Off Road Checklist: Don’t Get Stuck Bugging Out

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If you find yourself in a survival situation and realize it’s time to get your family on the road to safety, most of us are going to hope we can rely on our vehicle. All things being equal, a properly maintained vehicle of just about any configuration and size is going to be better than humping out-of-town under the power of your two feet. You can carry more stuff, further, faster and a vehicle affords you a little more protection.

However, one of the very real risks we face when we are trying to make our escape is that the way will be blocked with too many other cars. In evacuation situations, such as hurricanes, we see news reports of traffic backed up for miles and hear stories of people sleeping in their cars, running out of gas and getting into fights. This is certainly a possibility, but if you are prepared to bug out and act quickly ahead of the crowd, you could largely avoid this fate. In a dangerous survival situation, you want to be on the road, hopefully to your destination safely before anyone else even knows what is happening.

But there are no guarantees in life and so as preppers, we have backup plans. We have our bags ready to go, caches planned along our multiple routes and with some luck we will make it to our bug out retreats even if we must walk there. Vehicles can break down or become stuck and if this happens and we are not prepared, you could find yourself leaving the family bug out mobile parked, when you could have kept going with some simple supplies.

Those alternate routes could lead you through areas that aren’t paved over obstacles that could put a halt to your forward progress, but with this off road checklist, you could be able to unstuck yourself and keep going.

Off Road Checklist – Getting your vehicle out of a bad situation

If you are attempting a mud pit like this, I hope your vehicle is up to the challenge.

This list isn’t for the type of off roading enthusiast pictured galloping through the mud hole above, but for the prepper looking for a little insurance should you find your self on back-roads without the advantage of AAA. Now I know that not everyone is going to see a need for some of these items, but if you plan on going off the paved roads, some of these items could help you.

Jack and tire iron to change your tire – I’m going to start with some of the more obvious choices, but you should never get in your vehicle and set off on a road trip, certainly one that holds the fate of your family without the ability to change a flat tire. Off road terrain is rougher than asphalt and your average commuter tires have weaker side walls than off road tires. These tools and a spare will get you back on the road in a short time, but you must make sure you have them, AND know how to use them.

Spare Tire, Full Size – And since we are talking about tires… a full-size spare is going to allow you to go faster and will put up with more abuse, like those high-speed J turns you will be doing to get away from the zombies or the mutant biker gangs.

via GIPHY

Tire repair kit But what if someone shoots a hole in one of your tires as you execute that flawless J turn, keeping your family safe? Or as you are careening through the industrial park a hunk of metal punctures your back spare that you just put on before the evasive maneuvers? A tire repair kit may be able to get you back on the road.

Fix A Flat – To inflate that tire. Either that or a good air compressor you can connect to your battery to get aired up and going again.

Basic Tool Kit

Just an assortment of items you can use for minor or major repairs if you have to.

  • Screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Hammer
  • Wrenches (standard and metric)
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Sockets (standard and Metric)
  • Prybar
  • Electrical tape
  • Allen wrenches
  • Hacksaw
  • Spare Fuses

Getting Un-Stuck

MaxTrax – Makes getting out of snow, sand and mud easy even without 4WD

So that was the basic items, but if you are traveling across really rugged terrain, and assuming you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, the following items can be used by you, hopefully with another buddy in another vehicle to get unstuck.

