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4WD Tips & Tech (22)

Off-road tips that might actually be useful! Gear you might want to buy!

Friday, 15 September 2017 22:05

DIY First Aid Kit

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DIY First Aid Kit by Jerry Dupree

Anything can happen when we are out and about. We have all had scrapes, burns, splinters, etc. Have a good first aid kit and I have never seen one for sale that would be effective for a variety of injuries from something minor to a life threatening situation. I made a list of possibles that have happened in various situations. While in the Boy Scouts a boy suffered a deep cut from falling on a sharp rock and another one was seriously injured from an axe. There are possible eye injuries, broken bones, burns, cuts, heart attacks, strokes, snake bites, and allergic reactions to insect stings. The best first aid is a cell phone. Assistance can be requested for an ambulance, search and rescue, or a medivac helicopter. For quick assistance, a phone call to the nearest hospital can direct to immediate medical assistance and can give directions, advice, and procedures. Photographs can be taken of the injury and emailed so professional medical personnel can evaluate and advise care and treatment. We have special medical insurance that will cover search and rescue and helicopter evacuation.

With the advice of an emergency room nurse I made a list of items one should have when venturing to the outdoors or any trip. The nurse described many of the injuries that are frequently treated in emergency rooms at the hospital. I have also asked for advice from a fire fighter / EMT.

We should always carry a list of our prescription medications and existing medical conditions. If someone becomes incapacitated and not able to communicate the problem, it may not be possible to correctly treat it. I carry my medications and history with me at all times, as well as the name and phone number of any doctor or specialist who knows my conditions and has the files and history. It is best to have a starting point and a source of information before any procedure. Some treatments can compound the situation such as administering an aspirin to someone who is bleeding or is having a stroke.

I began acquiring supplies for my first aid kit. The usual are band aids, non stick tape, and something to to make a splint out of. Never try to re align a broken bone. Just stabilize it to transport the patient to a hospital. Two of us brought a victim of both broken wrists to a hospital and laid his arms on a pillow on his lap. Every slight bump on the freeway caused great pain. Any attempt to straighten a limb would be very painful and may cause further damage such as piercing a vein or an artery. Some items are not available from a pharmacy but may be online. I have an “air way” which is reversible for a child or an adult and fits down the throat for “mouth to mouth” respiration without touching the patient’s mouth when administering CPR. I also have nitroglycerine pills to relieve arteries in case of a heart attack.

List of First Aid Supplies

            1          Assorted bandages  and gauze pads

            2          Non stick tape

            3          Aspirin for various purposes including a heart attack,  but NOT for a stroke

            4          Surgical gloves

            5          Tweezers

            6          Anti bacterial towelettes

            7          Antiseptic liquid bandage

            8          Benadryl gel and tablets

            9          Sharp scissors

            10        Ipecac Syrup

            11        Betadyne

            12        Neosporin

            13        Finger splint

            14        Ace Bandages

            15        Eye stream

            16        Thermometer

            17        Wound seal powder

            18        Butterfly bandages

            19        Mole skin

            20        Blister bandages

            21        Saran wrap

            22        Scalpel

            23        Clamps

            24        Snake bite kit

The saran wrap is for covering wounds and wrapping to stop bleeding or using for a splint. Keep wrapping the injured area without cutting circulation. When the patient arrives for medical treatment, the first person will need to remove any bandages to call the appropriate specialist (orthopedic, burn, surgeon, neurosurgeon, vascular, etc). Any gauze or tape would be very painful. One advantage of using Saran wrap is the admitting personnel can see the wound without removal.

Always carry emergency blankets, including space blankets to treat hypothermia, shock, and to keep the patient warm, replace wet clothing, keeping the patient comfortable, etc. 

It is best to not apply ointments, creams, gels, etc, to lacerations or major wounds. The emergency team will have to scrape it out before closing and suturing. The best general treatment is to get the patient to professional medical care as soon as possible. First aid is first until a qualified medical team can begin their jobs.

