How to... pack for off-roading

As off-roading adventures accumulate, so will the requirements for equipment. In this article I'd like to share what I carry, and why.

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As off-roading adventures accumulate, so will the requirements for equipment. In this article I'd like to share what I carry, and why. In two plastic crates I always keep in the back of the vehicle, in no particular order, I have: three tow ropes - a flexible 24mm-thick, 10m-long ship-mooring strap for recoveries where a hard pull is required, such as bouncing a stuck car out of a tight bowl; a 10m-long flat static tow strap for regular tugs; and a short 3m-long flat tow strap for when there is no room to pull properly. These can be combined to a massive 23m. If a hook is not installed on the vehicle, two rated metal shackles to attach the ropes to the tow points. I should probably add a pair for spares, but having a rated shackle in the first place has meant they have not broken yet. A rated shackle has the maximum load rating in tonnes stamped into the metal.

A light-weight aluminium shovel, and a foldable camping shovel, for when digging with hands is not enough. Quite frankly, these are rarely used, as removing a few scoopfuls of sand with hands from behind the stuck tyre is usually enough to get the car moving again. However, they are useful when camping. Spare radiator, transmission and brake fluids and a canister of motor oil, in conjunction with a tool kit, radiator leak powder, tyre repair kit, fuel syphon hose, a few pipe clips and ratchet straps - and, of course, the ubiquitous duct tape - are available for any small mechanical repairs, where the objective is to at least limp back to civilisation.

A first-aid kit and fire extinguisher are both essential, though the fire extinguisher is mounted in the cab for ease of access and not in the boot. A two-cylinder air compressor, with battery clips is required to re-inflate the tyres, and to re-fit a popped tyre that has come off the rim, as well as a large wooden jacking board, for when the car jack would sink into the sand instead of lifting the car.

A neon work light, also with battery clips, is useful in the dark; and battery jump cables in case the battery runs down. I also carry a powerful hand-held searchlight that plugs into a 12V socket. Inside the car I store a knife, tyre pressure gauge, toilet paper, a small crowbar and my GPS unit and mobile phone, with chargers. Every trip I add a box or two of 12 1.5L water bottles, in addition to the amount of drinking water I expect to consume. And if I'm going solo, something I would advise you not to do, I throw in two fibreglass sand ladders, which are useful to extricate a stuck car single-handed.

Adding the family's camping kit, food, toys and firewood, and perhaps an extra jerry can of petrol and another of washing water, and I usually fill the cargo area to the brim. No matter how much equipment I carry, from my experience, the most valuable piece of kit is the driver's own judgment in keeping safe and driving intelligently. In 10 years of off-roading in the region, I am yet to roll or experience a popped tyre, and I've never been stranded despite driving older vehicles. I put this down to careful preparation, having the right equipment, and due care in navigating the terrain.