December 31, 2020.
What a CRAZY year! Still, we've been able to get out quite a bit, and as usual, what we take with us has changed slightly. Taken with the Rig Reviews, this series of posts give a good sense of what's working and what's not with the setup. So, without further ado, let's dig into what's on and in the truck at the end of 2020!
Additions for 2020 are marked in red.
Items we no longer take are
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The Truck Itself
Obviously we can't adventure without the actual vehicle. To see how it's outfitted, check out the Truck Details Build Page (2020) and the relevant links there to the various mods that were part of this year's configuration.
From previous years, the following were new or significantly changed:
- Suspension - I added limit straps to the front suspension. I can't reiterate how much of a difference this has made to the setup. I go on and on about it in this rig review.
- Electrical - I added solar power to the truck, for peace of mind when we're not moving (base camp), it's hot out, and the fridge is working hard.
- Lighting - I significantly upgraded the forward-facing lights. With higher wattage halogen headlights and HIDs installed in the Hellas, there's now a ton of light!
- Sound - I put in new speakers, but the real improvement was sound deadening the cab. Boy, what a difference!
In all, the truck performed very well - doing nearly everything I asked of it. Maintenance this year seemed low, with the largest expense being a new set of tires. I wonder if that will continue?
We made a big change in 2019 with the addition of the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 LW and it continues to be one of our favorite things on the truck. I can't recommend it highly enough; it really does make the entire trip better (because of the great sleep we get).
- Two heavyweight down comforters, twin size. We like comforters for two reasons - first, they are so much more comfortable and cozy than a sleeping bag - great for a good night sleep. And second, they compress better when the tent is folded up. Two allow us to control temperatures easily.
- One bottom sheet, fitted to the Exped MegaMat Duo mattress. With a sheet and comforters, it's like sleeping in a bed. I know I'm really talking this up, so I recommend you read my rig review about it here.
- Two full-size pillows. There's no better pillow than your home pillow, and we've put two of our older ones in the tent permanently.
- Ear plugs. On windy nights, or if you're near the highway, soft foam (designed for sleeping) ear plugs can be a lifesaver. I always keep a few pair in one of the tent pockets.
- A warm (polartec) cap. I like to sleep with the doors and windows open whenever I can - even when it's cold. A cap keeps the breeze off my head, and keeps me a lot toastier through those cold nights.
Clothing and Footwear
Clothing hasn't changed much from last year - and while it varies a bit each trip, it is more consistent than one might think. There are likely a couple reasons for this - first, the weather is unpredictable, so I always like to have both long-and-short pieces of clothing; second, I never end up changing clothes all that often on a trip - getting dirty is just part of the adventure. So, that said, here's what I bring:
- A clean pair of underwear for every day.
- A clean pair of socks for every day. I'll tend bring a 75/25 combo of crew/ankle socks depending on what I expect my pants/shorts situation to be, since I much prefer taller socks with pants and shorter socks with shorts.
- A pair of running sneakers - my primary shoe in dry conditions.
- A pair of Keen waterproof hiking boots - my primary shoe in wet conditions.
- A pair of Muck Boots - a great alternative for really muddy forays out of the truck.
- One pair of pants per week of trip, plus one extra.
- One pair of shorts per week of trip, plus one extra.
- Two short-sleeve shirts per week of trip, plus one extra.
- Two long-sleeve shirts per week of trip, plus one extra.
- Two sweatshirts (with hoods).
- One pair of sweatpants - usually only used to layer if it gets cold, or to wear in bed at night if it's freezing.
- One waterproof, hooded, rain jacket.
- One down puffy.
- Weather dependent: One pair of gortex ski gloves.
- A baseball hat.
- A fabric (not leather) belt - this turns out to be important, as you're often bending over and because I always tend to lose weight on longer trips.
- Two reusable grocery bags - one of which I use for dirty clothes, and the other to store my shoes in when I go in the tent.
With everything above, it's easy to adapt to the weather in almost any conditions. There are enough warm clothes to layer up when it gets cold. The one change I've made for 2020 here is that I'm back to storing my clothes in a backpack, rather than a cardboard box. This may have to do with the fact that @mrs.turbodb was on a lot more trips this year, and it was easier to keep our clothes separate in the backpacks.
Not much to say here - this stuff doesn't take up much room and I just slip most of it into my clothes bag.
- Electric Philips Sonicare Toothbrush (and charger as necessary) and toothpaste.
- Toilet paper - 2 rolls. I've found that a single roll is enough for all but the longest trips, but this is something you want to have a backup of, in case you lose the first roll, or it gets wet...
