January is a time for resolutions: lose weight, eliminate bad habits, be a better person. Perhaps you made a list for this year (and are already finding it difficult to follow). This is also a good time to review the gear and equipment used in off road driving. Does any need replacing or repair? Are any pieces missing? Perhaps you need to brush up on some skills.
A favorite author, since childhood, is Horace Kephart. He was a writer for Field & Stream magazine from 1904 to 1906. In 1917 he published Camping and Woodcraft. I have a MacMillian Company 1968 reprint. It would be difficult to purchase this book today (more outdoor books). Kephart was a master wordsmith and could capture the heart of the outdoors mentality perfectly. Here is a quote from Chapter II - Outfitting that sums up the theme of this article.
"It is great fun, in the long winter evenings, to sort over your beloved duffel, to make and fit up the little boxes and hold-alls in which everything has its proper place, to contrive new wrinkles that nobody but yourself has the gigantic brain to conceive, to concoct mysterious dopes that fill the house with sanctimonious smells, to fish around for materials, in odd corners where you have no business, and generally to set the female members of the household buzzing around in curiosity, disapproval, and sundry other states of mind." - Horace Kephart.
This list will help you start the driving year in good shape. Incidentally, these are great tasks to work on during those dreary winter Saturdays. Let’s begin!
- Create or buy a first aid kit. You can read my column on building a first aid kit here. If you already have a first aid kit, review the contents for any products that should be replaced. Heat and cold are hard on drugs, band aids and other items in your first aid kit. So is riding around for a year or more in your off-road vehicle. Packets break and dry out, bottles leak, drugs expire, etc. Inspect anything a year or more old. (It’s a good idea to mark your supplies with the purchase date.) After refreshing your kit, transfer the displaced supplies to your home or other places where they’ll be used up quickly.
- While you’re at it, make a pocket survival kit. Here is how! Get the kids involved in this project. They will love all the small items.
- Restock your go bag. Like with the first aid kit, replace any missing or old supplies. Wet Ones, even those in foil packets, can dry out over time. Swap in some new ones, and use the others at home. Make an inventory of the contents of your bag if you do not have an inventory. Include on the inventory the date last stocked / or expiration date for each item, and minimum quantities you always want to keep in the bag.
- Clean up and restock your camp box. Not sure what to include? See my article here. This might be a good time to empty it out and scrub the shelves, drawers, etc. You might even need to put a fresh coat of paint on the outside. The spices, sugar, flower and many other supplies in a camp box do not get used up regularly. Inspect and refresh everything. Make sure the match box still has matches in it.
- Sharpen all your knives. Buy a sharpening kit if you don't have one. The only way to really get a good edge is to maintain the correct angle. Without a sharpening kit guide most people cannot hold a consistent angle. Lansky produces a good quality compact knife sharpening system. It is compact enough that you could take it to camp with you. Replace any knives that are chipped or rusty. Here is our article on Keeping a Sharp Edge and another high end sharpening system.
- Inspect your firearms to see if they need cleaning. Repair and replace slings, messed up scope mount screws, missing scope lens protectors, etc. Buy a new hard side, lockable gun case to meet any new state rules or to travel on airlines. Check your ammo supply, and replenish as needed. Something you might add to your actual New Year's resolutions list is to acquire a CCW permit this year. If not possible in your home state, see if you can get one in one of the many states that have broad reciprocal arrangements.
- Condition your boots if you haven’t in the past 3 or 4 months.
- Check the chemicals in your water filter. Replace if needed.
- Recycle stored gas and water. Both can go bad over time. Use up at home. Add Sta-Bil to the fresh replacement gas. It will extend the shelve life considerably. The manufactures claims that it will extend shelf life as much as 12 months. I have used gas treated with Sta-Bil well beyond 12 months of storage (forgot to rotate) with no issues. You only need 2 ounces for a 5 gallon can of gas. If you purchase it in the 32 oz. bottle, the price is quite reasonable.
- Restock the bird feeder. (OK. Just checking to see if you’re reading this column.)
- Stock up on any worn-out winter gear. Stores tend to put that stuff on sale right about now. Donate your old clothing so others can make use of it.
- Inspect your repair kit (for tents, sleeping bags, and such). Replace any missing materials. Read my related article on the subject for more information.
- Inspect your tent, sleeping bag and other gear for rips. Replace any items that are in really tough shape. This being the off season, you should be able to find camping gear on sale. Also, make sure you have enough lantern mantels and other replacement parts.
- Change batteries in portable devices used off road. They can leak and ruin your unit. Use the batteries in appliances at home. Most batteries today have date on them. They are guaranteed not to be fresh and not leak until that date. If you have had a backup package of batteries for some time check the date. If the date is past, throw them away. It is not worth risking expensive electronics and gear with old batteries. View it as the cost of being insured with back up batteries.
- For you ham radio operators, verify that the proper simplex and repeater frequencies are programmed into your radios. This is a great time to research and load in repeaters for your trips this year. While you are at it, buy a programmer to make the job easier. Then reorganize all the repeater frequencies you have tacked onto the memory as you need them.
- Sort through your file of product warranties and user manuals. Toss out any for products that you no longer have.
- Make a calendar of events for 2014. By putting your 4WD trips on the calendar, you are more likely to actually take them. Need to brush up on some skills or add new ones? Sign up for courses, and put them on your calendar as well. You can view my schedule here.
I’ve always found that engaging in these types of activities gets me really fired up. I imagine all the fun I’ll have during my trips. I think you’ll agree that as you start tackling the list above, you’ll get revved up about four wheeling this year.
Tom Severin, 4x4 Coach, teaches 4WD owners how to confidently and safely use their vehicles to the fullest extent in difficult terrain and adverse driving conditions. Visit www.4x4training.com to develop or improve your driving skill. Copyright 2013, Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Inc.