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Michigan Backcountry Search and Rescue (MiBSAR)
Essential vehicle gear primer

Michael Neiger
Marquette, Michigan
© Copyright 2003-2008


Michael Neiger's old '48 Willys Jeep rigged and equipped for serious wilderness road trips. (Photo by Michael Neiger)

Page contents
     • Sharp shovel
     • Bow saw
     • Single-bit axe
     • Portable, hand-operated winch
     • Heavy-duty truck jack
     • Tow strap or chain
     • Survival kit in day pack
     • Spare tire
     • Battery jumper cables
     • Battery jump-pack
     • Toolbox
     • Equipment vendors


Sooner or later, if you work enough SAR missions in remote, wilderness areas, you vehicle will end up stuck in a mud hole, hung up on a rock, or trapped on an old logging bridge by a broken plank. Since help will likely be miles away, it's wise to plan ahead and stow some essential bush tools in your vehicle before your SAR mission.

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Sharp shovel

A spade or round-point shovel will allow you to do some serious digging as well as fill in ruts and holes. Sharpen the blade with a file so it will be easy to dig with as well as chop through roots. A shovel with a long, sturdy handle is the best since if affords better leverage when prying and it can reach further under a vehicle.

In the winter, carry a large-blade snow shovel.


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Bow saw

Carry a large, 36-inch bow saw for removing trees that block your route. A saw can also help you improvise a corduroy road in swampy areas. To prevent accidents, always use a scabbard to protect an exposed saw blade. A light coating of oil will help prevent rusting.


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Single-bit axe

For chopping, splitting, and de-limbing trees, carry a good-quality axe with a 3.5-pound head. The hammerhead on a single-bit-style axe is useful for heavy-duty pounding. Many wilderness travelers favor the Hudson Bay axe with it's lighter, single-bit head. Like the saw, protect the business end of the axe with an edge guard or leather sheath. A light coating of oil will help prevent rusting.


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Portable, hand-operated winch

A portable, hand-operated, steel- or cast-iron-framed winch can snatch a vehicle from a mud hole with surprising ease. One of the best come-a-long units on the market is the two-ton-capacity "More Power Puller" manufactured by the Wyeth-Scott Company. Their best model for wilderness use comes with 35 feet of flexible wire rope and a pulley block. The one I bought 30 years ago is still pulling strong and it's paid for itself many times over.

High tension winching can be dangerous, so be careful. Always wear gloves and safety glasses, and make sure every component of the winch setup, from the anchor points at both ends, to the cables, chains, straps, and connectors in-between, are adequately rated. If a tree is used as an anchor point, always use a nylon strap around it. Don't wrap a cable or chain around a tree as it will injure or kill it.


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Heavy-duty truck jack

Sold under a variety of names including "Hi-Lift", "Handyman," and "Jack-All," these long, stout jacks are essential for lifting a vehicle that's hung up on a rock or stump, or that's broken through the wooden deck of an aging bridge.

The most useful models can lift a 7,000-pound load over four feet. A thick, flat block of wood makes a good base in muddy areas. Most of these heavy-duty jacks are designed to double as strong, in-line winches too. I never stray very far from a paved road without mine.










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Tow strap or chain

For maximum flexibility, carry an assortment of 10- to 20-foot-long, heavy-duty cables, chains, and tow straps. The more the better since, in certain situations, your vehicle may be located a good distance from a suitable anchor point.


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Survival kit in day pack

Keep a well-stocked, oversize day pack in your vehicle in case you are forced to spend the night or have to walk out. Your day pack should contain a sturdy knife, matches, fire starters, candle, flashlight with spare batteries, basic first-aid kit, compass, map, whistle, warm clothing, rain gear, water bottle, small cook pot, long-lasting snacks, small PVC tarp, and 100 feet of tarp-rigging rope. In cold weather, stow a sleeping bag in your vehicle too.


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Spare tire

Check to make sure your vehicle is equipped with a full-size spare tire, which is properly inflated, and an appropriately-sized lug-nut wrench. Carrying a tire inflation device is a good idea.


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Battery jumper cables

Carry a set of long, heavy-duty battery jumper cables


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Battery jump-pack

Carry a portable, jump-starter battery pack (many of these new units inflate tires, have a built-in light, and can even power low-amperage, 110-volt devices like computers and battery chargers for cell-phones, etc.).


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Last, but not least, stock a small toolbox with an assortment of common tools and parts, including duct tape, bailing wire, etc.


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Equipment vendors

If your local auto parts dealer, hardware store, or sporting goods outlet don't have what you're looking for, check with one of the following vendors:

Ben Meadows Company 1-800-241-6401
Forestry Suppliers, Inc. 1-800-647-5368
J.C. Whitney 1-800-529-4486
Cabela's 1-800-237-4444
Campmor 1-800-226-7667


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In God's wilderness
lies the hope of the world,
the great, fresh, unblighted,
unredeemed wilderness.

 — John Muir, 1838-1914
Alaska Wilderness, 1890

If you've been able to read this Web page...
thank a Teacher;
If you've been able to read this Web page in English...
thank a Veteran.
—Author unknown

• Copyright notice •
Content Copyright © 1984 -- 2008-12-26
by Michael A. Neiger

• All rights reserved •
No part of this Web page or this Web site protected by copyright law may be reproduced, transmitted, or used in any form--including graphic, electronic, Web, mechanical or other form--or by any means--including photocopying, recording, taping, Internet distribution, information storage retrieval system, or by other means--for any purpose, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages, without the prior, express, written permission of the author.

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Web site URL: www.MibSAR.com

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