Getting Started in R/C: What to Pack for Your Scale/Trail Adventure

Getting Started in R/C: What to Pack for Your Scale/Trail Adventure

Nothing compares to taking your radio-controlled scale/trail rig out for a day of fun. Extending your trip beyond your front yard to a local park or trail is not only a great way to enhance your enjoyment of the hobby, but it also allows you to push the limits of your driving skill and your vehicle. But before you head out on your adventure, there are a few things you should make sure you consider and prepare to take with you.

Getting Your Rig Ready to Roll

You’ve spent hours working on your trail rig, perfecting the look, setting it up with scale accessories and making sure it’s lit up with LED lights, but is that all you need to do before you hit the trail?  Giving your radio-controlled trail vehicle a good once-over before (and after) a day outdoors is a good idea (and one that I keep reminding myself as well).

  • Make sure all of your hardware is intact and tight – I’ve found myself in a few situations where a simple check of my bolts, screws, and other hardware would have saved me a bit of embarrassment and hobby heartache. Before your rig leaves your R/C garage, make sure all of the attachment points are tightened up and snug. Key areas are wheels, suspension links, shock mounts, steering linkage, and drivetrain.
  • Examine your tires for wear and tear(s) – Just like a 1:1 vehicle, making sure you have tread on your tires before leaving for a long trip is always a good idea. While you’re not risking the same result with your smaller, scale machine, you could put yourself through additional frustration and hassle if you’re not able to find the right amount of grip due to high amounts of tire wear.
    Beyond looking at your tread, make sure your tires don’t have any rips or small tears forming in them.  When you find yourself bound up amongst rocks and sharp obstacles, that could make matters worse and you may find yourself carrying your truck off of the trail instead of driving it.
  • Make sure all systems are a “go”. – Power your rig up and give it a quick steering and throttle test before you pack up to head out. If you get the response you’re looking for, you’re good to go.
  • Charge your batteries – Don’t leave this to chance. I recently went on a trail run with my children and neglected to make sure my battery pack was sufficiently charged up. They had a good time on the trail…while I watched from the sidelines.

Be a Prepared Driver

Even though we’re talking about R/C vehicles, the most-important component of the hobby is you. Make sure you’re ready for the day’s weather conditions and be sure to plan ahead for any changes that might take place. While this isn’t the most glamorous part of your prep, it may be the most important. In addition to your climate-appropriate clothing, bringing these items along will help ensure you have a great time on the trail.

  • Weather and climate-appropriate clothing – This is an important one, so I’m stating it more than once. Dress for the conditions and remember to dress in layers for easy off/on adjustability.
  • Backpack – Having a backpack to keep all of your gear in, both for your vehicle and yourself, is perfect for keeping what you need close at hand. Save yourself trips to and from your home base or your car by packing everything up and carrying it with you. Just a reminder; pack light. You’ll wear yourself out if you’re lugging around your weight in batteries and extra components.
    If you already have a pack that you use and trust, that’s great. If not, I suggest finding one that has multiple pockets and compartments, is durable and rugged, and is adequately-padded for comfort. Check out your local sporting goods store, Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mtn, Cabela’s, REI or even Amazon.com to see what options are out there.
  • Mobile phone/walkie talkie – This might go without saying, but having a form of communication is not only great for keeping in touch with your group, but it can also be helpful in the event of an emergency. If you’re hitting the trail, no matter with friends or by yourself, make sure you let someone know where you’re headed.
  • Compass – Unless you’re going to be on a marked, well-established path, this may not be necessary, however having a navigation method that isn’t dependent on batteries is a nice addition to any outdoor trail pack.
  • Flashlight – If your trail run calls for some nighttime driving, bring along a flashlight to keep with you if the event you need to make low-light repairs or swap out batteries in your transmitter. Even though your rig may be lit up like a Christmas tree, having an additional light source is never a bad thing.
  • Food & water – While you won’t need to pack a full meal for your adventure (unless you’re planning on making a day of it), it’s a great idea to throw a few bottles of water and some granola/protein/energy bars into your backpack to keep your systems running at full song. There’s nothing worse than the driver running out of gas before the R/C truck does.

Bring the Gear to Keep you Going

Keeping in mind the need to pack light, the parts and tools that you bring with you out on the trail can mean the difference between performing an on-path pit stop and closing up shop early and heading home.

  • Batteries – What fun would a trail run be if you didn’t have power? Pack an extra battery for not only your rig, but also include batteries for your transmitter and any other electrical items you have on your vehicle. Bonus tip: make sure the batteries are charged!
  • Chassis hardware – Even though you’ve performed a pre-trail check of your hardware “snugness”, bringing along extra screws, bolts, and nuts Is a nice, additional measure that will help you out in a pinch. Pro-tip: packing a small tackle/utility box with hardware is a compact way of keeping all of your bits and pieces together as well as separated by size and type.
  • Tools – Having spare hardware on hand won’t do you much good if you don’t have the equipment to install it. While you don’t need to tote a spare garage in your backpack, a set of hex drivers, needle-nose pliers, and a multi-tool should cover your needs.
  • Body pins – While some may not view body pins to be as crucial as hardware or additional spare chassis/drive parts, they are an important part of your R/C trail rig. If you have room, toss some extra body pins into your backpack by way of your tackle box (if you still have room) or a plastic container.
  • Spare chassis parts – Plastic parts trees; every radio-controlled vehicle model has them. Chances are, you won’t need to touch many of the extra pieces that are included, snapping off some of the essential parts, suspension linkage, driveshafts, suspension mounts. To get a clear idea of what you should bring with you, have an idea of what the trail or terrain will be and try to envision what issues you may encounter. With the tree-part components being made of plastic, they’re lightweight and won’t weigh your backpack down, so you can’t really go overboard.
    If you’re using third-party suspension parts and pieces, depending on price, pack an additional set, or the parts to help you repair what you’re running, with you. If you’re in a pinch and on a budget, toss in the good-ol’ parts tree pieces. While they’re not the highest-performing components you’ll find, chances are they’ll help you get your vehicle back up and running.
  • Backup motor, servo(s), and receiver – These items are optional, and I wouldn’t expect every R/C enthusiast to be toting around a clone of their entire trail truck everywhere they go. Having said that, I can speak from firsthand experience when I say that getting two minutes into a trail run And having a steering servo fail on you is not a fun experience. If you can swing both the cost and the storage space, having a few, select backup items may not be a bad idea to bring along on the trail.

While this list may not cover every aspect and angle of your trail experience, it should get you very close. If you’ve been trailing for a while, what are your go-to items to pack for every trip? If you have a suggestion that should be added here, get in touch via Twitter, Facebook, or email.

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