When it comes to outfitting my 2012 Oscar Mike edition Jeep Wrangler, I’m an accessories fanatic. When I hit the sheets at night, I don’t dream of sheep, or unicorns, or cuddly puppies. I dream about an Injen deep water snorkel install, or a brand new set of Barricade rivet style flare fenders, or a Garvin Expedition roof rack. I see me behind the wheel of the Jeep, traversing some mud-covered backwoods trail with brand new 40” Mickey Thompson Baja MTZP3 mud terrain tires (mudders) that cost me more than the monthly mortgage. I see a state-of-the-art Magellan eXplorist TRX7 off-road GPS navigation system mounted above the dash and even a Condition Zero center console pistol mount for my Colt .45 Model 1911. I dream about a new soft top and RedRock grille inserts and expensive wheel kits to replace the standard ones I currently use.
But then, these are the glory accessories. The expensive, not-necessarily-required-for-the-four-wheeling-off-road-Jeep-experience gadgets. At the same time, these are useful tools that provide a specific degree of utility, but they are also the tools that look good, feel good, and admittedly, lighten your bank account. They are the accoutrements that turn heads while pulling into the mega-mart parking lot, and that become the envy of your off-road meetup group.
But what about the unsung heroes of the Jeep accessory world? The stuff that isn’t necessarily glamorous when installed and/or stored in your Jeep, but that you absolutely must have if you’re going to venture out into the wild? Recently, the editors at touristdigest.com asked me to come up with the ten most underrated off-road Jeep accessories out there on the market today. Sure I have my own strong opinions on the matter, but in the interest of comprehensiveness, I approached as many Jeep enthusiasts I could muster up and posed the question, “What accessories can you absolutely not survive without?” I also consulted with publications as varied as Popular Mechanics and Outsideonline.com. In the end, this is the final list I came up with.
- Shovel. That’s right, your basic shovel. I prefer the military variety that folds in on itself and that you can carry on your rear tire tool mount. Trust me, you play in the mud, you’re gonna eventually have to dig yourself and your Jeep out of it.
- The winch. The addition of this accessory is debatable due to its cost, its weight (hard on the gas mileage), and its relative danger in the hands of the inexperienced off-roadster (watch out for cut off digits), but let’s face it, you will get stuck. Get a winch.
- Tire changing kit. Most Jeeps come with these tools as a standard accessories, including a wheel lug wrench and a spare tire jack handle. But for my money, I would invest in a roadside emergency repair kit that includes a booster cable, carbon steel cross wrench, emergency lamp with strobe function, insulation tape, and more.
- Duct tape. What more need be said?
Don’t let a whiny friend ruin a trip… With enough duct tape, there’s no problem that can’t be solved!
- Automatic tire deflator. Negotiating sand and/or rock means deflating your tires from the street savvy 30 psi to 15 psi or less. An automatic tire deflator screws onto the valve stem and removes as much or as little air as you want. Easy peasy.
- Heavy Duty Direct Drive Tire Inflator. It only makes sense that if your tires are deflated for off-road action, they’re going to require inflation when you finally get back to on-road reality. A small, portable compressor can be powered by your Jeep battery or another 12 volt source.
- Cable hoist or come along. Take it from one who knoweth, keep one of these in your onboard tool box. While 4-wheeling in the rugged hills surrounding Chianti in beautiful, central Italy, my buddy and I buried his Jeep in mud. He didn’t have a winch handy, but he did have the less romantic version of the winch on hand—the come along. It took some time and manpower, but we freed the Jeep and soon were enjoying some red wine and roast pork sandwiches in a nearby village.
- First aid kit. The one sponsored by Jeep actually attaches to your roll bar. It contains everything from Ibuprofen, to Band-Aids, to the equipment you’ll need to suture a laceration, including medical scissors, stitching material, and surgical tape. Don’t leave home without it.
- Zip ties. Yup, you read it right. Zip ties. In fact, zip ties are so popular, I should chuck this writing thing and start a zip tie factory. The 10” variety are the most useful. They can be used for everything from holding engine components together, especially hoses, to hanging packs and bags from the roll bar. I currently use zip ties to consolidate my unplugged electrical wires and conduits after removing the hardtop.
- Repurposed ammo boxes. Mine used to hold .50 caliber rounds including tracers. But now they hold all sorts of small tools and accessories like screwdrivers, wrenches, electrical tape, flashlights, batteries, and more. They’re rough and ready, hold a ton of stuff, and they look cool as hell. Use a bicycle lock to secure them to the Jeep interior when the top is off.
Okay, this list is not exhaustive by any means. Other popular non-glam accessories include pliers, mallets, fire extinguisher, basic tool kit, socket wrench set, walkie-talkies, flashlights, freeze dried food pouches, spare batteries, fire making equipment, and additional Geri cans for extra water and fuel. Listen, when it comes to outfitting your Jeep with underrated accessories that are purely utilitarian in nature and that might even save your life one day, there is no right or wrong choice. There is only careful planning.