Off-Road Checklist: Be Smart, Go Prepared

As our friends at WARN say, “Wherever you go, go prepared.” Gearing up for a trail adventure requires a little time, a lot of tactfulness and a helpful off-road checklist. Over pack, and you’re sure to weigh down your vehicle and the experience. Under pack and, well, get comfy with your surroundings. Striking a balance will help you avoid unnecessary stressful moments with excessive profanity. The crew over at put together a comprehensive off-road checklist, from basics to first aid and more. It’s a solid list, but we added some handy dandy tips and product suggestions of our own. Four Wheeler Network:

How much stuff you need is dependent on what type of four-wheeling you like to do and how frequently you break parts on your rig. But there are a few things that should be in and on every 4×4 all the time. By doing so, it will completely remove unnecessary hassle and inconvenience for the whole group.

Back to Basics

As with any off-road adventure, the preparedness begins in the garage by checking and rechecking before hitting the trail. Don’t overlook basics like engine and tranny oil, brake and windshield wiper fluid or radiator coolant, hoses and the air cleaner. Give both fan belts and seat belts a once over to ensure they’re working properly. Check and tighten all nuts, bolts and shocks, including the drive shaft u-bolts and lug bolts. Remember to grease all fittings and check gear oils such as the transfer case and differentials. Canvas the vehicle frame for serious cracks that have the potential to be even more serious on the trail. Test important recovery equipment and replace anything that appears frayed or damaged. And it goes without saying that you literally aren’t going anywhere with haggard tires or poor brake pads, so do your due diligence when checking the feet of your rig.

At BARE Minimum

  • First Aid Kit: You can pick up a basic ULINE or Smittybilt for less than $30. Upgrade to the American Cross Deluxe for about $99. Consider snake bit or burn gels if the kit doesn’t already include it. Click here to view the Top 10 Emergency Kits for the 4×4 Trail.
  • Basic Personal Essentials: Extra food and water. At least one gallon per person, per day and pack double the amount food in case you should get stuck on the trail. We prefer non-perishable favs. Remember items like toilet paper, trash bags, anti- microbial hand cleaner, sun block and water purification tablets.
  • Tow Strap: Choose from a variety of trusted names like Keeper, ARB, Rugged Ridge or TrailFX.
  • Tree Saver: Tuff Stuff, ARB and the Ironman 4×4 Tree Trunk Protector are all reliable options in different price points.
  • Come-Along: A come-a-long (comealong, come-along, power puller) is a hand operated winch with a ratchet used to pull objects. The drum may be wrapped with wire rope, nylon webbing or rope. Northern Tool offers a Roughneck Come-Along Double Gear Hand Cable Puller with 4-Ton Capacity for about $45.
  • Basic Tool Kit: “You should always have general hand tools readily available. A basic wrench and socket set, ratchet, hammer or mallet can come in handy if you need to beat and grind. Tire repair kit (Rugged Ridge makes a good one and it comes with its own case),” said Ryan Osborne, Product Manager at FX Products. (Check out for a full list of basic and versatile tools)
  • Spare Key: Grab a magnetic key case for a few bucks or go “high-tech” with a HitchSafe™ Vault Combination Lock Car Safe. It’ll run you between $90-$100, but it’s a great way to stash an ID, couple credit cards, some cash and that spare key we suggested.
  • Spare Tire, Full Size
  • Jack and tire iron to change your tire
  • Maps and information about the area you’re exploring
  • Compass and/or GPS
  • 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)

Even Smarter Additions

Hook“You always want to make sure you have some kind of recovery bag laying around,” said Osborne. Major winch manufacturers like WARN, ARB, TrailFX and Smittybilt offer something in every price point. “Make sure you have extra tow ropes, straps and hooks, safety chains, D-rings, winch gloves, rope repair kit, Hi-Lift Jack (they make a shovel/axe combo, too), tire pressure gauge and deflator, fire extinguisher and flashlight (check out DRAKE), tree savers, liquid transport (like Daystar Cam Cans), flares, tarp, lighter/matches and a cooler of refreshments,” added Osborne.

Don’t be that friend bumming gear and refreshments. Pack smart and crawl onto the next adventure!

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