Safety Tips When Driving Off Road
Driving off-road is a bold move for some, but it’s a passion that many enjoy. The thrill of navigating rough terrain, from muddy bogs to mountain slopes, gives off-roaders an adrenaline rush that’s hard to beat.
Before you hit the trails, it’s important to understand three key angles of your car: approach angle, departure angle and break-over angle. Learn more about these essentials here.
What is Off Roading?
Off-roading is the act of driving a vehicle on rough, unpaved terrain. Typically, this includes sand, gravel, riverbeds, mud, snow and rocks. It can range in intensity from leisure drives with unmodified vehicles to competitive events with customized vehicles and professional drivers.
One of the most popular off-roading activities is hill climbing. This involves driving on a series of steep hills and requires a vehicle with good ground clearance. Hill climbing can be hard-core and dangerous or soft-core and family-friendly.
Another off-roading activity is green cleaning, which involves driving through lush green trails. This is a great option for beginners because it’s easier and more calming than other off-roading activities. Green cleaning also doesn’t require any expensive equipment. However, it is important to bring a friend and have emergency gear on hand.
How to Start Off-Roading
When driving off-road, you need a vehicle that is built to take on rough terrain. A low-riding compact car simply won’t cut it. Trucks, SUVs, and other high-riding vehicles are best equipped to handle off-road trails. Some off-road vehicles also have special traction control that adjusts throttle mapping, braking, and power distribution to limit wheel slip.
It’s important to bring recovery gear in case you get stuck. This usually includes a winch, which is a rope or wire that can be cranked to pull your vehicle out of a ditch or pit.
Another part of off-roading is picking your line, or planning out the path you will drive before starting. This is especially crucial for rock crawling, where precision and prior knowledge of the terrain are necessary to avoid getting stuck or damaging your vehicle.
Most people are familiar with the popular safety quote “Safety First”. However, many don’t understand what it truly means.
The most important thing to remember when off-roading is that you should never do anything that puts your life or your vehicle in danger. No matter how great a jeep or truck is, it can only do so much before it starts to break down or get stuck.
It is also important to leave plenty of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. This will ensure that you can see the trail and avoid running over any obstacles in your path. It’s also a good idea to always have extra water and food in case you get stranded for a long time on the trail.
Picking Your Line
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your vehicle is to pick a line or plan out how you will drive through technical terrain before you start driving it. This can help you stay within your vehicle and yourself’s capabilities, which will make the adventure more enjoyable. You may even want to get out and walk the path before you start driving it, especially if you are doing something like rock crawling. Bringing a spotter with you is another great way to improve your safety. It is also always a good idea to never go off-roading alone.
Bring a Friend
When off-roading, it is always best to bring a buddy. This way, you can make sure that you are not pushing yourself too hard and risking injury to your body or the integrity of your vehicle. A friend can also be helpful in unforeseen circumstances. They may be able to help you out of a ditch or pull your vehicle from a ditch. Having a friend can also prevent you from getting lost, as they can navigate your vehicle and point out obstacles.
Lastly, having a map will be helpful, too. You can use paper maps or digital maps, such as onX Offroad, which is free and allows you to download your area in advance so that you can explore with confidence and get back home safely, even without cell service.