Travel & Places Camping

Prepare for an Off Road Adventure in the Family SUV

Remember when you used to jump in your grandparent's Buick for a Sunday drive? Now it's your turn to exercise your god given right in America to drive wherever you want whenever you want for no other reason than because you want to with Adventuradio.

Land Rover LR4 and LR3 off roadThankfully today's modern sport utility vehicles are more capable of heading out for an adventure of low impact off-roading with the family than the old LeSabre. Just beyond the metro area lie hundreds of miles of scenic and downright exciting dirt and gravel roads to explore.  OK, we don't have the Baja 500, but we have a winter wonderland in our state parks and national forests in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. A day trip to these areas this time of year is a good way to hone your driving and adventure skills.

I am not talking about a trip to the Outlet Mall here. Dirt and gravel roads are usually not plowed and certainly never salted. Chances are good that your cell phone will not work – which also means the kids' cell phones won't work. This is a plus since they will be forced to enjoy the scenery instead of texting and facebooking.  So a little advance planning is necessary before heading off-road especially in the winter. First your vehicle:

1.       Check your gas, windshield washing fluid and tires. Fill them all up to specifications.

2.       Do the penny test on the tires. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head above the tread, your tires are shot and will not do at all off road. No matter how sophisticated your all-wheel drive system, your SUV will not go in the snow with bad tires. If you need tires you can't beat this Adventuradio special $80 Mail-In Rebate with Purchase of 4 Goodyear MT/R w/ Kevlar Tires.

3.       Check the spare. What about the lug wrench and jack? No, not your brother-in-law Jack, the thing that you need to change a flat tire. Do you even know where it is?

I plan for the worst when heading off-road. I might get stuck with no cell service and nobody else around. In fact, I might even be stranded overnight. Triple-A is not an option. That means I am on my own for a rescue.  Remember the blizzard in the mid-west a few weeks ago? People were stuck in their cars overnight in freezing temperatures – and they were on road.  Being ready for the worst can be the difference between creating a memory and creating a nightmare.

Let's be prepared. Here are Adventuradio's 10 essential items for heading off road:

1.       Shovel – a short-handled spade is best and can help dig you out of just about any off-road pickle. Don't skimp on quality. Try the great all steel PRO Ergonomic stainless steel shovel. It's light and works well with gloves.

2.       Tow strap – I was once yanked out of a frozen ditch by a passing dump truck with this handy item. I carry a Smittybilt 2? x 30' recovery strap – 20,000 lb capacity. Remember a couple of D-rings

3.       Jumper cables – you will be surprised how often these get used even around the suburbs. Longer is better: Coleman 20-foot heavy-duty cables with polar glow clamps.

4.       Blankets – a couple of good blankets are a must. Forget cotton and polyester. Get a wool camping blanket – natural warmth & durability.

5.       First Aid Kit – keep a complete kit in your SUV and know how to administer first aid, or at least get one with directions.

6.       Two (minimum) flashlights – one big one and one hands free unit. Extra batteries are a good idea.

7.       A good lighter with a flame. If you rely on your vehicle's cigarette lighter to start a fire count on also having a dead battery. Refer to #3.

8.       Hand held GPS. Your vehicle's GPS is basically useless off road or with a dead car battery. Ditto for the GPS on your cell phone without cell service. They are inexpensive and easy to use. Waterproof and easy on batteries is important. I have the Garmin eTrex Venture HC.

9.       Remember the basics of survival: food, water, and shelter. Your vehicle will do for shelter. Pack a case of bottled water ($4) and some snacks like beef jerky for protein and cereal or power bars for complex carbs. Twizzlers are a crowd pleaser.

10.   A quality multi-tool. Survivorman Les Stroud proved how essential a quality mufti purpose, knife, screwdriver, and pliers combination tool can be in a desperate situation. I never leave home without a Leatherman Skeletool multitool.

Needless to say you and your passengers should be dressed appropriately. If you plan to bump the adventure up a notch I suggest a set of tire chains, which are particularly useful on icy roads.

Finally, remember to tread lightly and stay on designated (off) roads. Drive responsibly and have fun out there.
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