  • MaxTrax – These lightweight traction pads can get you out of snow, sand and mud easily. Just wedge them under the tire that is slipping and slowly roll out. There are cheaper knock-offs but I have read varying reviews on their durability. They stack nicely too.
  • Tow strap – If you are stuck in mud or sand, sometimes you will need some assistance getting un stuck. If your buddy has a trailer hitch, you can connect up and use the tow strap to pull your vehicle out and get back on the road.
  • More Power Pull – Don’t want to mount a winch to the family car? No problem, bring the winch along with you. The Wyeth 3-ton Ratchet puller works just like a winch in terms of physics, but you supply the power. You can attach to a tree and ratchet yourself out of that sticky situation. A winch is a nicer option, but that requires a more permanent commitment to your vehicles aesthetics.
  • Shackle or two – You can use these for connection points if you have them on your vehicle’s frame or to connect to straps.
A short-cut through a rain washed dirt road could stop your progress.
  • Chain (Grade 70) – Can handle a load up to 6,000 lbs. For serious hauling chores.
  • Receiver Hitch with D-Ring – Even if you don’t have a bug out trailer you are dragging along, that factory trailer hitch of yours can be used as a recovery point. Slide this in before you hit the trail and you will be ready to pull or be pulled.
  • Snatch block – Doubles the capacity of your winch.
  • Shovel – Because sometimes you will need to dig yourself out. Also works for burying number #2.
  • Axe – You might need to chop some branches to get an unobstructed connection for your winch cable or a downed tree could be blocking your path on that old logging road. Bonus would be a chainsaw, but not everyone would do that.
  • Gloves – With just about any work like this gloves protect your hands and give you a better grip for safety. Buy 12 pair..

What did I forget? I already know that some of you will have a long list of items and that’s what I would like you to share with the group. What’s in your off road checklist?

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47 Comments on "Off Road Checklist: Don’t Get Stuck Bugging Out"

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Flattop
Guest

One point I have learned the hard way. When your vehicle gets stuck, STOP spinning the wheels trying to get out. Most of the time it will only make matters worse. If need be, jack the vehicle up, put a log or branches or whatever you can find under the wheels and gently attempt to back out.

R. Ann
Guest
Coolant/antifreeze & oil (of the 5 fluids, for sure those two) (Make sure to have disposable funnels so dogs don’t lick up the sweet coolant) Headlamp and-or twisty-neck lamp, etc. Heavy-duty but clear or low-opacity plastic & duct tape for windows (clear trash bags are iffy; whack up some painter’s drop cloth) for after those zombie biker shootouts (or, say, a branch, rocks, break-in during transit, thrown bricks, etc.) = ) Wet Ones wipes (if you’re me) and cardboard or another chunk of painter’s plastic (cardboard can help keep you from getting soaked, or show you where a leak is).… Read more »
keebler
Guest

possibly a 1 ft square piece of plywood to go under a jack in soft dirt.

.sure helped me on the side of a road.(soft Shoulder) road.

R. Ann
Guest

That’s HUGE, Keeb – good catch!

Pat Henry
Guest

Thanks R. Ann!

BobW
Guest

You forgot duct tape. Repair blown hoses, stop bleeding, etc. Very versatile stuff.

R. Ann
Guest
100% on the duct tape! Actually, part of my problem with these lists is “what’s in the truck because it’s just always in the truck” vs. “what’s in the truck because you’re one of *those* paranoid types”. I have shovels, kitty litter, a mini expandable maddox thingy I love (as much for soil testing and as a walking stick and aggressive animal deterrant, but it’s handy as heck for pulling limbs to me if a yoyo slips out further or ice built up around tires in winter), and lights. I have blankies for me, to protect my seat, and to… Read more »
BobW
Guest
Boot repair fell under my ‘etc…’ Many folks don’t realize how darn useful a good roll of duct tape can be. I don’t mean to be crude, but you really can whiz in the radiator for ‘water’, but only after you broke out that roll of grey/silver goodness and fixed the blown hose (why the heck didn’t you maintain, and keep spares for all hoses and belts in the garage???) I’m brain drained right now, but have been trying to remember the item we used to use in the old days to fix a radiator leak. Barz-leak? A tube of… Read more »
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Guest
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille

I remember that stuff. It did work, but had a nasty tendency to restrict or plug up the “healthy” tubes. Now’days I would use needle-nose pliers to crimp off the leaking tube, and a dab of high temp epoxy.
But you are very correct re the spares as an in-stock collection. I know I do. The belt for the water pump should actually be kept in the vehicle. You loose that and you won’t go very far….

GregChick
Guest

The site allowed me to click one star and not change that… sorry. Great points made, but forgotten was a couple sheets of polyethylene, 6 mill if possible. 8’x8′ or what ever. A high lift jack is a good thing to lift, or use as a come along in a horizontal application, it can replace a winch. Straps are lighter than chains and easier to use if you know how.

