All You Need is a Tow Strap!
So really, how many times have we all heard that one? Far too many, and usually, from the guy that needs a heck of a lot more gear than a tow strap to recover! So, what recovery gear do you pack in your rig for all of your trips? But let’s not limit the discussion, forget recovery gear, what gear do you bring along?
It’s always a fine line between too little gear and bringing the kitchen sink, although I have often found a sink useful. What we need varies from trip to trip, location to location. And there can be a huge difference between the scope of want versus need. You may pack your rig with a ton of gear on an “easy” adventure that is in a remote area, or very little on hardcore trail with a Walmart and a parts store a few minutes down the road. Regardless, what you should bring on every trip is a proper plan. Here are some very basic areas you should consider when determining your loadout.
Sustenance – Realistically, worst case, how long would you need to be self-sufficient with food and water? A hard day working to unstuck a vehicle or clear trees can burn thousands of calories per person and tax even generous water supplies. Even more importantly, how many of your buddies planned well, or will they be thirstily eyeing up your CamelBak and making a grab for it 12 hours into the hike to get fuel? Think about it, or find better friends.
Recovery Gear – Solo recovery is one thing but playing it smart, and never going out alone, leave several vehicles to share the recovery gear load. 2 – 3 vehicles can accommodate a lot of gear, able to effect even the toughest recoveries, without burdening any 1 vehicle. A static line, dynamic line, a few soft shackles, a snatch block, gloves, and a tree saver, coupled with a winch or 2 in the group, can make for a safe and successful recovery in most situations. But if you end up with an unmatched medley of equipment, or not much of anything at all, it can make for a VERY long day out in the woods after the first guy yells “Hold on, I think I can make it!”
First Aid & Survival Supplies – One slip of an axe or saw, or a bad fall on a wet rock and all of a sudden you need some serious gear. Simple items like bandages, vet wrap, a tourniquet, some Quick Clot, and a Sam Splint can go a long way and take up VERY little space. There are hundreds of good, compact medical bags, tailored to your training level. Choose wisely, and go get some medical training! Practice your survival skills with the gear you have, not the gear you hope to have. A “Go Bag” can be put together for very little money, takes up a very small footprint, and make a huge difference in the outcome of whatever situation you find yourself in. There are many sources of advice on this topic, so go find one that suits your needs and style. But actually do it, because that’s by far the toughest part.
Communications – I know it may be hard to believe, but there are places adventurous folks like us like to go, where cell phones have no signal. *gasp* Yes, its true, so what’s your Plan B? CB? Better be someone close… HAM? Are you licensed? Is anyone else in your group? Satellite tracker/phone/radio? There are many options these days for reliable emergency communications in even the most remote areas, but you have to plan ahead and set up your lines of communication in the event they are needed.
Navigation – Ever wonder how many people rely on Google Maps for navigation, then their cell signal cuts out, leaving them like a fish out of water? Personally, I like to pre-load routes in my tablet which has an integrated GPS. To each their own, but you can’t go wrong with an up-to-date set of maps, DeLorme are my personal favorites, and don’t forget some basic navigation skills. Those skills may come in incredibly handy in the event you have to hoof it on foot to get help or parts. Some trails seem pretty short, until you have to walk them, in the dark, while it is snowing. Plan for it.
Tools & Parts – How much room do you have left after all the other stuff is on-board? Better yet, how heavy a throttle foot do you have? Is your idea of maintenance replacing things when they run out of smoke? Being able to repair a fluid leak on the trail often does little good if you don’t have any fluids to replace what was lost. Know your rig, the route, and plan accordingly.
Those Other People in the Rig – So, you make the survivor guys on Discovery look like lost puppies with your gear and training. But what about your significant other? Are they prepared like you? What about your kid(s)? How many hours, never mind days, of diapers and wipes do you have on hand? See how fast your well-prepared plan come screeching to a halt? Consider these factors whenever heading out…
Other Stuff – We all have our preferences. I like to bring along rain gear because, well, rain. Seasonal clothing because a nice drive in 40°F weather can make for a miserable walk if your rig stops running. A fire extinguisher is an absolute must have item, usually for use on the rig whose owner is a handyman electrician. A folding saw and/or axe is always in the rig. I typically bring a small shovel and set of traction devices. I even bring a combo bottle jack and jack stand. Why do I bring this stuff? Because in my mind it helps me accommodate most any situation I may find myself in.
So what have we talked about? As with everything, opinions vary, as do skills. Match your gear, skills, and your trip needs for maximum effect. Some adventures do actually require a large amount of gear that fills your rig and a trailer, others may be able to get by with a pb&j and a fire extinguisher. There will always be unforeseen issues that arise in even the most well thought out plans, but the key is to reasonably predict and prepare for what you can. Perhaps the key takeaway here is that no adventure is so simple that you don’t need to properly plan.