Offroad exploring - what we take with us

February 2019 | Words by Daniel

Heading off-road is always good fun - I still remember the first time I engaged low range in our old Hilux Surf and hit the beach, it was a completely new experience and one that got me hooked. Over the next few months I quickly learned that heading out unprepared isn’t always a smart idea and that grabbing the basics isn’t expensive and that, even more importantly, you don’t really need all that much to get further and stay safe at the same time.

I thought I’d run you through what we take with us in 2019 - whether it’s a short cruise around Red Rocks or a multi-week trip to remote areas of the South Island - that we wouldn’t leave home without. This isn’t a plug for any brand or company, it’s purely what we’ve purchased over the years with our own money!

1 - Tyre deflator

Nothing lets you get further, improves your comfort and looks after the track and your truck like letting a bit of air out of your tyres. It’s amazing the difference increasing the size of your footprint makes, especially on sand.

We let our tyres down almost every time we head off the bitumen - a few seconds of hassle to help save our shocks and vehicle is a small price to pay.

What pressures should I run?

This depends heavily on your vehicle, tyres and the surface you’re driving on. In our Hilux when it’s loaded up we deflate to 28psi and head down from there. We have even dropped right down to 12psi a few times on very soft sand.

What to buy

Get a tyre deflator that removes the valve core, they’re cheap and simple to use and, unlike options that leave the valve in, are super quick - we lose around 1psi a second.

How to use a tyre deflator

2 - Air compressor

Once you’ve let your tyres down you need a way to fill them back up before you head out on the road - running them at low pressure over more than a short distance at low speed will heat them up and destroy them quickly.

What to buy

Any 12 volt air compressor should do the trick - we had a cheap $100 one for years that while slow, always fired into life. We recently upgraded to a much more powerful compressor as spending 15 minutes airing up at the end of a trip wasn’t fun.

3 - A spade/shovel

I’m always amazed at the number of people who don’t have a spade to dig themselves out when they one day get stuck. It’s amazing the difference 5 minutes of digging can make.

A long handled shovel is by far the best tool for the job but they can be harder to store. We’ve had a small spade for years, it has been put to good use more times than I can count - it can just be more work clearing around chassis rails and diffs.

What to buy

Figure out where it’ll live and how much room you have, head down to your local hardware store and grab something that fits your needs.

4 - First aid kit and fire extinguisher

Things can and will go wrong when you’re out and about. A basic fire extinguisher and first aid kit should be in the back of every 4wd, preferably somewhere it can be found easily and won’t be covered by items in the vehicle. We’re guilty of keeping our extinguisher in a hard to reach place… We should mount that properly one day!

What to buy

Head down to your local auto or hardware store, they should have everything you need and be able to provide some advice.

5 - Basic recovery gear

Carrying your own recovery gear is part of being a responsible off-roader. People are generally willing to lend theirs, and there are times when you do require other gear, but having the basics with you and ready to go really helps.

Even if you don’t venture too far off-road you can get stuck in the strangest of places and require a gentle tug back to safety.

What to buy

Grab a snatch strap that is strong enough for your vehicle and a couple of rated shackles, store them somewhere safe and hopefully you’ll never need them. I’d also recommend looking at soft shackles, yes they cost a bit more, but if anything goes wrong you have less metal flying through the air.

6 - Rated recovery points

You’ll need some rated recovery points on both the front and rear of your vehicle to use your snatch strap with - remember to never, ever use a tow ball or the factory tie down points - both can snap and be fatal.

What to buy

Properly rated hooks and bolts - and make sure they’re installed properly. This is one job it could be worth getting professionals to do, just to be sure.

7 - Tyre repair kit

Obviously you have a spare tyre with you, but having a repair kit gives more options if something happens to one (or more of) your tyres. Having a repair kit could be the difference between being stuck somewhere and limping home.

Most kits also contain various valve tools and caps which come in useful.

What to buy

Head to your local auto parts store and pick up a kit - make sure it contains all the basics (petroleum jelly, tyres patches, spare valves etc)

8 - Decent set of tyres

Choosing a tyre is never an easy job - there are many options out there! Figure out where you’ll spend most of your time and pick a tyre from there. I’d argue that mud tyres aren’t required for touring New Zealand and that a good set of all terrains is a better choice for road comfort and fuel range.

We run an aggressive all terrain and have had no issues with them in the past few years.

What to buy

When picking a tyre try and find one that uses a light truck construction (LT on the sidewall) - they tend to be stronger and deal with the abuse of being off-road more favourably.

9 - Radios

If you do a lot of driving with mates having a radio can be invaluable - being able to pass info further back along the convoy can stop more than one vehicle getting stuck or from being unable to turn around easily.

Personally I prefer in-car UHF radios to save wasting batteries, but there are a few rechargeable options on the market these days if you prefer portable radios.

What to buy

Decide if you want an in-car radio or handhelds (or both, as we do) and go from there. Unless you use your radio all the time you probably don’t need to spend a huge amount on it.

10 - Camera

Hopefully you’ll be getting out to some cool places - don’t forget to stop and take photos!

Most of us carry an awesome camera in our pockets disguised as a phone already, don’t be afraid to use it.

What to buy

If you’re wanting to upgrade from your phone you have many choices. If I were buying a camera today it’d be a mirrorless one with changeable lenses - the bulk of a DSLR can get annoying at times.

Hope this helps you decide you might need next on the never ending list of off-road related items - feel free to fire through any questions you may have - we’re happy to help!