Snake bites: We all fear poisonous snakes and what they can do. If a person is a snake bite victim the best treatment is evacuating to a hospital as soon as possible. Try to kill the snake and bring it to the hospital. Different breeds of snakes have different toxins. The nearest snake bite treatment center is Loma Linda Medical Center. The fastest way to reach it is the best, be it private transportation, ambulance, or helicopter. Contact by cell phone is the best help that can be done. If the bite is in a limb, keep it down from the heart and clean the wound. Snake bites usually become infected. I have known people who have been bitten and it is advisable not to cut the wound. Snake bite kits can be effective for sucking out as much poison without cutting.

It is advisable to keep up with the latest techniques and technology for first aid treatment. There are first aid and CPR classes given by the Red Cross and other agencies. If there is a defibrillator near by, there should also be people knowledgeable in using it. We all need refresher courses in first aid.    ~ Jerry

Sunday, 09 July 2017 09:22

Game Camera Photography

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Game Camera Photography

by Jerry Dupree

Photography really became fun when it went digital. Images could be cropped, color adjusted, things added and deleted, poor lighting could be adjusted, and there was no film to process. Photography went wild with video, miniature, under water, drones, Go Pro cameras on helmets, worn on chests, attached to rockets and parachutes.

Digital cameras got better, cheaper, and smarter by the year, Upscale digital cameras used to cost $25,000. Now anyone can be taking excellent photographs for a small fraction of that and achieve better results.

Now fast forward to game cameras that can be set for still or video with sound, and are motion sensor operated. Now we can find out what our cat does at night, or what goes on in the back yard with rodents, owls, raccoons, opossums, and other things that go bump in the night.

I have always loved the outdoors and take a lot of photos of various birds and animals. One day I decided to buy a game camera and leave it in place to see what happens when there are no people around. I discovered there is a definite learning curve when using any specialized camera. Game cameras are not very expensive when considering what their capabilities are. They take stills, videos, and night photos of anything that walks in front of them. Early on I wanted to photograph in nature preserves, but found out they don’t like to give permission to walking off of approved trails and of course there are people who will steal them if they find them. I decided to go places where no one or at least very few people go. There are parts of national parks which are wilderness with no roads. I look for wheel and foot prints so I can place cameras where they are not likely to be found. I have learned to point the cameras north so the lens is not directly pointed toward the sun at any time. I began experimenting with bait to attract certain animals. I began with dry dog food and learned how to disguise it behind rocks or branches to make the scenes appear as natural as possible. I thought that if I used dry dog food and mixed in rabbit food and bird seed, that rabbits, birds, and rodents would attract owls, hawks, and other predators. I tried canned cat food for the strong scent plus inviting bobcats and hopefully a mountain lion or two. So far the cat food has been effective. I keep the cameras in the shade and clear the area in front of them between the camera and the bait and in the background. I have had problems with ravens stealing the bait. For some reason the raven population is much smaller than in past years. At least they are not eating all of my bait.

Foxes are pesky and knock over my cameras and chew on the straps. One time a fox drug one of my cameras a good distance away and it was a good thing I found it. Game cameras come with straps to fasten to trees. There are not many straight, tall trees in the desert, so I place them on the ground and level them. I leave the straps off after a few fox attacks.

At this time of the year I am hoping to attract animals with their newborn litters. Coyotes usually have their pups in May, so they should be up and around with their eyes open and learning to find food for themselves. My wife and I followed a trail one time which led to a den with baby coyotes. I got some photos of a quail family with nine babies. carry a hiking stick and poke around bushes, logs, and grass, before I step in or over them in case I find a rattlesnake. I have found several of them over the years.

Game camera photography has become an interesting hobby and is a little like fishing. Sometimes I get a good catch and am always trying new bait, areas to set up cameras.

I always carry a GPS and record the coordinates or I might not find my cameras. It is easy to become disoriented when hiking around the desert canyons or mountains. I am careful to bring emergency equipment including a satellite phone and a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon).   ~ Jerry

Sunday, 09 July 2017 07:59

Time To Get Creative

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Time to get creative

by Steve Marschke

I was out with the Wagoneer and ran out of gas. Since I knew our route and we would be putting on a lot of miles and my truck is a gas hog and only has a 20 gallon tank, I had planned ahead and brought a 5 jerry can. Unfortunately, the Wagoneer has a filler neck on the side of the body and there was no way to pour from the jerry can into the neck without a funnel or nozzle. I never carry a nozzle because they take up space, leak and create a mess to put away after use. I normally have a siphon hose, which is easier and cleaner, but I also normally drive the CJ5. I had forgotten the siphon hose on this trip (so much for planning ahead).

