one with you. If we can leave the trails cleaner than we found them, they will hopefully be there for future generations to enjoy.
Cuts and burns can happen easily on the trail. Carrying a first aid kit will ensure that you are prepared for minor accidents (which if untreated can become much larger problems). Your first aid kit can be as complex as you like it. We’ve had great luck out of the small Johnson & Johnson packs over the years. Just make sure you keep track of the dates for any perishable items inside.
There are few things more frightening than a vehicle fire in the middle of nowhere. At the very least, your vehicle should contain one fire extinguisher that is easily accessible. Going with one with an A, B, and C category listing will cover you for just about everything vehicle and camping related.
While the most commonly used flashlight in America comes on the back of a cellphone, we recommend going with something a little more robust for the trail. We typically take two lights. A small pen style light, such as the Streamlight Stylus Pro, and a larger light, such as our rechargeable ARB Adventure Light 600. The pen light will be handy for quickly assessing any problems. Since the ARB light has hooks and magnetic mounts, it is a great asset when you’ll need to do a longer repair or need some extra light setting up camp.
Aside from water, it’s always wise to carry extra fluid in your 4x4. If you are limited on space, we recommend carrying at least one bottle of power steering fluid and one bottle of brake fluid. We’ve had the unfortunate luck of loosing brakes many times over the years. It’s one of the reasons we always take a spare brake line and hardline block off cap with us in our tool bag. Aside from losing brakes, we often see wheelers overheating their stock power steering systems on the trail, which results in steering fluid overflowing from the reservoir. If you have to limit yourself to just two bottles of fluid, these are the two we’d opt for.
You can’t have too much recovery gear, but you can definitely have too little. Most of our off-road oriented vehicles are equipped with a recovery winch at the front. For this reason, we always carry a tree saver with us. Not only will this prevent your winch cable or rope from cutting into a tree, but these are very handy tow straps for quick and short pulls common in technical off-roading. Of course, you’ll need to make sure your vehicle has at least one longer tow strap, and at least two removable shackles, to ensure you have plenty of recovery mount options.
A good tool kit on the trail can be a literal life saver. We repack our tool bags before every outing to ensure we have the correct wrenches and whatever specialty tools we need for the specific vehicle we are driving. A quick guide to some basic tools every bag should have are as follows: vice grips, hammer, tape measure, adjustable wrenches, electrical wire, wire cutters, snips, screwdrivers, channel locks, deep sockets, fixed-end wrenches, Alan drivers, torx bits, electrical tape, duct tape, zip ties, and tire plugs and kit.
Air Down Tools
We’ve talked about this before, but we can’t stress enough how much airing down your tires off-road will help the ride quality and performance of the vehicle. A low-pressure tire gauge is a must. How you pull the air out of the tire is up to you, but we prefer core removers for a quick and easy way to deflate before hitting the trail. Of course, there is always the risk of loosing or damaging the valve core, so be sure to carry spares with you just in case.
Air Up Tools
Of course, if you are going to drop the air in your tires, you need to have a plan to air them back up before you hit the road. The two most common air systems we use are a Power Tank or portable electronic air compressor. While we enjoy the speed of the Power Tank, we’ve found our Viair 400P portable air compressor has become our go-to over the years.
Getting dirty is often part of the off-road experience and one of the reasons we always bring not only a change of clothes, but a spare pair of shoes as well. Even if it doesn’t look to be cold, we’ll generally bring a heavy-duty jacket that serves as a travel bag of sorts with our extra gear stuff inside. In a pinch, we’ve used our Carhart jacket as a laydown mat to work on our vehicle on trail.
(Photo courtesy of Steven Bisig)
More From Driving Line
- Learn more off-road basics.