Essentials for backcountry road trips

Tips and tools for backcountry road trips and camping

My rig, not fully stocked yet, on a ride in the Wyoming backcountry

Soon to be a resident of Las Vegas and concurrently, a full-time purveyor of all things canyon country, I am already planning a number of weekend expeditions. Obviously Zion, Red Rock and the Big Ditch are on the short list. I also plan on traveling as many of the unmaintained state roads as I can, both in car and on bike.

While getting there is half the fun, it too requires preparation. I came across this list of Ten Backcountry Road Trip tips on Popular Mechanics’ Web site. It’s a good one, but could probably be extended to 20. Like, where’s the extra gas suggestion? Or the basic pre-trip car checks?

Nevertheless, it’s a list worth keeping handy. And here is what I would add to it:

  • Roof rack: either a cargo box or one of Thule or Yakima’s baskets.
  • Extra gas: fill a 5-gallon Jerry can and rack it. Pick one up at an Army surplus store or at Expeditionexchange.com.
  • First-Aid kit: keep that sucker up to date and handy
  • Tarp: for shade and shelter in case the rig breaks down. Kelty has good options, as does Eagles’ Nest Outfitters. The Pro Fly can be used as a stand alone tarp shelter.
  • Tools: based on what you think you could fix, don’t bring what you don’t know how to use.
  • Maps: NOT your GPS. In remote backlands, reliability on sat nav is a risk. Get some from AAA if you’re a member or usgs.gov.
  • Jack: The standard, included car jack may not be enough on loose gravel or un-level ground. Consider an upgrade, maybe a Hi-lift.
  • Fix-a-flat: something that could extend the life of a tire for even a few miles could really help, even when you have a spare.
  • Duck tape: Come on, of course there will be a need.

What am I missing? Any other ideas?

3 thoughts on “Essentials for backcountry road trips

  1. Water: Another 5 gallon can from the Army surplus store (plastic is fine and make sure its a different color from the fuel one) and a water filtration kit. Crucial during overheating (vehicle or human).

    Flashlight or headlamp and spare batteries: Every try to do anything to your vehicle at night without one?

    Whistle (preferably without a pea, like the FOX40): Nothing carries in the wilderness like a whistle and if you’re lost or injured you’ll be glad you have it. Three short bursts is the international distress call.

    Tow Strap: Crucial if you break down. Even better, add a “snatch strap” as well particularly if you’re in mud country. Make sure the tow strap is rated to at least 3x your vehicle weight and for the snatch strap 20-30,000 lbs will do for most SUVs, Jeeps, and Pick-ups. A good course in vehicle “rescue” is also advised.

    Full Size Spare: No donuts in the back country!

    Oil filter and oil: Life blood of you vehicle and easy to replace if damaged. Learn to do it before you have to.

    RTV sealant: Multi use; indispensable when you need to replace a leaking gasket. Light, cheap, and easy to pack.

    Mini survival kit: Fire starting, food gathering, water procuring, signaling.

    Small Axe: I recommend the Gransfor Bruks or Wetterlings for the unmatched quality.

  2. Flash light, of course. Blanket, of some sort. Pain killers, food, water, fire starter, or does all this go without saying?

  3. Greg, some great calls there; especially survival items. It would be easy to think you’re safe just because you are car camping but survival situations are rarely routine. Car fire. Serious repair. Bad weather. You name it.

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