Ever since the motor car was invented, people have wanted to go faster, further, longer and push the limits as to what they or their car can do – you can guarantee the minute that the second Model T rolled off Henry’s production line, someone wanted to see which one was fastest.
It’s the same for off-roading – Jeep (or whichever is your preferred brand) will tell you that their latest model will traverse all but the harshest of conditions, so someone will want to see just where that line gets drawn – how far will it go? But to do that, they may need a little extra help, just in case they get stuck, so these are the essential tools that they’ll need when stuck in mud, sand, or snow.
This is kind of like the multi-tool of the ‘unsticking’ yourself world – yeah, you can dig yourself out of a hole, but in a push, it could be used to hack at undergrowth, build-up some sort of ramp, shovel stones or flatten the ground (amongst many other uses). Some people prefer having a foldup shovel, but a solid shovel, preferably with a ‘D’ handle is best, and unless you’re really tight on space, there’s no need not to have a full-sized shovel in your vehicle.
A piece of carpet under each driven wheel is an excellent way to help with gaining some traction on loose surfaces – particularly sand.
Handy hint: If you can tie something to the carpet and attach it to the vehicle (at the rear) it means that you don’t have to immediately stop (and risk getting stuck again) to collect the carpet once you’ve just managed to get moving.
A hi-lift jack is an essential tool when driving on extremely loose surfaces, and it can have two different uses – the most obvious being that you’re able to lift the vehicle high enough to either place something underneath the driven wheels, or try and fill in the hole.
But at a push, it can also be used as a form of winching tool, thanks to the length and anchorage points. Yes, it’s slow and arduous, but it could just save you some real grief.
A correctly mounted winch is worth more than its weight in gold when taking on some extreme off-roading – you can lug other vehicles from the mud, tow yourself out of pretty much any situation, or even just use it as a drying line for all of your kit after a long day in the mud & water. If you’re looking to really use the winch hard, then look for something that is rated at your vehicle load, plus 30% – that way, you’ll be able to use it all day long without an issue. You should also remember – this needs fitting correctly – mount this to the wrong part of your car, and you’re just going to rip holes in it – same for attaching the hook to a vehicle that needs moving.
Never mind off-roading, every car owner should carry a tow strap in their trunk – super useful. But, similar to the shovel and winch, a tow strap is more than just … a tow strap. Yes, you can attach it to another car so they can tow you out of trouble, or it could be used to extend a winch cable, or attached to the hi-lift jack as part of an improvised winch, heck, it can even be used to tow other objects out of the way.
Commonly known as snow chains, but the modern ‘chains’ are actually called Traction Control Devices – which differ from the older style chain, which was literally a steel chain, although you can still buy chains.
The modern devices are easily installed by one person, mostly without having to move to the vehicle and include a self-tensioning device – they literally couldn’t be any easier to install. In some states, it’s legal requirement to carry a set of snow chains or traction devices when the weather conditions are bad.
Some of these items listed are useful to carry with you pretty much all the time, while others really are only for extreme conditions – a set of snow chains for example.
Doing a little light off-roading is fine without much preparation, but if you’re planning something more extreme, you should always try and go in at least two vehicles, carry a sensible amount of water, tools and equipment and let someone know your route, just in case.