It can be pretty tempting to just jump in your Jeep or truck and head off to the trails for some off-roading fun.
If you’re newer at doing it, ignoring the power of off-road knowledge can easily turn your off-road adventure from a great outing to your worst nightmare.
Even though off-roading is an activity that takes practice and experience to really build skills, it starts with some basic knowledge to keep you from getting in trouble.
Before you start thinking about modifications and upgrades like tires, bumpers, and a new fender system, take the time to learn the basic essentials that will help you get the most enjoyment from your off-roading time.
Know Your Vehicle
Above all, know your vehicle inside and out plus learn what you can reasonably expect from it on the trail.
Know what kind of traction control it has as well as how and when to use 4WD Low and 4WD High gears.
If your vehicle has the locking differentials preferred for off-roading, understand it means the wheels will turn together so you get better traction.
It also means cornering and certain other maneuvers are harder to do.
Know your truck’s ground clearance height and chassis length so you can calculate things like ascent and descent angles as well as breakover heights.
Understand Different Driving Conditions
Part of the thrill of off-roading is being able to drive on many different terrains that all require different handling.
Research it all beforehand and know ahead of time how to handle surfaces like mud, sand, snow, rocks, and crossing water. You can’t just power through it all.
Each maneuver should be done using a specific technique if you want to succeed and not just end up stuck or even worse with your truck or Jeep damaged.
Maintaining traction and avoiding accidents on different surfaces requires slow going, good technique, and lots of practice.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew while you gain experience with these different surfaces.
Recognize When You Need Special Equipment
There are times when no matter how much you want to try something, you need special equipment to do it safely.
Bigger, better tires to handle more extreme conditions are the main upgrade that off-road owners make so they can handle more rocks and mud.
Beyond this, if you plan on crossing water be careful about water depths.
If you want to cross deeper water, you’ll need a snorkel setup and various plugs for your vehicle.
The more aggressive the trails get, the more you might look into a lifted suspension, a Jeep JL fender system for larger tires, skid plates to protect the underside of your vehicle, and more.
Prepare for the Worst
As fun as off-roading can be, it can also be dangerous and you could wind up having to deal with unpleasant circumstances.
Prepare for situations like injuries or getting stranded for a while by always carrying the right emergency gear and knowing how to use it.
These essential items include a well-equipped first aid kit, fire extinguisher, safety tools like a glass breaker and seatbelt cutter, extra warm clothing, blankets or bedrolls in case you get stranded and the temperature dips, rain gear, extra water and food, plus anything else you might need if unable to get help right away.
An off-road radio system is also recommended so you can call for help no matter where you end up stuck.
Be Ready for Recovery
Getting stuck does not have to be the end of your off-roading fun if you’re prepared with the right recovery gear.
Steel bumpers with winches are the best recovery gear to have with you, along with recovery straps and the associated things you need to get pulled out of trouble or have someone else tug you out.
Regardless of which of these you have with you, it does you no good if you don’t know how to use them.
Practice winching and snatch recoveries at home, well before you need to do it in the field.
Learn some techniques for making recovery easier such as airing down your tires to increase surface traction and having other necessary gear with you.
Traction mats, a shovel, and a suitable jack for fixing a flat is considered essential emergency and recovery gear to have on board.
Yes - Knowledge Is Indeed Power!
Much of this has to be learned over time; some of it should be understood beforehand to prevent you from inadvertently ending up in an unsafe predicament.
When you go at this with the essential knowledge needed, you’ll be in the powerful position to ensure you have great adventures!