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Going Alone - Single Vehicle Wheeling & Safety

Discussion in 'Off-Roading & Trails' started by Mxpatriot, Oct 3, 2016.

  1. Oct 3, 2016 at 11:34 PM
    #1
    Mxpatriot

    Mxpatriot [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Chase
    North Pole, Alaska
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    Money pit.
    This thread is now also published as an article on expo portal
    ( http://expeditionportal.com/going-alone-single-vehicle-offroad-travel-safety/)

    Disclaimer:

    Safety in numbers is a bonafide fact when wheeling and travelling in remote places. There is no substitute for the safety of a second vehicle. However, we have all gone wheeling - to one degree or another - by ourselves. It is a conscious choice to accept a certain amount of risk. The purpose of this thread is to help those who makes this choice to mitigate that risk as best as possible.

    Intro:

    Being active duty military, I move a lot. That brings with it the opportunity to explore new places and the challenge of finding similarly passionate offroaders to do it with. Combine that with a busy work schedule and a busy home life, and being able to put together offroad runs in groups becomes a challenge.

    A good chunk of my occupation is planning, preparation, and risk mitigation for inherently dangerous things. I enjoy it, and it seamlessly flows into my personal life.

    I have done solo offroad trips in some pretty remote places all across the country and in some pretty extreme weather. I have had my bumps along the way, but I have always pulled through (6P rule; "prior preparation prevents piss poor performance").

    Throughout this thread, I will use the term PACE. PACE stands for Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency. It is the four levels of planning that we go into for any event - whether it be communication, medical, vehicle recovery, etc. If that's confusing, it will become clear when you get into the meat of this.

    Again, this is not an encouragement to go alone. But I know that, like myself, many here do do it and will continue to do it; so hopefully this helps someone at sometime along the way.

    I am going to lay out some basic "rules" for going solo and then go over my own load out as an example.

    The Ten Golden Rules of Going Solo:

    1. Always leave a plan behind with someone trustworthy. We call this a "GOTWA" in the military.

    G: Going. Where you are going.
    O: Others. Others you are taking with you.
    T: Time. The no later than time you will return.
    W: What. What to do if I don't return.
    A: Actions. Actions I plan to take in an emergency.

    The plan should include a map, with your planned route highlighted. You must have the discipline to stay on plan for this to work! It should also cover your communications plan and your vehicle description - to include your license plate.

    2. Never exceed your walk out / survival capability.

    You should pack a ruck (backpack) with everything you need to survive in the worst weather possible in the environment you are going. Pack as if you are starting your survival situation soaking wet. Your pack should utilize water tight bags for things that need to stay dry. Do not go further into "no man's land" than you can comfortably walk out within the time frame that the items you pack provides you. An experienced backpacker can go days and days living out of their pack comfortably while walking 20+ miles a day. Your average person cannot. Plan accordingly with your abilities.

    3. Rescue beacons / sat devices save lives

    There are a plethora of devices out there that can communicate from anywhere on the globe. Some are radio frequency based (beacons) and others are satellite based (phones, SPOT devices, inReach devices). The inReach is my device of choice because it covers the ordinary (text messages) to emergency (SOS) communication spectrum.


    4. Know your equipment and how to use it BEFORE you go.

    An emergency, or even a routine vehicle recovery, in no man's land is no time to be learning your equipment. Preventable mistakes in remote places can quickly magnify the severity of the situation.

    The hi-lift jack is a versatile and powerful tool; but it can also seriously injure you in the blink of an eye. The same is true of winching and many other tools and techniques we use.

    Fire extinguishers prevent bad situations from becoming catastrophic situations.

    Fire starters can turn bad situations into not so bad situations. Be redundant; PACE.

    An ax is one the most important tools you can carry. When applied with creativity, trees can serve dozens of uses in vehicle recovery.

    There's no substitute for the comfort that a firearm (and the ability to use it effectively) will bring when faced with an untrustworthy person in the boonies.

