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ATV Adventures: Going into the backcountry? Be prepared

By Lynn Blamires - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Feb 29, 2024
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On a ride in the Manti La-Sals, we found a rider who skidded off the road and rolled over into a canyon. He wasn't hurt, but it took more than one winch and several ropes to pull him out.
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It took a combined effort and a combination of the emergency equipment available in this RZR rescue operation.
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Lynn Blamires

One of the aspects of taking a ride into the backcountry that appeals to me the most is returning to the starting point from a ride into the middle of nowhere. Utah’s backcountry is full of amazing things to see and experience. I prefer to ride an ATV into the splendor of these remote locations.

The news is replete with stories of people who have gone on seemingly innocent forays off-highway only to find themselves ill-prepared for the unexpected. Backcountry conditions can be harsh and can change rapidly.

The first rule of any off-road adventure is to let someone know about your plans to explore and the time you expect to return. The second rule is to never go alone. OHVs can take you a long way into nowhere quickly. But if something happens to your machine, you are going to need the help of a friend.

Another reason for riding buddies is that it is difficult to carry everything you need to deal with every kind of trouble. When you ride with a group, their collective array of emergency equipment should be able to handle most breakdowns.

That is not to say that you don’t need to be well-prepared yourself. One of the best ways to learn about essentials for your emergency kit is to have a breakdown. I wrote an article that appeared in the Standard-Examiner (Dec. 21, 2023) about getting lost in the San Rafael Swell. Every one of the eight people on that trip reevaluated their emergency kits when they got home. Here are some things I found to be important:

Trail treats

Being a foodie, one of the things I found missing was good trail treats. I got very tired of gummy bears that night. Now I carry a good selection of granola bars, jerky, fruit cups, cookies, sandwich crackers, trail mix and nuts. I replenish my supply between trips.

A headlamp

A flashlight is good, but a headlamp is better because it frees up the use of your hands. Trouble often comes after dark. I have also found it helpful in securing my machines on the trailer at night.

Tire repair kits and air pumps

Many people I ride with carry a spare tire kit. I prefer to deal directly with the flat and avoid the extra weight. I carry Screw-A-Flat screws for a nail in the tread and tire plugs. I carry Glue Treads for sidewall problems.

Air pumps have greatly improved since I first started riding. I now have a compact hand-held pump that will inflate a tire quite rapidly.

Tow straps and kinetic ropes

I was on the mountain above Mountain Manning Reservoir when a thermostat went out on my Polaris Ace. I had a 15-foot nylon rope that I used to be towed into Koosharem. I have replaced that with a 20-foot heavy-duty strap rated at 20,000 pounds.

Having seen the benefit of kinetic ropes, I now have a 5/8-inch-thick, 20-foot kinetic rope. The stretching feature of this rope is an advantage when you need to yank someone out of a sticky situation.

Winch kits

A winch kit is pretty much worthless unless you have a winch installed on your machine. A winch by itself is good, but a winch kit makes it so much better. A kit has a snatch block that allows you to improve the angle of the pull. A D-ring works to attach the snatch block to a tree to get a better angle on the pull. If set up properly, you can double the power of your winch.

A fire-starting kit

When we had to spend the night in the Swell, we were able to start a fire. Just the warmth of that fire made a big difference. Take a lighter, waterproof matches, or flint and steel. I also learned as a Boy Scout that dryer lint makes good kindling.

A jack

I don’t have a jack. Some people say that I don’t know Jack, but I do know how to position my machine perpendicular to another machine and use a strap to pull one side of the machine so that it is tipped, making it possible to change a tire.

A signaling mirror

The value of a signaling mirror goes without saying.

I don’t have everything I need, but with the others in the group, I should. When you go, take plenty of water and keep the rubber side down. What is in your emergency kit?

Contact Lynn R. Blamires at quadmanone@gmail.com.


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