A Pioneer Kit - Tools for Your 4WD




About: When I was a boy, I was amazed how my grandfather could make flotsam and jetsam into useful things. I am proud that I have inherited some of his skill.

Whatever you are driving, if you get stuck in the mud, you will benefit from a shovel and either an axe or hatchet.

[Photo - standing at the front of the truck, looking down into the engine compartment.]


An appropriate piece of wood with which to make the mounting board, hold down, etc. Mine was white oak and about 5 feet long

Four 4 1/2" galvanized carriage bolts, washers, and wing nuts

Screws and water proof glue

Flat olive drab paint, if desired

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Step 1: Four Wheel Drive or Not, You Can Still Get Stuck

Getting stuck is bad enough, without the added embarrassment of having no way to get unstuck. Or, almost as bad, encountering another stuck vehicle with no way to help.

There are some things I carry in all my vehicles: a tow strap, an aerosol tire inflator, and a pair of jumper cables. It just makes sense to be prepared. In my 4WD vehicles, I go further and carry an assortment of mechanic's tools, a five gallon bucket, and a pioneer kit - a shovel and hatchet, in my case, although some kits include an axe instead.

The shovel in the photo is about 24" long. The hatchet has a forged head. It also has a bead of silicone on the blade, to lessen the risk of getting cut. It doesn't interfere with cutting - one chop and it's gone.

Step 2: Where to Stash a Pioneer Kit

Strangely enough, my last pickup, which was a standard cab, had more room to carry things than my new one extended cab. I had plenty of room behind the seat to carry tools, and what didn't fit back there, went under the seat or in the tool box.

My new truck has little room under the seats and the rear seat back is bolted to the cab and has no room behind it. I haven't added a tool box because the truck has a 6 1/2 foot bed and it would take up too much room.

I hadn't added much to the truck cab when I ran out of room, leaving me with nowhere to put the shovel and hatchet.

BTW, this Instructable has its origins in the pioneer kits often found on jeep and quarter-ton trucks in the military, where the tools were mounted under the door opening, completely exposed to the elements. I looked online to see what others might have done, but I didn't see anything pertaining to a new F-150. I did, however, see a pioneer kit and mount designed to fit under the hood of a Humvee, so I took a look there.

I was surprised to see that my truck had a lot of room between the grill and the radiator, and that the exposed portions of the frame already had several holes in it. That seemed to be a perfect place for the pioneer kit.

Step 3: The Basics

As I had already found places for the tow strap and jumper cables inside the cab, all I needed to secure were the shovel, a short D-handle model, and the hatchet. It seemed a logical thing to make some kind of wooden device to bolt between the frame ends and secure the tools to it.

I looked around my shop and found a 1 x 4" piece of white oak flooring, which is an ideal material for this application as it is highly rot resistant. I didn't even cut the tongue and grove off of it; I just measure the required length, determined the bolt spacing, and drilled two holes. (FYI - a very simple way of figuring bolt spacing, or even nail spacing to hang pictures, is to simply stretch a piece of blue or green painter's tape across the expanse, mark where the holes are, and then stick it to the back of the board or whatever and transfer the marks. It comes out perfectly every time.)

To make the piece that holds the shovel blade, I merely lowered a piece of the oak vertically onto the table saw blade, moving the rip fence a bit each time until I had cut out an arc into which the blade could slip.(Watch your fingers if you try it.) I then cut the piece to the width of the long board.

I cut a piece shaped to fit into the D-handle and mounted both pieces to the board with waterproof glue and screws. Because the piece that goes into the handle is thinner than the handle itself, I added another piece on edge inside the handle cutout. That piece is sloped from one side to the other, so that when the hatchet sits on it with its wedge shaped blade, the handle is parallel to the mounting board.

When I added the shovel and hatchet to the mounting board, all that remained was to secure the two of them to it. This was accomplished simply by using two carriage bolts to clamp the tools between the mounting board and another piece of the oak. That piece was made more stable by cutting a groove on the underside of approximately the width of the hatchet handle and about 3/16" deep.

Step 4: Finishing Up

I painted the whole wooden assembly flat olive drab. I also did the same thing with the metal tool blades, as they will occasionally get wet, as they are in the front of the truck, in an exposed location. (TWO YEARS LATER, the paint is holding up pretty well and the blades have not rusted at all.)

My truck had two 5/8" round holes in perfect locations to mount the pioneer kit, but there was no way to get my finger inside to put a nut on a bolt. I solved this simply enough by using a couple of 4 1/2" carriage bolts with the heads cut off. I bent both of them at the halfway point about 95 degrees - a little more than flat - and inserted one end into the hole. When I tightened the wing nut against the washer, it clamped the mounting board firmly in place.

I have no intention of getting a brand new truck stuck, but you never know what may happen. At least now I will have the necessary tools handy to get myself out.

This Instructable may not be exactly what you need for your vehicle - I don't even know if other years of F-150s have those handy holes - but perhaps it will give you an idea how to solve your particular problem.

(Forgive the last photo. It was brilliantly sunny, the truck is shiny white, and I was taking a photo in the shade of the hood. Again, like the first photo, it shows the area between the grille and radiator.)

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    10 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    You just got my brain going with some ideas on my Jeep. I have an 89 Wrangler and have a toolbox in the back and my jack on my tire carrier. I need to figure out some places for my shovel, hatchet, and a few other tools. I already keep a Maglite flashlight mounted to the floor between my seat and the door jamb using Maglite holders.

    1 reply

    4 years ago on Introduction

    I like it! I hear you on space, my 06 Tundra has the smallest little compartments under the back seat and now they're full of stereo gear. I needed a bed box just for my jack, tow strap, tie downs, etc....

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction


    It's amazing how little space I have, so I have to think everything out carefully. (And I still haven't figured out where to put the fire extinguisher.)


    There isn't enough room inside the vehicle to store them. They'll last a pretty good while under the hood, especially if I keep them painted. The oak handles won't rot, so they'll be ok. Thanks for the comment.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    You could store your tools on a roof rack, it´s better if the vehicle gets stuck in mud and opening the hood is hard.


    5 years ago

    For extra protection I'd wax the tools.
    Trivia note: It's federal law that you must have a shovel, chopping tool, and a bucket in your vehicle when in a national park. You're almost legal.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Actually, I keep a five-gallon bucket in the bed for trash, so I'm good!

    Waxing is a good idea,

    Thanks for the comments.