    5. Carry first aid supplies and know how to use what you have.

    I could write a book on this; but to keep it brief - you should have the supplies and the know how to control bleeding, maintain an airway, and treat shock. These will help you save yourself or others from the majority of injuries that result in preventable death. Tourniquets are the most effective tool to control severe bleeding from an extremity. SAM splints are worth their weight in gold when it comes to treating fractures. Shock can and does kill; and is preventable with basic knowledge and tools. Get the tools and get the training if you plan to venture out.

    6. You cannot afford to lose/damage gear when going solo

    Ensure all of your gear is properly secured, both from theft and from falling off your vehicle. Shackles should be secured with zip ties or wire. Shovels, axes, etc. should be properly mounted or tied down. Loose objects become projectiles in crashes / roll overs. A missing shackle can become a deal breaker during recovery.

    7. One is none, two is one. Have a "PACE" plan for everything.

    The best example of this is your communications. You shouldn't be relying solely on your cell phone. Have realistic expectations for your devices - a CB has very limited range and very few people monitor it. Here's an example of what I roll with:

    Primary: Cell Phone
    Alternate: DeLorme InReach satellite SOS / Text Messenger
    Contingency: Radio communications
    Emergency: Visual signals.

    Within 3 of the those four categories I have redundancy. I carry two cell phones, each on different providers (one personal, one work issued). Within radio communications, I have a vehicle mounted 2 meter, vehicle mounted CB, and handheld 2 meter radios. Within emergency (visual), I have VF-17 panels (bright orange panel that folds out), flares, and signalling mirrors.

    One is none and two is one. If you bring an electronic device, bring the cord to charge it. Even better, bring a battery pack to charge it.

    8. Know how to navigate.

    This comes with time and experience. PACE applies here. GPS is great, but a map and compass is king.

    Know your panic azimuth; that is - know the general direction you need to head if you get lost. This direction should lead you to something you can't miss - a highway, a river, a railroad, etc. that you will recognize and can follow to safety.

    9. Everyone in the vehicle has to know the plan and the gear.

    Your passengers should know the general use of the gear you have. Take the time to familiarize them before you depart. Something may happen to you and your life may depend on them knowing how to use what you've prepared.

    10. The best tool you can carry is on your shoulders.

    When things start going wrong, you have to remain calm. Stop - think - and think again. Haste makes waste; and carelessness can turn a bad situation into a horrible one. Take account of what you have, what you can make / gather from your surroundings, and make a plan.

    --------------------

    The following pictures highlight some of the gear / techniques discussed above. These were taken before a recent ~500 mile solo camping and offroading trip. I had my wife and kids with me, so we never strayed further than 15 miles from the highway and/or our campsite.

    A good shovel - one that you can get under the truck easily when you're stuck - is the foundation of recovery. You should always dig out before attempting any other means. You have to get the undercarriage off the ground.

    And fire extinguishers are golden. When you need one, you really need one.

    [​IMG]

    The hi lift is venerable recovery tool and you should have one. So is an ax. My ax is secured by my bed cleats and sits inside the hi lift mounts. The axle doubles as a hammer. I have replaced wheel studs this way on the trail. The second picture is from just last week, jacking the back end of the truck up allowed me to get traction boards under the tires and clear the mud from the rear axle / frame.

    Note the can of WD-40. Hi lift jacks are prone to rust and dirt/grime inhibiting their mechanism. I lubed mine before use and it eased the process significantly. The jack base was also essential for use in the soft mud. This can be improvised, but the base is convenient and more stable.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Look at your truck and picture the things that could break / fail on the trail that would leave you stranded that is reasonably capable of being repaired in the field. Figure out what tools you need to fix that and put those in your tool bag. Identify the spare parts that you can afford - both in terms of $$$ and space/weight - and carry those. I carry a spare belt, spare lug nuts, spare wheel studs, spare air line for my ARB lockers, spare electrical wire, and a spare u-joint. Don't forget the basics as well, such as duct tape and zip ties. JB weld and hose wrap is also good bang for your buck, size and weight wise, and should be in your tool bag.

    I also carry a can of tire slime and a tire plug kit. I have on board air hard mounted to the truck to go with these items.

    [​IMG]

    Jump start packs are one of the best inventions of the 21st century for the solo offroader. They can also charge your electronics should you have to leave the truck.