I managed to fabricate a temporary funnel from two water bottles and some duct tape. It leaked a bit but most of the gas went into the tank. Lesson to self: plan better. I now have another siphon hose in Wagoneer so I don’t have to move it from one truck to the other. Lesson to others: bring versatile, multi-purpose gear on every trip especially raw building materials. Whenever you are stuck, go through your gear inventory fashion (including the trash), brainstorm and ‘MacGyver’ a solution. ~ Steve Marschke

Note from Debbie Miller Marschke: you will notice that the duct tape actually has a pattern of "Mac N Cheese" on it.  I gave that silly duct tape to Steve as a joke.  He laughed and said he would never use it...but I guess he was wrong!  ~ DM

Sunday, 09 April 2017 20:57

Winch Accessories

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Winch Accessories

by Jerry Dupree

It is important to carry essential winch accessories when going off road, the most important of which are a good pair of gloves for handling cables, hooks, and connections. Never hook a winch cable to itself. Always use a “choker” to attach to the vehicle needing help. A choker is a short nylon tow strap with hooks at either end. A choker is also vital when connecting a winch to a tree to prevent damaging the tree. I have used my winch at least five times to help other people and a couple of times getting myself unstuck. On two occasions I used my winch to put vehicles back on their wheels because of a roll over. In those cases I used the car’s seat belts as they are in the middle of the car and they didn’t pivot the front or rear. The choker prevented further damage by not scratching or denting the other vehicle. One was a pickup and the other was an SUV. The roll overs caused extensive damage which probably totaled both vehicles. Fortunately no one was injured.

It is very important that everyone stay completely clear of the cables, hooks, and the remote control. I know of a tragedy when a motor home got stuck in the sand and a man with a truck with a winch hooked up the motor home with a 9,000 lb. winch while the wife was standing too close video taping the event when the cable snapped, which caught her neck and killed her. A hook could also come loose if the rescued vehicle twists or pivots. Stay out of the “bite.”

A snatch block is a pulley used to double the force of the winch. The cable is passed through the pulley from the winch to the rescued vehicle. The winch will operate at half the speed while doubling the force. Given the choice I would prefer winching downhill rather than pulling against gravity. A man who was stuck for a couple of days was trying to tell me how to extricate his vehicle by pulling it uphill. I told him I was the one in charge and my decision was to pull his vehicle downhill, which proved to be the easiest way.

Shackles are used to attach the winch hook to the other vehicle. One is shown that will insert into a trailer hitch receiver which is a very strong connection and will pull in a straight line to the winch.

A friend of mine pulled a truck out of a small canyon up a hill. One time while hunting in Utah a motorhome slid off of an icy road up against a tree. Two vehicles with winches at either end “see sawed” the RV back up and on the road. Since the RV was on an angle to the tree, there wasn’t more serious damage to the coach.

Off roading is a fun hobby, but it can get us into serious trouble. Getting stuck is inevitable and having the right equipment helps a lot.

                        ~ Jerry

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 22:19

Pull Pal Off Road Rescue Equipment

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Pull Pal Off Road Rescue Equipment by Jerry Dupree

I am always interested in new equipment to help with off road adventures, especially when stuck or disabled. I am also a sucker for gimmicks and gadgets of all kinds and I have an extensive collection.

I found a device called a Pull Pal which is designed to use with a winch for pulling out sand, mud, or snow. It was designed by a man who got stuck in sand out in the desert and he thought of this device as he walked out to get help. The retailer who sold it to me had literature about how well it worked. The device was originally designed in two sizes, but they only had the large one in stock. The “shovel” or “plow” part of the device is removable and needs to be attached and locked in to place. The whole thing weighs about 40-50 pounds and takes up a lot of space in a vehicle.

Winches have their limitations, especially in the desert because there are few things large or strong enough to connect a winch to. Thus I thought I had a Eureka moment when I first saw a Pull Pal in an off road equipment store.

