Tools have come a long way over the years and there is pretty much a tool for every job. A lot of tools have multiple uses and purposes as well so when you’re setting up your tool kit, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for those for your off roading kit.
Some people opt for calling AAA and waiting for a tow truck, but while on the trail that might not be an option. Learning how to wrench on your rig can pay off by both keeping money in your wallet and giving you bragging rights after using your off-road tools to get the job done.
The question is,” What tools to bring on the trail?” What are the best tools for a dusty, muddy, hot, or cold environment far from the comforts of your garage? You want to spend the least amount of time repairing your truck and we’re here to help get you back to your off-roading adventure. This list of tools will help to get you started being capable and ready for what happens on the trail.
1. A Good Socket Set
It seems every truck out there, even same model years and trim package, have sockets specific to that particular truck. Some universal socket sizes will cross platforms but getting to know your truck and packing the right sockets will help if you need to disassemble your components.
Getting a flat tire happens often and makes no difference what brand you’re running. Being able to change that tire quickly can be achieved with the help of a battery-powered impact wrench but they can be heavy. Will you opt for an impact wrench and added weight or go with a breaker bar and sacrifice speed?
Either way, having the right socket is what gets the job done. Check the size of your lug nuts and bring two of that socket size just in case one cracks while using it. Additionally it might be a good idea to have a tool set that you might not mind losing. Searching for
Having a socket set will come in handy for many jobs but it’s not necessary to carry the entire kit with you. Take your socket set underneath the truck and check the fitment of your suspension and common components. Build a trail kit variety of sockets and carry that with you on the trail. The more tools you bring the more added weight, no need to lug your entire garage with you.
2. A High-Quality Jack
Let’s face it, when the manufacturers give you a jack in your truck it is not a high-end quality unit. It gets the job done if you have a Honda Civic. But when we lift our trucks, modify the suspension, and have oversized tires, the factory OEM jack is not going to instill confidence or even lift the truck at all.
A common jack upgrade is a Hi Lift Jack or as they say in the south, a Handyman Jack. They come in all shapes and sizes but the concept is the same. Using a HiLift jack can be an experience in itself because it never quite feels like you’re in control. Take it from experience, go slow and never let go of the handle until the weight of the truck is off the jack.
Hydraulic jack options have come a long way with designs such as the ARB Jack and the Pro Eagle 3 ton big wheel off-road jack "kratos". These jacks have been specially designed with the off-roader in mind. You’ll be adding a bit of weight with the hydraulic options (23-60lbs for options listed) but they can handle the job with a lift rating of over 4000lbs!
We’ve seen a lot of creative ways to lift your truck over the years whether it’s a Hi Lift jack or rolling up onto a spare tire to get access underneath, but having a quality jack pays off in convenience and safety.
3. Getting Unstuck With The Right Shovel
A shovel is a shovel right? How that may be true, shovels come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some shovels even have an intended purpose such as snow or ax-shovels. This has attempted to enter the off-road community but in the end, a shovel on-board is better than the one left in the shed.
Off-road or trail shovels should not be full-length digging shovels unless you have the room. After all, you aren’t digging a foundation and will find that most scenarios call for minimal digging, just enough to put a traction board in place or some rocks for a gripping surface.
The real purpose of a trail shovel is to make easy work of a tough situation without having to get into the terra firma with your hands. Burying a tire for a winching anchor, managing the campfire, or simply digging out a swamped tire, shovels come in handy when you need them.
Below are a few examples of trail shovels that stand up to the toughest situations.
4. Ground Mat Or Plastic Tarp
Even though we all enjoy the trail and getting into Boogie Mode for one reason or another, most of us don’t like laying directly on the dirt. This can be resolved with a simple plastic tarp or ground mat. You’re already dealing with a breakage, leak, or loose wire, why add dirt/sand/snow to the mix?
Depending on the tarp size and thickness of the plastic, you can expect to spend $3 all the way through a couple hundred dollars. A 6 foot by 4 foot Harbor Freight Special is roughly 4 dollars and will get the job done.
The squishy foam mats are nice but take up alot of room when folded so they might not be ideal unless your rig has the space. A mat can run anywhere between $20 to $65 depending on the brand. Construction is roughly the same so if you go with a foam mat you don’t necessarily need to buy name brand.
5. Jumper Cables & Jump Starters
Jumper cables fall into the category of you should have them whether you’re out on the trail or not. It’s part of almost every basic recovery/emergency kit. Whether your battery has gone flat or you’re being a friendly neighbor, jumper cables always come in handy.
As often as batteries deplete their starting power it’s best to have a quality set of cables. Personally, I’ve had a cheap pair, and when I tried to use them the cable slid right out of the clamp and I had to repair the tool that was going to save me. Jumper cables are a tool you want to rely on not have to fix before the fix.
Jump Starters have become part of many tool kits over the past few years. With their small package size they fir into most cubby’s in your truck and give you the juice to start your truck. Various Amp hour sizes available these little units pack a punch.
