If you're into adventure sports like off-roading, you probably thrive on exhilaration and spontaneity. But you shouldn't throw all caution to the wind. Even short excursions off of the paved road require planning and preparation.
No vehicle is going to be 100 percent reliable, especially when traveling over rough, unpaved terrain. So, whether you choose to explore the outdoors on a dirt bike, all-terrain vehicle (ATV), dunebuggy or even your SUV, you should always have supplies handy to take care of your vehicle and yourself.
General provisions for an off-road excursion include the type of equipment you might take on a camping trip or keep in your automobile. These can include:
- License, insurance and vehicle registration
- Navigation items, includung maps, a compass and a GPS device
- A spare key to your vehicle to keep in a hidden location
- A flashlight, along with extra batteries and a spare bulb
- Duct tape
- A pocket knife
- Cash, credit card and a cell phone for emergencies
- A first aid kit
- Food and beverages, preferably energy bars and water
- A fire extinguisher
- An emergency flare
You will also want to ensure your vehicle has its basic tools handy, too. Ideally, you should get a pre-excursion checkup for your vehicle to make sure it's in proper running order, but it's also useful to have the following on hand:
- A spare tire or a tire repair kit
- A toolkit of wrenches, sockets, pliers, screwdrivers, a hammer, and assorted nuts and bolts (ATVs usually come with a factory toolkit)
- Spare spark plugs and fuses
- Parachute cord, bungee cord, bailing wire, zip ties and a tow strap
- Wire cutters
- Engine oil
- Spare wiper blades
- Tank sealant putty
You may choose to pack additional spare parts for your vehicle, such as air, oil and fuel filters, belts, hoses and hose clamps, and brake line. However, many vehicle owners will find it impractical or difficult to store this additional equipment.
Beyond the basics, you should plan for special contingencies based on where you'll be doing your off-road exploring. In the next section, you'll learn what you need to bring along for specific environments and terrains.
Preparing for Environment and Terrain
When planning your off-road adventure, consider the area you'll be exploring. Is it rocky, sandy or tree-covered? Is it in a particularly cold or hot climate? Is it isolated or near civilization? You should think about items that will come in handy -- or even save your life -- in the specific area you've chosen for your outdoor excursion.
- For areas with heavy path debris -- an ax or bow saw and a tow strap
- For open desert areas -- a dust mask and sunblock
- For a warm climate -- sunblock, bug spray, a snake bite kit and plenty of water
- For a cold climate -- an extra layer of clothing, an emergency space blanket, waterproof matches or a lighter for starting a fire, windshield scraper, and a pan for melting snow
- For isolated areas -- an emergency flare and enough food and water to last each person in your party for a day or two
- For areas with inclement weather -- a parka, a tarp and a spare change of dry clothes and gloves
Following these guidelines will help you prepare for most emergencies as you venture off road. However, you don't want to over-pack -- especially if you're traveling in a smaller or lighter vehicle. So when you're planning your trip, create a checklist of parts and supplies. Mark the list by what you know you will need, what you can do without and what's necessary in an emergency. This will help you better evaluate what's important to take with you.
When packing it all together, use travel and factory kits whenever possible. Buying preassembled first aid kits and toolkits, in particular, will save you space and time. Finally, be sure all of your equipment is strapped down safely with bungee cords so that your supplies won't fly out while you're off-roading.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- 21stCenturyAdventures.com. "Complete Winter Survival Kit." (Nov. 18, 2009)http://www.21stcenturyadventures.com/advice/lists/winterSurvivalChecklist.html
- 4WheelDrive.About.com. "The Best 4x4 Off Road Travel Checklist." (Nov. 18, 2009) http://4wheeldrive.about.com/cs/checklists/a/aa121901a.htm
- Idaho ATV Association. "ATV Carry List." (Nov. 18, 2009)http://www.idahoatv.org/Training%20Folder/ATV%20Carry%20List.pdf
- Offroaders.com. "On and Off Road Driving Tips." (Nov. 18, 2009)http://www.offroaders.com/info/winterdriving.htm
- RockCrawler.com. "Git Back: Making Sure You Have the Stuff to Get Back Home." (Nov. 18, 2009)http://rockcrawler.com/techreports/gitbackbox/index.asp