Adventures in Unpreparedness: Letting the Spirit of Adventure Override Common Sense - ITS Tactical
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Adventures in Unpreparedness: Letting the Spirit of Adventure Override Common Sense

By Rob Henderson

Rob’s Jeep

I’ve always been a big fan of the outdoors and have recently become more interested in the Overland Community. Taking a trip with nothing but a good 4×4 vehicle and the supplies inside it really interested me, so I started combing the net for a good vehicle. After purchasing a 1995 Jeep Wrangler, I felt like I was finally ready to tackle the outdoors. The Wrangler is a great vehicle, but one of its faults is the lack of any large lockable storage areas. For this reason, I wasn’t keeping my standard vehicle bag in it that contained a change of clothes, food and water. I had thought about buying or building a locker, but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

Make Your Own Roads

On the way to work one morning, I saw a trail leading off the highway that looked ripe for exploring and after the day ended, I headed over to explore it. I pulled confidently off the road knowing that my Jeep could handle whatever came its way. After traveling down the dirt trail about 1/16th of a mile, I saw a large retaining wall with a fence around it that looked like the end of the trail. As I turned around to leave though, I saw some tire tracks running behind the wall. Of course I had to check it out and drove behind the wall, discovering a small vehicle path that ran down to a lake. The trail took me right to the edge of the lake and with the sunset casting its light over the lake, I couldn’t help but take some vanity shots of my new 4×4 toy. I tempted fate by posting one of the shots to Instagram with the caption, “Make your own roads.”

As I was getting ready to head out and meet up with someone for dinner, I decided to take one more pass at driving over the dirt around the lake shore. Since I knew the tires I had were “mud tires,” I figured that I should take a pass through the mud and chose a spot just off the edge of the lake where the mud looked shallow. I lined myself up with the muddy area and got a running start, but unfortunately for me, the mud in that area was much deeper than I anticipated and I found my four wheeling adventure brought to a sudden halt. Not able to move forward, I put it in reverse and heard the tire spin in place. This was my first moment of panic. I had driven my new toy into the mud and was now unable to move.

Rob’s Jeep

A “light” clicked on in my head as I realized I had forgotten to engage the four wheel drive. Ah four wheel drive, the ultimate in traction control. After turning on four wheel drive, I knew that I would confidently pull out of the mud. Except that I didn’t. Despite multiple attempts in Low and High, the Jeep sat stuck in the mud and with every push of the accelerator, more mud was flung everywhere. As the sun descended in the sky, I began to weigh my options.

Note: I should mention at this point that I don’t carry a lot in my work bag other than my laptop, book, flashlight and charging cables. Since it was the end of the day, the water bottle I keep with me was empty as well. I realized that I was going to be forced to use what was around me to try and get unstuck, since I also didn’t have any supplies in the Jeep.

Maybe Follow “Some” Roads

My first thought was to put something underneath the tires to give them a bit more traction. I stepped out of the vehicle to grab some rocks and found myself up to my knees in mud. At that point, I was really wishing I had a pair of waders with me. When the rocks were unsuccessful, I thought of calling a tow service and being a AAA member, I knew that I could get a wrecker sent out. The problem was that a wrecker couldn’t get past the retaining wall to my location because it was too narrow. The sun was almost completely set and my phone was running out of charge. I kept meaning to stick a car charger in the vehicle but just hadn’t gotten around to it. All out of options, I called the only person I thought would have the equipment to possibly drag me out of the mud.

I’ve been following along with all of the modifications that Bryan has been doing to his FJ and I’m a big fan of the look of the FJ’s and think his has looked better with every mod he’s done. The thing is, I’d been viewing a lot of the modifications as cosmetic and didn’t see them for how useful they really are. I called Bryan to tell him what I’d done and asked him if he could come help me out. He told me he was on the way and I sat down on the dirt to wait.

It was during these twenty minutes or so that I really started to analyze the situation. I’d driven off the main road and down to a place I’d never been, in a vehicle that I hadn’t been driving for long and without any supplies. I felt like an idiot for not having something as basic as water or a change of clothes and I’d let my spirit of adventure override my common sense. Not having someone with me that had been off-roading before was another huge mistake and I now understand why people push the rule of, “always take somebody with you.” I also mentally started making a list in my head of things that would have been nice to have in my situation. I would’ve logged the list on my phone, but since I didn’t have a car charger I didn’t want to run the battery down any further.

Rob’s Jeep

Once Bryan arrived, he positioned the FJ about 25 feet in front of the Jeep and pulled out his recovery bag. In the recovery bag he seemed to have everything you could ever need to pull or push anything anywhere. He also showed me the shackles he used on the FJ to connect the recovery straps and I saw how useful those would be in a recovery situation. I didn’t have a dedicated recovery point on the Jeep, but using some tree straps and a snatch strap, Bryan was able to pull me out of the mud by connecting directly to the frame. The whole recovery took about 10 minutes and I took notes all the way noting the equipment and techniques that were being put to use.

When I got home and cleaned up a bit, I started writing down all the items and lessons from my mental list. The list started with finding a way to permanently store items in the vehicle so I’d be prepared in the future. That weekend I picked up some material from the hardware store and built a simple locker in the back of the Jeep. The locker is definitely not going to keep a determined person out, but it should resist the casual snooper. In the locker I’ve added a change of clothes, med kits, tools and other basic supplies. I’ll continue to add things as I go, but I’ve also started doing more research on off-road driving and safety precautions so that something like this won’t happen again.

During my situation I was never very far from civilization, but it definitely made me realize how unprepared I was and I’m glad that it wasn’t a more remote location. I’m also very grateful that Bryan was available and had the equipment and knowledge to come pull me out of the mud. He didn’t charge me a dime and I suffered only minor ribbing the next day in the office. While I’m really eager to hit the trails again, I’ll be waiting until I have another person to go with and feel confident in my techniques and supplies.

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