Some good lessons for overlanding solo

VWE

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I would reiterate what XJ-99 says. We're retired, and thus, have time to go off-road when others aren't available. Since much of the back country here in Arizona is without cell phone coverage, we bought a Garmin inReach unit and an annual subscription. I drop a .gpx file on my dropbox account and e-mail the kids about our plans for the next day. Once at the trail head I activate the inReach unit and send a text (via the inReach unit) to our kids that we're now going off road. They can easily check on us during the day to see where we're currently located. If they have any questions - and the cell phones aren't working - they can text us.

If we have a breakdown, a quick text will alert them to our problems. Both kids have off-road set up JKs, so one or both can come to our rescue. If it's a medical emergency, then the SOS can be activated to summon higher level assistance. Not as good as a satellite phone, but much cheaper. $450 for the unit and about $25/month for the tracking option.
As life settles down a bit, I plan to get out camping and hunting much more. I'm not going to be pushing any limits, but the comms issue is my major concern. I just don't understand how it all works. I guess with the CB you search channels until you can find someone to help. With the in-reach and Sat phones, how do you know who to text/call in a non-SOS situation? If you don't know people in the area or have the ability to physically help, do you enlist someone ahead of time to do the internet legwork? Do you research contacts in every area while in LTE range? I remember from my boating days the last person you wanted help from in a non-life treating recovery situation was the Coast Guard due to the enormous bill.

Also... spare parts. In the Land Cruiser world, a bunch of these guys seem to carry a spare rig worth of parts. With a newer JL, what could easily go wrong that you could easily diagnose and repair on the trail. I get that its easy to get carried away with all the fun stuff to buy with any hobby, especially "overlanding', but the best RTT or fridge setup wont do a bit of good if the Jeep wont start in the morning.





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47Jeepster

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@VWE ... the range for a CB is not far enough for consistent emergency help. In a group, on the trail, they're a good option.

The range for a ham radio is much further. I just obtained my ham license for two reasons. 1) some of the folks in my area use ham for on the trail communication 2) I wanted to test the range here in the mountains of central Arizona. If the range (via repeaters) is large enough, it will make a great backup for my inReach unit. After all, stuff does fail ... and usually at a very inopportune time.

The range for an inReach (or similar) unit is vast. Texts are handled via the satellite system, thus mountains don't interfere. Not as handy as a satellite phone, but much, much cheaper. There are two ways to use the inReach connectivity. Have a friend who understands what you're doing who can either come get you or find a towing service in the area you're broken down in to come get you. It is much easier to work the internet and phone service from an "at home" computer than via inReach. The second method is to contact an off-road towing service ahead of time to establish a working relationship. Arizona 4x4 Off Road Recovery is one in the Phoenix area where I wheel ... Joe knows my name, phone number, and Jeep configuration. Winder Towing in Hurricane, Utah, is great for southern Utah ... check out his YouTube videos.

As to spare parts ... hmm ... I have a full set of tools, a roll of bailing wire, a roll of duct tape, a handful of zip ties, and an emergency jumper wire for the aux battery. After that, I am depending upon the reliability of an almost new Jeep with only 25k miles on it.
 
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47Jeepster

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Solo roaming is a great topic. I have been wondering about a hand held Ham unit like a highly rated Baofeng. They are under $50 and while you need a license for everyday use, in an emergency you are not going to be fined. I admit I need to look into this further. I don't understand repeaters and how you hookup with a local one or if they are just found like with Cell phones roaming.
There are webpages listing the call signs and frequency of repeaters around the US. You have to physically set the frequency on your ham radio to use that station.

The Technician ham license is easy. No Morse code requirement any more. There is a pool of 423 multiple choice questions that are published for study. Out of those, 35 are randomly picked for your test. You have to get 26 of them correct. Oh yes, there are a number of practice test websites to help you study. It's easy ... and much cheaper than a fine starting at $7000 if you get caught in a non-emergency situation using your radio.
 

twisty

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I plan on traveling exclusively alone. I have a SPOT device for emergencys but sure dont want to use it.

I plan on using some of the same rules I use when dirt biking in the outback. Bring tools to fix stuff. I dont bring spare parts on a bike so likely not a jeep either. A battery of some sort being the exception since it's a common problem not to have juice to start a jeep

If I come a crossed an object and I have to ask myself "can I make that" or "if I make it can I make it back", I dont do it. All obstacles are a for sure I can do it affair.

I recently did some snow wheeling with my son. It was a neat area near a sizeable town. The snow was about 6-8 inches deep and for some reason the snow had traction. I cant explain it but we were doing climbs we shouldnt have been able to do.

We continued on and the snow go heavier. I was doing a trail I had done years ago on my dirt bike. It was signed but with the snow you couldnt read it and it was easily jeep wide so I ASSUMED.

The trail went on and on, and soon got tighter in spots, but still jeep wide mostly. It also got more technical. The other thing was it took way longer then what I recalled doing on a dirt bike. I must have had my dirt bike goggles on when recalling the length of the trail. With a dirt bike you can crank out mileage fast vs a jeep.

