New to driving on the beach? Worried about what to do if you get stuck? We’ve put together a list of the things to put in your 4x4 vehicle, tips and tricks for a great day on the beach. And remember, all of these items can be used to help yourself and your fellow drivers! Southern hospitality, y’all.

We like the linked products, but we took care to make sure other customers agree (they are highly-rated). Some of the product links include affiliate codes. If a purchase is made, OuterBanks.com is paid a commission for the referral.

4x4 Beach Driving Gear - traction mats

Traction Mats

Avoid a tow with traction mats. If you get into some soft sand or sink wheels, simply stop and place these mats under your vehicle’s tires. Press lightly on the accelerator. The traction tread helps your tires grip the mat. These mats provide a larger footprint and allow your vehicle to rise up out of the rut with ease. Drive to a harder-packed area, retrieve the mats and drive away. Sold in pairs, we carry these at all times when driving on the 4x4 access in Carova, and on Cape Hatteras National Seashore (permit required). These mats also work well in mud and snow. These mats are durable and stack to a low profile for storage. We like the bright orange color for visibility purposes.

Tip: Still having trouble driving out of soft sand after using these mats? Try airing the tires down a bit more.

TGL Tow Strap

Required for the NPS beaches on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands

In the unfortunate event of a breakdown or extra soft sand that has left you stranded, tow straps are a must for recovery. We like the TGL because of its high ratings, 30,000 pound capacity and small storage footprint (no big metal hooks here). Hook the strap to both vehicles, slowly pull it taught, and then drag the disabled vehicle to safety. Even if you never get stuck, you can be a hero with a tow strap on Outer Banks beaches.

4x4 Beach Driving Gear - Shovel

Folding Shovel

Required for the NPS beaches on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands

Sometimes all it takes to get unstuck is a little sand-clearing from around your vehicle’s tires. We love our E-Tool for the compact storage footprint, but more importantly, it’s tough. This is the heavy-duty tool relied on by our armed forces. We’ve personally used this tool on the beach for vehicle recovery, sandcastle construction and pit-filling. It has been fantastic and showing no signs of slowing down.

4x4 Beach Driving Gear - Air down tire pressures

Tire Pressure Gauge

Required for the NPS beaches on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands

Even if you’re lifted and running wide tires, airing down is a smart move on the beach. Reducing air pressure increases each tire’s footprint, helping you drive over the sand instead of pushing through it. The ride will be more comfortable, your vehicle won’t strain, and you increase traction and greatly reduce the chance of sinking into soft sand. To make sure you’ve got the right pressure (we air down to 20psi on the sand, sometimes lower), you’ll need a tire pressure gauge. This is one of those items we prefer to buy once, forever. Check out the TireTek gauge linked above. It features a large 2” dial, 360 degree swivel chuck, and solid steel construction. And, mechanical gauges don’t run out of batteries. This is a stout gauge, and it comes as no surprise that it is to highly-rated.

 

4x4 Beach Driving Gear - 12v Air pump

Air Compressor

This is our MV50 Superflow compressor. Every Summer evening in the Outer Banks, lines accumulate around gas station air compressors. We've waited nearly 2 hours to "air up" after a day on the sand. You can avoid this wait altogether by taking your own high-CFM 12-volt air compressor. We're not talking about the compressor you plug into your cigarette lighter. This MV50 Superflow connects directly to your battery terminals and draws real current to get your large tires inflated quickly. It includes 10ft. battery cables and a 16ft. high-pressure hose. This is a photo of our initial test of the unit. We inflated a BF Goodrich AT KO2 285/65/18 tire from 22psi (beach pressure) to 44psi (street pressure) in just over 3 minutes. That's faster than many local gas station air pumps. the screw-on nozzle allows hands-free inflation. This compressor does get hot to the touch, so keep little hands clear during/after use.

First Aid Kit

Some areas of the Outer Banks are more remote than others. It’s rewarding to leave the crowds behind on a 4x4 beach. But emergency vehicle access is also further away, and access is more limited. We recommend a kit with some higher-end items, just in case. The Lightning X Individual first aid trauma kit includes Quick – Clotting Gauze, a CPR mask, Nitrile gloves, and more. These are some of the more common items needed for emergencies in which seconds count, and EMS is further away. As a kit, the included items represent a lot of value. Add some basic bandaids and disinfectant spray to round out your kit. Remember to learn how to use these items BEFORE you need them!

