Brakes are usually trouble-free on these trips, save one recurring problem: broken lines. Throw a couple spare lines in your toolbag along with a hard line flaring kit in case you need to rebuild one. Be sure your lines are clear of tire lugs and routed up and out of the way of any rocks, roots, and brush that could grab them.
You will need to have a parking brake. We have seen vehicles roll down hills and smash into other vehicles, and we prefer not to see it again. So again, you will need a parking brake.
Every type of suspension works on the UA. We have had custom links and air shock, coilovers, coils, quarter elliptic, and mixtures of the three. Leaf springs have attended every year, as have bolt-on lift kits. Every suspension will get scrapped, banged, and abused off-road. This isn’t a car show; we will take you places where your vehicle has to work to make the trail. We won’t chastise you for winching (that’s why we require a winch) or backing off an obstacle that you feel will roll you over or smash your body, but if you expect to arrive home without a single scratch or mud clod in your interior you may be disappointed.
Your suspension needs to be able to flex over rocks, hold up in mud, bomb around in the dunes, and still run straight down the road. And you should be able to repair it if there is a problem. If you’ve been wheeling for 10 years with the same suspension and it works great, then it will probably be fine on the trip. A lot of people think they need to reengineer their whole truck to attend the UA, but that is not so. A good service, replacing worn parts, and fixing stuff that’s broken are important, but a brand-new buildup almost always results in the new-car blues. Stick to the dependable parts that work.
Good examples of a tough, simple suspension are under the Jeeps Chris Durham brings. His suspension doesn’t have million-dollar shocks or crazy whiz-bang parts. He runs stock or minimal lift coils, off-the-shelf shocks (this year from Zone Offroad Products), a 1-inch body lift or none at all, tough long link arms for rock abuse, and well-clearanced steering. The body is trimmed high to fit big tires. The Jeeps sit low for stability, and yet can still run down twisty mountain roads with ease.
Two people living out of a 4x4 for a week while also wheeling and running down the highway is not an easy situation, especially when you consider all the stuff you bring along and where to fit it. A fullsize truck or SUV like a Suburban isn’t bad, but we’ve found that no matter how much space you have, you’ll quickly fill it all up, and the more you bring, the heavier your 4x4 becomes. Here are a few pointers.
Bring fewer clothes. Everyone is going to be dirty by the end of the week, so don’t bring 15 outfits—don’t even bring seven. Two pairs of shorts, two pair of pants, four shirts (you’ll probably get shirts when you arrive), and a jacket. Do pack for a variety of weather. It will likely rain; it always does.
Make sure certain items are within reach at all times and that they are se-cure but with quick access. These include fire extinguisher, winch controller, winching gloves, tree saver (with your name on it), recovery strap and shackle, tire plug kit, and first aid kit. These should never be at the bottom of a pile of stuff! These items must be within arm’s reach of the driver or passenger at all times, as when you need them you need them quickly. Better yet, build a small storage box into your bumper for items like recovery gear and gloves because you’ll want them accessible from outside the vehicle.
You need a spare tire. We don’t care if you’ve never had a flat tire in 50 years of four-wheeling; you need a spare tire, and you need to carry it on your vehicle while wheeling.
Another tip is to build in a cooler and toolbox that you can get to quickly. When it’s hot and you’re tired you’ll want to get food easily, and the same goes when you break and you need tools. We really like the ARB or Engel electric fridge freezer coolers. They are expensive and cumbersome, and usually do not hold as much food as a comparably sized normal ice cooler, but they don’t require ice so your sandwiches don’t end up floating in water when the ice melts. We also use ActionPacker bins by Rubbermaid to store dry food and gear. They are tough, yet easy to open, close, and lash down.
Heavy spare parts can be secured and buried under stuff. Light camping gear and clothes should be up on top of the pile so you don’t have to unpack the whole truck when you get to camp in the dark and want to set up your tent quickly, but keep the tools and cooler clear for easy access.
As a final note on storage, you should be sure you have enough fuel capacity for 150 miles. If not, you’ll need a spare fuel can. Be sure the fuel can is secure and safe in a way that it won’t leak or possibly cause a fire or injury in a rollover.
Tools will be used, if not by you, then likely by someone on the trip, so pack what you need. Spray-paint your tools all the same color to be sure they don’t get lost or accidently end up in someone else’s truck.
If your engine uses metric bolts and your suspension uses standard bolts then you need a mixture of SAE and metric wrenches. Pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches, socket, prybars, picks, a hammer, adjustable wrenches, Allen wrenches, a metal file, some electrical repair tools, and a jack are all valuable.
Don’t forget special sockets for your pinion nut, pitman arm nut, lug nut locks, transfer case yoke nut, and hub nuts. If you don’t bring the tool you’ll probably need it, but be conscious of weight—you don’t need an anvil. This year all our tools came from Mac Tools, and we stuffed them in some Master Craft toolbags. We like tools in bags because they are easy to pack, and by labeling the bags we know what’s in each one for quick searching.