Off-roading is all fun and games until you run into a problem that brings everything to a stop.
There are all kinds of hazards out on the trails that can threaten your safety as well as the condition of your truck, even when you have all the important upgrades like tires, specialty aftermarket bumpers like steel bumpers, and a built-up suspension system.
When you head out to the hills and trails, your goal is to recognize those hazards and avoid them before problems arise.
Keep the most common off-roading hazards you'll face in the back of your mind so you can evade them and make the most of your fun.
1. Getting a Flat Tire
Flat tires are a prevalent issue experienced by off-roaders and also the easiest to prevent by knowing the many hazards that can cause them.
Prevent common sidewall punctures and valve stem tears first and foremost by making sure your tires are in good shape and up to the challenge of another day on the trail.
Take care in situations more likely to cause you tire damage or bumper damage like driving through narrow, rocky trails, over freshly graded dirt or gravel roads, and anywhere that looks like it could cause tire damage.
2. Soft or Unstable Footing
When you're out driving on unfamiliar trails, the possibility of getting stuck increases considerably.
Soft, wet, sandy, or otherwise unstable footing is the prime offender.
Pay close attention to where you're driving.
If you come to an area that looks questionable, either get out and check it out before just driving through or steer around altogether.
Trails covered in smaller, loose rocks can be unstable and cause your vehicle to slide and damage your steel bumpers.
3. Dry Washes, Lakebeds, and Flats
Any area that held water at one time can be as hazardous as it is fun to drive.
Dry washes and lakebeds are often filled with soft sand and loose rocks that are easy to get stuck in if you're not careful; dry flats can also look deceiving.
The dry, earthy crust that covers many sand flats frequently covers hidden soft, wet spots that you can easily end up stuck in if you're not careful.
You may also run the risk of encountering flash flooding in dry wash areas.
4. Underground Springs
A less common hazard you may come across on the trail, one that surprises those unaware of them, are underground springs.
These are pockets of water and mud that can be completely hidden by dry ground until you drive over them and end up stuck as the earth collapses under your tires.
It's important to watch for signs that there could be water moving underground where you're driving.
Look for water running downhill and disappearing into the ground, water flowing over the trail or flowing completely under it.
Look for signs of undermining along the trail as well and tread carefully.
5. Driving Over Sagebrush
Sagebrush and other wood on the trail present two main hazards when you drive over it.
First, if thicker and larger branches break, they can puncture your tires or cause damage to the underside of your truck.
Second, dry sagebrush can easily catch fire if it comes in contact with hot components on your off-roader.
6. Crossing Water
Crossing water safely without getting stuck is not always as easy as it looks.
Never just drive through water without first knowing how deep your truck can go and then inspecting the water.
Know the right way to cross different types of water and only do it if your truck is set up for water fording.
There's never a guarantee when you drive into water; however, good technique and proper preparation can let you avoid most problems.
7. Steep Ground and Side Inclines
Ascending and descending inclines is something that's fun to do; it also takes some practice to do it safely.
Learn the right ways to go up and down hills to avoid serious accidents like rollovers; always be conscious of side inclines even if you're driving straight.
Know your vehicle's incline limit and how to keep it balanced on side inclines to reduce the risk of sliding and/or rolling over.
8. Getting Lost
Getting lost in the backwoods or desert is a lot more dangerous than it likely sounds; avoid doing so by staying with your group and on known trails.
Just in case, always be prepared to find your way back home by carrying a GPS, maps and a compass as backup, and a radio so you can stay in contact with people.
Now You Are Prepared For Off-Road Hazards!
As fun as it can be, off-roading exposes you to many different hazards that can affect you if you're not careful.
When you head out to the trails, travel wisely by keeping these ideas in mind so you make good judgments.