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Tom Severin

The Forgotten Items!

One constant in four-wheeling is the need to pack properly. Because we’re off on our own – away from the conveniences of city life – we have to be self-sufficient. Not only do we prepare for the expected (camping, cookouts, and such), we must try to prepare for the unexpected.  All that in addition to a full complement of automotive and camping gear.

Over the years I’ve realized the need for many other incidentals. Some seem obvious; others not so. But all serve a very good purpose. Considering adding many (or all) of the following to your preparation checklists.

1. Emergency cash. Even deep into the Digital Age, there are times when cash is the only currency. Many people these days don’t even  carry enough cash for a cup of coffee. You might need it to cover a tow or an after-hour’s repair at the mechanic’s house.

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Tom Severin

Pros and Cons of Four-Wheeling Alone

Bob said he had to get back. We were two days into a 3 day trip through the Mojave Desert. He assured me that he knew the way back. At one-point Bob arrived at a river crossing. He had crossed it several times in the past. Normally it was only 8 to 12 inches deep. It wasn’t that day. The water was about 24 inches deep and running strong. Bob tried to cross but got stuck and flooded his engine. After retrieving most of his gear, Bob set up camp along one bank. Thankfully, another vehicle came along about two hours later. They towed his vehicle to the highway where Bob called AAA.

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Tom Severin

Top 10 Fears of a 4WD Trail Leader

Have you ever wondered about being a Trail Leader? Ever imagined yourself guiding a group of four-wheelers down historic trails and through scenic landscapes?

What has stopped you?

Most likely a lack of confidence. Understandable. Leading a group of four-wheelers is quite a bit different from being just another participant.

Even the best-planned excursion experiences a hiccup or two. Heaven knows I’ve seen a bunch in my time. By making and overcoming mistakes you learn and grow.

We constantly stress the need for preparation before a 4WD trip. Even so, something is bound to come up.

Here are my Top 10 fears a Trail Leader could face, and what to do about them. (Don’t worry, though: You’re not likely to see more than a few during any one trip.)

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Tom Severin

Mild AMS?

It was the second day of a three-day excursion to the Sweetwater Mountains, just north of Bridgeport, California. We stopped for some sightseeing high on the peak of Mt. Patterson. At 11,674 feet, we marveled at the incredible views. East looking into Nevada are the Bodie Hills and Corey Peak and looking west provides an extensive view of the Sierra Range.

Unfortunately, not everyone enjoyed the stop. One guest complained of a headache and brief spell of dizziness when making a quick move to exit the vehicle. Talking with the others, I learned that everyone experienced shortness of breath while setting up camp the night before.

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Tom Severin

Be Seen And Be Cool

Fish Canyon opening into Panamint Dry Lake

Dune flags are quite popular nowadays. You’ll see all colors and styles, including the American flag, pirate flags, checkerboard flags, rebel flags, “Don’t Tread on Me”, and many others. While the driver may be making a statement with his flag, there is a distinct purpose for the flags, as well.


Be seen in your Jeep with a new Jeep Wrangler top from ExtremeTerrain


Those flags add an element of safety to the sport of four wheeling. Strange as it may seem, collisions do occur in wide open expanses we four-wheelers drive on. Those flags help you see and be seen.

This is especially true in hilly or dusty environments. Hills naturally block views. Climbing a hill or dune, you can’t see what’s on the other side. Is another vehicle coming toward you?

Dust and sand are another problem. While a flag is quite small, if it’s bright orange or red, it often can be seen through the haze of dust. Plus, its height—perhaps six to eight feet above the ground—may place it above most or all of the dust. I’ve witnessed instances when the only thing you could see through the dusty cloud was a couple of flags. You’d be surprised just how low visibility gets on many trails at higher speeds. (BTW remember Tom’s rule: over 10 mph is “fast” off-road! That doesn’t mean we can’t go fast. Just that the dynamics change.)

An added benefit is that by watching the flags of the vehicles ahead, you can get an idea of the terrain. If you see the flags bobbing up and down, that tells you may be headed for some whoop-dee-doo.

Related to that, it’s easier to keep track of the vehicles behind you if they have flags. While in the lead vehicle, I typically can see back at most up to three vehicles. But I can see upwards of a half dozen flags waving behind me. Although the vehicles in my trips are always in radio contact, I also glance in my mirror or over my shoulder frequently to check on the other vehicles progress. Not all drivers travel at the same speed on unfamiliar or difficult terrain. It’s a comforting feeling to look back and see all those flags trailing along knowing the group is together.

At the same time, it’s easier for those in the pack to see the lead vehicle. I recommend that the lead vehicle use a distinctive banner so everyone can spot the vehicle. Vehicles can disappear for a short period while going through brush or down a hill. And, as mentioned before, the dune flag might be seen through or above the dust when its vehicle is not.

Rules, specifications for dune flags

Generally speaking, you aren’t required to use a dune flag while driving off road. The one exception is on public lands containing sand dunes. The Bureau of Land Management requires banners be solid red or orange in color, at least six inches by 12 inches, and placed such that at least part of the banner is within 10 inches of the top of the whip.

BLM a considers a whip to be any pole, rod or antenna mounted on the vehicle that extends at least eight feet from the surface of the ground. It must stand upright when the vehicle is stationary.

Higher quality dune flags and banners (with a pole) usually run about $12 to $15. They can be purchased at any ATV shop, and in most stores and gas stations near off-road areas. As mentioned above, you can use an antenna or most any other whip-like object. You don’t need to buy the unit. Just adhere to BLM’s rules if you’re driving in dunes.

One thing you’ll notice is that the flag or banner doesn’t last long if you use it frequently. Wind, rain, dust and the sun take their toll. My flags tend to fray and fade after about one year. The rod or whip might snap on you, especially if you drive a lot in brushy or wooded areas.<br /><br />How to attach a flag

Because there are so many different styles of vehicles, it would be difficult for the manufacturers of dune flags to design a universal mounting bracket. Instead, the rod or pole comes embedded in a ½-inch bolt. You need to drill a hole for the bolt; a bumper or other sturdy surface might work. If you use your flag frequently a quick disconnect is handy. You can purchase flags with a quick disconnect or you can build one from an air fitting.

Some Jeep owners tuck the pole against the inside hinge of the tailgate. Closing the tailgate keeps the pole upright and secure. You may need to tinker with your dune flag pole, but you should be able to come up with some way to secure it.

Flags serve a very important safety function in four wheeling. They also allow drivers to express themselves a bit. I encourage you to attach a flag to your vehicle and to use it frequently off-road.

Be Seen And Be Cool

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