The wilderness is much more accessible when you’re not tied to the roads, which makes off-roading the best way to explore the great outdoors.
Unfortunately, the wilderness is also an easy place to get stuck in a ditch or patch of muddy ground. It’s also not a great place to experience a vehicle breakdown.
When your 4×4 is stuck miles away from the nearest road, you must make preparations to rescue yourself. Here are 6 necessities to ensure you get unstuck and get home.
1. Recovery mats
The most common problem when off-roading is getting stuck in wet sand or mud. Some drivers stick towels or other cloth items beneath the front of their wheels to gain traction, but this ruins the items used. If you want to be properly prepared, carry traction mats.
Recovery or traction mats are designed to free your tire from a slippery and soft surface by providing high traction on both surfaces. They are lightweight and easy to carry in your trunk or truck bed. Some brands come with mounts to help your store them out of the way. With traction mats, you can often get unstuck without help from other drivers.
2. Recovery kit
If you’re stuck so badly that traction mats don’t help, you need something that can pull you out of trouble. For this purpose, collect a few essential tools into a recovery kit.
When off-roading with friends, a tow rope can be utilized to pull you out of a deep ditch. However, if you’re on your own, or your friend is stuck too, you’ll be glad you took along a winch.
Some 4x4s come with a built-in winch. If not, consider carrying one or packing a come-along. A come-along is a hand-operated winch with a ratchet that uses pulleys and a lever to transform your weak muscle movements into elephant lifting strength.
Other useful tools include a snatch strap, durable shackles, and safety gloves. Keep your recovery kit somewhere easily accessible from the driver’s seat. If your 4×4 falls into a ditch and your trunk is pinned, you’ll need to access your kit to get unstuck.
3. Tire Repair Kit
When you’re off-roading across rocky terrain, there’s a good chance you’ll damage one or more tires. Your spare wheel helps if you only damage one, but what if 3 get punctured?
A high-quality tire repair kit includes everything you require for an emergency tire repair, such as rope plugs, tire-weld spray, dust caps, and spare valves.
4. Air Compressor
It’s pointless to repair your tires if you have no means to inflate them again. A portable air compressor brings your tires back up to pressure when you need to get your 4×4 back on track.
Even if your tires don’t spring a leak, an air compressor is still useful. When driving across soft surfaces like snow, sand, and mud, you can improve traction by releasing a little air from your tires.
But once you hit the road again, you’ll need to bring them back up to pressure to avoid damaging your tires. You can do this easily if you’re carrying a portable tire inflator.
5. Mechanic’s Tool Kit
All the above quick fixes are much easier to enact if you’re carrying the right tools. When off-roading, it’s always a good idea to pack a comprehensive mechanic’s tool kit.
You’ll need Allen wrenches, socket wrenches, pliers, and drivers so you can tighten up any loose connections or bolts that your off-roading adventure knocks loose.
Don’t forget that your vehicle may need specialist tools for some basic maintenance tasks. For example, alloy wheels may require a special socket wrench to remove so you can utilize your spare wheel.
However, tools are only as useful as the person holding them. If you’re off-roading in remote regions, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your vehicle and its engine so you’re capable of handling the most common problems that arise. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to lure a tow truck to the bottom of a desert canyon, so be prepared.
6. Jump Starter
When you’re off-roading, you often place high demands upon your vehicle’s battery. For example, you might be using your off-road fog lights to drive through adverse weather or maybe you’re using your battery to power some camping equipment out in the wilderness. This makes it more likely your battery will fail at the worst possible time.
If you are off-roading with friends and they have their own vehicles, all you need to rescue you from your dead battery is a good set of jumper cables. Just connect them to one of your friends’ vehicle batteries while their engine is running, and you can jumpstart your 4×4.
If you’re out on your own, a portable jump starter can come to your rescue. A high-capacity lithium-ion battery pack will crank your engine and get it going again. Such portable starters can also be used as a portable power source for charging your electronic devices to prevent the problem of a flat battery happening in the first place.
However, you must always ensure that your portable jump starter is fully charged before embarking on an off-road adventure. It would be tragic to discover your portable battery pack contained an insufficient charge to crank your engine due to a thoughtless oversight.