So, you’ve bought a new Jeep or truck that is “off-road” ready. You can finally join in on one of those “off-road group rides” you’ve always dreamed about. Unfortunately, you have no idea what you need to take with you to not only look the part, but to survive.
Off-road recovery is simple, but not easy. Although you can find out about all that you’ll need at a local, experienced Jeep or truck accessory shop, there are so many choices that making the right decisions on what to get can be overwhelming. Tow points, d-rings, winches, jacks, straps and lines, compressors, tools, and tire patch kits are just a few or the practical choices. So, what should you get first and what can wait? Which brands are the best for which products? How do you learn what to use and how? Do you really need to spend a lot just to get started?
The good news is you don’t need to feel shy or embarrassed about your questions. Like anything else new, it will take a bit of time to learn the ropes–if you pardon the pun. There is ample information online and of course, at your local off-road shops, where most of the staff are big off-road enthusiasts.
Begin your process by answering a few key questions. What type of off-roading you will be doing? Are you thinking of rock climbing, mud or scenic trails? Are you heading out alone where you will only have yourself to count on, or exploring with a group? Do you want to get your hands dirty and use manual force with a jack to get unstuck or would you rather use the power of a winch to get back on track? Each answer will lead to more questions until you start to check off the list of items that are a must for your first adventure.
There are lots of manufacturers marketing different lines of products and solutions for the off-road enthusiast. There are companies like Warn Industries, who have been making winches since 1948. Other well-known brands are Smittybilt, Zenon and Bulldog. Each will have their own following and take on build, capacity, gears, speed, function, and warranty. Once you have chosen a brand, type and size of winch, you will also need to select the right type cables or ropes for your specific needs. From synthetic ropes to recovery straps and bungee-style tow straps, there are different tools for each challenge. This is an area you need to pay extra attention to because broken lines can lead to serious injuries.
Most off-road and 4-wheel clubs and associations offer tips and training for new off-roaders. They are typically a tight-knit community who love and respect the outdoors. Fortunately, you can be an enthusiast without needing to be very mechanically-inclined. This is comforting to know as you too will soon learn the ins and outs of not only what to take with you when you explore, but how to avoid getting into sticky spots to begin with.
Have you ever wondered why winches are usually in the front of trucks and Jeeps? Well, if you are going uphill on a rocky or steep trail, you’ll want to continue heading in that direction if and when you get stuck. If you get stuck in some deep mud on a flat section however, being pulled out the way you went in may make more sense. In this case, the winch on the front is of far less benefit than if it were in the back. So again, the type of off-roading you do matters most in how you equip your ride.
Finally, you may want to consider an air compressor. This so you can “air-down” your tires for your rock-laid or snow-filled trails. Letting out some air helps your tires get better traction and improves the ride quality over bumps. Once you are done with your day, you can simply use the air compressor to re-inflate your tires for the highway ride home.
Don’t be shy, just jump right in. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll learn while maximizing your fun and safety in nature with your off-road hauler. There’s never been a better time to head out there for adventure.