Pat Henry
Guest

Thanks Greg! Yeah, the rating system is buggy sometimes. I have considered getting rid of it, but people like to vote.

GregChick
Guest

Bullseye..

The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Guest
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Great as usual! Two comments.. On the wrenches to carry – every vehicle I have ever owned, including weirdos such as SAABs or Audi use a distinct subset of the available wrench sizes, eg; the SAAB/Audi required 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 19, 24, and 32 mm, plus a 3/4″ socket for lug nuts. Some of these you need either two open/box or one and the matching socket. It’s a very worthwhile endeavor to find out the sizes and type needed for carry, unless you want to cart your entire roll-about along. Not to make an endorsement, but the… Read more »
Pat Henry
Guest

Great points Cruella! I have seen the high-lift used as a come along and makes this piece of equipment even more valuable.

christopher
Guest
I agree with GregChick on High lift jack, very essentail for 4 wheeler on rough ground. may be a bit too bulky or weighty for a small car though. I would also include tire plugs (i see where you had these in article). you can get a cheap kit from autozone or Amazon for around 10 bucks. i have used these on my Wrangler tires and they work fine. I personally stay away from tow chains due to weight and safety, and go with the synthetic tow straps. they are lightweight and have less tendancy to snap. just becareful of… Read more »
JD
Guest

NEVER tie knots in a tow strap. Even looping them together is not recommended. Use a shackle of suitable strength to connect two straps. Once a knot has been tied and pulled tight the strap is compromised.

christopher
Guest
and if you dont have a shackle and its end of the world or sthf, are you telling me you wont NEVER tie a knot in it and just leave your vehicle stuck and so ” oh well, we are all dead cause somebody told me to NEVER use these without a shackle?” LMAO… i highly doubt it… i have both looped them, and tied a knot in them and they have both worked just fine. I couldnt get the knot out of one set, but the looped ones are just fine.. i think all the “recommended use” concerns tend… Read more »
JD
Guest
Well, there is a right way to do things and a wrong way, the wrong way may work once or twice, but it will eventually catch up with you. I have some knowledge about this stuff as a certified rigger. The strap is considered damaged once there is a knot in it. And in a shtf situation, when you really need your strap and it breaks at the knot, how’s that recommended use thing working now? You can tie all the knots you want in your straps, I’ll make sure I have shackles on hand so I can continue to… Read more »
christopher
Guest
okay, you went from “NEVER doing it”, to “it not being the proper way” (big difference). I am not saying its ideal, but in a perfect world, we wouldnt have a STHF situation in the first place, correct? in a perfect world, you would have all the rigging equipment and use it all correctly, with all the training (or be a certified rigger..LOL), with all the safety features & safety cushions. You say the knot could break, but your rope could fail just as easy, because you did it your correct way.(stuff happens!). but now you have a piece of… Read more »
JD
Guest
I stand by my statement as in, never, tie a knot in a recovery strap. In the heavy equipment world, hoisting something that weighs 20 tons, I can gaurentee you, there will be no knots in the lifting straps. I realize hoisting something that heavy and pulling your stuck vehicle out of the mud are somewhat different, but are similar. Yeah shit happens, and a seemingly fine strap could fail, but I’m not gonna help it along by tying knots in it. Which by the way, I’ve been off roading now almost 20 years, and never once did I ever… Read more »
christopher
Guest
i guess in a perfect world, every prepper will have all the right tools, at all the right times, and do everything the right way. (I wish I was so lucky! lol) If you never tied a knot in your recovery straps in 20 years of off roading, then, just how do you know it would break? Curious, you say hoisting, so why are you lifting a 20 ton vehicle? article is about pulling people that are stuck in the mud, not hoisting. I guess even if your recovering/pulling a 20 ton vehicle like a Fire truck or a dump… Read more »
JD
Guest
The last thing I will say is that, my point is about doing things the right way. Striving for excellence. I can’t stand mediocrity. I aim to be the best at whatever I do, that means knowing how to use your gear. Unlike lots of preppers I know. I have a friend that wonders why I never want to shoot with him. And he knows shooting is my obsession. The reason is because he is an unsafe bafoon when it comes to handling firearms. I have tried and tried to teach him the right way of safely running and handling… Read more »
christopher
Guest
no one faults you striving for your personal exellence… but when you say other preppers are to NEVER (in caps btw), or that you always do things the right way (I guess indicating everybody else does it wrong and only you know best since you can’t stand for mediocrity). Thats fine, but dont project your issues on me. It seems a bit much, especially when talking about hypotheticals to boot. I see you didnt refute the 20 ton issue, but no worries, I didnt expect you to. And no, I wont buy shackles, due to I don’t want them hurling… Read more »
JD
Guest
Lmao, whatever dude, now your really reaching. I said NEVER, because that’s what the instructors at crane school taught us. I don’t hoist vehicles, my full time job is a surface miner, quarry work. We lift 20-100 ton objects like cone crushers and jaw crushers into place. Knowing how to rig up the lifting apparatus is critical when lifting those type of weights. The lifting straps, when we use them for a lift, do NOT have knots in them, they are not frayed or damaged in any way as someone could get killed. There are parallels to pulling a stuck… Read more »
BobW
Guest
He was trying to be nice, but I’ll just say it, “don’t be a dope. Don’t knot the rope.” I’ve used tie-downs for 40+ years. Get them wet, let them dry in the sun, tied them off. These are the three biggest decayers of tie-down straps, whether they are used for 20-ton machinery, jeeping, or securing your beloved (dirt bike), they do lose their elasticity making them brittle, then the chaffing/usage starts fraying them. I have 20 year old tie-downs, and 2 year old tie-downs. You can walk past them and tell which ones you’d strap your beloved dirt bike… Read more »
JD
Guest

