The properly equipped trail rig should have some or most of the following items installed prior to attempting any real 4X4 or High clearance vehicle rated trail.
The first item on everyone’s list should be a First Aid kit. It should be of a sufficient size for the number of expected passengers in your vehicle. Remember, you will most likely be in a wilderness situation far from immediate help. In most cases, cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent.
A properly maintained vehicle is less likely to fail on the trail and tends to make certain that you will not have a mechanical issue while exploring the back country. In the spring, before the beginning of the local off road season, it’s recommended to perform the following; change the oil, filter, and lube. Check brake lines, shock boots, suspension components, look for loose nuts or bolts, Install a new or clean the air filter, look at the brake pads, rotors and brake shoes. Check all fluid levels, look for leaks and repair them. Check the cooling system and A/C, Change cabin filters, clean battery terminals and check the battery cables. Inspect tires for sidewall damage, check air pressure and have any scheduled maintenance items performed. When changing any belts or hoses that are in fair condition, you may wish to carry the old ones as emergency trail replacements or spares.
When exploring the back country it is generally accepted practice to never travel alone. Ideally you should be accompanied by a second vehicle. At a minimum, never travel without a second person. If somehow you were to become incapacitated, your companion could summon help or provide aid.
Books and maps:
You will need to know where you are going. Trail books and maps that have GPS coordinates, a little history of the area, description of outstanding remarkable object’s or vista’s, short hikes to interesting locations or observation points, historical monuments or structures and scenic features, will all add to your enjoyment and education.
Each off road vehicle should be equipped with a method of communicating with each other. A CB radio is a very good and relatively inexpensive but a limited device depending on the terrain. Cell phones can be spotty at times. Often there is limited or no service in the back country. Even short wave radio can be spotty depending on your location so keep in mind that the radio is a relatively close range device for communication.
Roll bars or cage:
Roll over protection is essential. It is important that it be properly installed and anchored to a good foundation to be effective. Padding is a wise decision and a couple well placed grab handles will make your travels more comfortable.
Factory seat belts should be sufficient for most folks but the more adventurous driver may choose to upgrade to a four or five point system as he is more likely to need such restraints. These are usually installed in competitive application vehicles.
If one is good, two are better! Choose a unit of the correct type for automotive use. A foam or Halon Gas type is generally recommended by most organizations. They offer the advantage of quick application and limited clean up after the fire is out. Using an extinguisher of the Halon Gas type will generally allow inspection of the cause of the fire and possible temporary repairs would be more easily made to allow you to return to civilization.
Dehydration is the number one killer of most people who get either stranded or lost in the great outdoors. Always carry plenty of water for you and your passengers. Don’t forget that water will be needed for any first aid that may be required. Although most mountain streams may look clear, it is recommended to carry a water purification filter or tablets. Prior Planning Prevents Problems.
Tire deflators, PSI gage, air compressor or Co2 cylinder with regulator, hose and quick disconnect, tire inflator , blow gun, tire plug kit, razor knife,
It is a good idea to bring along an Axe, Tree Saw, Shovel, Hi-Lift jack and accessories. A hydraulic scissor jack, Lug wrench, 3” tug strap, Tree strap, sturdy Gloves, 3 lb. sledgehammer, Shackle mount, HD tow hook’s, Two HD nylon ratchet straps, 4’x8’ sheet of 4 or 6 mill of plastic or a tarp, news paper or roll of paper shop towels, waterless hand cleaner, and large trash bag’s a just a few of recommended items.
Hand tool suggestions:
Vise grips, multi function screwdriver (10 way Cline), channel locks, small and large crescent wrench, pliers with side or wire cuts, needle nose pliers, test lamp or multi-meter, small set of sockets or combination end wrenches, metal file, cold chisel and hack saw with extra blades, tie wire, duct tape, zip-tie’s, golf tee’s, #8 floor nails-4, Barr’s radiator stop leak, motor oil, ATF, Brake fluid, Teflon tape, Permatex gasket seal, fuses, Nitril gloves.
Camera, Toilet paper, bug repellant, sun protection, hand sanitizer, sun glasses, hat, jacket weather appropriate, good sturdy comfortable shoes, chap stick, Snacks, 5 Hr. Energy it may be a long trip, day pack, Bear repellant, personal protection for you and your family.
Be sure to secure all of your gear properly. Be sure to tie down your cooler, tool box or bag, Co2 cylinder and other equipment. In the event that things get bumpy or in the situation of a roll over the last thing you want is a Co2 cylinder, cooler or tool box shifting position or flying into your face. “OUCH!”