4x4 Beach Driving Gear - Fire extinguisher

Fire Extinguisher

Another item that should be part of your 4x4 beach access kit is a basic fire extinguisher. We like the Kidde FA110. It’s a Coast Guard approved multipurpose dry chemical extinguisher with a pressure gauge and retention bracket. Fire extinguishers  don’t take much room, and they save vehicles/lives. As an alternate, try the Buckeye 45100 CO2 Extinguisher. Compressed air is a great alternative to chemical extinguishers, especially in wildlife habitat areas. Plus, there is no chemical mess to clean from the scene. The only drawback is price, as CO2 extinguishers are more expensive.

Head Lamp

Some of the best days on the beach keep going after the sun has set. 4x4 access beaches don’t have street lights. Whether you’re digging out or gathering your gear, you’ll be glad you have a hands-free light.  We like the inexpensive but durable LED headlamp models from Energizer. They provide lots of light, and our experience is that they always turn on after months stored in a hot/cold vehicle. The brand and model aren’t as important as the utility, so pick your favorite and make sure to take it on your trip.

Jack and jack board - *Required for the NPS beaches on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands

Make sure your vehicle’s jack is operational and stored in the vehicle. This is required on Hatteras and Ocracoke Island beaches, which are maintained by the NPS (Cape Hatteras National Seashore). The MAXSA Traction mats listed above can act as a jack board, which the NPS also requires.

4x4 Beach Driving Gear - ORV permit sign

Permits

Driving on the beach in Carova does not require a permit, but all 4x4 beach access on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands is managed by the National Park Service and requires a permit. Make sure you’ve got your permit decal in place before venturing onto the sand in these areas, they are patrolled regularly.

Carova 4x4 beach and wild horses

Poke Box
Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education
Donutz on a Stick

Stay, Play and Eat- Donuts, Ice Cream & Coffee Treats! Located on the Duck Boardwalk, behind Dockside Seafood, this breakfast & Dessert-Shop features treats you've never tasted before! Try the hot, made to order, donutz on a stick with more than 35 toppings! They'll melt in your mouth! Or try the Gluten-Free Donuts; limited quantities, daily. Plus, try any or all of the 9 flavors of homemade tastefully twisted soft serve. Frozen yogurt, sorbets, sherbet, hand dipped and homemade ice cream flavors.

 

Unique coffees, sodas and espresso that will satisfy the whole family. Mix-and-match nostalgic candies and much more. Bring the carnival to your mouth and eat it like nobody’s watchin’! Donutz-On-A-Stick- where visual stimulation meets taste bud overload!

 

Carnival Treats at the Beach—With Flavorful Creations and Allergy-Friendly Options, Donutz on a Stick Serves Up Sweet Treats for Everyone

 

David and Stephanie were not always in the business of carnival confections. In fact, Stephanie was a fitness instructor and David worked in the computer field. But he loved donuts and she loved ice cream, and when they saw an opportunity to bring their favorite treats to beachgoers, they jumped on it.

 

In 2014, the couple opened their first Donutz on a Stick—a family-run, family-friendly dessert shop on the boardwalk. They quickly realized that in order to serve everyone, they would need to get creative. “We had a family who would come in, and one of the little boys would have to wait by the door because of his gluten allergy,” David says. “That didn’t sit well with us. We wanted everyone to come under the same roof no matter what kind of allergies they had. And we continue to work towards that goal.”

 

The Williams’ daughter Desireé spent six weeks experimenting until she created a gluten-free donut that was totally safe and delicious. Gluten-free donuts are now a huge part of the business, with more than 1,000 being served each day, just out of the Duck location. But you will want to call or stop by to reserve them in advance.

 

The Williams’ other three children, David, Justin and Christian, have all invented menu items as well, such as Christian’s donut milkshake, which features hot and fresh cooked donuts blended into a milkshake with another donut on top making it picture perfect.

 

While all the Williams have created menu items, the most popular pick—the donut sundae—was actually a happy accident.

 

“We were being featured in a local magazine and we could only have one photo for the article,” David says. Since both ice cream and donuts were equally popular, “we built the donut sundae for the photo and we discovered after the photoshoot that it tasted amazing. It was completely serendipitous.”

 

The Williams family is constantly creating and improving upon their recipes. At the heart of it all is a desire to see everyone come in and enjoy an experience together. They want to bring the carnival to your mouth.

 

“No matter how busy we are—even if there’s a line down the boardwalk—every customer gets that engagement and service from us,” they say.

 

The family has since opened a second location in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area.

Salt Coast Outfitters
Currituck Banks Coastal Estuarine Reserve
Duck Corolla Parasail