    [​IMG]

    Traction boards are my hands down favorite recovery tool and work great for solo vehicles in areas without natural winching anchors.

    On that note - you are never without a winch anchor if you have a shovel. Bury your spare tire and use that as an anchor. Chop trees down, drag them to your location, and bury them as anchors. There are techniques for this, google can help you.

    [​IMG]

    Maximizing space is important, as is keeping essential tools readily accessible. I keep one recovery strap coiled inside my spare tire and one under my backseat. During the winter, I keep one end already hooked to a shackle so that I can more quickly rig a recovery when it is -20F outside. The strap is ziptied in place in order to prevent loss on the trail. The zip ties are small enough to be broken by hand.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    My shackles are zip tied in place as well. Before I started doing this, I lost at least a shackle a year from the pin rattling out.

    [​IMG]

    Simple mistakes can become big problems. Like cutting your hand. Bring gloves appropriate for vehicle recovery.

    [​IMG]


    First aid. Pretty self-explanatory. The second picture is of a hypothermia treatment bag, which is essentially a self heating body bag for a full grown adult. It can treat / prevent hypothermia for 12 hours.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    My glove box has my must have items in it. The DeLorme InReach, two meter radio and reference guide of repeater frequencies for North America, survival blanket, a strobe beacon, a a flashlight, a pair of binos (for hunting) and a mosquito repelling burner (Alaska can have brutal mosquitoes during the summer).

    Put stuff you don't want disappearing during a roll over in your glove box. Nothing like having a broken back and being unable to find your SOS beacon.

    On the topic of flashlights, headlamps are also awesome... I don't have a picture, but I keep one around each front seat headrest for quick access. Spare batteries are a must.

    [​IMG]

    The "navigation center". The iPad serves as the primary GPS, with road maps, topo maps, and satellite maps loaded for my area. The Garmin is the back up and is always running when the truck is to record a "track" that I can follow back if needed. The book contains maps of the area I was travelling. More maps are stuffed between my seat and the center console.

    A third GPS device is always on my wrist. I don't leave the truck without marking its location.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I keep road flares in my rear driver's door. That way if I break down on the highway, they are quick and easy to get at.

    [​IMG]

    And lastly, this is one of many versions of a walk out kit. This is a short range (~15 miles in my case) pack. The pack is for carrying my young son. The items pictures would be augmented by items taken from the truck before walking out.

    [​IMG]


    Hope this is helpful - and hope you never have to truly test your preparedness. Here are some pictures from that trip:

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]



    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
  2. Oct 3, 2016 at 11:34 PM
    #2
    Mxpatriot

    Mxpatriot [OP] Well-Known Member

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    Chase
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    Money pit.
    Reserved
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
  3. Oct 3, 2016 at 11:43 PM
    #3
    kgarrett11

    kgarrett11 Master Yoda

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    Great post! I need to start acquiring items on this list. Slowly but surely I will get there. Unfortunately the only thing I always bring is warm clothes and a jug of water...
     
  4. Oct 3, 2016 at 11:50 PM
    #4
    steelhd

    steelhd Well-Known Member

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    @tcBob Sticky? This is very very well done.
     
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  5. Oct 3, 2016 at 11:57 PM
    #5
    ManBeast

    ManBeast INSTAGRAM: FLORIDA_TACOMA

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    Excellent documentation sir.
     
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  6. Oct 4, 2016 at 12:00 AM
    #6
    ODNAREM

    ODNAREM How 'bout a beer!?

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    Fan*******tastic Chase(OP)on this documentation!:thumbsup::hattip:
     
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  7. Oct 4, 2016 at 12:05 AM
    #7
    JimBeam

    JimBeam BECAUSE INTERNETS!! Moderator

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    Sticky done!
     
  8. Oct 4, 2016 at 12:21 AM
    #8
    Johnnyvtx

    Johnnyvtx Active Member

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    Great write up, can you do a quick one for city settings. 99% of the time I'm using my truck to commute to work.
     