Amen Bob! Some people you just can’t get through to. I typed out a response last night but it said it was awaiting approval to be published by the site. Well said!

christopher
Guest
Bob, really a dope? surely you are better than that .. its truly ashame when we are trying to get people to get on these sites and share their experiences, posters result in name calling. now to the facts at hand since you weighed in on JD’s behalf.. FACT1. I never recommended tying a knot in a tow strap. (go back up and reread my 1st post: I will post my original comment here if needed) “just becareful of any knots you tie in them though, cause they are hard to undo. you can loop 2 together if needed.” FACT2-… Read more »
BobW
Guest
Come on, Christopher, it was humor. Besides, it was a general statement. I didn’t say, “Christopher, you dope…” As for taking anyone here’s part, come on. I chime in as myself, not JD’s advocate/mentor/protege etc… He’s a big boy. He can put his big boy pants on himself. I’m sorry you saw anything I said as a personal attack, other than a little tongue in cheek humor, there is, and was no ill will directed. There is a huge difference between a person who uses straps on a daily basis to move 20T machinery around, and one who as I… Read more »
BobW
Guest
Christopher, I responded (at excessive length) to this several days ago, but clearly its not here . Anyhow, I apologize that it sounded like I was calling you a dope. I thought of a great quip, and threw it out there in humor, no more. It wasn’t directed at you, but could certainly look that way. I was thinking of it as a ‘dumb’ rule for ropes/straps/chains management. Briefly on the idea of using 20=year old straps. Each serves their purposes. All the most important items are secured with recent purchases, while the older ones serve more generally. Any but… Read more »
Pat Henry
Guest

Nothing has been blocked by me Bob.

The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Guest
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
On the wrenches – don’t cart your entire roll-about along. Find out the specific sizes and types your vehicle(s) need, and make up a dedicated travel set with just those. You save an amazing amount of weight and space. Prep any vehicle you envision going off-road for the occasion. There’s a ton of Rally gear available for the subarus pictured above, as an example. Add skid plates to protect the entire drive train: including the trans oil cooler lines! Add a ‘roo bar to the front to protect the radiators. Change the tires to something a little taller and more… Read more »
Bolofia
Guest

I would wager a $1 to a dozen donuts that 99% of people have never thought of that method (including myself). My solution was more complicated. Thanks!

