Don’t Go Offroading Without This Toolkit

Take a peek into the editor of Overland Journal’s offroad toolkit

Spend enough time banging around over rocks and roots on dirt roads and trails and you will bust a tire. You will get stuck. You will get high-centered. You may pop radiator hoses, shred belts, break crucial suspension elements, you name it. All of these things will happen far from help. Any help you do get will either be outrageously expensive, or by the graces of a well-prepared fellow overlander.

If you’re a seasoned offroader, you’re probably already prepared. If you’ve just dipped a toe into the offroading world, take a lesson from Chris Collard, editor-in-chief of Overland Journal, about the necessary tools for any overlanding expedition. I asked him, basically, “So, what’s in your toolbox?” Here’s what he had to say.

ARB Recovery Kit: This was the first suggestion Collard made. A kit for everything you need to pull your rig out of the muck—straps, shackles, a damper to prevent broken cable recoil, tree protector, gloves—everything but a winch basically.

Maxtrax: Big plastic runners with teeth that go under your tires and allow a little bite of traction when mired down in the soft stuff

Tool kit: Collard suggested a basic Craftsman tool kit. Not terribly expensive, but of reasonable quality. A few open-ended wrenches, short and long socket set, screwdrivers. If you bust hoses or belts in the backcountry, you’ll kick yourself without the tools to replace them. Which brings us to…

• Belts/hoses: Collard likes to bring a few feet of fuel line (used for lots of things other than fuel), coolant lines, and depending on the age of your rig, a serpentine belt or individual belts.

• Extra fluids: These are as much for your own rig as for anybody pulled off the trail with a bubbling over radiator or a power steering fluid leak.

• Jack: Collard likes the Hi-Lift jack. Get stuck? The Hi-Lift will allow you to raise a tire clear from the obstacle to let you stack rocks under there for traction. Having said that, without a big steel bumper or another jack attachment point, a Hi-Lift will be useless. You should still carry at least a bottle jack for tire changes.

• Ratchet straps and bungee cords: Think of these things like the duct tape of the off-road world. Be amazed what you can improvise with some solid tie-downs.

Collard’s personal rigs often include welders and much more elaborate tools for fixing gruesome trail damage. But he leads some truly gnarly expeditions. If you’re just looking to get to uncrowded fishing spots or camp sites, the basics will hopefully be all you need.

Photo by Marco Verch


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Showing 6 comments
  • doug moore

    Good point about the requirements for a Hi-Lift jack. For my stock 4×4 4Runner, it wont work since there are no rock sliders or after market steel bumpers.

    But a bottle jack + a few stout piece’s of wood blocks like 2×6 and 4×4 can help secure a bottle jack in the dirt/sand and get a good lift going for repairs.

    Also, if you don’t have an onboard winch, a Hi-Lift can be configured for manual winching duties in a pinch, although it’s slow going to pull a vehicle even a few feet – and can be just as dangerous as a winch.

    • Justin Housman

      I tried that winch trick with a Hi-Lift a very long time ago and I’m still a little (emotionally) scarred from the experience. Was convinced the strap was going to snap and destroy my windshield or body or something like that.

    • Steve Casimiro

      The Lift Mate is the easiest solution if you don’t have a point on your rig to place the Hi-Lift (and you have the right wheels).

      Also, you might want to consider a base plate for your jack that’s more secure than a 2×6. Bogert’s Safe Jacks are fantastic–they have cables to stabilize the jack. Not cheap, but definitely safer.

  • gringo

    I am more of a soup can wrapped with muffler tape to fix a torn up exhaust system kind of guy, but hey it does take all kinds.

  • Ted Vandell

    Where’s the Duct Tape, Electrical Tape and Bailing Wire/Coat Hanger? Spare Fuses? Tire Plug Kit and Full size bicycle pump? Vice Grips? Spare Key?

  • Leroy McGee

    This is hilarious. I drive around 30K a year, a majority of which is off-road. I’ve lived in the rural west my entire life (I’m 40) and have been driving the back roads since before I had a drivers license I spend around 60 nights a year car camping out of my truck on roads that are far from help. I’ve never needed any of the items on this list. A jack and a spare, somebody plugs, and maybe a battery jump are all you really need. Use your brain and don’t drive like your in a Jeep commercial and you’ll be fine. Your grandpa didn’t need MaxTrax and neither do you. Ignore the hype.

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