Guide To Gearing Up For Offroad

Offroaders Guide to Gearing up for Offroad

From Basic Equipment to Well Equipped. The following links take you down to Checklists below.

Basic Tips

  • Always travel in groups of 2 or more vehicles
  • Always alert someone back home where you are going and when you expect to return
  • Take at least a basic supply of tools and gear (see The Basic, Minimal Offroad Checklist)
Pre-departure Maintenance Checklist
  • Check engine oil 
  • Check transmission oil 
  • Check brake fluid 
  • Check radiator coolant
  • Check windshield wiper fluid
  • Check fan belts 
  • Check hoses
  • Check air cleaner
  • Check seat belts
  • Check tire air pressure (air up to recommended pressure for highway driving, air down at trail head, air up prior to trip home)
  • Check for tire wear or damage
  • Tighten drive shaft u-bolts 
  • Check  and tighten lug bolts
  • Check for frame cracks
  • Check brake pads & shoes (adequate braking pad material, in good condition and without contamination)
  • Check for loose bolts or nuts throughout vehicle
  • Grease all fittings (u-joints, steering)
  • Check gear oils: transfer case/differentials, replace if necessary
  • Check Winch for proper operation, check winch cable for kinks, frays or damage, straighten winch cable if necessary
  • Check shocks 
  • 25 Tips to do before going Offroad


The Basic, Minimal Offroad Checklist

The minimal list is the basics that you should always carry in your vehicle when offroad.  These items are good to have in the vehicle at all times.

  • First Aid Kit (See Safety and Survival below)
  • Basic Personal Essentials (water, food)
  • Spare Tire, Full Size
  • Jack and tire iron to change your tire 
  • Tow strap
  • Tree saver
  • Come-alongs
  • Basic Tool Kit
  • Spare Key for vehicle


Safety and Survival
 The First Aid Kit
 First aid kits come in many shapes and sizes. You can buy them, or you can make your own kit.  Whether you buy a first aid kit or put one together, make sure it has all the items you may need. Include any personal items, such as medications.  

Here are suggestions for the contents of a first aid kit:

  • Activated Charcoal (use only if instructed by Poison Control Center)
  • Adhesive Tape
  • Antiseptic Ointment
  • Alcohol swabs, individually wrapped
  • Band-Aids (assorted sizes)
  • Blanket
  • Cold Pack
  • Disposable Gloves
  • Gauze Pads and Roller Gauze (assorted sizes)
  • Hand Cleaner
  • Plastic Bags
  • Scissors and Tweezers
  • Small Flashlight and Extra Batteries
  • Syrup of Ipecac (use only if instructed by Poison Control Center)
  • Triangular Bandage
  • Burnaid gel
  • Snake Bite kit
  • Disposable emergency blanket 
  • Instant Cold pack 
  • Instant Hot pack
  • Medications: 
    Anti-diarrhea medication, Tylenol ( fever reducer), Ibuprofen (Nuprin, Motrin, Advil) inflammation reduction, sprains bruises, etc, Benadryl for mild allergic reactions, Epinephrine in the form of an Epi Pen to treat more serious allergic reactions that might otherwise be fatal. 

Safety Items

  • Safety Glasses
  • Leather Gloves
  • Fire Extinguisher – Should be mounted in the vehicle in an easily accessible location.
  • Flares
  • Tarp
  • flashlights
  • matches / lighter

Basic Personal Essentials

  • Water – At least one Gallon per person, per day if not more.  Drier, hotter climates may require more.  Remember: Alcohol doesn’t hydrate.  In fact alcoholic beverages dehydrate since it take more water to metabolize alcohol than the beverage contains.  Plus it may cause you to require the above mentioned First Aid Kit. 
  • Food – Bring food for twice the amount of time you are planning on being gone. Should you be delayed and have to spend a night out on the trail, you wont have to worry about going hungry. Good ideas for trail food: trail mix, beef jerky, fruits, dry/canned food, etc.
  • Extra Cloths – Nobody likes to sit in wet cloths or an extended period of time.
  • Personal items – This includes toilet paper, anti- microbial hand cleaner, etc
  • Sun block
  • Rain Jacket
  • Communication devices – Cell Phone, CB Radio, GMRS/FRS radios
  • Power inverter if necessary (e.g. Cell phone recharger, battery recharger for communication devices and camera)
  • Trash bags – Keep your trails clean
  • Maps, information about the area
  • Compass or GPS
  • Water purification tablets

Survival – Seasonal Specific


  • Extra clothing
  • Warm outer layers (jacket, wind breaker)
  • Head gear (warm hat, hooded jacket)
  • Emergency blanket (compact survival type)


  • Sun Block
  • Insect repellant
  • Sunglasses


Beyond the Basic Offroad Checklist

What goes beyond the basic checklist are items that depend on many factors.  Factors like what form of offroading you will be doing, your driving style, the terrain you will encounter, how much room you have for packing gear, how remote you will be traveling, how long you will be gone as well as many other factors you should consider.   However three primary things you should gear up for are Safety and Survival, Vehicle Recovery and Vehicle Breakage.


