At some point, every off-roading enthusiast eventually learns it’s crucial to have the right truck tools on hand in case of an emergency, sticky situation, rescue, or breakdown. I’ve learned a fair amount traveling alone over the years and these are the truck tools I now keep handy when off-roading.
The Best Exploration is Off-road
The western United States is where I’ve called home my entire life. To be frank, having grown up poor meant that my family vacations were intimately intertwined within America’s highway system and back country, as opposed to hotels and resorts. Now, looking back, it was a blessing in disguise.
Have the Right Truck Tools on Hand for the Trip
Straight to the point, it’s a good idea to have the right truck tools for your trip or adventure. I pretty much always keep rescue gear in my truck’s 1730 Protector Transport Case by Pelican that holds gear for my Warn Winch, Factory 55 close link system, chains, pull straps, a kinetic energy rope, and even jumper cables – to name a few. I also always keep a fully stocked tool bag with my truck tools, and a 3-ton ProEagle Jack.
As far as human “extras” to go with my truck tools, I love my SnoMaster low profile fridge for cold drinks and food and my other Pelican iM3075 Storm Transport Case for dry goods. A final touch is my in-truck med bag. That has everything from bandaids to Advil, and even two CAT tourniquets which are a good idea for being in the middle of ‘nowhere.’
Get a Clue
Before I take off on any trail or forest road, I like to get a general sense of what I might be heading into. When I was living in Southern California it was all pretty much high desert. Now that I am back in the Northwest, especially Idaho territory, it’s a mix of high desert with heavy mountain forests where the winter weather holds until the end of June.
In search of Flora, Fauna, and Smiles
We all travel and explore for our own reasons. Mine comes from a desire to escape the confines of society, as well as a strong hope to spark something in my children that sprouts a love of the wild. I also don’t mind that the window scene on the highway or off-road is healthier for the psyche than the screen of a TV or tablet.
Look for Greatness in Nature, not Perfection in the Journey
At some point, especially if you start doing this on a more regular basis, you are GOING TO GET STUCK. And, that’s ok. As long as you are prepared. Of course, preparation is both mental and physical in nature.
The Mental Tools
It’s a fool’s errand to travel out into the wilderness (whether it’s a snowy mountain or the middle of Death Valley) without engaging that mental muscle. Know where you are going and track how far you’ve gone so that if you break down beyond self help, you can make informed decisions about how to get help.
You also don’t want to get stuck and then panic. Traveling with children (and my wife, sometimes) it’s important to keep a cool head. YOU are setting an example not just in the mistakes you make, but also in the way you handle them.
Being a dad means making sure the little ones you are with are kept safe both physically and mentally. That’s one of the places where truck tools really come in to play. If you’re venturing out, it is your responsibility to be prepared.
The Truck Tools
At some point, you have to be ready to dig in and just do the work. I learned last year that it’s a good idea to keep a chainsaw in the back of your truck. After my traction boards failed in the snow, I had to resort to my winch and Factor 55 close system winching link to pull myself out using a large pine tree.
I was really glad to have the chainsaw in my arsenal of truck tools, as the tree was surrounded by a bunch of shrub and stick branches that made access to the trunk difficult. There are a number of other uses for my “truck saw,” but I’ll get into that later.
Safety Gear is Necessary Gear
After becoming an EMT and working as a cop for a number of years, the idea of having a dedicated med bag in my truck was just second nature. A less common item I keep in my med bag is two (2) CAT Tourniquets. These require a bit of training for both HOW and WHEN to use them, but can be the crucial factor between life and death in sudden unexpected situations.
Along with these, I keep a pair of STIHL Apron Chaps as a safety precaution when using my saw. It took no less than ten minutes on social media for someone to try to make fun of me for wearing these but they (like myself a few years back) only thought these were for debris. There are actually special fibers in these chaps that will stop a saw in milliseconds if your chainsaw hits them. That makes them one of the most essential truck tools!
Hug a Tree
If you’ve winched around a tree or even rock before, you know the value of the “tree hugger.” This disperses the pulling pressure of the winch and saves your winch cable from unnecessary kinks/bends, as well as protecting the fantastic trees from unnecessary damage. This tool is great, even with heavy duty trucks.
It’s Not Just Your Story
If you have kids with you that are old enough, as long as it’s safe, let them get out and look at the situation or even help you out. This is a great opportunity to build confidence and character, as well as letting them gain more perspective. It’s also nice to have someone else add to the stories later instead of, “We got stuck and dad did X, Y and Z…”
A Cut Above the Rest
I LOVE my STIHL tools. I especially enjoy adding this American made saw to my selection of truck tools. Since moving back to the Northwest, I’ve used it (more than one of them, actually) to cut through blocked trails, cut to winch points, and even to collect downed and dead trees for camp fires.
The STIHL chainsaw falls under what I classify as a “legacy tool” that I expect to pass down to my sons. My dad’s own MS 026 that he got back in 1989 is still running today, and that’s a testament to the quality of great tools.
My advice is to treat your own decision on stocking truck tools the same way, and choose quality over quantity or just “cheap” gear. Out in the wild, you need truck tools you can depend on.
Leave Room for Food and Reflection
A lot of guys look forward to beers around a campfire with the “bros.” I look forward to Crayolas at the table and menus that double as coloring paper. I figure that the best end of day involves a bowl of fries and the sound of my four sons laughing at each other. Just find whatever makes you happy, and pursue it unrelentingly.
Do you keep truck tools on hand?