25 TOP TIPS TO DO
BEFORE GOING OFFROAD
- Check the Basics -
Check all your fluids -coolant, oil, windshield washer fluid,
power steering fluid, brake
fluid, ATF, differentials, etc. Make sure there are no
leaks, everything is at the proper level, and carry extra
fluids just in case. Also check the air filter and
the air filter box for debris. Also, if you
are aware of any mechanical or
electrical problems with your 4x4, repair them before
- Check the Tires - Check
the condition of your tires, including the spare. Be sure
they are all inflated to the proper highway speed
pressures. Take note of your tread and think about
the terrain you will be
traveling on. Are you ready for that deep mud hole
with that tread?
- Ball Joints - Check
all your ball joints, tie rods
ends and wheel bearings by jacking up and securing the
front of your 4x4. Grab the tire by the and at the
top and bottom, and check for any excess movement by
rocking the wheel in and out. Do the same by rocking the
tire side to side. Any excessive free play should be
checked out by a qualified mechanic. Also check the rear
in the same manner. In solid rear axles you're
checking for worn bearings and other damage.
- Shocks - Check your shocks for signs of leakage or damage
or just plain worn out. Your going to need those
- Plan the Trip / Inform
Others - Tell those that should know where you are
going, when you
are leaving and when you’ll be back. Let them know when
they should start to worry about you if they haven’t heard from you.
Give them contacts in case they need them. Prepare your
trip. Have a map of the area you are going to and
how you should get there (and home again).
- Weather - Watch the
weather for the region you are visiting and the route
along the way. Be prepared with the appropriate clothing and protective gear
(rain jacket, hats, sunglasses, lip balm, sunscreen). Pack extra
clothing in case you get wet or it gets a little colder
than expected. Even if you are not "planning" to
stay the night, its good to have a sleeping bag. Its
better to be over prepared than under prepared.
- Necessities and
Nature's Calling - Bring a roll of toilet
paper packed in a air tight zip-lock plastic bag.
In fact, ALWAYS carry a roll in your vehicle. When you
need it, you’ll thank
yourself for putting it there.
- Communications to the
World - Pack a cell phone and give it a full charge
before departing. Pack the phone car adapter or the
120 volt charger along with a power inverter. When
you're remote and offroad, you can still find a signal
even if its atop a ridge or up a tree. Be
aware that if your are out of signal range, your cell
phone will be hunting for a signal and this will deplete
your cell phone's battery quicker than just sitting in
standby when in range.
- GPS Navigating - A
handheld GPS is a great thing to have. Prices have
come down to the point that if you spend any time in the
woods or off the road, you should have one. Hand-held units are easy to operate
and once you are familiar with it, it can be a valuable
tool to get you places.
Should a real
emergency arise, you'll learn quickly how valuable they
can be. Bring spare batteries in a zip-lock bag and a car
adapter for the GPS unit.
- Communications Vehicle
to Vehicle / Person to Person - Handheld Family Radio
Service (FRS) walkie-talkies are very handy and
inexpensive. They have great range and are very
portable. Whether on foot or in the vehicles, it
makes good sense to carry one. And communication can
add to the fun and in the case of an emergency where the you need to temporarily split up the
party, you do
no want to be out of touch. If you have to separate,
stay in range. CB Radio's also fall in this category
but are less portable (most units stay with the vehicle)
and the range is sometimes shorter than FRS (and the GMRS
frequencies on more FRS radios) depending on the radio and
- Food / Water - Bring
plenty of food and drink. Even on the short trips.
Bottled water, energy bars, and dried fruit, sports
drinks, anything that has compact energy are good items to
pack. Pack items that do not need refrigeration. Avoid salty foods
such as chips and salsa, beef jerky, unless you have
drink. And no, beer doesn't count. In fact it
takes water to metabolize alcohol so the beer and liquor
will dehydrate, not hydrate you. Alcohol is never a
good idea when you have to think clearly.
- Top off the Gas - Fill the gas tank
prior to every
trip. When you reach your destination, top it off
again before hitting the trail. The last thing you
want to do is start worrying about running out of gas
while offroad. Remember the One-Third/Two-Third Rule:
one-third of a tank to get where you are going and save
two-thirds for getting out. If your fuel tank doesn’t have the
capacity for the offroad portion of the trip, carry extra fuel or re-think your route.
- Transporting Gas - Always carry your extra
fuel outside the vehicle. Fuel containers have vents and gasoline fumes
are explosive and toxic.
- Jumper Cables -
Have a good
set of jumper cables with heavy-gauge wire and quality
- Recovery Straps and
Come-Alongs - Bring at least one recover strap,
preferably 2 or more and make sure you have a place to
hook it up on your vehicle front and rear. Also get
a good come-along if you don't have a winch. A
High-Lift jack also doubles as a come-along and a jack
(and lots more). Its also good to have extra pieces
of recover equipment such as a D-ring or two and a tree
saver. If you have a winch, make sure you have
winch related equipment such as a snatch block, gloves,
tree saver, Pull-Pal, etc.
- Belts and Hoses - Check all
your belts and hoses,
and carry spares. The lower radiator hose is the one that
usually gets damaged while off-roading, so ensure that you
have a spare. Alternator/water-pump belts are the most
important. Newer vehicles often use serpentine belts.
While much less prone to failure, they can be difficult to
change. The are also expensive, but carry one.
Replacing an old serpentine belt and saving the original
as a spare is a good idea.
- Jack - Make sure you have a
working jack and know how to use it. A High-Lift
jack is a great universal tool and also doubles as a
come-along (and lots more).
- Spare for the Spare
Tire - If you have room, carry a
second spare wheel and tire. At the very least, carry a
repair kit just in case. Nothing is worse than getting
a second flat tire on the same trip.
- Cold Weather Wheeling
- If there is even the remotest possibility of snow,
or if you will be at high altitude, carry tire chains for
all four wheels and know how to install them. Don’t forget
the chain tensioners, which look like big rubber bands
with hooks. Remember that the chain tensioners will
deteriorate over time, so check them periodically for
cracks and splits.
- Tool Kit - Carry a
tool kit that covers the basics of your vehicle. Put
your own together, don't use one of the Christmas gift
kits that are junk in a pouch. Carry quality tools.
- First Aid - Carry a
well equipped first-add kit. See this
- Emergency Kit - Carry an emergency kit
that covers situation beyond first aid. This might
include special medication, poison ivy treatment, etc.
- Flashlight - Carry a flashlight and an
extra set of fresh batteries
- Blocks of Wood - Brink a few scraps of
plywood measuring about about 10 to 12 inches square. You may need them
to support your jack if you have to change a tire on the
uneven ground. 2x4 or 4x4 blocks also come on handy.
- Lights and Markers
- Make sure you headlights,
taillights, and brake lights work. A ticket from local law
enforcement can be a bummer. It’s a good idea to
carry spare bulbs.
Offroaders Guide to Gearing up for
From Basic Equipment to Well Equipped. An extensive list guide to help you
prepare your vehicle for the offroad.