The Pull Pal is a device which resembles a cross between a sea anchor and a plow. When connected to a winch and pulled it is supposed to dig itself deeper, thus enabling the stuck vehicle to pull itself out of a hole. I felt secure in the belief that in the event of burying my wheels in a soft spot that I could confidently use my Pull Pal and place it ahead of me, turn on my winch, and be delivered to where I would have enough traction to continue on my journey.

One thing about a winch is the need to connect it to something solid that is at least as high as the center of the wheel of the vehicle. If the winch is too low, it will pull the front of the vehicle down, making it ineffective for pulling out of the stuck position. Under the best situation the Pull Pal would have to be higher than the wheels so the winch doesn’t pull the vehicle down. I needed to try using the Pull Pal on an occasion where I was stuck in soft sand. It could not dig itself in with any traction and there were no trees or large rocks. It just plowed itself toward me. I was fortunate enough to be in an area where there was cell phone reception and I contacted a four wheel friend who could come to my aid. I walked to a road so I could be found and we could return to my stuck truck.

I still have the Pull Pal because I paid for it and wouldn’t think of selling it to anyone I know. It is too big, heavy, and simply doesn’t work. It was a nice try though.                        ~ Jerry

Tuesday, 18 October 2016 00:29

Engel Fridge user review

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Engel Fridge User Review

by Steve Marschke

I have an older Engel refrigerator/freezer, which I keep in my Jeep CJ most of the time.  I had it before we went to Baja with John Marnell in 2005 and it still works perfectly today. At the time, ARB and Norcold also made almost exact copies.  Mine is two-tone grey, ARB was two-tone blue and Norcold was two-tone brown. Otherwise they’re exactly the same. It is a compressor based refrigerant system much like a home refrigerator but uses a Sawafuji ‘swing’ motor. The motor is supposed to be very efficient and the piston slides back and forth without a direct connecting rod, not rotary like a home fridge. The case is steel with bolt on steel handles. It uses about 2.5 amps max when compressing but doesn’t run all of the time unless it is very hot. Cool down time is amazing fast at least compared to RV refrigerators. It will go from ambient to 32 in about 20 minutes at my house when it’s about 70 degrees outside. When its 105° F, then it will run almost 100% of time.When really hot I can leave car parked about 24 to 30 hours and still start, but any more than that and I’ll have dead battery. If you have two batteries under the hood, then no worries at all. Otherwise drive your car about one hour or more each day to recharge. Usually when fourwheeling this isn’t a problem. We keep it on our Jeep CJ most of the time, but we’ve also used it on roadtrips in our Jeep Cherokee and VW Jetta Sportwagon. In fact, many years ago we had it in the Cherokee when we hiked to Panamint City. We meant to turn it off when we started hiking so we would not return to a dead battery. We forgot to turn it off after we took our food out. We had been gone more than 30 hours and to our relief, our single battery Cherokee started right back up when we returned. We used that experience as a lesson learned and improved our system by incorporating a portable solar panel into our system to work as a trickle charger. The solar panel does not provide enough energy to run the unit, but it does reduce the drain on the vehicle battery when we are parked. A 20 watt panel fits on the lid nicely. Another option we have used occasionally is simply plugging the unit into an extension cord and connecting to available power while  the car is parked somewhere. We do this at home when we pre-pack the night before we leave, but also at RV parks or friends residences. Once you have owned it, you will find all kinds of options to adapt and use it to match your mode of travel and style.

Inside there is just one wire basket to put your food in. I have 45 quart which might seem smallish but remember, no ice.  Holds about as much food as normal 60 quart cooler with ice. Shape is tall and narrow and takes some getting used to. I use an old tray from a cooler to help organize the food and it makes it easy to remove for access to bottom layer of food. Since you don’t have to worry about conserving ice you can store most of your drinks warm, then put them into fridge at end of day or in morning and let it cool them off... something you would probably never do with cooler as it would melt your ice.

One thing to keep in mind - you can’t really use this as a freezer and fridge simultaneously, it’s really one or the other, chosen by how cold you set the knob. The old model like mine only goes from 1 to 5. I usually have it set at 1.3 and that will keep things about 34°F while sitting on the back of my CJ without a top in direct sunlight in the desert with ambient at about 100° or even 110°F. I have run it inside my other cars with windows up and parked in sun and same thing. If the knob gets bumped to 2 it will freeze the water bottles by the time you try to get the next one out. Debbie used ours to transport an ice cream cake 50 miles from the point of purchase and it worked well (the clerk at Baskin-Robbins was so intrigued that she came out to the parking lot just to take a peek).