Below we listed the NOCO Boost Plus with 1000-Amp charging power and can jump start your Diesel truck up to 20 starts on a single charge. The only downside we have found is that you have to make sure it’s charged.
6. Heavy Duty Zip Ties Or Safety Wire
Heavy gauge safety wire or baling wire has held together many a rig from the trail back to camp. It’s fairly inexpensive and could possibly hold your components in place while you gingerly drive back to camp for the permanent repair to be performed.
Zip ties come in handy for any number of situations. Whether it’s securing a broken sway bar link or cleaning up a loose wire bundle. Zip ties should always be in your kit because they take up minimal space and are fairly cheap for a pack of 100.
7. Ratchet Straps, Tree Savers, And Tow Ropes
Not necessarily a piece of your trail tool box but a vital component of anyone's recovery setup for their rig. Getting stuck is not a matter of if it’ll happen, but when it’ll happen. That's the point right? Pushing the limits is all part of the off road lifestyle and recovery gear gets you home after the fun.
A good set (as in several) straps or tow ropes will come in handy for a variety of situations. Just the other day I was stuck and when looking for my tree saver to tie off only to realize I had taken it out of the truck. Luckily I still had ratchet straps and was able to winch off of them to get unstuck.
Some might opt for chains to get the job done but they are heavy and make a lot of noise on the trail. With the latest in rope/strap technology, you can achieve the same tensile strength as chain with a fraction of the weight. Another scary fact about chains is they dont have any give to them until they break. All can seem as planned then BAM! You’re dodging high speed chain shrapnel.
Snatch ropes are for towing or pulling someone free from the muck and ratchet straps should be used for securing things. Use the right tool for the job especially when tension is involved.
8. The super tool known as Vise Grips
One of the catch all type tools that every toolbox should have. Vice Grips fall into the same category as a crescent wrench, hammer, or ratchet…all serve multiple purposes. We’ve all seen the photos of people discovering vice grips somewhere underneath their truck.
This is how durable and useful vice grips can be, just remember that you clamped them on your truck. The average size is 8” and they come in many sizes. In our opinion, the needle nose version are pretty useless for high clamping force situations.
Missing the right socket size? Damaged screw or bolt? Vice grips can assist as an extra set of hands and in a pinch be a decent hammer. Make sure a set is in your kit.
9. Fire bad, Fire Extinguisher Good
As with most of this tool list, a fire extinguisher is not necessarily needed until it is. Most, if not all, fires could be prevented with proper maintenance but on that rare occasion where the universe deems it so, fires happen. The right fire extinguisher is the one you have and can save your truck or even your life.
Several types of fire extinguishers exist but an ABC Class fire extinguisher is the best catch-all type for vehicles. Get an extinguisher with a gauge and make sure to check serviceability often to ensure proper pressure is inside. Preferably store securely in a strong mount without hindering the removal of it in case of fire.
10. A Buddy Friend Or Pal
Many of us have taken to the trail on our own but in doing so have increased the risk of being stranded. With a friend out with you it doubles everything and lessens the risk of walking back to get help or even worse being lost in the desert alone.
Two rigs, two sets of tools, two brains for spotting or winching. It is always a good idea to enter the boogie arena with a friend. The off-road adventure is not like traveling to and from work. Unexpected things happen even to the most prepared race teams let alone a garage made rig when out on the trail.
From the Thuren Fabrication Team
It goes without saying, most of us at the shop have grown up in the off road community. Get out on the trail as often as we can, and rarely turn down a camping trip.
With the said we’d like to share some of the things we bring with us while chasing Boogie mode in the dirt:
- Spare parts
- Fuel filter
- Random size hoses
- Hose clamps
- Spare serpentine belt
- Electrical crimp set
- Jump starter box
- Air compressor
- Deflator valves
- Hi-Lift jack
- Socket set
- Adjustable wrench (2)
- Tire pressure gauge
- Vice grips (2)
- Duct tape
- Basic wrench set
- Allen key set
- OBD2 reader
- Tire repair kit
- Electrical tape
- Recovery kit
- Recovery straps (2)
- Shackles (3) soft shackle or steel U-type
- Collapsible shovel
- Blanket or tarp
- Tree saver strap
- Snatch block
- Extra winch line (rope/cable)
- Nylon recovery boards
All Set For The Trail
Now that we’ve covered pretty much all that there is to be ready for the unexpected, this list is not all inclusive and you’ll dial in your own kit as you see fit. Sometimes it’ll be more and sometimes it’ll be less, it all boils down to what you’re comfortable with.
In the end you can only be so prepared for the worst but remember, it’s always better to have it and not need it rather than need it and not have it.
Happy trails and keep the rubber side down.
Disclaimer: The products listed above are in no way, shape, or form associated with Thuren Fabrication Inc. Additionally, the links to separate websites are for reference only and you should always do your own research when procuring items for you, your safety, or your vehicle.