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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?

If you liked this article, please rate it.

  • Flattop

    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

    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).

    Fabs article, boss man!
    -Rebecca Ann

    • keebler

      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

        That’s HUGE, Keeb – good catch!

    • Thanks R. Ann!

    • BobW

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

      • R. Ann

        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 wrap the bad knee in
        so I don’t have to run the heater high enough the rest of me is
        sweating.
        Is the soil core T, walking “tape” measure, or chalk lines and marker paint prepper stuff? Not really. But a lot of the other stuff like the contractor bags, cases of water, and tools … they cross-purpose between my life and preparedness. So does the fact that I don’t like wet socks or boots, buy in bulk, and am lazy enough to just pull out and keep duplicates of the stuff I need to change the alternator or battery (there were a few years where a remanf’d alternator gave us endless “return” issues and it was just easier since Ford apparently decided to use every screw/bolt they have in any vehicle on those two parts of mine).

        I ALWAYS have duct tape. I even have duct tape wrapped around tool handles, in the just normal stroll-through-the-dog-park ball-and-water bag, in my purse, in my front seat, in my fishing kit, with the bungee cords, with the reuseable shopping bags, with the contractor bags, in the “real” tool kit, in the bag with the sawsall and little drill…
        (Also in the craft room, in the go-pack, and in the bag with emergency flashers, cones and signaling stuff – along with GID orange paint – so’s I can point to where my truck left the road, just in case!)
        🙂

        Duct tape is definitely on the big list!
        (Also, duct tape in your mover’s kit and just in case you blow a boot!)

  • GregChick

    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.

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

      • GregChick

        Bullseye..

  • 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 Subaru’s, pictured above, have a huge selection of Rally accessories available to off road proof them. My wife’s Outback is now equipped with skid plates to protect the all running gear as well as the trans cooler lines. I also added a small ‘roo bar to the front to protect the radiators and AC condenser, as well as smaller (yes!), diameter wheels with slightly taller, more aggressive tires. The wheel/tire combo gives better sidewall flexibility, a half inch additional ground clearance and doesn’t affect the handling enough for her to notice.
    The only outward change is the front bars, which actually makes it look not as “frumpy”. Her word, not mine.

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

  • christopher

    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 any knots you tie in them though, cause they are hard to undo. you can loop 2 together if needed.

    • JD

      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

        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 go out the window in a STHF situation.

        • JD

          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 safely use my straps. I’m a firm believer in using the right tools for the job, the right way.

          • christopher

            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 metal shackle hurling back at your windshield. I would prefer a synthetic strap break and hit my vehicle than a strap with a metal shackle on it! Your are always welcome to do it the way you want..and nobody is saying you can’t. btw.. i have used these straps for 5 years and they are still working fine! (it has never broke at the knot as you suggest!) every rope will break eventually, and that is why you have to change them out as needed!

            • JD

              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 have to tie a knot in one of my recovery straps. Like I said you can do what you want, but I like doing things the right way by keeping stuff in working order when I need it. If you venture off road there is no excuse for not having the right gear with you. Sure you could hunt squirrels with a .460 weatherby magnum, but it’s not the right way to hunt them for food. Can can I use my 400 dollar Al Mar sere as a pry bar? Yes, but a pry bar is the right tool for a prying job.

              • christopher

                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 truck, I could see, but a average car only weights 2 tons.. a ford 250 around 6 thousand pounds/ 3 tons. I will give you the fact that if you pull (especially hoist, 2 different things) a 20 ton vehicle, there is a possibility that your tow strap could break if you tied a knot in it…LOL.. (personally I dont plan on pullling or hoisiting a 20 ton vehicle with my jeep wrangler so i am pretty safe!)

