Hill climbing is a great activity for anyone who enjoys off-roading, a challenge that requires those of us off-roaders to exercise our brain while we enjoy the stomach-twisting excitement that comes with living on the literal edge!
Successful hill climbing involves understanding the intricacies of angles and balance and how to use them to your advantage for safe ascents and descents.
Make these five essential tips part of your hill climbing technique so you can meet the challenge of getting up, over, and down all those hills again in total safety!
Tip 1 - Approach and Departure Angles
Before attempting any hill climbs in your truck, it’s essential that you know what your approach and departure or ramp angles as this will let you know whether it’s even possible for you to climb or descend at a specific point.
Defined by the length of the vehicle, find out your truck’s angles and then inspect each ascent and descent you want to attempt to be sure whether your truck can or cannot do it:
Approach Angle - The steepest ground angle you can drive up without the nose of your vehicle bottoming out, either with the bumper or the undercarriage.
- Departure Angle - The steepest ground angle you can drive down without the rear end of your vehicle bottoming out, either with the undercarriage or bumper.
If you know your vehicle’s approach and departure angles, you can easily calculate your clearance while on the trail using a broom handle and a protractor.
Put the end of the handle against the front or rear tire on the ground and lift it up all the way until it touches the bumper or undercarriage.
For you to get through safely, your angles need to be greater than the angles you want to drive.
It is interesting to note that an easy way to increase your truck or Jeep's approach and departure angles is with bigger tires as well as a Grumper or a Premium Rear Bumper, both of which have a high and tight design that increases your angles.
Tip 2 - Going Uphill
The rule about going uphill is simple - keep moving forward which means that you must carefully gauge the footing so you keep moving without actually spinning your tires.
This is a skill you will develop in time as you become familiar with how your truck will react in different circumstances.
Apply more power as you go higher to keep your uphill movement going; if you stall on a steep incline, your safest option is to back down in reverse and try it again.
Tip 3 - High-Centering
High-centering is what happens when you reach the top of a hill and the undercarriage between the front and rear axles touches the ground and you can't move forward or backward.
As with approach and departure, avoiding this problem is another matter of understanding your truck or Jeep's angles.
Breakover angle is the angle you can safely peak without touching bottom, so be sure to determine yours and measure it before you end up high-centered and need some help to get down off that hill.
Tip 4 - Going Downhill
The goal of a safe descent is to stay in control and avoid going too fast without riding the brakes or the clutch.
Descents should be made in the lowest gear allowing the truck to roll itself downhill, tapping the brakes lightly to maintain that slow creep and prevent your truck from speeding up.
You need to find the perfect balance between going too fast and losing control or moving so slow that you start to slide.
As with the uphill climb, this is something you will learn to gauge with your truck over time.
Tip 5 - Driving Side Hill
Driving side hill or with your truck at an angle with one front and rear wheel lower than the other two is extremely dangerous and should be avoided if at all possible.
Although it can work when climbing on your own, when the vehicle’s weight is shifted to the low side a rollover could happen at any time if the imbalance is great enough.
Negotiate hills straight up and down, not sideways.
Improve Your Hill Climbing Skills
As easy as it may look from afar, hill climbing in your truck or Jeep is a lot more challenging once the angles start getting steep.
Remember these five critical tips and use them to plan your approach and descent so your off-road trip is a great adventure and you're ready to drive over the next hill!