ARB has since updated their design and offers a plastic case. It has electronic thermostat and low battery protection. Also the interior is divided into two compartments. I have several buddies that have this newer model. Can’t say that it’s really better or worse than my old one. I like mine with the steel handles as I can strap it down really tight. 

I see that Smittybuilt is now making one that looks very much like the new ARB. I suppose it’s a copycat - Smittybuilt seems to make a lot of copycat products. I would stick with original, seems that Smittybuilt always cuts corners somewhere to get lower price.

Watch out for any thermoelectric coolers - they are not really refrigerators. Most of these are significantly cheaper and used to be found at Walmart, Target, etc. These utilize an entirely different physical principle for cooling. TE coolers are used on a lot of other products and are very efficient but only for small temperature changes. Usually they are only capable of cooling about 40°F below ambient. When it 100°F outside that means your cooler will be about 60°F - that’s barely even cold and really only good for part-day trips to keep your drinks from heating up too fast.

I love mine. Wouldn’t hesitate to buy another. I think by now I have saved enough ice money to pay for it but I didn’t really expect to. Mostly I purchased it for convenience and to avoid hassle of ice. No more side trips to replenish ice, which will cost you precious gas and time. I’ve eliminated that nasty “melt ice soup” that can ruin your food once the ice shifts and melts. In fact, unconsumed food is not wasted anymore and can come back home without danger of spoilage. No problem taking restaurant leftovers with you. Ask anyone who has taken the plunge and spent the money – the benefits do outweigh the cost and it will enhance your enjoyment of the trail. You will wonder why you waited so long to buy one.                  ~ Steve Marschke

Monday, 17 October 2016 07:55

X - Jack

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X-Jack

by Jerry Dupree

Always something new. This is another product we learned about from our visit to Australia. There are various reasons to carry different types of jacks. One may work in some situations but totally worthless in others. The best thing you can do with the jack that came with your vehicle is to throw it away and get a hydraulic floor jack. Always bring a couple of scraps of 1/2” or 3/4” plywood to use in mud or sand. Floor jacks are cheap, small enough to carry anywhere, easier to use, and much safer. I have a high lift jack and a floor jack, and now an Exhaust Jack.

It operates by connecting to the exhaust pipe of your vehicle and has a 6,000 lb. capacity. It is larger than a large pizza and weighs about 20 lbs. Just unzip the carrying case and place it under the vehicle in a position where it will reliably support the vehicle. That could be the frame, axle where it connects to the spring, or under a differential. Connect the hose to the exhaust pipe and start the engine. As with any jack there are precautions about getting under a vehicle without jack stands. Just don’t do it. As with any jack, always place blocks under the wheels to prevent the vehicle from rolling off of the jack.

We “field tested” the X-Jack in desert terrain. We took it out of its cover and thoroughly read the instructions, then carefully positioned it and connected everything. Did it work? Well sorta, but not as expected. It is simple, but too many parts that could get lost at night or fall in the sand. The hose comes in two pieces depending on whether you are lifting the front or the rear. It is supposed to lift 6,000 lbs, which is more than the weight of my truck, or at least half of it. It did lift one wheel, but not enough to clear the ground and would require building up the jack position or digging under the tire to change it or plan to extricate where a vehicle might be stuck. It would take more than one person to operate the jack; one to hold the hose adapter to the exhaust pipe and the other to start the vehicle. A third person would help to hold the position of the jack while it inflates. It might get mushy on uneven or sloping terrain and tend to roll. The jack comes with a rubber mat to protect it from sharp objects on the ground. I placed a piece of plywood on top of the inflatable bag to protect the top of it.

Would I recommend it or buy it again? No, there are more reliable jacks that are cheaper and easier to set up, operate, and put away. I recommend a high lift and a hydraulic floor jack.

