Top 10 Tools Every Off-Roader Should Carry
Tools are something that make everyday life possible. They come in a full range from “must haves” to “would be nice.” Some people would argue that all you need is a credit card, and a satellite phone. Most of us would rather help ourselves than call for help. The better your tools, the easier difficult tasks can become; especially when working on vehicles. Even simple tasks can become impossible if you don’t have the right tools. So what do you need as an off-roader? Let’s take a look at the basics.
Most of us would rather help ourselves than call for help…
1. Socket Wrench
Flat tires happen. One of the most often required, and useful tools you can carry is a wrench that can remove or replace lug nuts. There are many options available from a straight breaker bar, to the latest battery powered impact guns that are on the market. If you can’t remove a wheel, a simple predicament can leave you stranded. It’s also wise to carry several different sizes of sockets so you can have what you need when the time comes.
2. A Jack
This one goes with the lug wrench; a good jack. There are countless uses for a lifting device when you go in the dirt. They are needed to change flat tires, get unstuck, or fixing bent tie rods or suspension links. High-lift jacks are popular because they can do several tasks. Just make sure you know how to use it, and have good jacking points on your vehicle. If you don’t have solid jacking points that mounts to the frame, and also allow clearance around the body panels, you won’t even be able to use one. Good jacking points are heavy duty bumpers, sliders, and the wheel lifting straps available. Other options are manual scissor jacks, and hydraulic floor jacks. If you use a hydraulic floor jack, you will need something to place it on so it doesn’t sink into the dirt. A piece of plywood works, or you can get bolt on bases for this, or even specially made jacks.
When you go off-road, you will get stuck; it’s inevitable. When you are stuck, it’s because you are impeded by something. That something is either dirt, mud, sand, rocks or snow. You don’t want to be removing any of that by hand. I learned my lesson when I went for a quick little drive in my CJ-7, and slid into a snow bank. I had to remove my license plate to use as a shovel. With a real shovel, I would have been done in 20 minutes. Instead it took hours. A shovel can be used for many other things as well; putting out camp fires, trail repairs, burying a tire for an anchor point, etc.
4. Jumper Cables
Like flat tires, dead batteries happen a lot. A jump start from or to another vehicle only takes a second if you have cables. If you don’t have them, your options are never good. You should not scrimp when it comes to your jumper cables. There are plenty of cheap cables out there that are not up to the task. Get some good heavy duty cables with copper wire, not aluminum. A good set will last you for years, and be reliable when you need them. Just don’t loan the out.
5. Bailing Wire and/or Zip Ties
We are hard on our vehicles when we go off road. Things break, they come loose, and they get damaged. You need something that will hold things together until you can make permanent repairs. Zip ties are great, but they fall short when you need to hold up anything that gets hot like exhaust or brakes. Bailing wire is pliable enough to wrap around things, and it fits through bolt holes easily. When you double it up, it’s very strong.
6. Vise Grips
Vise grips are a valuable tool because they perform many tasks. If you have a damaged bolt or are missing the correct size wrench or socket, vise grips will work. They clamp tight enough to hold things together securely. They can also be used for crimping electrical connectors, or capping brake lines. You can even get special vise grips with smooth jaws for crimping off fuel or brake lines without damaging them.
7. Tow Ropes and Ratchet Straps
Many of us carry a box filled with different tow ropes, and ratchet straps. Tow ropes are for pulling another vehicle. Ratchet straps are for securing things. Chains should be avoided. Chains are heavy for one thing, and they don’t give. Tow ropes are designed to stretch, and don’t release as much energy when they break so they are much safer. Don’t forget to also throw a tree saver strap in your box. Ratchet straps are useful for securing every type of loads. They can be used to hold down a spare tire, or secure a camper in the bed of your truck in an emergency. They are a very useful tool.
8. Fire Extinguisher
I have personally never needed a fire extinguisher, but have saved many people who did. This is one tool that you hope you will never need, but is a must have to carry. You also need to know how to care for your extinguisher. The types that have dry powder in them can settle over time. When you need them, the powder can be clumped in the bottom, and not discharge properly. Make it a habit to inspect your extinguisher before you go out to make sure it’s still charged, and give it a little shake to keep the contents dispersed.
9. A Tarp
A tarp is another item that is handy to have because it has multiple uses. We can’t always control where our vehicle breaks down, or where we will be working on it. Part of being safe in the outdoors is keeping your body free from injury. You only need to experience laying in cholla cactus spikes, sharp rocks, or hot pavement once to realize the necessity of having a good tarp to lie on. It can also be used to keep you dry in the rain, or cool in the sun. You can drape it over your winch line to absorb the energy if it breaks. You can carry water with it. You can use it to wrap up dirty items that have to go inside your vehicle. How many of you have slept inside your truck bed with a shredded tire next to you? A tarp is handy for many things.
10. A Buddy
Two minds are better than one, but so are two trucks, two sets of tools, two jacks, you name it. Traveling alone is something we all do out of necessity, but when it comes to being prepared off-road, you can’t beat having someone else along. When something breaks down, or you experience some other setback, it’s always good to have someone else to throw ideas around, help out with repairs, or just give you a sense of calm that everything will work out. They are also great for re-telling the stories of your great trail fixes and ingenuity used to get back home.