So you have decided to become an Offroad Enthusiast by either joining an Offroad-Club, or becoming a Solo Adventurer to explore the UAE deserts ?
Then surely the time has come to start investing in the proper offroad gear. Good quality offroad gear will be your biggest help to be self-reliant and to enjoy this sport thoroughly. After all you don't want to be stranded in the middle of the desert with unsafe or unreliable equipment.
We have compiled a list of essential tools you should have as per our club levels, and included some recommended gear which we have used in the club with good results.
OFF-ROAD FLAG (NEWBIE AND ABOVE)
A proper off-road flag is safely mounted with a bracket, or suction cup, and does not fall off on the first windy day. You can either buy a very decent flag like the AOR ones, or go to the nearest dune-buggy shop, or Dragon Mart. A fishing rod with flag also does the job.
TYRE DEFLATOR AND PRESSURE GAUGE (NEWBIE AND ABOVE)
Deflating your tyres will be a weekly practice, and the accuracy of your tyre-pressure gauge will make the difference between struggling in the sand or floating on it. You can buy them in ACE, Speedex, or Dragon Mart and it is advisable to buy two different models to double-check the accuracy. Most cheaper models work well on normal tyre pressures (35 psi) but start to give inaccurate readings below 15psi. Deflating your tyres can be done with a stem removal tool or a quick deflator. Whatever works for you.
How to deflate your tyres is well documented here:
FULL-SIZE SHOVEL (NEWBIE AND ABOVE)
Next to your Carnity buddies, a proper shovel will be your best friend in the desert.You should get a full-size laborer shovel, and not a small foldable camping spoon/shovel. Buy a shovel with a handle, and a v-shaped tip, you will find them in general hardware shops.
Example below is perfect, and will allow you to displace a lot of sand.
TWO WAY RADIO (NEWBIE AND ABOVE)
While driving with an offroad-club, a two-way radio is essential to communicate with the rest of the convoy and to receive instructions or guidance. In Carnity Off-Road Club, we use two-way UHF radios that are programmable to our frequency list that we have created. Make sure your radio is always fully charged for every drive, and if possible invest in having a second (spare) one.
We can recommend the Crony/Motorola MT777 or the Baofeng UV5-R model as both are good radios with excellent price/quality ratio. You will find them in Dragon Mart. Do not buy a walkie talkie without a display, as these will be mostly pre-programmed and the frequencies cannot be changed unless you purchase programming software and cables.
NOTE: THE BAOFENG 888 RADIOS THAT WE HAND OUT AS SPARE RADIOS WILL NOT WORK OUT OF THE BOX WHEN YOU BUY THEM AS THEY HAVE DIFFERENT FREQUENCIES. YOU CAN PROGRAM THEM BUT YOU WILL NEED PROGRAMMING CABLE, A LAPTOP, AND SOFTWARE CALLED CHIRP. IF YOU ARE NOT INTO THESE TECHNICAL THINGS, PLEASE STICK WITH BUYING THE CRONY/MOTOROLA MT777 or BAOFENG UV5R AS THESE CAN BE EASILY PROGRAMMED YOURSELF WITHOUT CABLES OR SOFTWARE.
Instructions on how to program the Motorola/Crony and Baofeng you will find in below post:
FIRE EXTINGUISHER AND MEDICAL KIT (NEWBIE AND ABOVE)
Both items every vehicle should have, offroad or onroad. You will find DRY POWDER extinguishers at the petrol station or hardware shops, and a medical first aid kit at general hardware stores or pharmacies. Make sure they are immediately accessible in case urgently needed.
12V AIR COMPRESSOR (NEWBIE AND ABOVE)
After every offroad drive you will need to re-inflate your tyres. If you are lucky to be nearby a petrol station you can slowly drive your way up there, but in many cases you will be miles away from one. You will find air compressors from 150 up to 2500AED as per your budget and liking, but if you are using it on a weekly basis you will find that sticking with a well-known brand like TJM, Bushranger, ARB really makes the difference. You can be lucky with the Camel branded compressors in Dragon Mart too, but do not expected any warranty on them.
ACE, Speedex has the branded ones, and also a few cheaper options.
