A Guide to Packing for the Trail

Tech Article

  1. Grim-Reaper
    Article/photo's courtesy of:
    Eric Hummel, AKA Grim Reaper

    A Guide to Packing for the Trail
    From time to time it comes up on the CK5 message boards, “what should I have in my truck when I hit the trail?” That’s not a simple answer. There are some variables to that question. The biggest is “how long and how far out are you going? The longer and the farther you go the more stuff you need to carry. You have to be able to keep the truck moving in the worst case scenario. One of the great things a K5 has going for it is space. Another is conditions of where your going.

    For this story I’m going to stick with what you need for the truck for the rough trails. I’m going to show you what stays in my truck all the time I’m on the trial. I feel I’m pretty well prepared to deal with any major problem.

    Well there's the back of my truck “Dollar”, I guess I’m one of the lucky ones, Dollar is not my every day driver, it stays pretty ready to go most of the time. The must haves start here. We will start from the bottom up. There is 5 recovery points on the back, two are Clevis points, 2 are hooks and the receiver hitch can be used also. I can’t stress enough the importance of having good solid EASY to get at recovery points.

    On the left gate you will see a spare tire, the tire is probably the most common trail repair there is, ripping a side wall out is always possible. No spare and your driving out on the rim...if your lucky. This should be number one on your list of trail gear. Number two is what it takes to change a tire, right next to that spare is a jack not quite tall enough to get the truck off the ground. Yeah you read that right...even on level ground old Dollar has enough flex that from the bumper that 48 inch jack is not going to lift that truck off the ground. How many of you carry a 48 inch Hi-Lift and have never checked to see if it will get your truck high enough to get a tire off? I bet more than a couple of you have the same problem. Remember this because I’m going to get back to how I deal with this little problem later and it doesn’t involve buying a 60 inch jack.

    Not pictured is a full size shovel that I either strap to the spare or the Hi-Lift. A Shovel is a required piece of equipment anytime your on Forest service managed lands. Yep it is...check with your local Forest Ranger.

    Well here is something that varies with how long I plan to be out, got to feed the beast so there is a 5 gallon Jerry can and a spout for spare fuel. I always leave the paved road with at least ¾ of a tank of fuel in the 31 gallon tank the truck came with. That tank has filled quite a few jeeps and my lawn tractor many times. Fuel has a shelf life, use the fuel in that tank within about 3 months or it will be stale and possibly cause you some problems.

    I HATE THAT CAN! That can leaks no matter how tight the lid is, I’m always smelling fuel from time to time as it vents. I’m looking for a NATO style can with a built in spout, word is those seal. If you haven’t bought a can yet I recommend you try to find the good NATO style cans and save the $25 those Blitz brand Jerry cans cost. Next to that is a cheap old 6 gallon water Jug, I fill this with potable (drinkable) water, it will keep meat hydrated just as well as it will the truck if I should blow a hose or damage a radiator. Again you need to use this up and store the jug empty and dry, failing to do so could lead to algae or mold forming and give you a wonderful case of dysentery.

    There is my storage system, my truck is the last year of the full convertibles, that hard top spends more time in my back yard than it does on my truck. I needed a way to store my gear that was both dry and secure, so I utilized a “Under Bed Box” that you normally would see hanging under the bed of a semi trailer. I had it made to measure from a company in Levern TN called Pro Tech, they normally don’t sell to the public and I had to order this through a trucking company that had an account with them. Delivered to my house it was $280 or so, it has double latches, a nice weather seal that not only keeps out water it keeps out dust, it is also bolted to the bed on some bushings to allow for some give, it measures 48”wide x 20” deep x 18” high.

    Also visible in the picture is my 4 way lug wrench on the left door, you would not believe how many people have after-market wheels and think the stock lug wrench that came with their vehicle is going to get that deep dish mag off that they put on, 4 way is the way to go. You can get more leverage and it will have the right size to fit most American built vehicles, while were talking storage let me show you a few other places to store gear.