- Baby wipes. Go for unscented, and make sure they are resealable. I like to take two packs per trip - one to keep in the cab, and the other in the kitchen box. Use them sparingly for washing hands and every day for "showering" the spots that get stinky.
- Electric shaver (two-week trips only) - while I probably only end up using this once per two-week trip, it's amazing how nice it can feel to get a week's worth of itchy facial hair growth trimmed down.
- I've also started bringing two washcloths - one which I saturate with water for washing my face, and a second for washing dusty areas like my legs after hiking.
Not much change on the electronics this year. Mostly, this is camera equipment and other items necessary to support my style of photography.
- In a camera bag (which came with the camera, so use any bag you prefer).
- A small, 175W Inverter - for charging camera batteries an my laptop.
- MeFOTO Roadtrip S Tripod - used primarily for sunrise photos, the occasional sunset, and the even more occasional selfie.
- A selection of USB cables (microUSB, USB C, mini USB, and lightning).
- My laptop - for offloading photos and image processing.
Food on trips
No trip has exactly the same food - but I do follow a pattern, so it makes sense to explain that pattern and then I'll share some sample food items.
Generally, I plan to eat out (fast food) any meals that are on the way to the location of the trip; I eat out of the truck for the "on-trail" adventure; on the way home, I plan to eat out again. So, if I have an 8 hour freeway drive before hitting the trail, I might eat a single fast food meal each direction . If I've got 24-hours of "getting there," I could end up eating three meals before breaking into any of the food I packed, and then stopping for fast food three more times on the way home.
Using this methodology, I can generally expect two weeks of on-trail food (for one person; one weeks for 2 people, etc.). The real limiting factor is that you don't want to have food longer than a couple weeks without freezing, and fresh food (veggies, etc.) don't last longer than a couple weeks without rotting.
Eating Out of the Truck
When I'm eating out of the truck, I separate food into two classes: cooled and un-cooled. Cooled food must all fit in the ARB 50qt fridge, which I keep at 33-35ºF during the day (truck running) and 37-39ºF when in camp with the truck off; un-cooled food goes into a small-size military medical case (ebay).
As far as meals go, I like to pre-prepare as much as possible at home - largely to reduce prep and cleanup when on-trail. My goal, generally, is to have - at most - a single plate and single pan to clean after dinner, a single bowl at breakfast, and perhaps a knife at lunch!
I also repeat meals and ingredients (across meals to reduce the number of different packs of things to buy/pack). Breakfast and lunch may be identical every day or alternate between two options. Dinners repeat every 3-4 days.
With that background, here are some sample meals. Ingredients are coded as such: (PP) - pre-prepped | (O) - optional, may have a limited supply if on-trail for an extended time | Cooled | Un-cooled.
- Breakfast cereal - Cheerios, milk, strawberries (O), blueberries (O). Note: fruit lasts up to 1 week.
- Breakfast sandwich - outdoor roll, spicy sausage, 2 eggs, butter. Note: butter is to cook eggs.
- Lunch 1 - sliced sandwich bread, peanut butter, jelly, apple, chips, cookies.
Lunch 2 - sliced sandwich bread, deli meat, lettuce (PP), avocado, mayo (O), mustard (O), apple, chips, cookies. Note: mayo and mustard from packets.
- Lunch 2 - sliced sandwich bread, tuna (pre-mixed with mayo, green onions, and pickle), apple, chips, cookies.
- Tacos - ground beef with taco seasoning (PP - cooked), flour tortillas, sliced cheddar cheese, cabbage (PP), avocado.
- Cheeseburger - elongated ground beef patty (PP - raw), outdoor roll, sliced cheddar cheese, lettuce (PP), avocado, mayo (O), mustard (O), pickle, chips. Note: mayo and mustard from packets; try to eat raw meat in first 5 days.
Steak - marinated skirt steak (PP - raw), mashed potatoes (PP - cooked), cauliflower; try to eat raw meat in first 5 days.
- Pasta - tomato or pesto pasta sauce, cheese ravioli, cauliflower.
- Hot dogs - spicy sausage, outdoor roll, ketchup (O), mustard (O), chips (O). Note: ketchup and mustard from packets.
Rotisserie chicken - chicken from safeway (PP - all meat removed from bones), green beans (O), broccoli (O).
Dessert and Snacks
- Homemade chocolate chip cookies (PP)
Hershey's Nuggets- I've stopped taking these just to be a bit healthier. Weird.
