Tis the season for gift giving…whether for yourself or another four-wheeling aficionado.
With that in mind, Santa Tom offers up these fine gifts and ideas sure to please any four-wheeler or other outdoors enthusiast.
Continuous ratchet strap:
Most ratchet straps have a hook on each end. A continuous ratchet strap, also called an endless ratchet strap, is a long piece of strap with a ratchet on one end. The main advantage becomes apparent the first time you use one: There are no hooks to pop off during windy or bumpy conditions – conditions frequently encountered off-road.
Start by looping the long end around (over and under) the gear, then feed the tail end through the ratchet. Work the ratchet to snug up the strap. The result is a very secure hold, which is why I prefer this style.
Many straps are around 1 inch in diameter. That’s sufficient to strap down most off-road gear. Choose a strap with a load limit of at least 500 pounds and a minimum breaking strength of at least 1,500 pounds.
LED stick light: There are many to choose from, but the ones I really like are by Braun. They’re great for working on cars or while camping. Featuring a magnetic base, they can be positioned just about anywhere on the vehicle or on a metal surface.
The lamp offers two levels of light, and one end has its own bulb which acts like a flashlight. The head rotates about 180 degrees. It also contains a USB rechargeable lithium battery. The newest version allows the stick to fold down flat.
Braun makes a variety of styles. You can purchase this one for about $29 on Amazon and at Harbor Freight.
CableCuffs®: Really handy for storing extension cords, ropes, cables, and the like. Shaped like handcuffs, each CableCuff securely and neatly holds the product. Just coil it up and slap a Cuff on it. A quick release offers easy access when you need the product.
I use CableCuffs for securing my solar panel to the roof rack while I’m parked. The solar panel has a carrying handle on each end. I cuff each handle to the roof rack, and that keeps the wind from blowing away the solar panel.
Available in different sizes (1″, 2″, and 3″ dia.) CableCuffs can be purchased through Amazon, Home Depot and other retailers for $2 – $4 based on size.
Adapter to refill propane tanks: Designed to refill the 16 ounce bottles, the adapter allows you to reuse a bottle indefinitely, saving money while keeping trash out of the landfill. Yes, you can refill those small propane bottles; I do it all the time.
With the proper adapter, you can safely and easily refill a 16 ounce bottle from a 20 pound propane tank.
Two styles of adapter are available.
This model, a GASPRO brand, screws on the outside instead of going reverse thread on the inside. It’s available from Amazon for about $9.
The other style screws onto the bottle much like a camping stove or other appliance. This one, from Harbor Freight, costs about $20.
How I refill a propane bottle
I use the second type of adapter. I start by placing an empty bottle in the freezer for 15 – 20 minutes. That creates a temperature difference between the empty bottle and the big tank. With the main tank upside down, I attach the adapter, and then the empty bottle. I turn on the valve for one minute. That’s long enough to fill the small bottle.
I set the bottle out in the open air and let it come back to regular temperature. If I overfilled it, which is unlikely, the vent will blow off excess gas.
Propane is now running about $4 per gallon to fill a 20-pound tank (which holds five gallons). So you could fill the small one-pound bottles for about $1.00 each. Compare that to $10.95 or $11.95 per bottle.
Swimming pool thermometer: Any model will do. These are handy for testing the water temperature on a portable shower system. The water inside that bag or container can get quite hot when left in the sun all day. In some systems, we heat the water externally and then pump it out in the shower. Nothing quite like a too hot or too cold shower.
It’s also handy for checking the temperature at hot springs. Don’t jump in until you’re sure the temperature is safe.
The slim design packs easily. This one will sink into the water so you get a better reading. The 3 foot cord is convenient to test the water in the hop spring. $12-15 on of all places Amazon.
Quick disconnect for dune flag: You’re familiar with the pressure tank quick disconnects, right? Turn those same air hose fittings into a quick disconnect for a dune/safety flag.
If you don’t have a dune flag already, buy the type with 1/2 inch x 13 thread on the end of the pole. Some models have connectors already attached; those won’t work for this.
Take apart the coupler fittings, and mount the smaller (male) piece onto your vehicle (pointed upward, of course). Screw the flag pole into the threaded end of the other fitting.
Most of the dune flags come with a ½” x 13 thread count bolt. The inside of the brass coupler piece is a ¼” pipe thread, but with a little force, the bolt will seat well in the coupler. We want a snug fit anyway.
Now any time you want to mount the dune flag, simply snap the one coupler piece to the other already mounted on your vehicle. Voila! The safety flag is in place, and it can be removed in seconds. Once removed, all that shows on your vehicle is that roughly 2 inch stub of fitting.
Wood block for attaching tire chains: This is something you make yourself. Take any piece of scrap 4” x 4” and cut a piece small enough to fit inside the gaps in your tire chains. Actually a 2″ x 4″ works but just not as much clearance.
To attach the chains, first lay the chain set out flat on the ground. Set the block of wood inside one of the gaps not quite the halfway point. Slowly drive onto the chain and up onto the block of wood. That wheel is now suspended, allowing for faster installation of the chain set. Experiment with where you want the block. I like it at a point that when I pull one side up on top of the tire it will stay there while I fasten the ends.
Whether purchased from a retailer or crafted by hand, these gadgets will make four-wheeling more enjoyable. Consider any of these as you play Santa for the four-wheeler in your household – or even yourself!
Amazing that we’re nearing the end of another year. As I count my blessings, I hope that you, too, find much to be thankful for during the holiday season. While life continues to offer us challenges – it always will – we have come a long way since the difficult times of the pandemic.
From everyone at Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Inc., I want to wish you and your family a joyous holiday season. May 2023 offer boundless hope and opportunity. As always, I’ll see you on the trails!