GPS DEVICE (INTERMEDIATE AND ABOVE)
From a dedicated GPS device such as the Garmin 276cx, or a smartphone with your favorite navigation app, it will be important from Intermediate level onwards that you start practicing navigation, putting waypoints, entry and exit points, and seeing the difference on your map between for example long range dunes and small technical dunes. Apps like MotionX for IOS, MyTrails, and GaiaGPS are very popular and allow you to properly prepare for your route / track beforehand.
RECOVERY ROPE WITH 2 SOFT SHACKLES (INTERMEDIATE AND ABOVE)
Recovering stuck vehicles in the desert is a skill, and from Intermediate level onwards you will be able to practice this. There are different types of ropes in the market, and finding the right one might be very confusing.
- A Polyester Tow Rope is meant to tow a vehicle on the road, NEVER for off-road recovery. These are the basic tow ropes you will find at the petrol station.
- A Webbing Sling is a Polyester rope that you can buy in hardware stores and is meant for industrial lifting, but can also be used as tow rope in specific cases (to re-direct a stuck vehicle with gentle tugs). This material does not stretch.
- A Snatch rope (flat) or Kinetic Recovery Rope (round) is a rope made of Nylon that allows to stretch for about 20%, and is extremely useful for offroad recovery as the stretching creates a kinetic energy and the recoil effect helps in recovering vehicles stuck in the sand.
When choosing a kinetic recovery rope, you should select a rope that has a breaking strength of 2-3 times the weight of the vehicle you will recover. For example; if you recover a Nissan Xterra which weighs 2 ton, the breaking strength of the rope should be at least 6 tons. Most recovery ropes have 10-15 Tons breaking strength. The reason for this is that the forces involved when a vehicle is completely stuck in the sand are far higher.
Our club uses both the Viking Kinetic rope as well as the AOR Kinetic recovery rope with excellent results. The Viking rope costs about 350AED with a bag and 2 soft shackles included, while the AOR kinetic rope costs about 390AED without soft shackles. (AOR soft shackle cost 155 AED per piece).
A shackle is a device that allows you to connect your rope to your tow point. These used to be mostly rated metal D-shackles, but nowadays the soft shackles, that were well known in the sailing world have become in offroading too. A soft shackle will be safer to use as the less metal involved the better during recoveries.
More information on using these Kinetic recovery ropes and shackles can be found in below post:
FLOOR JACK WITH WOODEN BOARD (ADVANCE AND ABOVE)
A hydraulic floor jack in combination with a strong wooden board will allow you to safely lift a vehicle in the desert to replace a tyre or fix a pop-out. We do not advise using scissor jacks or bottle jacks, as these are only acceptable for on-road and will topple over in the sand or possibly even on a wooden board.
A good hydraulic floor jack should be at least 2T capacity and a swivel neck (rotating handle) will allow you to put it further underneath the vehicle and still be able to lift it. JZX or YATO has good hydraulic jacks. Do not buy the cheapest one available as the consequences or risks when the floor jack collapses could be very serious.
A strong wooden board should be at least 1 1/2 inches thick and made of natural wood and not MDF or plywood. A good example is scaffolding planks. It should be large enough to fit your hydraulic jack on it.
TOOLKIT AND FLUIDS (ADVANCE AND ABOVE)
A toolkit will come in handy for a multitude of reasons, in case a vehicle breaks down, to fix a loose exhaust, flag, or bumper, but can make you a hero if you are able to fix your vehicle instead of leaving it behind in the desert.
Following items are recommended:
A small basic multimeter, set of spanners up to size 24, some adjustable spanners, a hacksaw, hammer, set of screwdrivers, some electrical tape, duct tape, cable-ties, some spare car fuses, spare valves and stems, tie down straps, socket wrench set and some pliers. Also a tyre repair kit will be coming in handy, together with some thick gloves, and battery boost cables.
Following fluids are recommended:
- Engine oil: 1-2 liter
- Coolant: 1-2 liter
- ATF Transmission oil: 1 liter
- A can of WD40 or penetrating oil
- Spray-can with water to cool down an overheating engine.