Home in Time for Dinner: 10 Items to Never Hit the Dirt Without


For anyone that has grown tired of the massive traffic tickets accompanying nearly any exciting driving in today’s cities and suburbs, the off-road landscape is calling. In any legal off-road territory, the trees, fresh air, and ever changing terrain won’t look down on you if you decide to do a donut or two. In the off-road environment you are free to go as slow or fast as you choose. When off the pavement you are free to decide your trails, excitement level, and view.

It is this freedom that has inspired thousands of people to pic up vehicles capable of taking their drivers to the next great frontier. The list of requirements for a vehicle to be off-road ready are few: ground clearance, sturdy build construction, and a decent air cleaner to keep nature out of your engine. While off-roading offers more freedom than driving around your neighborhood it does carry some risk.

For most off-road areas, roadside service is not available, if a vehicle has even a simple malfunction such as a flat tire, dead battery, or low fluid levels, drivers are left to their own devices. Keeping some basic items in your vehicle any time you travel off-road will help insure that you can get yourself off the trail. whether you’re driving a hard core off-road buggy or a two wheel drive pickup, here are ten basic items under one hundred dollars each that will help you get home in time for dinner:


Spare tire
It is no surprise that out in the dirt there are many things lurking that could potentially puncture a tire. Rocks, nails, tree roots, and debris can all make their way through a tire’s tread or sidewall. A flat tire can certainly end the day if you are not prepared with a proper spare. While carrying a spare tire, it is also crucial to have the tools required to change the tire.

For most vehicles a tire iron and a jack are all it takes to change tires, but be sure and check that no special lug nut tools are required to change the wheels on your vehicle. It is possible to get away without a spare tire by carrying tire plugs to plug up tire punctures. The downsides to tire plugs are that they require some form of air supply to pump up the tire after it has been deflated, and if the tire’s puncture is on the sidewall it can be plugged, but is absolutely not safe to be driven on the street, so a tow truck or spare tire will be required to get you home.


This item is obviously necessary at night time to be able to see anything outside of your vehicles headlights, but people often overlook flashlights in their packing lists. Simple tasks such as checking your tire pressure become impossible at night without a flashlight. A good flashlight with fresh batteries will always be a useful tool that can be stored easily in your vehicle.


Automobiles are complex machines of countless moving parts, and where there is movement there is heat. Fluids such as transmission, differential, and power steering fluid are meant to lubricant components and keep them in operating temperatures. It is not uncommon for line fittings to loosen, causing fluid leaks. Lost power steering fluid can make it nearly impossible to turn the wheels, fluid loss in automatic transmissions will leave the vehicle entirely immobile, and insufficient brake fluid makes stopping imposible. Taking the time to grab some vital fluids will go a long way to keep your vehicle functioning well enough to get you off the dirt.


Rescue Tape
Rescue tape is one of the neatest inventions to hit the automotive markets in recent years. This tape can be purchased in numerous online locations and is an awesome item to carry to take care of nearly any vehicle hose failure. The tape can be wrapped around leaking or punctured hoses such a radiator hoses or transmission lines to help stop the leak. Rescue tape bonds to itself to create a solid and extremely durable blanket around leaking hoses.


Now it is true that one could easily spend over a thousand dollars on a top of the line Global Positioning System devise but, inexpensive hand held GPS units are available. A good off-road GPS can help keep you headed in the right direction when off-road. Units such as the Lowrance XOG can be had for around a hundred dollars and work great off-road. There are also smart phone apps now that can work well as off-road trackers.


Tool Kit
Along the line with carrying spare fluids, without basic tools a simple vehicle malfunction such as a loose shock absorber can be a real pain. A basic tool kit will allow you to make countless basic repairs that would otherwise be costly. Also it is a good idea to keep tools that have specific applications on your vehicle. For example if you own a Jeep Cherokee, carrying a good 13mm ratcheting wrench will allow you to remove break rotors, and unit bearing in your front axle.

Above left: First Aid Kit
Little explanation is needed here. A simple injury can be costly if you are miles away from a first aid kit. Remember that you can always replace truck parts, but body parts are a little tougher to come by, so be prepared.

Above center: Tow Strap
Few things can make a person feel more useless then when their vehicle is stuck and they can’t get pulled out because they forgot a tow strap. A good quality tow strap can easily make the difference between spending the night in a mud hole and getting towed out by a friend in a couple minutes. Be weary of super cheap tow straps, because a broken tow strap is just as useless as no tow strap.

Above right: Water
Water is essential for keeping passengers hydrated. Dehydration can be an irritating problem at first but can quickly escalate. Water is also vital for your vehicle. a radiator is no good at cooling you motor if your water levels are low. I would recommend not carrying antifreeze and water for your motor, instead carry a larger amount of good drinking water. Drinking water can be used to keep passengers healthy and also works great to keep your motor cooled in a pinch.


Spare Parts
Carrying spare parts is an area where creativity pays off. It is not often realistic to carry a spare axle housing or engine, but simple spares such as a serpentine belt, radiator hose, or fuses can save the day if failures occur on the dirt. Be creative and think about possible failure points on your vehicle and what parts would allow it to get back to the highway. On the Miller jeep trail in Southern California the track bar bracket broke off the axle on my Jeep. While this was not a break that I had planned for, several ratchet straps were able to be used to locate the rear axle under the jeep well enough to get my rig off the trail.

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Kyle Cunliffe

Off-Road/Truck Editor Growing up in Southern California many would expect Kyle to spend his days looking for the next gnarly wave to catch. Luckily waves don't have a throttle or steering wheel so his attention was devoted elsewhere. Kyle can nearly always be found looking for a way to go faster, or get over an obstacle just a little bigger than the last. Because he wasn't a trust fund baby he has spend years working on his own vehicles to keep the excitement going.

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