    Here is the inside of my truck, yeah it’s a mess but it’s January and I sure am not getting the garden hose out to clean it out so excuse the mud.

    Well in the center box is stuff to keep handy including tire gages, a pair of knit gloves, pens, little “light” junk, on top of the box is a pair of leather palmed work gloves, these are important to keep handy from the driver seat, never know when the guy in front of you or the guy behind you is going to get in trouble and need some help. Those will help protect your hands from frayed winch cables, brush, sharp edges etc. On the floor in front of that it a roll of “DUCK” brand Duct tape, we won’t even go into the million and one uses of that but it should be in every trail rig.

    The glove box has a few important things hidden in it as well, there is a can of cutter bug spray, some latex surgical gloves in a zip lock bag in case I have to work on something greasy or worse, Bloody, fuses and zip ties also reside in the glove box.

    There is also something in there the club I wheel with requires, I have as yet to find another club that does, it is something so simple but could be life and death important, it’s called the “Green Sheet”, it’s basic information about you, full name, address, who to contact to claim your carcass, insurance information, Medical conditions such as allergies, Diabetes etc. It sounds dumb but if your out cold this is important information that EVERY medical person or facility is going to need and ask for, my club requires a sheet for every person that will be riding in your vehicle, I think it’s a great idea and I wish more clubs required it and more Associations recommended it.


    That’s a old back pack that I store gear in that I like to have within reach of the driver seat, it’s nice because it’s strapped through the head rest so it’s not going to go anywhere in the event of a roll and handy if I should need to hike in somewhere or need something to carry gear. In it I store a Mag light, US map, 2 cheap rain suits, a Back brace and a medical kit.

    Yeah cool seats huh? They swivel a full 360 degrees. Out of a early 90’s Mitsubishi Mini Van.

    My medical kit is in a water proof box with a rubber seal, pretty important. This one is sold by Green Guard and is a OSHA compliant kit that should be in any fleet vehicle, has the basics including sterile gloves, band aids, pain medicine, antibiotic cream, and something I added was insect treatment stuff and a snake bite kit, pretty self explanatory why and pretty common not to be in a lot of trucks.

    What you can’t see in these pictures is my fire extinguisher, I have a 2 lb. ABC rated dry chemical extinguisher mounted to the roll cage next to the driver seat and easily reachable. I’m going to be adding a second for the passenger to use and as a back up if I should happen to need to use one.

    Well here is the back seats, pretty bare with no interior, if you notice behind the seats you can just see the corner of a tall ammo can, it’s bolted to the floor. There is another behind the other seat, I store stuff that I want to keep in the truck but may not need often, it includes 4 Quarts of engine oil, 2 quarts of Gear oil, Gallon of antifreeze, Pint of Brake fluid, 3 quarts of ATF and a new oil filter. Basically I have enough to change the fluid in any component on the truck if I have to drain something for a repair or if I swamp the truck. Also behind the seats is some water proof rubber boots in case I have to get into any water or mud my feet will stay dry ankle deep.

    Now if you were paying attention the biggest thing that wasn’t in some way restrained in my truck was that roll of duct tape, this is a big deal with wheeling. While that roll cage in my truck will save me from being bashed into a rock as the truck rolls over, it won’t save me if something loose in the truck hits me in the head. That roll of duct tape isn’t going to hit me hard enough to hurt me but if those ammo cans were not bolted to the floor they could kill me or anybody along for the ride.


    That’s what is in the big box, Hahaha I want to see a Jeep carry that much gear, no wonder they never have rear seat passengers and have a 300lb rack hanging on the back.

    Tools...what can I say...if you don’t have them even if you have the spare parts you can’t fix it. This is my traveling box, it’s pretty well equipped, plenty of wrenches, screw drivers, Sockets to take care of the worst I could think of. The two things sitting on the handle are a spare set of c-clips for the rear axle, I also have a small selection of drill bits and that handy dandy 7.2 volt Makita to use them with, some RTV, a test light, breaker bar, extensions, Hub socket, Deep well to fit the axle U-bolts and plenty of clean rags to wrap parts to protect them, I should have everything I need to take care of any problem.