- Granola Bars
All the kitchen gear is stored in a single, aluminum, medium-size, military medical case (ebay). This makes it relatively easy to get to, and of course protects it from the elements. The case contains:
- A propane Coleman Camp Stove/Grill. This makes it equally easy to heat up a pan or grill a burger, and folds down relatively small. The only think I don't really like about it is that the burners are either on or off - though they look adjustable, they aren't really.
- Two 1lb cylinders of propane. This seems to be enough to last for a couple weeks, and having a backup means that when one runs out, I can start looking for another if I think I'll run out before the end of the trip.
A plastic cutting board. I generally don't use this all that much (I opt to cut on a disposable paper plate), but it's nice to have just in case.
- Plastic bowls - one per person, but a minimum of two. Used for breakfast cereal or scrambled eggs.
- Plastic plates - one per person, but a minimum of two. I sometimes use these for cutting items, but more often I use them for simply supporting a paper plate that I eat off of.
- Paper plates - usually about 50 of the cheapest ones I can find. We have a stack at home and I make sure there are a bunch in the case before a trip - these are my primary prep/eating surface since clean-up is easy (fire or trash).
- One stainless steel mixing bowl. Used primarily for doing dishes, when there are dishes to do.
- Utensils stored in a plastic container:
- Paper towels - one roll per week.
- Baby wipes. Go for unscented, and make sure they are resealable. Use them sparingly for washing hands.
- Aluminum foil - a full box, which you can use to make hobo meals (meals you cook in the camp fire, by double wrapping them with foil).
- A small container of dish soap and a sponge for washing dishes. Stored in a small watertight lock-and-lock box so that everything doesn't get wet and soapy. (Note: these lock-and-locks are great - we use the other sizes for storing food in the fridge.)
- Fire starting implements - at least one box of wooden matches and a cheap lighter.
- 10 quart-size Ziplock plastic freezer bags. A box of sandwich bags.
- A bit of clothesline rope. Never used, but good to have just in case we need to hang or tie something.
A 10" stainless steel skillet.
- A 2 qt steel sauce pan. This is better than the skillet I used to take, and also allows heating up of things like soup.
I've been super lucky and never had to use my first aid kits for anything except minor cuts and scrapes, but I always take two kits with me - one for minor stuff, and one that can help in a more serious event. Of course, they both contain some of the basic items, since one kit or the other may be quicker to grab at any given time. The kit's contain the following:
Minor stuff; kit kept in kitchen container:
- assortment of band-aids (sizes and shapes)
- burn cream
- sterile eye pads
- sterile gauze (different sizes and shapes)
- medical tape
- CPR mouth shield
- two ice packs
- IB Profin (Advil)
- UTI pills (cranberry concentrate)
Trauma kit, kept in cab of truck:
- flexible splint
- clothing scissors
- large sterile pads (various large sizes and shapes)
- non-latex rubber gloves
- idoine cleaning pads
- medical tape
- band-aids (various sizes and shapes)
These are tools that I think should go on every trip, no matter how short. Of course, a break down may mean the adventure is "over", but with them, you can get yourself out of a lot of situations, and back to civilization.
- Tire related
- 20-foot compressed air hose with ARB tire inflator - I've added a longer hose to the ARB inflator for convenience.
- Full size spare tire (255/85 R16 Cooper ST Maxx) on matching wheel (16" 4Runner 5-spoke) - Having a total replacement for a wheel/tire is good practice when in remote areas. Of course, along with tires, I also use the following on every trip:
- Tire pressure gauge - get the cheapest you can IMO. It's just checking pressure and you mostly want to make sure all tires are the same and around a certain PSI.
- Tire deflators - these things are cheap and work way better than the tools that unscrew the valve stem. You can even install them and then air down while driving.
- Tire plug kit, to fit many small punctures. I didn't use the plug kit this year, but I've used it several times over the years. All the kits are basically the same as long as you get the tools. So get the cheapest one you can.
- 48" Hi-Lift Jack - with a lifted truck, the stock bottle jack is no longer tall enough, so I now carry a Hi-Lift. No point in bringing a spare tire, if you don't have a jack that allows you to change it!
- 10 gallons extra fuel - in 5-gallon Scepter (military issue, plastic) jerry cans (ebay). I've only ever needed 5 gallons for myself, but it's nice to have extra and I've definitely shared with others who had thirstier trucks.
- Cap opening wrench - necessary to open the Scepter jerry cans at a different altitude than they were previously closed.
- To transfer fuel from the jerry cans to the tank, I bring and use a fuel siphon. Make sure to get a 10' siphon, so you can leave the fuel cans in the bed or on your rear bumper when you transfer fuel.
