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Riding Tips November 17, 2023

Off-Road Riding Essentials for Any Trip

Off-road vehicles are engineered for exploration. They allow you to chase your curiosity beyond the beaten path and discover new horizons. You never know what you’ll encounter on your off-road adventure. That’s part of the thrill, but also why you should always be equipped for whatever situation might arise. To help you prepare, we’ve compiled the following guide. From safety and riding tips to must-have kits of essentials for every ride, it covers everything you need to know before hopping on your ATV or UTV and venturing into the wild.  


Off-Road Tools: What You Need for Every Ride

No matter which off-road vehicle you choose— an ATV or SxS (side-by-side) for utility or sport alike—always have a tool kit of essentials on every ride. To determine what tools to include, start by reviewing your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Become familiar with key service items and associated fasteners. If your off-road vehicle requires a special tool for what could be an at-risk repair area, add it to your list of must-have essentials.

Beyond that, your ATV or SxS UTV tool kit should be versatile enough to assist you in a wide range of applications. We recommend always including the following:

  • Adjustable or common-sized wrenches specific to your vehicle: Having common wrenches to repair potential mechanical failures or make adjustments on the trail is a no brainer. While you can never prepare for all mishaps, having common tools can help you adjust handlebars and controls that get knocked out of position, change a spark plug, remove a tire, or make a suspension adjustment.

  • Regular and Philips screw drivers: As with wrenches, it’s essential to have common screwdrivers to make any necessary repairs on the trail.

  • Flashlight: A flashlight will not only help you with repairs after the sun goes down but can also be used to search for a dropped fastener deep within the nooks and crannies of your vehicle.

  • Tire-plug kit with manual or 12-volt air pump: Flat or leaky tires can occur when you ride off-road. A tire-plug kit can quickly repair a puncture and get you back on the trail.

  • Tire-patch kit

Keep in mind, every off-road tool kit can look different depending upon your ATV or UTV and where you ride. Most likely, your ATV or SxS tool kit will evolve as you discover new items to include. Keep a list and continue to refine. Eventually, you’ll become a trail hero who saves the day on future rides.


Essential Off-Road Safety Equipment and Supplies

It’s critical that every rider completes an ATV or SxS UTV safe-riding course and always adheres to safe-riding techniques on each ride. However, even fully trained riders should prepare for the unexpected with a robust ATV or UTV kit of safety equipment and supplies. At a minimum, each kit should include:

Proper riding gear and a helmet will not only protect you in the event of an emergency, but also fend off the elements. Polaris off-road gear and helmets are engineered to keep you comfortable in all kinds of climates and situations while also keeping you safe.


Of course, the do-it-all capability of mobile phones should always be a part of any ATV or side-by-side safety kit. When you download and install the Polaris Ride Command application, you can elevate your ride with advanced mapping, connectivity and sharing capabilities. It’s also important to never ride alone, so even if you can share your location with advanced technology, you should always have an adventure partner by your side while you ride.

A woman riding her Polaris Sportsman vehicle
A woman riding her Polaris Sportsman vehicle

What to Include in an Off-Road Emergency/Recovery Kit


The best solution to any emergency situation on an ATV, UTV, side-by-side or 4-wheeler trail ride is to be prepared by adhering to off-road safety tips and having a well-equipped emergency kit. Essential items to include in an off-road vehicle emergency kit include:

  • Tow strap
  • Accessory winch
  • First-aid kit

Make sure you’re always carrying a tow strap when you ride. It can be used to extract a vehicle or tow one back to camp. Securing your ATV or UTV with an accessory winch adds versatility to your vehicle, as it can be used in so many ways beyond the ride. From extracting a vehicle to help repairing a tire, the cost associated with an accessory winch is well worth it. Last, but certainly not least, always bring a well-stocked and well-rounded ATV or UTV first-aid kit. Be sure to go through the kit before each ride to understand what you have and how to use it. Replenish used, lost or expired items and keep a list of things to add as you gain trail-riding experience.


Common Spare Parts to Bring on an Off-Road Trip

Whether you’re riding a SxS UTV or ATV, consider adding the following spare parts and repair items to your off-road riding kit.

  • Spare rim and tire
  • Lug wrench and jack
  • 12-volt air compressor
  • Spare drive belt
  • Tire plug kit
  • Tire patch kit
  • Spark plugs
  • Jumper cables or a jump box
  • Spare half shaft
  • Recovery sled

A potential flat tire is also something to prepare for. Carrying a spare that’s ready to mount is ideal, but if that’s not possible, a tire plug kit, tire patch kit and 12-volt-powered tire inflator are strongly recommended. Be sure to pack an appropriate lug wrench and jack for your vehicle so you can switch out tires if needed. Half shafts are a critical link in your vehicle's drivetrain that drive your vehicle forward. They can be easily stored in your vehicle, so it's a good idea to have a spare one on hand. And in a worst-case scenario where your off-road vehicle is seriously damaged, a recovery sled can help you transport it back to homebase for inspection or repairs.

Other key parts to consider bringing include a spare drive belt (dependent upon vehicle), spark plugs and a portable jump box. A portable jump box can also be useful for starting your ATV or UTV should its battery fail and there’s no option for manual start.

Team of drivers in the wild
Team of drivers in the wild

Useful Clothing and Gear to Bring on Your Off-Road UTV Trip


Where you ride, when you ride and changing weather conditions all play a role in determining what to wear while riding an ATV or SxS UTV and the accessories you need to bring. For clothing, dressing in layers and thinking about the possible extremes you might encounter can help you determine what clothing and gear to wear and what to bring along “just in case.” Here is a list of gear and clothing to consider bringing on every trip: 

  • Technical layering apparel
  • Off-road riding gloves
  • Engineered cooling shirts
  • Protective and vent-capable jackets

Extra gloves and goggles, various mid-layering options and a durable all-weather shell jacket are all great items to consider packing. If your trip is going to cover extreme conditions and temperature swings, check out Polaris-engineered apparel. Polaris has layering shirts, gloves and jackets with technology to keep you dry and comfortable in extreme heat, brutal cold and every temp in between. For more information, check out our guide on what to wear off roading.


Snacks and Drinks to Fuel Your Body While Off Roading

Your off-road vehicle isn’t the only thing you need to keep fueled for your adventure. Fueling yourself is equally important. Always pack water and more water. You may not realize it while riding, but your body is working hard, and staying hydrated will keep you alert, comfortable and safe. This is especially true when riding in extreme climates like an arid desert. For snacks, pack a variety of healthy, non-perishable options such as beef jerky, trail mix, granola or similar snack bars to keep you nourished while riding.

  • Water or electrolyte drinks
  • Trail mix, nuts or beef jerky
  • All-in-one energy bars

A Ready-Made Kit of Off-Road Essentials

Want to get riding faster? Consider the Trailside Recovery Kit. With this kit and a little know-how, you can repair a flat tire, jump start a downed vehicle, and tow a vehicle.

Experience and planning are two of the best accessories you can employ to ensure your ATV or SxS UTV trail riding is the best it can be. Staying safe and being prepared with riding essentials, including ATV riding accessories, UTV or ATV tool kits, and ATV or SxS first-aid kits - will make every ride more enjoyable for beginner and experienced riders alike.

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