Recommended vehicle modifications:
In order to safely navigate the more difficult trails, a 4X4 Hi Clearance vehicle recommended. For the more difficult roads and trails it’s recommended at least a suspension up grade with a minimum 2.5” lift, 33” mud-terrain tire, a Posi-traction differential or locker, preferably 2. If you go with a higher lift and 35” tires, it’s also recommended to add lower gears. Remember one thing! Every modification leads to another to compensate for the first and these modifications should be planned by experienced professionals for the desired performance. The sky is the limit depending on desired characteristics and finances. Transfer case and gas tank skid plates are recommended as well as heavy duty differential covers or skid plates. For automatic transmission vehicles, an external transmission cooler is recommended for the higher elevations and longer trails.
Depending on the trip you may want to bring along additional gear for fishing, hunting, camping, binoculars, prospecting, and gear for whatever you like to do.
PLEASE TREAD LIGHTLY! Be smart, be safe, leave no trace you were there, be courteous to other travelers, explorers and sportsmen, Remember we aren’t hear for a long time we are only here for a good time.
Spotting, Hand Signals
Radio Communications Etiquette
Spotting a driver that needs assistance is a very important request and should not be taken lightly. Most of the time it could prevent the driver from getting his or her vehicle stuck or high centered, prevent body damage or just provide peace of mind for someone not so sure of their driving skills.
Good communication skills are extremely important. Your direction could prevent costly damage to their vehicle or prevent a roll over from occurring.
First thing to remember is to stay in clear view of the driver at all times. The driver needs to see you either in front of the vehicle or in back of it. If necessary, in the rearview mirror. Most importantly they need to see and or hear your directions clearly.
If the spotter does not have a hand held radio to verbally communicate to the driver then he will need to inform anyone else around to please be quiet so they can hear each other over the engine noise. Talking them through the obstacle may be sufficient or it may be necessary to use hand signals in conjunction with the verbal directions.
Anyone also observing should only speak to the spotter to inform him or her of a potential hazard or a pertinent concern. The spotter should be the only one communicating to the driver. Also the driver should only pay attention to the spotter’s directions.
Basic Hand Signals
- STOP: This is hand signal is usually performed by holding up a tight fist with your palm towards the driver. Hold this sign as high as your face and give the Verbal stop command at the same time.
- GO Left: Point your right hand with index finger extended to the drivers left. You may need to motion by moving your hand in a slow continuous motion to the left.
- GO Right: Point your left hand to the driver’s right and make the same type of motion.
Note: It may be necessary to motion to the right or left till the driver turns the wheel just far enough and then give them a stop motion with the other hand to indicate that is far enough.
- Roll forward or come to me: This is done by rotating your wrist with your index finger extended in a counter clock wise direction toward yourself.
- Roll backwards or go away from: Just the opposite rotate your hand and finger clockwise.
- BUMP It: Note: When trying to get up a ledge it is necessary to roll forward with enough inertia to bump the ledge and apply steady forward motion with minimal tire spin in order to get up the ledge. This is followed by keeping the motion going and getting the rear tires up and over also. Make two fist and give a fist bump motion to your other fist.
- Spool your winch out: This is indicated by pointing your index finger down and rotating your wrist in a clockwise motion.
- Spool your winch In: Just the opposite, point your index finger up and rotate your wrist in a counter clock wise motion.
These eight hand signals will get you through most situations and in the situation the driver looks as if he or she is going to run over the spotter then he or she may learn the 9th hand signal. Or in the event the spotter puts the driver in a worse predicament then the spotter can expect the 9th hand signal as well.
Spotting with radio communication: I always carry a set of GMRS radios (walky-talky type) in my rig. This is a good means of communication between the spotter and the driver. I recommend the driver turning down their CB so other folks won’t interfere with unhelpful comments and the driver can focus on what the spotter is attempting to communicate.
CB radio edict: During club runs we often communicate with each other by means of CB radio. We have agreed to make channel 5 the primary channel for club events.
It is common for the run leader to rally the group into driving position prior to leaving the parking lot. Sometimes traffic can separate the group and the leader may address the group and announce he is going to pull over and let the rest of the group rejoin in the precession. Also the run leader listens for the tail gunner to indicate that he has cleared the last intersection or turn.
For the most part you can always see the club member in front of you so it is not always necessary to announce you are turning left or right every time or announce a mud puddle.
Often the run leader will have and share some information about the run. Historical sites or information related to the road or area, scenic vistas or things to watch for like wild life or obstacles.
Always remember to wait till no one is talking before you attempt to communicate as to avoid talking over the previous transmission.
Asking questions, informing the group, leader or tail gunner (I would like to stop for a photo or…..) of a condition or requesting a bathroom break is common and a little trail banter is common. Remember that singing or transmitting music over the CB radio is frowned up on. Please just don’t do it, ever, really.
By Mike Shambra