- Small Fiskars hatchet - useful for splitting smaller firewood, clearing small down-fall, and as a hammer.
- 20' of 3/8" rope - something I carry in the truck at all times, and always have.
- A folding 10" Japanese pull saw - this is way more convenient for cutting small trees out of the way than the hatchet or chainsaw. I've used it well over 100 times and it's still as sharp as ever.
- Two small (500lb) ratchet straps - these straps can be used for securing loads and for temporary repairs, holding pieces of your vehicle in place so you can limp to repair.
- A pair of rubberized gloves - I get mine at Harbor Freight, but any gloves will do and they look cheaper on amazon if you buy several pair. These are a necessity when changing tires, working on the truck, chopping wood, or using the chainsaw - allowing for better grip than bare hands.
- This tool roll, which conveniently holds 95% of the tools I need to fix anything that breaks on the trail in an organized fashion. I've tried other rolls, and they just don't have the right set of pockets, where this one does. Into the tool roll, put:
- Several 3/8" sockets in the following sizes (set): 10mm, 12mm, 13mm, 14mm, 17mm, 19mm, 21mm, 22mm, 24mm
- 3/8" Spark plug socket (5/8" or 16mm)
- 3/8” socket extensions - 3-, 6-, 10-inch lengths
- 3/8" ratchet (socket set) - do yourself a favor that I didn't :), and get a flex head for access to more bolts.
- Several crescent + box end wrenches in the following sizes: 8mm, 10mm, 12mm, 13mm, 14mm, 17mm, 19mm, 21mm, 22mm
- Set of metric Allen/hex key's ranging up to 10mm
- 10mm flare nut wrench for working with brake lines
- Wire cutters
- Needle nose pliers
- Channellock pliers
- Adjustable wrenches - 4.5-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch. I've found these to be quite valuable for holding a nut when tightening a bolt, or for hex head sizes I don't have a dedicated wrench/socket for (usually aftermarket parts).
- Several screw drivers: Flat screw driver, Philips screw driver, Long flat screw driver.
- A retractable razor utility knife
- Reusable zip ties
- Some wire
- Some electrical tape
Basic Recovery Gear
Much of the equipment in the basic tool set and OSK can be used as part of a recovery - but in addition to those items, I always have the following with me in the truck. Every one of these items has been used on one trip or another, though none of them are used very often. I'd bring all of these things, even if I wasn't bringing the full OSK.
- Traction boards. I have a set of USActionTrax that were kindly donated after I got stuck several times. I have yet to use them, but they seem great. MaxTrax and Tred Pros also seem good. I'm not sure I'd go for the extremely cheap ones.
- Full-size, long fiberglass handle digging shovel - I feel like this is something often overlooked, or where people decide that a little folding shovel will be good enough. I however prefer a tool that is comfortable to use and moves a good amount of material. This year alone, I used it in mud, snow, and sand.
- 30-foot tow strap, rated at 30,000 lbs.
- 8-foot tree saver, rated at 30,000 lbs.
- Smittybuilt snatch block
- 4, 7/8-inch pin shackles - 2 rated at 4.75 ton, and 2 rated at 6.5 ton
I of course also have a Warn M8000-S winch hidden in the front bumper of the truck, but it's usually the last tool I turn to - I've found that most situations don't require a winch to escape.
OSK (Oh Shit Kit) - More Tools and Spare Parts
My OSK is what changed the most this year. I carry much less than I have in the past, because my approach has changed.
I used to approach the OSK as something that would keep a trip going, no matter what went wrong on the trail. Now, I'm approaching it as "what I needed in order to fix the worst problems, and limp back to civilization." In fact, I've come to the realization that I'm fine ending a trip and paying to fix something in town, rather than proactively carry a truck full of spare parts. But I don't want to end up completely stranded somewhere, if possible.
As an example - I no longer carry a spare CV axle. If mine breaks, I'll limp into town and call it a trip. However, I do now carry an alternator - because if that goes out in the middle of nowhere, I wouldn't even be able to limp myself back to civilization.
The OSK containers I use are a 5 gallon bucket (for fluids) and an aluminum, medium-size, military medical case (ebay).
5 qt Pennzoil Platinum Full Synthetic engine oil - this isn't enough for a full oil change, but it is enough to refill a lot of lost oil, and is likely enough to limp back to town for more oil. 1 qt Lucas 80W-90 gear oil - similar to the motor oil, this is enough to refill a leak, but not fully fill a diff. Use it to limp back.
- WD-40 PTFE Dry Lube - This is the WD-40 that I now use as my go-to variant since it's a dry lube and so doesn't attract the dust and dirt so common on the trail.