              • JD

                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 weapons, but he doesn’t want to learn. He thinks he knows better, and he doesn’t. He only makes himself look like an idiot when he goes to the gun club and pulls his antics around other people who know what they are doing. Hey, I hope your strap doesn’t break. But do me a favor, when you go to replace it, buy a couple of shackles to go along with it! Lol

              • christopher

                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 at my vehicle (that should drive you crazy thinking about me not having them..LMAO) . you are of course welcome to shoot and/or hoist 20 ton vehicles (hoist- that was funny!) with anybody you want to, or feel safe enough with (we all need our safe spaces!) I assuming your trying to correlate your friend you go shooting with with myself, in roundabout way with terms like (unsafe, baboon, idiot, antics?) really? subtle. since I dont know your “friend” at all, it would be hard to judge your interactions with him (I guess i have to take your word since I can’t talk to him and get his side). Did you ever stop to think it may be YOU causing him to act that way with the “I am right, my way attitude”? it tends to either put people off or make them want to push your buttons…but thats the great thing about Amercia, we have freedom to do what we want no matter who thinks its right or wrong.. :>

              • JD

                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 vehicle as the type of straps are the same, just rated for less weight. Yes you’re not hoisting a stuck vehicle, but you are still imparting forces on the strap to move a load. I mention this so you can maybe get a grasp that I DO know what I’m talking about. I never said everybody does it wrong. I’m saying learn to do things the right way and you will be better off in your preps, hobbies and interests and life in general. Are you paranoid or something? The adjectives I used to describe my friend are the ones that best describe him, I never said you. Believe me if wanted to I would have, I don’t sugarcoat anything I just tell it like it is. Lmao, and I know it’s not my attitude when it comes to teaching shooting, because my part time job is a firearms instructor. I’m also a 2 gun master in USPSA, and a master class shooter in IDPA. Again, I know what I’m talking about when it comes to shooting. Hell the first article I wrote for this site just won me 300 bucks. Set your ego aside and open your ears when meet someone that knows their business, you will learn something and better yourself. Tone and meaning are lost in text on these type of commentaries, but there are some people that you just can’t get through to.

              • BobW

                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 down with, and the ones used to pull someones truck out of the mud. Even cleaned, they are never quite the same. YOu can’t tell which ones are older, just the ones that were used, and the ones that were abused. The one that has a knot in it broke within two years of moderate, infrequent use. Its rotted and honestly, the only thing I trust it for now, is securing the chainsaw on the side by side.

                If your children’s life depended on you getting your escape vehicle out of the snow or mud, with angry hipsters fast approaching, why would you prep a crappy, old, knotted, and sun faded strap to save them? Buy new ones, take care of them, and KNOW they are good to go.

              • JD

                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

                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- I never said I was recommending anybody ELSE to do it FACT3 I never said it was okay by any certification or standard. I only said “IF YOU DO” (just like I cant stop people insulting posters with name calling) I cant stop people from tying knots in their tow straps. but I said ” if you DO”…. its hard to get out”.. simple.. pretty basic, but if a poster is too quick to act like a internet expert, and wants to criticise someone, than they tend to jump the gun & miss what they are saying.. you say you keep yours for 20 years (i would be interested if JD agrees with his certification standards on you keeping your tow straps that long) but that is YOUR choice. I personaly replace them every 3-4 years .I mean forgodness sake, they are only 10-20 dollars a peice ! you use your best judgement on your equipment and I use mine. i tend to take what internet posters say with a grain of salt as everybody should. I cant verify what your saying is true no more than you can what i say is.

  • 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 aggressive.
    Pack an additional long pulling strap and D-links. You may be forced to pull off to the side of your direction of travel to get out of an endless mud pit. Tie the extra strap between two trees, and take the pull somewhere in the middle for instance.

    • Bolofia

      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

      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. Over time, I picked up replacements for all the stuff I hauled around with me, so the garage tool box was fully stocked, and the tote carried what we needed.

      *******

      I don’t know about brand names, but owning a couple cum-a-longs would go a long way.

      In my truck kit, I keep a Milwaulkee impact gun. Use it to take stuff off, and put stuff back on, while leaving final torque to me. While this might break silence, it will drastically reduce the time spent removing/replacing tires. Think those old Dukes of Hazzard tire changes. More time = more exposure.

  • EgbertThrockmorton1

    Great article and fabulous posts!

  • Illini Warrior

    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

      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

        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

          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

            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.

  • JD

    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

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

  • BobW

    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 car, its a beat up, nasty old truck (I’d replace the seat cover) to get your people to safety.

    Also doubles as a viable snow vehicle for now.

    Mount a winch receiver on front and back, but only carry one winch. Can be installed on either end to get you out of trouble. Seen it before, but Wranglestar’s nice video on the double receiver set up sticks out in my mind.