First mods and planning a build (Part 3)

In the first two parts of this series I covered the basics in modifying the 4×4 and the driver for the overland adventure lifestyle.  As a quick recap, here are a few things from part one:

  1. The Driver! – Learn to drive off-road
  2. Recovery Points – Solid, Sturdy, Safe
  3. Good All-Terrain Tires – Traction, Traction, Traction
  4. Skid Plates and Body Armor – Protect your investment
Whether overlanding, trail riding, or rock crawling
there is something for everyone in today’s post.

In the second part I used my 2004 Wrangler Unlimited (LJ) as a real world example.  As modified the LJ carried me on the “No Highways Tour” for 5,000+ miles of off-highway adventuring.  Never once did I need, nor want, anything I didn’t have.  Too many times we, as modern consumerist people, get caught up in having all the “right” things.  We watch shows and get inspired by the latest and greatest celebrity build.  We pick up magazines and see the best ultimate rigs on their adventures.  Those are cool.  I’m not making any digs against them.  I’m just questioning what is right for you and me.  That’s why I have this blog.  To explore overlanding on a budget.  So, what to cover in Part 3?

Communications:

Whether you’re an advanced overlanding making a solo trip or part of a convoy of fellow enthusiasts, being able to communicate effectively is essential.  It’s always a good idea to have redundancy so never count on just one single layer of communication.  First, most people have cell phones.  Those are great, so long as you have signal and the battery is charged.  Before you leave make sure you know your provider’s coverage area and that you’ve packed appropriate cables and adapters.  Also won’t hurt to invest in a portable auxiliary battery for those moments when you’ll be away from your 4×4.  A good second layer of communication is the tried-and-true CB Radio.  Almost every 4×4’er I know be they a trail rider, rock crawler, or overlander has a CB.  They are a great way to communicate with each other as well as nearby people who might have one.  Many CB’s also have a weather-band which makes they very useful as more than just a communication aid.  A third and final layer would be two-way programable radios which, to be honest, are a bit beyond me for now.


I’d be remiss to talk about CB’s without an obligatory reference to Bandit and Snowman!
“Smokey and the Bandit” catapulted CB Radio’s into mainstream popularity in the ’70s and ’80s.


Tools and Recovery Gear:

Every 4×4’er should carry some basic tools and recovery gear with them. For overlanders this is a must.  The tools can reflect your level of mechanical aptitude, but at the very least screw drivers, pliers, BFH, lug-nut-wrench, and a socket set can go a long way in fixing minor issues.  As you get more advanced so will the tool set you carry.  Recovery gear follows a similar path.  Everyone should carry their own strap and a set of D-rings.  (Reminder: stay away from straps with integrated hooks).  If you have a winch or a Hi-Lift make sure to have the appropriate training and gear to use them effectively and safely.

  • Tow Strap – static or semi-static, usually 20-30 feet long, sewn loops on either end
  • Snatch Strap – dynamic, usually 20-30 feet long, sewn or spliced loops on either end
  • Tree Saver – static, usually 6-12 feet, sewn loops on either end
  • Winch Line Extension – static, synthetic line,  usually 50′-100′ long, spliced loops with thimbles on either end
  • Snatch Block – pulley to be used for angular pulls or straight line pulls with increase load
  • D-Ring – close-loop shackle used to affix strap or line to d-ring mount common to many aftermarket bumpers or via 2″ reciever-hitch insert.
Please not that there are major differences in how static and dynamic straps work.  You should *never* use a static tow strap as a snatch strap.  You should also be mindful of D-Rings and winch hooks which can become flying objects.  Also, chains should be avoided in off-road recovery situations.  This is where structured off-road skills classes become very useful because they will teach you the basics on vehicle-to-vehicle recovery as well as self-recovery with winches and hi-lifts.
Putting my 30′ tow-strap to work towing a wounded JKU-R up a steep hill at Rausch Creek ORP.

Storage:

Everything from personal camping gear to tools to recovery gear to spare parts will need someplace to hide in your 4×4.  There are a lot of options from removable plastic totes to build in boxes and drawers.  I have built a few DIY cargo management boxes in my day.  Sometime soon I will share them in a more in-depth post on storage.  For now, just remember that unsecured gear is a deadly hazard.  Also, well organized gear make things easy to find, keeps them safe, and keeps them protected.  It would really suck to pull out your camp stove only to find it crushed by your tool box because everything in the back of your 4×4 was sliding around down the trail.

Custom DIY cargo management box I build for my “No Highways Tour” trip.
More details can be found here.


Navigation:

As with communication redundancy with navigation is a must.  GPS is nice, but only for telling you where you are.  GPS also requires power (12v or batteries) and a clear signal.  Maps are great for giving you an overview of your area, but only if you know how to read them.  Personally I prefer analog maps over digital GPS.  During my 13 state trip down the east coast for the “No Highways Tour” I only used GPS a few times.  The majority of the time I was using a combination of state maps as well as local park maps.  Being able to navigate effectively using maps and GPS is essential for any overlander.  (Stay tuned for a more detailed post on maps, mapping, and navigation).

While GPS is great, a paper map will never run out of battery power.
You can also highlight your route as you go giving you a “big picture” view of your trip.

Just as with parts 1 and 2 you’ll notice I still haven’t talked about snorkels, big lifts, bit tires, lockers, or any of the other fancy gadgets and gizmos.  Sure they have their advantages and in due time I’m sure we’ll get there.  Just remember, this is a “First Mods and Planning a Build” writeup.  I will be doing more in-depth write-ups on some of these topics as well as some more advanced skills as time goes on.