- MAF cleaner - I've had problems with my MAF a couple of times, so this is now a staple in my kit.
- Throttle Body cleaner - I've never (that I know) had a specific problem with the TB, but this is a good all-purpose cleaner as well, so it is part of the kit.
- Brake fluid - brakes are a key component of a working rig. If a leak happens somewhere, I want to be able to refill any lost fluid - at least enough to limp back to civilization.
- Spare AC idler pulley (88440-04040) - these seem to go out all the time, and having a trail spare will relieve you of the dreadful squealing.
- Assortment of spare fuses.
- Spare alternator (Denso 210-0461 105A Remanufactured Alternator)
- Jumper cables - mostly to help others since I have dual batteries.
Spare rear u-joint (04371-60070) 1 Spare CV axle - I personally carry an aftermarket CV that I was loaned by a buddy, but you can also carry an OEM one as well, if you don't want to perform a second replacement upon your return from a trip. Spare Lower Ball Joints - one Left w/bolts (43340-39585), one Right w/bolts (43330-39815) - I carry and use only OEM lower ball joints, as they are known to be of higher quality than any available aftermarket joints. Spare center bearing (37230-35130), often incorrectly called carrier bearing.
- 24" long, ½" drive, breaker bar
- 35mm socket - for removal of the CV axle nut.
- Socket adapter and reducer set (1/2->3/8; 3/8->1/4; 3/8->1/2; 1/4->3/8)
- Pry bars - useful when changing a CV axle.
- 3lb deadblow mallet
- Multimeter - electrical gremlins can be hard to diagnose even with a meter, but they are impossible to figure out without one.
- Assortment of bolts, washers, and nuts ranging from M6 to M14, varying lengths
- Blue (242) Loctite
- Bailing wire
½" drive, 10-150 ft-lb torque wrench SAE & metric, 6-point, deep & shallow, 3/8" and 1/2" drive impact socket set - most of these sockets duplicate what's in my basic tool kit size-wise, but having deep sockets in a more complete kit is a lifesaver for certain applications. I find myself using this kit more than I imagined.
I bring 5 gallons in a Scepter (military issue, plastic) jerry can. I generally expect to use ½-1 gallon/day per person. Fill up in town (fuel stations) when running low.
Though water is stored in the jerry can, that's not a convenient way to drink it, or use it for washing. For those activities, we use
- Two Camelback water bottles - these are useful for drinking out of, and stay sealed up when driving.
- Camelback Rogue Hydration Pack - this can store enough water for a longer hike and is also useful for washing dishes - water flow can be started by suction and then continues via siphon at a high enough rate to wash, but low enough rate to not waste too much water.
There are a few things that don't fit well in other categories, so I'll list them here:
- A small flashlight. I used to carry a big 3-D cell Maglight, but have since realized that a little 3-AAA light is plenty and a lot easier to pack.
- An LED headlamp. For hands-free light options. Pick your favorite
- A Trasharoo for all our garbage. We don't generally make much trash on a trip, but any we do (and any we find in camp from previous adventurers) goes into the bag and is forgotten until we get home.
- Low camp chair - I like this model of chair because it's a more reclined position which is comfortable for me when lounging around the fire or reading. I should note that it's not better when eating.
Several 18-inch long 2x6 boards - for leveling the truck in camp.I'm back to using rocks for leveling.
- A 2' x 3' astroturf rug/door mat - for the bottom of the RTT ladder, to keep from getting muddy on those rainy nights. And, for laying on if I have to work on the truck while on the dusty trail. Get whatever old mat you can find for free - that's how I got mine!
Only on Some Trips
There isn't much that I only bring on certain trips, since a bed that isn't full means that things have a tendency to slide around. But, there are a few things that only come along when I think I'll need them.
- Chainsaw - I decided that if I need a chainsaw, I want it to work, so I purchased a Stihl MS-261 professional saw (ebay) with a 20" bar. This wasn't a cheap purchase, but it's never let me down...and I know other saws that can't say the same.
- Chainsaw sharpener - spend the extra and get this one; it's amazing how well it works.
- Chainsaw fuel - 1 gallon of pre-mixed fuel/oil mix in a fuel rotopax. This seems to be more than I ever need on a single trip.
- Chainsaw bar oil - 1 qt of Stihl bar oil. Like the fuel, if I need more than this, I should likely find another route around the dead-fall.
And that's what I've got. I think I've managed to list pretty much everything, but I'm sure there are things that you may feel that I'm missing. I'd love to hear any feedback or suggestions!