If you’re going to get into good country, sometimes you’re going to get stuck. It’s not a maybe, it’s only a when. Let me throw out one disclaimer first. When you finally get your first four-wheel-drive truck, you erroneously think that you’re bulletproof. Newsflash — you’re not. Just because you have a four-wheel-drive doesn’t mean that you can’t get stuck so be prudent. I’ve heard it said, drive like you have a two wheel drive, that way you don’t jump all in and get hopelessly stuck.
When you really get in trouble is when you drive too aggressively and get in too far, and then it’s really hard to get you out.
So enough theory. What’s the moral of this article? You’re going to get stuck once in a while, so how do we get out?
The curse of all curses is when you high center. That’s when the snow or dirt is up against the body of your truck. Not good. What you’ll have to do in this scenario is jack up your rig and put some rocks in the ruts and under the wheels. If no rocks are handy then use sticks and limbs. Anything to get your truck to set up higher.
To be able to do this you need to carry a Handyman jack. A little hydraulic jack usually is nonfunctional. You’re buried in the mud so you can’t get the hydraulic jack slipped in under the truck and even if you can you’re on a soft base. If there is enough clearance you might be able to put a rock under the jack. Just carry a Handyman jack.
With a Handyman jack, you can put the lip under the bumper or whatever is stout enough to lift your truck and lift it up. Don’t get under anything as the ground under the jack will likely be muddy and slippery and it can shoot out and drop the truck.
I always carry a few quarter-inch bolts and nuts because laying in the bed of my truck and bouncing around the bolt holding on the jack handle is always getting lost. Many times the jack gets rusty and won’t function. Keep a quart of oil in your truck which you should do anyway and pour a little on the jack mechanism to lubricate it up so it’s functional.
You also need to keep a shovel in back of your truck. That way you can dig out some of the snow and mud that is causing you to high center. I don’t carry one but I’ve also thought that a hoe would be beneficial in a lot of circumstances. I used to worry about someone stealing the gear out of the back of my truck but most of the kids in town are little yuppies now and don’t even know what a shovel and a Handyman jack are. And the ones that do are farm and ranch kids and are decent enough so they won’t steal them.
Always carry a chain. You’ll need it so someone can pull you out or so you can pull out some other poor soul. You can also pull trees off the trail if one is blocking you in. And while speaking of trees blocking the road, for sure carry an axe and it’s best to have a chain saw.
Think about it a minute. You see a lot of blown over trees while hunting, right? That happens behind you sometimes when you go down a trail, too. Speaking of, one time we had hiked down a trail in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area while fly fishing. I’d backpacked in and set up a camp back in there a few miles. That morning my nephew Tom and I had hiked downstream fishing. Later when we were fishing back to camp we found a 20-foot log, about 2.5 feet in diameter laying dead center in the trail. It had rolled down the mountain and landed in the trail. Glad we weren’t there when that happened.
Same can happen behind you when you drive in on a trail. One time on a spring bear hunt Ed Sweet and I drove into an area. Going in we noticed a crack down the middle of the road. The downhill side had dropped about 1 inch. Coming out it had now dropped 2 inches. Not good. You don’t want that to sluff off and slide down the mountain. Hate to be a weenie but Mercedes and I got out and let him drive over that spot alone!
A lot of people have winches on their four-wheelers but not too many people do on their trucks. If you do, they can be beneficial. I have a buddy that carries a big spike, he drives it in the ground and then has something to tie off to when stuck out on the prairies.
Then lastly, of course, aggressive tires make a big difference. If your tires are bald you’re not going to get any traction. And nothing to do with getting stuck but go to the junkyard and get an extra tire and wheel. As many flats as I get I always carry two spares. Be careful out there.
Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop.