As I mentioned a few times already at GSW, we had a LOT of first time registrants this year, and the new blood coming in to Grand Slam is awesome. Multiple people commented to me last week how they loved being around a bunch of experienced wheelers and how much they had been learning. I wanted to keep that trend continuing on the forum and Social Media as there is a vast wealth of knowledge in our group, and it can often be like trying to drink water out of a fire hydrant.
To me, one of the most crucial things about wheeling is what you actually take with you in your Jeep. I'm an Eagle Scout, my father and uncle are Eagle Scouts, and their father was an Eagle Scout. So one could say I like being prepared. There are a couple different areas you need to prepare yourself and your rig for in order to have a successful and enjoyable day on the trail.
Preparing yourself is a never ending process that involves constant learning, and your brain is the most important tool you can have on the trail. From knowing your rig, being smart in your decisions, and knowing how use the tools and equipment you bring with you, wheeling can be a mentally taxing adventure. The best way to prepare your brain is to surround yourself with people who are more experienced than you are and soak up as much information as possible. That is part of what my goal with this is, to help spread some of that knowledge from myself and other seasoned wheelers.
So what do I bring in my rig? The short answer is a lot. I'm going to break it up into a few categories.
Communications and Navigation
I bring several devices to aid in navigation on the trail, and to be able to communicate with those on the trail with me, and those not on the trail if an emergency arises. I'll cover navigation first.
I always bring a paper copy of a map or trail book for the area I will be in. Fancy GPS units are nice, but I still like having an old school backup in case there's an issue with the technology. For most trails in CO and UT, the Charles Wells books are excellent at this. They have pictures, maps, descriptions, and a lot more information that can assist in navigating the backcountry. They also include GPS coordinates to pair up with your technology.
I use my phone as my primary navigation device. Obviously most of the areas we travel do not have cell service, so I download maps prior to heading out on the trails, and usually download an area much larger than just the trail I will be on. I will usually download both the topo maps and aerial photography of the area I will be in. I have an Android phone, and use the Backcountry Navigator Pro app and have been very happy with it. I will also download the .gpx tracks of the trails I plan on running from sites like Trail Damage prior to heading out on the trail, and will import those into the BackCountry Navigator app. I have a powered car mount from ProClip USA on my dash so that I do not need to worry about battery life on my phone. This gives me an always on screen that is easily visible from the driver position so I can make sure we stay on the correct route, and it makes navigation easier if we need to find an alternate way out for whatever reason.
I carry several communications devices. I already mentioned one, my cell phone. But no service makes the cell worthless from a comms standpoint. I also have a CB in my rig to communicate with the rest of my group. You don't need a big money CB setup, both my Jeep and tow rig have cheap Cobra CB units with Firestik antennas. I might have a total of $150 invested between the two. This is the CB unit I run: https://www.amazon.com/Cobra-19DXIV-.../dp/B00083KUVS Cheap, easy to use, and it works. I also use an external speaker to make it easier to hear the person on the other end. An SWR meter can help you tune your CB as well. I carry a handheld as well, so if I am out of the Jeep I can still communicate with others in the group. Handhelds just don't have the range that a full unit with a proper antenna can achieve. Some people will also carry a HAM unit, but those require a license and can be a bit more expensive, and are not as widely used in the 4x4 world as CB's are. The last piece of comms equipment I carry is a DeLorme InReach. I had carried a SPOT Messenger in the past, but the SPOT only allowed me to send messages, I could not receive them. The DeLorme InReach allows me to send and receive text messages from anywhere I can see the sky. Great for communicating with people back home, in town, or other groups on the trail. EXTREMELY helpful in emergency situations as well as you can't call 911 if you don't have a cell signal. They're not cheap, but the cost is miniscule if you find yourself in a medical emergency in the middle of nowhere. The DeLorme sits in a powered windshield mount so I don't have to worry about batteries.
Basic hand tools will usually suffice here. I carry an assortment of screwdrivers, wrenches, sockets, and some specialty tools. Most of the basic Mechanic's Tool Kits that you can get at Sears, Harbor Freight, and the like will get you started down the right path here. But there are always a few special pieces you want to make sure you have. For example, if you break an axle shaft on a ZJ and have a 6pt 13mm wrench, you're screwed. The bolts holding the hub on are 12pt 13mm. You also would want a 36mm socket for the hub nut. I'm not sure what sizes these are on WJ's, but the tools people carry will be dependent on what kind of rig they have and what they've done to it. I also like to bring a pipe wrench and some large adjustable crescent wrenches as well for tightening things like jamb nuts on adjustable control arms, or taking the fan off the water pump. I'll add some pics to this at some point that shows exactly what I take for tools, as I have a complete 2nd set of tools that stays in my Jeep. It's not necessary to do this, but I find it makes packing for a wheeling trip much easier. Other things you want, hammers, vise grips, pry bars, pliers, TRE/pitman arm pullers, and anything else your rig may need. If you find yourself using it working on your Jeep at home, I would bring it on the trail with you. If you have a CO2 tank or OBA, often times you can run air tools on the trail as well, and that makes some trail repairs go faster. I would also bring a plug and patch kit for your tires.
To be continued below . . .
This is all very dependent on your rig and what mods you have done. You want to make sure the parts you bring are compatible with your rig, or at least others in your group. Know the weak points on your rig and plan accordingly. I always have spares for all 4 axle shafts with me, and am working on adding a spare driveshaft to the mix. My Dana 30 shafts already have a good hub attached to them, so all I need to do is pull the 3 hub bolts and I can swap a shaft without having to mess around with the 36mm hub nut. I also have a few u-joints, a serpentine belt, and a collection of other small parts with me. ZJ's are notorious for steering box issues, so I usually have a spare steering box in the Jeep, or back in the tow rig if it's not too far away. If you replace a part that could still function, keep the old part and bring it on the trail. For example, at GSW this year my fan clutch went out. No way I'm getting off the trail on a 100 degree day without a functioning fan. We could have ran back in to town in another rig and got one, but one of the guys in our group had replaced his fan clutch because his old one would never disengage. That's a problem when driving down the highway, but on the trail it was perfect. Rick kept the old part in his ZJ and it saved the day for me and allowed us to repair it quickly on the trail and not have to mess with going back into town to get the part.
I carry at least some of each type of fluid that my ZJ uses when out on the trail. I usually have 2 gallons of pre-diluted coolant, 2 bottles of motor oil, a few bottles of ATF, gear oil, power steering fluid, and brake fluid. I also bring a tube of RTV if I need to re-seal anything. Usually I don't carry the full capacity of each fluid, but at least enough to top it off if something is running low. And if multiple people in the group carry these items, you can usually get enough fluid together to completely refill something if needed. You'll also want to carry some type of spill kit. I carry a small drain pan that has a screw-on lid, and keep a bag of kitty litter or oil absorbent powder in there. If I need to open up a differential or something, I have a container that I can collect the fluid in, and re-use it if appropriate. Most importantly, I can keep the fluid off the ground. Again, make sure the fluids that you carry actually work with your vehicle.
Food, Water, Meds, and Clothes
On a standard day trip, I always bring extras. Especially in areas like Moab where proper hydration can save your life. The general rule of thumb is one gallon of water per person per day. I find myself exceeding that quite often in Moab, and I plan accordingly. We usually have at least 2 full cases of bottled water in the Jeep when out on the trail. We might need it for ourselves, for the radiator, or we may encounter other people in need of water. At this year's GSW we gave water to hikers and cyclists on several occasions. I usually have some extra clothes in the Jeep too. Whether it's just a dirty shirt to put on if I need to fix something, or a sweatshirt if it gets cold, or a small poncho if it rains, shorts and t-shirts can only go so far.
Please feel free to add anything that you bring that I may have left out, or ask any questions.
we all run VHF radios up here. long range shorter antennas. clearer sound. plus one of our regular wheelign friends has a radio company and pimps his shit to everyone. lol.
i got mine because of racing, and just ended up using it on the trail.
and i bring a chainsaw. lots of dead-fall in our areas as well.
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