I just got back from more than a week of fishing in New Mexico. Driving back to St. Louis, I realized that there are a few extra items that you should always keep in your vehicle, especially when you’re on a long trip.
Lifeline Your cell phone won’t work everywhere. Head deep into the backcountry, out of cell tower range, and you might as well not have a phone at all. To counter this, many truck owners still keep a portable emergency CB in their boxes. Most backcountry authorities monitor CB bands and a portable radio can cost as little as $50.
Air Head into the backcountry, and you may find yourself in flat-tire land. Sure, you have a spare, but what if the spare goes flat too? A couple of tire plugs, tire glue, and a small air compressor that runs off a 12-volt battery can reinflate a tire and get you back on the road in 10 minutes. The storage container is the size of a tackle box and will easily fit in your kit. The cost is around $180 and well worth it.
To outfit your vehicle, check out these links:
Cabela’s: Outfitters’ straps, Hi-Lift Jacks, cables and more www.cabelas.com ARB 4x4 Accessories: Portable air compressor and other killer stuff www.arb.com.au Radio Shack: Great cheap CB radios www.radioshack.com Gerber: They make an off-road sports utility pack with an axe, shovel, fist aid kit, flashlight, and Leatherman-style tool. www.gerberblades.com
It’s one thing for a rain jacket to keep you dry for a few hours, but finding one that will shield you from three days of steady rain is another thing entirely.
While in New Mexico last week, I fished through a monsoon from hell. After three days of never getting to dry my gear out, I am thrilled to report that my ultra-light Patagonia Deep Wading Jacket kept me bone dry the whole time. The jacket has two big pockets, an inside zippered compartment, and a roomy hood. It's light enough that I forget when it’s in the back of my vest. Note the wet rat photo, shot by my wife from the inside of our truck on the banks of the Cimarron River. She would not leave the confines of a dry vehicle to take the photo.
Now that it’s August, I can start talking about duck hunting. After all, teal season opens for many of us in just 30 days.
One of the keys to taking birds in heavily pressured areas is excellent concealment. If you're running a traditional jon boat or a v-bottom with a pop-up blind, make sure that you gather grasses from the marsh or prairie to supplement your concealment.
Pop-up blinds have high profiles, and can only be camouflaged with large amounts of grass arranged to make them look like mounds. The grass found along any state highway right-of-ways will work perfectly. Just make sure you bring some snips and bailing wire.
If the grass is very short and local regulations don’t require that you hunt from a boat, you might be better off just sitting on a bucket in the grass and hiding the boat.
It’s always nice to have an electric winch, but an excellent $70-alternative is a Hi-Lift Jack. It will slowly extract your truck from just about any tough spot you will ever encounter.
Attach the winch to a tree or boulder at one end, and your truck at the other. You will need to use at least two straps. The only problem most people face is where to store the jack. You could lay it behind your emergency kit, but the best thing to do is strap it to a roof rack, where it will be out of the way until you need it. To buy a Hi-Lift Jack, hit this link: http://www.rockymountainsusp.com/Hi-Lift%20Jack.htm
This is a short list of tools that can really save your behind if you find yourself in trouble: If you own a newer truck, you don’t really need to carry a toolbox. What you do need is a pair of channel lock pliers, vise grips, an adjustable wrench, a Leatherman-style multi-tool, and straight and Phillips screwdrivers. A tire plug repair kit (use only as a temporary fix), battery cables, and a pry bar can also come in handy, as can zip ties, duct tape, wire, and a good flashlight with new batteries.
One thing I do every summer is drive to some mountain range to spend a week camping and fishing. To avoid disaster on the road, I always bring a well-stocked emergency kit. This year, I’m off to New Mexico and these are some of the key things I’ve packed:
I put everything in a latchable plastic chest that fits in the back of the car behind the third seat. I strap it in with netting or bungee cords, stock it, and forget it.
Most people forget crucial survival items. Besides a good first-aid kit, you need to stock at least a gallon of potable water. You can drink it if you have to spend the night, or use it to nurse an overheated engine, or clean up after an extraction or repair. Make sure you leave room in the container for the water to expand if it freezes in colder conditions. Buy square bottles like the ones in the photo to store your water because they are easier to pack.
Don’t forget a blanket, a knife, a small fire-starting kit, and high-energy food sources such as Power Bars. Road flares, in addition to attracting attention, will light the wettest wood in the forest (see my blog from July 19). Just pile the soaked timber over the flare, light it and you’ll have a roaring fire in minutes.
Tomorrow we’ll address the basic tools you should carry.
Tip #2: Check Your Hubs On long drives, inspect your hub bearings once a day. Make sure there is no spattering of grease on the wheel or the inside of the fender well. Also, put your hand on the wheel hub to check its temperature; even on a hot day, it should be no more than warm to the touch. If it’s hot, stop and grease the fittings and check for leaks. Note: If your hub has trailer brakes, heat does not necessarily mean a bearing problem.
Tip #3: Repack Your Bearings Most manufacturers recommend repacking your trailer bearings every 3,000 miles. If you drive gravel roads, don’t miss this interval. But if you stick to highways, you’ll have a little more time.
We’ve all been there. You may not hear the incendiary whining of the bearing starting to fail (depending on how loud the music is playing in your truck), but you will feel the shudder as the wheel on your trailer locks up and smokes away a significant amount of your tire’s rubber on the highway.
The experience is highly unpleasant. You will lose precious time and incur significant expense, even if you’re only pulling a 16-foot jon boat. Once your bearing seizes on the highway, you will need a tow truck and a mechanic to get home or back on the water. Over the next few days, I’ll give you some tips that will keep you moving to the lake or the duck blind this fall.
Tip #1: Lube Your Fittings If you don’t have a factory zerk (grease) fitting, or “Bearing Buddy” on your trailer, you need to get a set—today. Grease your fittings every 300 miles. Make sure to only fill the hub until a tiny amount of grease comes out. Too much grease pumped into the hub will push the inside bearing seal out, sending all your lubrication spattering, and sentencing your bearings to a very short lifespan.
Go check your sock drawer. If any pairs are looking tired or thin, trash them. Your feet will thank you, and so will your significant other. Now consider two of my favorite pairs, which have survived at least 25 trips to the laundry:
Thorlo Warm Weather Hunting Socks are super soft and made of synthetic fibers, which do some serious moisture wicking to keep sweat off your feet. They also have well-padded bottoms and a lower density space in the arch for better boot contact. The Thorlo people take their socks seriously, possibly too seriously; check out the video of the “Love Your Feet” guy on their website. $16; www.thorlo.com
Smart Wool socks are made from soft, no-itch, no-shrink merino wool, and almost spring when you step. Smart Wool manages sweat well and is especially warm even in middleweights. A blend of 69 percent wool, 27 percent nylon, and 4 percent elastic, they also offer great blister protection. $16; www.smartwool.com
Fit Tip: The next time you buy a pair of boots, don’t try them on while wearing everyday socks. Instead, wear a pair of high-quality socks and a thin liner—a sock combination you’re likely to wear in the field. You might find that you’ll need to jump up a half boot size.