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Most people who own 4×4 vehicles love them for their looks and they like the idea of going off-road but don’t. The majority of 4x4s are used for the daily commute and shuttling kids to soccer games. But if you own one and you’ve caught the off-road bug and want to give it a try, we’ve got some tips that will help you make that first outing an adventure rather than a disaster.
Before we get to the tips it’s important that you set your expectations where they need to be. Just because you have a mean looking 4×4 with big wheels and high clearance does not mean you can go charging down hills or climbing boulders on your first time out. Off-road driving is a separate skill set that needs to be learned so in the beginning the rule is slow as you go.
Planning and Preparation
You plan for your first off-road adventure just like you would for your 50th. The list may seem long but when your vehicle breaks down, or tips over, our gets impossibly stuck in the muck you’ll be glad you have the items on board.
So here we go:
Take your cell phone. If your vehicle does not have an adapter that allows charging, make that the first modification that you do to the vehicle. Your cell phone gives you communication and your exact GPS location.
Take a friend. Preferably one who has experience off-roading but in any case never hit the trails solo.
Tell at least one person where you are going and when you expect to get back.
Know your vehicle and its equipment. Know how to engage the 4-wheel drive, the location of the jack and how it works, and where the tow points are.
Let some air out of your tires (25 psi is recommended) before you start the trail.
Bring basic tools like pliers, wrench, screw drivers, bailing wire or duct tape, folding shovel, axe and flashlight (with extra batteries)
A tow rope or strap. Even better…a winch.
Make certain your battery is firmly secured in its housing. The tossing it will take sometimes throws the battery out of the housing tearing the cables and this is not a good thing.
Bring enough food and water to last 48 hours longer than your planned outing.
Spending a cold night in the woods or the desert is not pleasant. Buy a few inexpensive survival blankets and bring matches in a watertight container or baggie.
OK now you are all tricked out, the gas tank is full and you’ve checked all your fluid levels so the only question is…
Where to Go On Your First Off-Road Adventure
First you don’t just pick out a piece of private property and go ripping off on it. It’s against the law and it’s dangerous.
We think the best place to start is locating an off-road club near you. Almost every community has one and often they are clubs for specific brands so you will be among drivers with experience on your vehicle. These clubs know where the trails are and what their degrees of difficulty are and will be happy to share the info. Better yet you might be able to join one of their outings which means you are travelling in a convoy of experienced drivers.
Aside from the clubs you can look up the location of the nearest Off-Road Vehicle Park (ORV). These are pay for use parks for all types of off road vehicles including off road buggies, ATVs and motorcycles. They all will have beginner trails that you can start out on.
If you are fortunate to live near a national forest the forest roads are excellent “beginner’s” trails. They are typically well-defined but still give you the experience of driving on different surface materials and grades. In addition, there’s usually a Ranger Station that you can get maps and information on trail conditions.
Off-roading is a lot of fun and as you develop confidence in your driving capabilities the level of excitement goes up markedly. The key to having a great time and keeping safe is staying within the limits of your skills and leaving the cowboy hat at home.
We hope you have found these tips helpful. If your 4×4 is a Jeep, you might find these Jeep modifications interesting.
Photo via: Indigoprime