On and on we went, snowing harder, trail got even more difficult. Big hill climbs and the jeep just ate it up...still dont understand how?? The wife texts us letting us know there is a major blizzard coming our way in an hour. Great. We continue on.....quicker.

Then we hit this major downhill and then a nastier uphill. I told my son to hang on tight since we HAD to have momentum to get up this thing. Cranked it up and tried to steer away from a nasty 37 inch tire swallowing rut on the uphill side and nope, 3/4 up we're in the rut. I back up, engage the front locker knowing full well it's futile going up a nasty grade 3/4's up in 8 inches of snow. We actually clawed our way up??

My son and I look at each other in disbelief then at the satellite imagery. Almost there! But now the wind is whipping and major sideways snow....

We finally arrive at the end , there's more to the story that I wont write but the point is none of what happened is anything I would do in the far away outback with snow/blizzard. I was near a town, in cell range, I could walk out.

Pick the spots to take chances and have fun that are easily correctable if things go sideways.

Also can somebody who is more snow savvy explain to me how I was able to do what I did? Are there snow types that allow a bit of traction?

37 inch pategonia's
street tire pressure 35lb
 

MaineBumpkin

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Also can somebody who is more snow savvy explain to me how I was able to do what I did? Are there snow types that allow a bit of traction?

37 inch pategonia's
street tire pressure 35lb
Just stumbled across this and wanted to reply, absolutely! I’d say it’s more appropriate to say that there are types of snow which are less slippery. The colder the air, the lighter and fluffier, the easier to navigate. It also depends if the ground is frozen and what’s under the current layer of snow. I plowed 20+” on dry, frozen ground back in December and didn’t spin a wheel. Put a thin layer of hard packed ice / snow under that snow and it would be a different story. Lots of factors will contribute but that’s one example.

Good stuff here, my wife and I are planning a 17 day cross country trip with various trails thrown in. I’ll definitely be investing in sat com device of some sort.
 

alksion

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Lots of good advice here.
It took me a while to learn what this new word "overlanding" means. Now I know it's what we referred to as "camping" when I was a kid. :LOL:
Of course there were no cell phones, no satellite phones and we never went to established campgrounds - just took off for days into backwoods Arizona in my dad's Bronco.
I went backpacking with my dad and brother one time in Canada and the park rangers asked what it was like because no one had gone back where we went in their memory. We didn't see another human for 5 days and supplemented the freeze dried food with blueberries, wild onions, trout, and grouse.
Of course that's nothing compared to my grandparents who had to fight off grizzly bears with their bare hands while walking to school.
You know it’s funny we millennials have made this phrase more popular. I think part of it is the fact that we grew up on devices and computers.

Getting out (not staying at a resort, which is the typical) in the wilderness, with no hookups, no internet, no running water, etc if exciting for us. Something your generation probably did quite a bit but something our generation hasn’t.

The good news is there’s an uptick in “overlanding” and as long as everyone packs in and packs out, I say for the better :)
 

alksion

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There are webpages listing the call signs and frequency of repeaters around the US. You have to physically set the frequency on your ham radio to use that station.

The Technician ham license is easy. No Morse code requirement any more. There is a pool of 423 multiple choice questions that are published for study. Out of those, 35 are randomly picked for your test. You have to get 26 of them correct. Oh yes, there are a number of practice test websites to help you study. It's easy ... and much cheaper than a fine starting at $7000 if you get caught in a non-emergency situation using your radio.
Curious what’s considered an emergency. Let’s say you a had a ham radio but never planned to use it unless it was serious. How is that seriousness gaged?
 

SleepEatJeepRepeat

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We advise folks not to do the solo thing. We have for years and have never considered ourselves as being over prepared. Not sure you can over prepare , but I know exactly what you meant. Yea the burning jeep would be a new one on us. That is when a SAT phone would really shine.....
I agree my first year if off-roading the wife kids and I were doing a mellow dry creek bed trail so mellow that I put it in reverse with out a spotter, because I mean there was nothing there.. except ther was a perfect wedge rock just high enough to high point my rear axle, and the front tires where in This super loose gravel that didn’t seem deep till my front tires weee digging into it, and was just loose enough that my tracks kept shooting out behind the tire instead of giving me grip.. ofcourse I didn’t have a high jack yet.. and then my front displacement went pop... and I was the proud owner of a 2 wheel vehicle... it’s was a super fun 18 mile walk carrying a 50lb bag full of water food and blankets because I was over prepared and carrying my 40lb daughter on my front, luckily after about 7 miles we happened upon a park ranger. I made rookie mistakes, but my biggest one was going back country solo.. it’s just not worth it... tag team is crucial when way off the grid or doing anything advanced. A smart off-roader is a cautious one.
 

47Jeepster

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Curious what’s considered an emergency. Let’s say you a had a ham radio but never planned to use it unless it was serious. How is that seriousness gaged?
The honest answer is that 90+% of the folks using handheld ham radios on the trail don't have a ham license. Yet, you don't hear of anyone being fined. Thus, I'd gamble on the side of "any breakdown is an emergency."

