•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 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
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
•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)
•Alcohol swabs, individually wrapped
•Band-Aids (assorted sizes)
•Gauze Pads and Roller Gauze (assorted sizes)
•Scissors and Tweezers
•Small Flashlight and Extra Batteries
•Syrup of Ipecac (use only if instructed by Poison Control Center)
•Snake Bite kit
•Disposable emergency blanket
•Instant Cold pack
•Instant Hot pack
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.
•Fire Extinguisher - Should be mounted in the vehicle in an easily accessible location.
•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
•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
•Warm outer layers (jacket, wind breaker)
•Head gear (warm hat, hooded jacket)
•Emergency blanket (compact survival type)
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.
•Tow straps - 2 or more, 2 inch width or wider, 20 foot or longer
•Come-along (one or more)
•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
• Snow tire chains (if tires don't cut it)
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 4x4, 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
•Torx sockets (especially if you own a Jeep)
•Standard & Phillips screwdrivers, large, medium, small
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.
•Snap ring pliers
•Air Pressure Gauge
•Portable air pump
• 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.
•Work Gloves, leather
For the Vehicle
•Power steering fluid
•Automatic transmission fluid
•Coolant or Water
• Extra gas
•Funnel, siphon hose
Spare Parts / Repair Items
•Extra Fan / serpentine belts
•Hoses, fuel line, coolant hoses
•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)
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
•Spare wire - lengths of various gauges
•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
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
•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
•Compass or GPS
•A knife of some sort
•Water purification pills
•Cooler with beverages
•Cooking Pans for breakfast
•Folding camping chairs
•Sleeping pad or air mattress
•Stove or grill and fuel
•Tarps, lots of tarps
•Flip flops or swimming shoes (no bare feet while swimming)
•Funky fishing hat
• Cooler cup
• Pocket knife
• Trash bag
• Extra keys
• 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.
•25 Tips to do before going Offroad
1.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 hand.
2.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?
3.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.
4.Shocks - Check your shocks for signs of leakage or damage or just plain worn out. Your going to need those shocks.
5.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).
6.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.
7.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.
8.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.
9.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.
10.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 the antennas.
11.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 plenty to 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.
12.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: Use 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.
13.Transporting Gas - Always carry your extra fuel outside the vehicle. Fuel containers have vents and gasoline fumes are explosive and toxic.
14.Jumper Cables - Have a good set of jumper cables with heavy-gauge wire and quality connectors.
15.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.
16.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.
17.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).
18.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.
19.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.
20.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. See this checklist
21.First Aid - Carry a well equipped first-add kit. See this checklist
22.Emergency Kit - Carry an emergency kit that covers situation beyond first aid. This might include special medication, poison ivy treatment, etc. See this checklist
23.Flashlight - Carry a flashlight and an extra set of fresh batteries
24.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.
25.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.