BobW
Guest
Too true. Think of it as a space optimization drill vice dumping tools out of hte bag. You need all the space you can get for the trip. Why carry the 6mm, 7mm, 9mm, 11mm etc wrenches if your car doesn’t need them. Pick up a cheap set of tools for the BOL/cache. It saves weight (fuel economy), and space (more stuff/superior comfort) in the vehicle. When we raced dirt bikes, space was tight in the bed of the truck, so I stripped out all the un-needed (bike and truck) items in the much smaller tool-tote. Saved weight, saved space.… Read more »
3rdMan
Guest
EgbertThrockmorton1
Guest

Great article and fabulous posts!

Pat Henry
Guest

Thanks ET!

Illini Warrior
Guest

I keep a small bolt cutter in the vehicle for cutting my way off a clogged interstate – you’re a retaining fence away from an alternate side road ….

BobW
Guest

Impact gun would take out a section of the railing right quick. Those heavy cables are likely too much for a small bolt cutter. As a slightly trained eye, those 1/2 inch wound cables would need at least a 30″ cutter and two tough guys. More like one of the 5’+ cutters.

Chain link? no problem. Guess its important to know what you’ll face on your route.

The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Guest
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille

A moderately priced, battery operated angle grainder, homecheapo, lowes, harborfreight, amazon, etc, will take care of the cable fairly quickly. But as you noted – check out what you will be facing during your normal commute or shopping runs. Around here the heavy guardrails are only present where they want to keep vehicles out of drop off or overpasses. the rest of the time the barrier on the off side is typically 2×6 inch galvanized. So easily breached. I’ve actually mapped out a large number of interstate “escape” locations that have easy connections to the side roads.

BobW
Guest

Forgot all about those cheap wheel grinders from HF. Those are no joke.

The boys lost the key to the bike lock (long, very expensive unit) at a race. First race starts in 10 minutes. Run to a friends trailer, where he hands me said cheapo wheel grinder from HF. Cut my $60 cable lock (high strength woven steel) in under 5 seconds. 5 seconds. Just make sure you have a way to get 120V power to it.

The Deplorable Cruella DeVille
Guest
The Deplorable Cruella DeVille

I found one that runs off the same 18vdc batteries my screw gun, and other cordless tools use. Not for building a steel frame building, but for the occasional quick cut-off it’s fine.

BobW
Guest

I like it, but I’m very cost conscious. Another $150 for a matching 18V cutter is out of my league. I’ve seen first hand how capable the AC powered units are with a clean cutting wheel. Truck has an AC outlet. HF used to sell them for $10-14. Matching batteries is a superb approach, and if cost were no object for me, that would be my route. Until then, two or three $13 HF cutters are my aim.

JD
Guest

Off-road lighting is also an important upgrade. The new led lights are extremely bright and low profile. I can understand not wanting to outfit the family vehicle with kc hi lites or big light bars. But now they’re so low profile most people wouldn’t even notice them. And they turn night into day which is critical in low light off road driving conditions.

BobW
Guest

One of those stealth light bars on top of the roof could prove handy at a good old boy road block.

BobW
Guest
I guess I find the whole idea of bugging out of the real world with a Honda Civic a bit silly. JMO, but anyone serious about this prepping thing, and serious about having to leave their residence, should be looking for a cheap old 70s-80s 4×4 to fix up. The old straight6/manual drivetrains are not sought after. The six was effective, and most were terribly long lived. The manual trans can be pulled, rebuilt, new clutch, and you’re in business. Manual hubs reduce moving parts, reduce wear, and are fairly simple. Focus on mechanical, not aesthetics. This isn’t a show… Read more »
klashemoff
Guest

best tow knot is bowline, have used many times, also help to include a screwdriver in the knot, helps to loosen knot. would also include screw in earth anchor, with lever esp. if in open terrian

Jonny Dplrbl
Guest

One thing I would add to the tool kit is an 18″-24″ bolt cutter. These are very helpful if you need to get through locked gates/fences without risking damage to your vehicle. It will also help you get into things while scavenging… if things really go to hell.

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