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Items That Don’t Belong on a 4WD Trip

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll recall that I often stress the virtues of proper packing for your 4WD trip. Having the right gear and supplies can make or break a four-wheeling experience. At the same time, taking the wrong stuff can be bad for you, your vehicle and the environment. What kinds of items am I talking about? The following list will get you started. The categories showcase the issue.

Environmental Responsibility:

  • Glass beer bottles: From the evidence I’ve seen, beer drinking can lead to irresponsible behavior. Empty bottles are tossed on the ground or into the fire pit. Broken glass litters the campground, which is a real hazard. If you want to drink beer, bring aluminum cans (and make sure you recycle).
  • Wood with nails: Most nails end up in the fire pit. But some get scattered about, where they get stepped on and puncture tires.
  • Processed or treated wood: This wood gives off noxious fumes when burned. Burn only pure wood and, ideally, wood that is thoroughly cured (gray in color). On a related matter, don’t transport firewood more than about 50 miles. You risk spreading invasive bugs like the emerald ash borer.
  • Mylar balloons: They get wrapped up in brush and simply litter the grounds (and waterways). Animals sometimes try to ingest the material or string.

Potentially Messy:

  • Raw eggs in the original grocery carton: There’s a high risk of breaking. The goo works its way throughout the carton and glues other eggs together. It might also leak through the carton and gum up other food and containers in the fridge. A real mess. For health and safety, do not be tempted to crack a dozen eggs into a Nalgene bottle. That’s an easy way to introduce contaminates and salmonella. Eggs quickly spoil outside the protective shell. If you want to pack raw eggs, store them in plastic egg containers. They come in multiple sizes, from one egg up to 12.
  • Salsa dip in a plastic container: The lid can pop off during all the jostling of a typical 4WD trip. Then you have salsa all over the fridge/freezer or ice cooler. And if you like to keep the salsa and chips handy – in your lap – well, you soon have a very tasty but messy lap.
  • Car-sick dog: No explanation needed.

Food, additional:

  • Perishable items: Be careful with seafood, mayonnaise, and other foods that must be kept chilled. Consider eating or cooking those quickly.
  • Large containers of condiments: Do you really need a large jar of pickles, ketchup or relish for a weekend adventure? Save precious space in your vehicle. Pack only the small containers of those and other food items.

Respect others:

  • Loud radio or generator: Radios and generators have their place off road. Just keep the noise level down. That’s easy to do with a radio, of course. Place the generator as far from tents as possible. You could also craft a tent-like structure to help muffle the engine rumble.
  • Human noise: We all like to have a good time while camping. Once the sun sets, make sure you lower the voice level, too. Allow other campers to sleep peacefully. Note that this doesn’t include snoring. However, if you snore loudly, please be kind to others!
  • Trail mates: Leave any whiners behind (in town not on the trail).

Wrong vehicle:

  • All-wheel-drive vehicle: These don’t feature 4 Low, which is critical while four-wheeling. There are sections of nearly every trail that exceed the capability of an all-wheel-drive vehicle. Without 4 Low you won’t have enough power to go over boulders, up steep hills and heavy sand, or pull through snow or tough terrain.


  • Sandals: Always pack closed-toed footwear (boots are preferred). Your feet aren’t protected with sandals. Plenty of sharp, prickly things out there.
  • Large, non-disposable, containers: They’re handy for storing quantities of food, firewood, and other consumables. Once you use up the products, you’re stuck with that space-killing container. Bring your supplies in a cardboard box, a bag, or soft-sided carrier. You can fold up the bag and stow it. You can break down the card box and put it in the Trasharoo for recycling.
  • Firewood, Dutch oven or fireworks: If a fire restriction is in place, leave these at home.
  • Illegal drugs: No explanation needed. But feel free to check laws regarding marijuana. Just understand that the state you live in and the one you’re traveling to may have different laws. Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs can seriously impair an individual’s judgment and reactions leading to an increased risk of accidents and injury. We require that all drivers are sober when driving.

Lastly, things that might not be necessary:

  • Eye lash curler
  • Tux (unless 4WD wedding is planned)

For a successful 4WD event, what you leave at home is just as important as what you take with you. As you pack your vehicle, ask yourself if you really need each item. You may discover others items that don’t belong.

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