Vehicle Recovery

Recovery Items

  • Hilift Jack
  • Tow straps – 2 or more, 2 inch width or wider, 20 foot or longer
  • Tree saver
  • Come-along (one or more)
  • D-rings, Shackles
  • Shovel
  • Chainsaw and bar oil, 2 cycle engine oil, spare chain (can be handy in recover situations, as well as for trail clearing on wooded trails)
  • Winch Kit: tree strap, hi-lift jack, snatch block, pickle fork, shackle, gloves
  • Pullpal
  • Snow tire chains (if tires don’t cut it)




Basic Tools
Basic tools are the versatile, essential tool sets that consist of a variety of sizes and combinations of commonly used tools such as socket sets, wrench sets, Allen wrenches, Torx sets and screw drivers.  Your tool sets should cover the variety of sizes found in your vehicle.  Regardless of whether your vehicle is American made or an import 4×4, when it comes to socket sets and wrenches, it’s sometimes wise to carry standard and metric socket since sometimes there are a mix of both standard and metric on custom vehicles not to mention helping a fellow 4wheeler.

  • Complete Socket Set with SAE (standard) and Metric with 3/8″ and 1/2″ drives.  Deep and standard sockets. 
  • Crescent, open end combination box wrenches SAE (standard) and Metric
  • Allen Wrenches
  • Torx sockets (especially if you own a Jeep)
  • Standard & Phillips screwdrivers, large, medium, small

Versatile Tools
Versatile tools are those that have many uses.

  • Large Hammer (a.k.a. the “BFH”)
  • Pliers (various sizes)
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Vice Grips, various sizes
  • Large channel-lock Pliers
  • Pipe wrenches – having 2 medium of these can be useful for tie-rods.
  • Utility knife or razor blades
  • Crescent wrenches (medium & large)
  • A BIG pry bar or length of strong metal pipe, inside diameter of pipe large enough to slip over a wrench or socket drive for extra leverage.
  • Magnet

Specialty Tools

  • Snap ring pliers
  • Air Pressure Gauge
  • Portable air pump
  • Jumper cables


Additional Items

Versatile Items 

  • Duct Tape
  • Bailing wire
  • wood blocks – Useful as chock blocks, jacking platforms, ramps, suspension supports (for broken torsion bars)
  • Bungee cords, several in multiple sizes – good for securing gear, temporary repairs, etc.
  • Rope lengths
  • Super glue
  • Epoxy
  • Tie wraps
  • rags
  • Work Gloves, leather


For the Vehicle


  • Engine Oil
  • Brake Fluid
  • Power steering fluid
  • Automatic transmission fluid
  • Coolant or Water
  • Bearing Grease
  • WD-40
  • Starter Fluid
  • Extra gas
  • Funnel, siphon hose

Spare Parts / Repair Items

  • Lug Wrench
  • Extra Fan / serpentine belts
  • Hoses, fuel line, coolant hoses
  • Spare Tire
  • Tire repair kits, plugs
  • Extra Lug nuts, tire star wrench or lug key with key socket
  • Cotter pins / keys – various sizes
  • Valve stems, Valve stem remover
  • Nuts & bolts assorted standard and metric sizes
  • RTV or Hylomar HPF – form-a-gasket
  • Radiator stop leak – silver flakes in tube
  • Spare Hub (and hub fuses if applicable).
  • Electric fuel pump
  • Coil / electronic ignition
  • Spare Universal Joints (U-joints for drive shaft & axles)
  • Spare Drive Shaft (rear and front)
  • Extra spark plug wire (size of  longest wire)
  • Spare points

Electronics Repair Kit

  • Volt ohms meter (multimeter)
  • Wire cutters / wire crips / wire strippers (multi-tool)
  • Spare fuses of all sizes and types used in your vehicle
  • Electrical tape
  • Spare wire – lengths of various gauges
  • Spare switches
  • Spare relay if you use relays
  • crip on ends (male and female, various gauges)
  • Small pocket sized needle point blow torch (handy for soldering wire)
  • Flux core solder for repairs
  • Wiring Diagram of your vehicle


Expanded List


The Expanded list includes items for the extreme wheeler with tools and gadgets that you may want to consider if you are serious about offroading.

  • Winch and Winch Accessories
  • Onboard Welder, welding supplies and welding gear
  • Onboard Air
  • Spare axles (rear left / right, front left / right)
  • Spare tie rod assemblies (tie rod, drag link, ball joints, ball joint nuts and cotter pins)
  • Spare Idler Arm
  • Parts that have broken twice before (if you can’t carry it, you should have upgraded it)
Camping List for Extended Stay or Remote Excursions
  • Maps, information about the area
  • Camera
  • Compass or GPS
  • Duct Tape
  • Flashlight
  • Propane Lanterns
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Lighter, matches
  • Firewood
  • A knife of some sort
  • Toilet paper
  • Towel
  • Water purification pills
  • Backpack/sacks
  • Cooler with beverages
  • Cooking Pans for breakfast
  • Paper plates
  • Paper towels
  • Folding camping chairs
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad or air mattress
  • Stove or grill and fuel
  • Tarps, lots of tarps
  • Tent(s)
  • Bathing suit
  • Flip flops or swimming shoes (no bare feet while swimming)
  • Funky fishing hat
  • Hiking boots
  • Rain jacket
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunblock
  • Binoculars
  • Bottle opener 
  • Cooler cup 
  • Jacket 
  • Pocket knife
  • Snacks 
  • Trash bag 
  • Water 
  • Extra keys 
  • Compass 
  • Sunscreen 
  • Hat 
  • Sunglasses and/or goggles 
  • Ice and ice chest or cooler 
  • Camera, case, film and batteries 
  • Maps: Sidekick Off Road Maps, state, county, Forestry, BLM Desert Access Guide, etc. 

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for explaining that you want a tow strap and some basic tools as a minimum for offroading. My friend wants to go on a trip this summer. We’ll have to make sure we’ve got lifting equipment to get us out of trouble.

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