    More repair gear, top right is a handy dandy u-joint, Ball joint press, worth every penny I paid for it from Harbor Freight, I can change a U-joint in minutes with that tool. The blue Lego tote has my spare u-joints in it, I have enough to replace any joint on the truck. On my truck the front axle u-joints are the same as the front drive shaft so I have 3 of them and 2 joints for the rear drive shaft. Leaning against that box is a spare REAL spring center pin, if your not running shims you can get away with rounding the head on a 3.8’s bolt but if you have shims to correct for a pinion problem you need a little longer. Most 4x4 shops keep these in stock, ask Chuong Nguyen (Boss) how bad a day you can have when you shear one of those and it’s more common than you would think, Including Boss I saw 2 trucks shear them at Dixie run

    Next to it is a spare valve stem, easy to rip off in the woods and not difficult to replace. The other package is a radiator hose repair kit, it’s a set of sleeves that you can splice the hose with and the radiator clamps you will need. Also stored in that box is a reasonably good set of used ball joints from when I last replaced mine, often when a front axle U-joint pops it will damage the ball joints. I have seen a u-joint failure cut the nut off a ball joint and the truck lost the wheel as a result, easy enough to replace if you got them and that handy dandy press.

    In the cardboard box is my front diff gears, I run a lunch box locker in the front and if it were to fail I can put my gears back in and I’m still able to wheel my way out.

    Jumper cables...GOOD ones and long, some trails are too narrow to get trucks side by side or turn one around, those are 15ft long, as long as somebody your wheeling with has another good long set then you got enough cable to jump from a truck behind or in front of you, don’t skimp on cables. Cheap cables will fry, look for good cables with 4 gage or thicker wire and good quality clamps that have the wedge tip to work on our GM trucks side terminal batteries.

    Yep I carry a spare alternator, the one on my truck is questionable, I had this one laying around the shop so I threw it in, I have several times been on runs where folks have had an alternator fry. The older K5’s have minimal stuff that has to have power to run, you pull the plug on your brake lights, blower motor (they run regardless on our trucks) and jump it off it will run for hours on the battery, newer FI trucks won’t, fuel pumps are a major draw.

    Yes I have air tanks so I have a coil hose, I’m still working on making air on the truck and then you may see air tools in my truck also.

    Plenty of stuff to use to strap loose stuff down, mostly I use the ratchet and zip straps, the better ones are super strong and can secure hundreds of pounds, I have heard of people even strapping up broken loose transfer cases with these to get trucks out. Like I said before, nothing should be loose in your truck and it needs to be secured with something that can handle the weight in the event of a roll over. Also visible is a quart of oil #5, I keep one handy in the back for top off’s.

    Well the box there is a small ammo can...I call it my “Bitch box”, you know when somebody starts “bitching” about when are we going to be near a bathroom hahaha, two rolls of TP, a couple trash bags in a nice easy to carry water proof box, hand them that and a shovel and instant bathroom behind the nearest bush, I also keep some trash bags to take care of trail trash from those that just don’t get it, last is some waterless hand cleaner.

    Recovery gear, tree saver, one 30 ft 20k snatch strap and a 20 ft 20k back up, straps take a beating, good to have a spare, also you can use that as a tree saver. Now when on the trail I always keep the 30 ft strap up front where I can hand it out a window if it’s needed, if your stuck in mud the last thing you want is to have to dig it out of the storage box. Sometimes you need a strap in a hurry, keep one handy up front, straps should be stored clean and dry in a dark place, dirt and sun light are not a straps friend.

