Trail riding in UTVs is a fun and exciting way to experience the outdoors. You can go farther out into the wilderness than you ever thought possible and do so in remarkable comfort. With vehicles ranging from 2 seats to 6 seats and 500cc engines to 1,000cc turbocharged engines, there’s an option available to fit every need.
Manufacturers are continually updating and expanding their Side-by-Side lineup and the consumers enjoy more and better options than ever before. Some units even come with an enclosed cab that has heat and air conditioning, straight from the factory!
UTVs are coming from the manufacturers with more and more creature comforts every year. With the machine’s becoming more complex, it’s important to remember that they require maintenance and can break down at inopportune times.
You don’t want to get caught out in the middle of nowhere, unprepared. There are certain things that every Side-by-Side owner should have, to ensure that they’re prepared out on the trail, as well as at home in the garage.
From recovery kits to first aid, having the appropriate tools and supplies is a must when you’re out on the trail and miles away from civilization. Below are some must-have items for UTV owners.
Some safety items, such as helmets, are required on a lot of trails and at off-road parks. Even if they’re not required, helmets should be worn at all times on a Side-by-Side. Even the smallest accident can be deadly if your head is exposed.
You should also consider other riding gear, like boots, gloves, and proper pants and shirts. These can protect you from the elements, but also help reduce the chance of injury, should you be involved in an accident.
That brings us to the next important item for a UTV owner; a good first aid kit. It may not be something that people want to talk about, but being prepared for an accident is an absolute must. It may not even be you in the accident. It could be someone else on the trail and having a good first aid kit could be crucial.
If you take along no other supplies, you should at least pack a well stocked first aid kit, just in case.
It is also recommended that you keep a fire extinguisher in your Side-by-Side. These machines can get very hot and a broken fuel line or perhaps flammable debris around the exhaust header can create a very intense fire in a very short amount of time.
It’s not something that happens very often, but it’s worth being prepared anyway. In the unlikely event that a fire occurs, that fire extinguisher could very well save your UTV or even someone’s life.
Winch and Recovery Gear
Some people may argue that a winch is not a necessity for getting out on the trails, and if you never ride anything other than well groomed trails, that may be true. For most UTV owners, the allure of the UTV is the ability to go farther into remote areas that wouldn’t otherwise be accessible.
Chances are, the farther from civilization you get, the more challenging the terrain will be. You may come across mud holes without a path around, or you might encounter rocky ledges that challenge even the most sophisticated 4 wheel drive systems.
Depending on your location, there are all sorts of terrain and obstacles that could potentially require a winch to get over or through. It can extract your from a mud hole, help pull the machine up and over rock ledges, it can even be used to clear the trail of downed trees or debris.
You may also stumble upon a stuck Side-by-Side or ATV that doesn’t have a winch and needs a rescue. A winch can be an expensive addition to your Side-by-Side, but it may very well be the most important tool you have with you on the trail. It’s always better to be prepared for the unexpected so that it doesn’t ruin the ride.
Check out our winch buyer’s guide
Even with a winch, it’s important to have other recovery gear. A tow strap is a must, but you may also want to include something like a small shovel, in case you bury the machine in sand or mud.
A winch kit is also helpful, as most include tree straps, snatch blocks, and winch line extensions. Traction boards have also become popular and may be worth considering, especially if you’re not planning to add a winch. Adequate recovery gear will allow you to safely enjoy the trails and extract the UTV from those unexpected sticky situations.
Tire Repair Kit and Air Compressor
Probably the most vulnerable part of your Side-by-Side is the tires. They are in constant (hopefully!) contact with the ground and they take quite a bit of abuse. Punctured tires are one of the most common issues faced by Side-by-Side owners on the trail.
You might run over a nail or sharp rock and punch a hole in the tire, or maybe you have a tire with a slow leak. In any case, a flat tire is a sure-fire way to ruin a trip off-road.