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  9. Oct 4, 2016 at 12:34 AM
    #9
    Nicklovin

    Nicklovin "The Crazy One"

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    Wow quite the write up you made here. Very useful :thumbsup:
    Maybe @goblue82 you have a few things to add given your background :notsure:
     
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  10. Oct 4, 2016 at 8:37 AM
    #10
    VolcomTacoma

    VolcomTacoma Well-Known Member

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    This is actually extremely informative! Good job Chase! I found out the hard way once, going offroad at night with a buddy riding along, how unprepared I was to be offroad alone! It's never fun when you're stuck with a flat tire and have to struggle to change it, let alone stuck to the point of having to hike out!
     
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  11. Oct 4, 2016 at 9:25 AM
    #11
    ramonortiz55

    ramonortiz55 Not A Well-Known Member

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    YEs!
     
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  12. Oct 4, 2016 at 10:08 AM
    #12
    TheSaint

    TheSaint Regular Guy

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    Outstanding post. I have a lot of this equipment on my truck when we go out camping, but you have made me think of a lot of stuff that I need to purchase and secure.
     
  13. Oct 4, 2016 at 10:09 AM
    #13
    chyknees

    chyknees 13th wunder

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    Great post! Awesome read! Thanks!
     
  14. Oct 4, 2016 at 10:15 AM
    #14
    quis23

    quis23 Well-Known Member

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    Great info. nicely done!
     
  15. Oct 4, 2016 at 10:32 AM
    #15
    tacitos

    tacitos Tah-Key-Toes

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    Great job! I need to update my shopping list.

    Question, I notice you still lug around the factory hydraulic lift. Having a high-lift makes the factory one somewhat useless so why carry it? Is there an alternate use for it we should consider or does it make sense to store something more important in its place?
     
  16. Oct 4, 2016 at 12:08 PM
    #16
    steelhd

    steelhd Well-Known Member

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    I was ready to take mine out but happened to ask @slander if there was any reason to keep it. His response was
    So I kept it. In addition I added a full size bottle jack to the kit and stowed scraps of lumber in the bed. The factory jack is of limited use offroad and, IMO, while a high-lift is a useful tool it really shouldn't be the first choice. Nothing can cause carnage in the middle of nowhere in steep and off camber terrain quite like a high-lift even when used by someone knowledgeable. So now I carry all three.
     
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  17. Oct 4, 2016 at 12:21 PM
    #17
    t.hornstra

    t.hornstra Well-Known Member

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    Great post!

    Very thorough, good job!

    ..I'll give you a 90% on the GOTWA ;) cause your W and A are essentially the same in this case; where we use A for actions if you/I are hit instead of actions if I don't return (which wouldn't normally take place cause hopefully you're not being shot at). :thumbsup:

    If I may: I think 'A' would better describe "Actions I plan to take if I become stuck" informing those who you've left a GOTWA with an idea of where you might be hiking out to, a contingency plan.
     
  18. Oct 4, 2016 at 12:24 PM
    #18
    greeneggsnspam

    greeneggsnspam ಠ_ಠ

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    Great write up, OP.
     
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  19. Oct 4, 2016 at 12:37 PM
    #19
    Clearwater Bill

    Clearwater Bill Retire from work, but not from life.

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    A fully charged cell phone and a AAA card. This assumes you can change a flat and have jumper cables if a battery fails. 'Cause you really don't want to wait for AAA unless you have to have a tow.

    Be sure all your gear is present, and you know how to lower and install your spare. And have air in your spare.

    Depending on what part of what city you are in, your favorite sidearm and a couple of bricks of ammo might be handy. Or just don't go there.

    @Mxpatriot, great post. For those who have a winch, carrying an anchor that can be run in by hand to pull against, when nothing else is around, can work well. I've had vehicles on the frame, wheels 'free', that popped out on a small 8" anchor. If you have friends who do power line construction, getting a used one should be possible at salvage cost.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2016
  20. Oct 4, 2016 at 12:47 PM
    #20
    DrFunker

    DrFunker Zookeeper, Referee, Policymaker, Juggler, Janitor

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    Great write up Chase. :thumbsup:
    Could you show or explain more detail of what is in the "FIRE" cubbie please?
     
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