    Plenty of Clevis’s, my preferred method to attach recovery gear to my truck is with a clevis, straps can’t fall off of them like a hook, straps have been ruined when they catch on the point of hooks. On the trail there is always a clevis on each end of my vehicle ready for use, I have extra’s for rigging the hand winch and Hi-Lift. A good quality hand winch, it isn’t fast but it’s reliable, I have pulled a truck back onto it’s wheels with that one, it does the job and is sure a lot quicker to rig than a Hi-Lift.

    50 cal Ammo box full of chain, if you have to use a Hi-Lift or a hand winch for recovery you sure want to use something with no stretch like a strap has, there is a 20 ft length and a 6 ft choker in the box, there is also several different hooks. Most of the time the large hooks is what you want so you can hook to a Clevis or hooks on the winch but sometimes you need to be able to hook the chain to itself so the hooks that will work on the chain links are in there.

    This brings us back to how I can change a wheel without a jack tall enough to lift the truck, I chain the axle to the frame so it can’t droop, this means I only have to lift the truck a few inches. The higher you lift it the more unstable the jack will become, the more danger involved, I sure do prefer only having to jack 10 inches over 40 inches, just be careful not to catch brake lines, fuel lines or wires between the chain and frame. The chunk of wood is for a base for the Hi-Lift, in soft soil this will prevent the Hi-Lift from sinking.

    Here is more gear, the axe is handy if you run across a fallen tree on the trail, it, like the shovel, is also required to be in your vehicle when on FS controlled land. I also have a large bow saw for smaller tree’s and branches, I have an even smaller bow saw that will also hold a hack saw blade as it is currently fitted with. A machete to deal with any underbrush, survival knife with waterproof matches in the handle, I have a small hatchet that also has a hammer head, just handy for driving tent stakes. The blue tarp is in case I have to get on the wet ground or if I need to make a shelter from the rain, on it are a couple of pry bars I use for disconnecting my sways or any other needs. In the towels is a spare rear axle shaft in good condition, it has spare lug nuts on it to protect the studs and ready to go. To the right is front axle shafts, I’m short a stub shaft so I have left them disassembled, I’ll just put the stub on the inner shaft that I need.

    The last Ammo can I store two cans of brake cleaner, good stuff to have, you cant seal stuff if the sealing surfaces are oil covered. Brake cleaner is the ticket, you can clean parts with it, can of Carb cleaner is also in there, pretty self explanatory. You don’t want to use brake cleaner on the carb, if you suck it into the carb while the truck is running it will pump out a nasty cloud out the tail pipe, couple road flares are also in their, spare set of batteries for the flash light too. Spare fuel filter and fuel pump, those pumps are easy to replace and not uncommon to fail, $12 is cheap peace of mind. WD 40 is another must have, best thing to dry out the ignition.

    Last thing in the box is a boat fuel line with a primer bulb, in the event I don’t have my spare fuel with me it’s an easy way to siphon fuel, the Ammo can is also important, it has enough volume that if I have to drain some fluid from my truck for a repair I can use it as a catch pan, it will make a water proof seal when closed so I can haul my mess out, be sure to inspect the seals on used ammo cans when you are buying them.

    See I told you, it all fit in there, even my fold up camp chair fits. Another thing you should bring when trail riding is a friend with an equally well equipped truck. In the event of a truck being damaged beyond repair with what you carry it leaves a margin of safety that you can get out and not be stuck in the woods.

    Communications equipment is another must have, if you noticed in my interior shot my truck is equipped with a CB, great to have if your traveling with several trucks so you can communicate between them, also you can get to the top of a hill and a CB can communicate 20 and sometimes more miles, if you have a fancy CB you can talk hundreds of miles on “Skip”.

    Unless you get to somewhere that’s really out there a cell phone is really a good idea, most places you could walk to the top of a hill with enough elevation to place a call, heck even if you don’t have a hooked up cell phone it’s good to have, by Law, even a cell phone without an active number, will let you connect to 911.

    Last but not least, you need to let somebody know where your going and when you plan to be back. That way when you don’t show up they will know where to look, don’t deviate from those plans without contacting that person and telling them the new plans.