Many people carry a spare tire with them and that is an excellent idea. This is the easiest solution for a flat tire, but it’s not always an option for everyone. If that’s the case, a good tire repair kit is essential. Most kits will have plugs and patches and the tools needed for the repair.
In many cases, you can plug the tire and then get back on the trail. If the damage is more severe, you may be able to, at the very least, effect a repair well enough to get back to the trailhead. Without the repair kit, you would have to limp the UTV back and risk further damaging the tire, as well as the wheel.
One important caveat to this is you will likely need to air the tire back up after the repair or if you have a slow leak during the ride. A small portable air compressor will be indispensable in these situations.
There are a wide range of 12 volt compressors that you can carry with you on the trail. Almost all Side-by-Sides have at least one 12 volt outlet, so all you would need to do is plug it in and air up the tires. Most are also fairly small, so they won’t take up a lot of space.
Make sure you have a tire pressure gauge when airing up the tires, so that you have the correct pressure. Some tire repair kits will have a tire pressure gauge included. If not, they’re inexpensive and very easy to come by.
The vast majority of UTVs have automatic CVT transmissions that use a belt and clutch to transfer power to the wheels. Only the Honda Pioneer and Talon UTVs and the Yamaha YXZ UTV have gear driven transmissions. CVTs are widespread among UTVs and ATVs and are, for the most part, very reliable. The weak link in this type of transmission is always going to be the belt.
The belt can get wet and slip, it can break from stress and heat buildup, or it may wear out over time and eventually break. Whatever the case may be, having a spare on hand will keep your ride going.
See our tips for getting the most out of your drive belt
Manufacturers have begun to make the belt and clutch cover more accessible to facilitate easier and faster repairs. Belts don’t break frequently, but if it does, you’ll be glad that you packed a spare. A quick belt change and you’ll be blazing down the trails again!
If you’re going to be out in the wild without cell service very often, you may want to consider some sort of GPS device to make sure you can find your way back. There are countless GPS devices that would work in this type of application, but there are also GPS apps that can be downloaded to a phone or tablet.
GPS apps have become increasingly popular and if you have a GPS enabled phone or tablet, it may be the easiest route. If you use a phone, just make sure the GPS will still function without cell service.
Many tablets will function without cell service and a growing number of people are purchasing inexpensive tablets and using them for their maps. You can download different maps, depending on where you’re riding and you’ll always be able to easily find your way back out of the wilderness.
Tools for the Trail and the Garage
If you have to make any repairs during your ride, you’re going to need a few tools. There are countless UTV tool kits that roll up and can be stored in the glove box. ATV tool kits will likely work as well.
These have a variety of different tools that are commonly needed for repairs and they aren’t overly expensive. It’s much easier than buying the tools individually and trying to piece together your own set.
You may not have to make repairs very often, but when you do, you’ll be happy to have that handy little tool kit in the glove box.
SEE ALSO: Everything you need to know about dune riding
While it’s great to have all of these tools at your disposal on the trail, you don’t want to forget about the tools you keep at home in the garage. A good wrench and socket set will go a long way if you like to do your own maintenance or if you want to modify your vehicle.
Each Side-by-Side will have different size bolts, so make sure you have the appropriate sockets or wrenches for your vehicle. You may also want to consider a torque wrench, if you don’t have one, to make sure that you don’t strip any bolts. Read your owner’s manual to see what tools are recommended. This way, even if you can’t be on the trail, you can still tinker in the garage!
Are you prepared?
UTVs are insanely fun and you look forward to getting out on the trails every chance you get. No one wants to have their excursion into the wild ruined by a flat tire or broken belt or getting stuck.
Being prepared and making sure you have the necessities to safely venture into remote locations is an important part of UTV ownership. One of the great things about UTVs is the amount of storage space available to take along all of your gear and tools.
You can pack up everything you need for a day on the trails and it won’t have any impact on the comfort of you or your passengers. All you have to do is grab your gear and hit the trail!