Off-Road Essentials to Pack Before Hitting the Trails with Kids

The weather is great, the mountain trails are calling your names, yours and your kids’ four-wheeler are looking far too clean…if you’ve got a four-wheel-drive vehicle like those and a thirst for some fun with your kids, you already have just about everything you need for a fun weekend of four-wheeling with kids. There are, however, a few things you may be overlooking that could make your off-road excursion safer and more enjoyable. Here are six things you don’t want to forget before hitting the trails:

Trail Maps

printed-mapYou’ve done your research and picked your route, but if you’re solely relying on your electronic devices to get you through your trip, you may find yourself in trouble. In case you lose your cell signal, your laptop battery dies, or your GPS goes on the fritz, it is always safest to have a printed map and compass on hand. Bring a pen or marker to keep notes and jot down landmarks to help guide you safely back home in a rough situation.

Bottled Water

Not only is it important to have water to drink, but you may find yourself in a jam that requires additional H2O. If you hit the mud harder than expected and your windshield wipers can’t keep up, throwing a gallon of water across the glass can make a huge impact. You may encounter first aid problems ranging from simple cuts and scrapes to major injuries, most of which require thorough disinfecting with clean water before any other steps can be taken. If you find your vehicle overheating and you are running short on coolant, adding clean drinking water to a radiator (after giving it ample time to cool down) can save you in an otherwise emergency situation.

An Emergency Kit

You most likely already have a first aid kit in your vehicle, as many four-wheel-drive trucks come pre-equipped. Expanding on the generic kit can make a huge difference when you need some assistance. In addition to your standard bandages and ointments, be sure to include a pair of tweezers for minor first aid to both you and your vehicle. Heavy duty masking tape and superglue can not only be used to repair all sorts of engine, line, and tubing problems, but can also help in a first aid emergency. Also be sure to include a full-size bottle of rubbing alcohol. Your stock first aid kit most likely includes small alcohol wipes or swabs, but many situations require more alcohol than those can provide.

Aluminum All-Weather Blanket

These aluminum-lined blankets are surprisingly affordable and easily found at most camping outfitter stores. They are compact and light, making them easy to stash underneath a seat. While they are typically marketed as an emergency blanket used to combat hypothermia, they serve many other purposes. They can provide excellent shelter for protection from sun, wind, and rain. When placed in your windshield, with the reflective side facing outward, they can keep your vehicle cool while you take a stroll or work under the hood. They also provide excellent ground cover for anything from a midday picnic to an emergency engine repair, and typically clean up easily with a splash of water.

Basic Tool Kit

tool-kitNothing is worse than calling a tow truck when all you need is a minor repair. Be sure to stock a set of screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, and sockets. It is also handy to have a small hammer or rubber mallet and a hacksaw on hand. If you have room under a seat or on the roof, bring along a small collapsible shovel in case you need to dig yourself out of a situation. A simple tire repair kit can also mean the difference between getting home or calling for help. If you throw in a few clean rags, you should be set to handle any minor issues that come up.


When hitting the trails, you might be tempted to stock your vehicle with potato chips, crackers, and cookies, but those may do you more harm than good. Avoid packing foods that are high in salt and empty calories, as they can dehydrate you and leave you feeling hungrier in the long run. Choose foods packed with grains and proteins, such as granola bars, low-sodium trail mix, and peanut butter. Try to stick with foods that are good at room temperature, as your cooler may not last as long as your trip – unless you have a high end one, like my favorite K2 cooler. Toss in a few packets of instant coffee to keep you alert on your drive home.

Whether you are planning a simple dirt-road daytrip, a mudding adventure, or a more complicated trail excursion, being prepared is key. Having a vehicle that is stocked to face your standard hiccups will allow you to relax and enjoy your adventure. Stock your truck and hit the dirt!