BTW ... GMRS seems to be bumping CB off the trail. GMRS has very good range and clarity. Jeep Jamboree for 2021 is requiring FRS/GMRS radios instead of CB. No test and $70 (soon to be dropped to $35) for a 10 year license that covers your whole family is a great way to avoid any problems with not being Ham licensed. I bought a pair of Midland GXT1000 radios for about $69 and am very happy with them. I've loaned my spare out to others on trail rides and they have generally purchased a set of their own after that experience.
 

brewski

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Also can somebody who is more snow savvy explain to me how I was able to do what I did? Are there snow types that allow a bit of traction?

37 inch pategonia's
street tire pressure 35lb
I do a lot of snow wheeling. The type of snow is critical on what you can do and what the surface is under the snow. I have snow wheeled in almost 3ft deep snow (lots of back and forth, but we did miles like this), but that is when the snow is ideal. If the snow is too light and fluffy you are just driving on whatever is under the new snow. If it is too wet then it will be hard to get traction once you loose momentum because your tires will turn it into a hard slippery surface. When doing snow wheeling tire pressure makes a massive difference in traction. People that are scared to go below 10psi will suffer while someone at 8psi won't even get stuck once. Traction boards are an excellent tool to have when snow wheeling.

When it comes to ice or hardpacked slippery snow, snow tires are best and siping w/ rubber compounds meant for low temps is what is needed. When the snow is somewhat wet it acts like a thick mud and MT tires work very well. If it is a large group you are going with then the front couple vehicles will have a much easier time because they are using snow for traction, while the others are basically driving on slippery hardpacked ice. When driving in snow and ice, traction is found on the snow. So where everyone has driven (on pavement) is usually icy, and if you drive in the white snow then you have more traction; this is not true in slushy conditions because slush turns your tires into slicks.
 

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I go out to be away from people, screw that you can't go alone mentality. Be prepared, have good gear, and practice using it. Approach every trip with "could I walk, crawl, or communicate myself out if necessary?" mentality. If I die alone in the middle of nowhere, I will die happy, but it's going to take a serious accident that having others around wouldn't help anyway for that to happen.
 

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The honest answer is that 90+% of the folks using handheld ham radios on the trail don't have a ham license. Yet, you don't hear of anyone being fined. Thus, I'd gamble on the side of "any breakdown is an emergency."

BTW ... GMRS seems to be bumping CB off the trail. GMRS has very good range and clarity. Jeep Jamboree for 2021 is requiring FRS/GMRS radios instead of CB. No test and $70 (soon to be dropped to $35) for a 10 year license that covers your whole family is a great way to avoid any problems with not being Ham licensed. I bought a pair of Midland GXT1000 radios for about $69 and am very happy with them. I've loaned my spare out to others on trail rides and they have generally purchased a set of their own after that experience.
I’m hoping with next generation cell phones they can stop increasing the speed of the coverage and just give coverage everywhere. That would be cool.
 

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Been looking at a wide variety of traction boards, but just stunned at the prices for two pieces of plastic. Any reason why folks are eagerly paying $200+, when well-reviewed products exist like this?

Amazon.com: X-BULL New Recovery Traction Tracks Sand Mud Snow Track Tire Ladder 4WD (Red,3gen): Automotive

Also...I recently got my Ham Technician's license, and have found it to be invaluable, especially in areas where many nearby mountain tops have repeaters. I don't go anywhere without it. So...with an $80 (or less) handheld radio transmitting at only 7 watts, I can reach out to many repeaters that relay my transmissions at much higher power and much longer ranges, several exceeding 100 miles. In addition, many of these repeaters are linked to others via IP, which means you can talk to other operators from all over the world. Important to note that many of these little radios are extremely capable and have become very popular with new Hams and non-Hams. For the latter, many offer FRS and MURS bands, which do not require licensing or fees. I was surprised at how many people talk on these bands, although at much shorter ranges (typically) than standard VHF/UHF bands, such as 70cm and 2m. All that said....Ham, FRS, and MURS have their limitations, and while much better than CB, are still no replacement for Iridium, sat phone, or other comms discussed previously in this thread. If interested, here's what I (and many others) use, but there is a vast universe of much more capable/expensive units out there as well:

Amazon.com: BaoFeng BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio (136-174MHz VHF & 400-520MHz UHF) Includes Full Kit with Large Battery: Automotive
 

XJ-99

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There is also a product by gotreds at https://gotreads.com/ as an option to some of the pricier traction boards.
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never offroad alone with one vehicle. it's the #1 safety rule for all jeeps. sadly some do not follow the rule and pay with their lives.
cell phone service or not, it won't help in some cases.
in this case, someone even came to the scene, they said dont worry a tow truck is on the way.
they had the engine running to stay warm.

https://www.dispatch.com/article/20160116/NEWS/301169780
 

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