Long Distance Planning
Generally speaking, off-roads are not very long. It’s rare to find one more than a hundred miles in length, and getting stranded usually means no more than a wait of a few hours, or on shorter roads, walking back to the entrance as a final, desperate measure. This is not true however, in states with a low population or in a number of foreign countries. An off-road can mean a normal, but unpaved access road. In the far north, which includes parts of Canada as well as Alaska, gas stations and towns can be up to a hundred miles apart, even on regularly traveled roads.
What you carry for survival is often highly dependent on your destination. Your preparations have much to do with how remote the terrain is that you plan to go into. If you are going into a remote area, you will want to carry at least three days supply of food; dried foods are best; several gallons of fresh water, sleeping bags or blankets, an axe and plenty of bug spray.
Other items that remain practical for any off road situation are a first aid supply kit designed for vehicles, a good mechanical tool kit, a spare tire, jack, jumping cables, gloves and a recovery strap or tow strap. Practically speaking, these items should remain in your off-road vehicle at all times. Before any off-road excursion, you should check to make sure your mechanics tool box is complete, with adjustable screw drivers, sockets, wrenches, ratchets, hex keys, nuts, bolts and a crow bar. Check your emergency medical kit for missing items, including a snake bite kit if you are going into an area that has poisonous snakes. Replace your recovery strap if it shows signs of fraying. A handi-man tool is extremely useful to carry along. No larger than a snap-shut knife, it carries blades, scissors, openers and a screw driver for that easy, quick fix situation without having to paw through your tools.
The Often Over-Looked Survival Gear
Your best ally while traveling in remote areas is a CB or short wave radio. The more remote the area, the less chance there is that your cell phone will work. Nor will you be able to pick up the high frequencies of most broadcasting stations on your built in radio. Once you hit that wilderness, there will be complete silence on most radio stations. A CB or citizen’s band radio allows communications with other CB radio operators on a selection of forty different channels. It is a two-way radio, allowing only one speaker at a time, but you can make your message loud and clear in an emergency situation. A CB also serves another function – it staves off the creepy feeling of being all alone in the wilderness. Although we may romanticize it, very few people are actually hermits. While we might not consider ourselves gregarious, we take the ease with which we can establish communications with others very much for granted. You’d be surprised at how quickly you’ll crave somebody else to talk to when there’s no one at all breaking the silence.
A short-wave radio serves several functions. You can continue to listen to short-wave broadcasting stations that often provide music for those lonely stretches of road, and pick up the weather station that will provide you with vital information such as wash-outs, flood conditions and avalanches. In an emergency situation, you can also communicate your position for rescue operations. If you don’t have a GPS finder, be sure to keep track of how many miles you’ve traveled on your off-road, and your general location.
If you can’t afford a winch, invest in a come-along. A come-along is inexpensive and your manual labor will be a lot easier if you should get stuck and there is no one around to help pull you out.
Buy a box of flares. Flares will assist other drivers in seeing you regardless of weather conditions or night visibility and provide adequate lighting for rescue workers. Most off road drivers will stop and assist a vehicle surrounded by flares.
Carry a battery operated space heater, high beam flashlight and plenty of spare batteries. It is highly recommended that your off road vehicle has a soft top or hard top if you are going to drive in remote areas. In the high mountains and in the desert, the temperature drops quite a bit at night. Some areas of the rain belt have precipitation 265 days out of the year, making cover an absolute necessity. The smartest form of preparation is to bring a tent or other form of shelter. If you did not, a battery operated heater will still keep you warm while you are waiting for help. Do not depend on your vehicle’s heater. Idling your jeep too long for keeping it warm exposes you to carbon monoxide. Turning the vehicle off and on at intervals is hard on the vehicle’s batteries.
If you’re not very good at making camp fires, invest in a portable propane cook stove. This way you’ll at least be able to boil water for coffee, prepare some hot food and have warm, sterile water for cleaning or attending an injury.
The most important thing to remember is, don’t panic. If you have food, water, shelter, and emergency supplies, you can survive a long time. Always leave a map with a family member of friend of where you are going and a time frame for when you’ll be back, or when they can expect a call from you. Do not go far from your vehicle if you are in a remote area. There are more people who have died of exposure trying to walk away from their stranded vehicles, than there are of those who took adequate preparations, hunkered down and waited for help.
About the Author: Karla Fetrow is an experienced off-road driver tackling some of the toughest terrain in the U.S in Alaska on a daily basis. Having been raised in the remote areas of Alaska, it is common knowledge to the rural inhabitant that there are places you just can’t go without a Jeep, Jeep Wrangler or other sturdy off-road vehicle. Karla frequently writes on behalf of Extreme Terrain.