~ Jerry

Saturday, 01 October 2016 00:41

Preventative Checkup

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Preventative Check Up • Jerry Dupree

Little problems can turn in to bigger ones. It is always good to check the electrical and cooling system before leaving home, and particularly when going off road where it is not as easy to find help. I bought a battery/alternator tester which only takes a few minutes when the hood is open while checking oil and other fluids. The battery tester costs a lot less than a new battery, but tells you whether you need a new one. Just connect the red connector to the positive battery terminal and the black one to the negative terminal or ground. The device has a switch, which places a load similar to starting the vehicle.

It measures the health of the battery by the needle showing whether it is good (black) or red (bad), therefore needing replacement. It is a lot more convenient than trying to start a vehicle with a dead battery. The same connections with the engine running will indicate how many volts the alternator is producing and how well it is charging the battery. There are smaller and cheaper devices, but this is the kind the pros use.

The next device is a radiator pressure tester. It fits on the radiator in place of the cap. Remove cap and install the tester and pump pressure into the cooling system and check for leaks. If there is a leak or reduction of pressure, this will be a good time to correct it rather than on the road, or back road. Be sure the engine is cold before removing or releasing the cap. I carry a full set of cooling system hoses in my truck and spare clamps.

Never start on a trip without checking the systems. I have been on out of state hunting trips when one member of the party had simple problems which resulted in a long stop for the whole group.

Saturday, 01 October 2016 00:39

Pop Top Prep

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Pop-top Prep

by Neal “Trust Me” Johns

The NorthStar Camper is not guaranteed for Off Road use as delivered. Several DE members have or did have these well built Campers. Here are the things that must be done before Off Road use for NorthStar and many other Campers:

1 Four angle iron brackets must be added where the upper hold down is attached to the Camper. These brackets should hold the vertical walls and horizontals together in rough country. Two DEers left them out to their dismay (A pulled apart horizontal and vertical section is a mess to fix). The owners  are both deceased now, no connection (bad pun). You can use one of the hold-down bracket bolts if you have small hands.

2 A 2X4 angle iron must be added across the rear of the bed (and another 2X4 added around the outside of the bottom of the Camper (if there are none). This is to help prevent the camper from sliding backwards on steep hills.

3 Adding 2X4s underneath moves the cab-over part of the Camper up over the truck cab to help clearance over bumps and rough roads also.

4 A Battery Brain (the device that disconnects the load from the battery when the battery is low, but has enough juice in it to start the engine is nice to have. Don’t ask me how I know.

                                          – Neal

Questions? (909) 887-1549

Saturday, 01 October 2016 00:37

MaxTrax

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While touring Australia, the “Wonder Down Under” we looked around at a lot of things the Ozzies do that are different than they are here. Their off road vehicles are called a “ute” (utility vehicle) and we saw how they modify them. Any vehicle used for off roading has a specialized very heavy bumper called a “roo bar” or a “bull bar” and is designed to protect the vehicle if it collides with a kangaroo or range animal. A kangaroo can really mess up a car. They don’t believe in fences most of the time. The big exception is the dingo fence which runs across the continent to try keeping wild dingoes on one side and sheep on the other side.

Outdoor and off road activities are everyone’s diversion in Australia, such as driving up and down beaches, launching boats, driving across rivers and through mud in the jungle, or out in the desert, which is most of the country. One learns to be self reliant because there is no AAA to help you when and if you are stuck in snow, mud, or sand. Another favorite diversion is to find a private beach and make it clothing optional.

We read Australian off road magazines, prowled specialty automotive accessory stores, camping supplies, and hardware stores, and got a good education about what they do in their country, and what to do when something goes wrong. People tow camping trailers (caravans), utility trailers, and launch boats on sand, and they get stuck. They also know how to get unstuck.

We discovered a product called Max Trax, which are heavy duty plastic platforms which form a shovel at each end and a heavy treaded surface in the middle. If stuck in the sand, pull out the Max Trax and shovel the sand, mud, or snow out of the way and place one in front of each tire, drive out and keep going until your vehicle is on more solid ground. Repeat as necessary. I carry four of them at all times and have used them. As a predator hunter I am out at night and have been stuck in sand more than a few times. After returning from a trip down under I contacted the Max Trax company and ordered two pair and have saved a lot of time, energy, and good hunting trips simply by driving out of sand traps. They really work. Go to maxtraxamerica.com and be sure to watch the video.

– Jerry Dupree

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