Sooner or later, your vehicle will end
up stuck in a mud hole or hung up on a rock during a wilderness
road trip. Naturally, your cell phone will be out of range
Since help will likely be miles away, it's
wise to plan ahead and stow some essential woods tools in
your vehicle before your next road trip. In addition, always
let a responsible person know where you're going and when
you plan to return.
A spade or round-point shovel will allow
you to do some serious digging as well as fill in ruts and
holes. Sharpen the blade with a file so it will be easy to
dig with as well as chop roots with. A shovel with a long,
sturdy handle is the best since if affords better leverage
when prying. It can also reach further under a vehicle.
In the winter, carry a large snow shovel.
Carry a large, 36-inch bow saw for removing
trees that block your route. A saw can also help you improvise
a corduroy road in swampy areas. To prevent accidents, always
use a scabbard to protect an exposed saw blade.
For chopping, splitting, and de-limbing
trees, carry a good-quality axe with a 3.5-pound head. The
hammerhead on a single-bit-style axe is useful for heavy-duty
pounding. Many wilderness travelers favor the Hudson Bay axe
with it's lighter, single-bit head. Like the saw, protect
the business end of the axe with an edge guard or leather
sheath. A light coating of oil will prevent it from rusting.
A portable, hand-operated, steel- or cast-iron-framed
winch can snatch a vehicle from a mud hole with surprising
ease. One of the best come-a-long units on the market is the
two-ton-capacity "More Power Puller" manufactured
by the Wyeth-Scott Company (www.wyeth-scott.com). Their best
model for wilderness use comes with 35 feet of flexible wire
rope and a pulley block. The one I bought 30 years ago is
still pulling strong and it's paid for itself many times over.
High tension winching can be dangerous,
so be careful. Always wear gloves and safety glasses, and
make sure every component of the winch setup, from the anchor
points at both ends, to the cables, chains, straps, and connectors
in-between, are adequately rated. If a tree is used as an
anchor point, always use a nylon strap around it. Don't wrap
a cable or chain around a tree as it will injure or kill it.
Sold under a variety of names including
"Hi-Lift" (www.hi-lift.com), "Handyman,"
and "Jack-All," these long, stout jacks are essential
for lifting a vehicle that's hung up on a rock or stump, or
that's broken through the wooden deck of an aging bridge.
The most useful models can lift a 7,000-pound load over four
feet. A thick, flat block of wood makes a good base in muddy
areas. Most of these heavy-duty jacks are designed to double
as strong, in-line winches too. I never stray very far from
a paved road without mine.
For maximum flexibility, carry an assortment
of 10- to 20-foot-long, heavy-duty cables, chains, and tow
straps. The more the better since, in certain situations,
your vehicle may be located a good distance from a suitable
Keep a well-stocked, oversize day pack
in your vehicle in case you are forced to spend the night
or have to walk out. Your day pack should contain a sturdy
knife, matches, fire starters, candle, flashlight with spare
batteries, basic first-aid kit, compass, map, whistle, warm
clothing, rain gear, water bottle, small cook pot, long-lasting
snacks, small PVC tarp, and 100 feet of tarp-rigging rope.
In cold weather, stow a sleeping bag in your vehicle too.
Check to make sure your vehicle has a full-size
spare tire, which is properly inflated, and an appropriately-sized
lug-nut wrench. Carrying a tire inflation device is a good
Carry a set of long, battery jumper cables
and a portable, jump-starter battery pack (many of these new
units inflate tires, have a built-in light, and can even power
low-amperage, 110-volt devices).
Last, but not least, stock a small toolbox
with an assortment of common tools and parts, including duct
tape, bailing wire, etc.
If your local auto parts dealer, hardware
store, or sporting goods outlet don't have what you're looking
for, check with one of the following vendors: Ben Meadows
Company (1-800-241-6401, http://www.benmeadows.com),
Forestry Suppliers, Inc. (1-800-647-5368, http://www.forestry-suppliers.com),
J.C. Whitney (1-800-529-4486, http://www.jcwhitney.com),
Cabela's (1-800-237-4444, http://www.cabelas.com),
and Campmor (1-800-226-7667, http://www.campmor.com).
With a little forethought and planning
before your next wilderness road trip, you can prevent an
adventure from becoming a survival situation.
See you in the bush.