Off-roading is not the same as driving on paved roadways or highways. If you are a first-time off-road tripper, it is essential to understand the differences so you can stay safe. Too many first-time off-roaders
In this post, learn 5 key ways to stay safe during your first – or your 100th – off-road trip!
Tip #1: Drive SLOWLY.
Oh boy – this can be a tough one if you have a lead foot on the freeway. But the truth is, off-road driving is not polite. There may be potholes, pebbles, boulders, hills and swamps, critters and other unknowns that cross your path at any moment.
The faster you drive, the more likely you are to wreck your vehicle and end up on a hiking trip instead. And here, when we say “drive slowly,” we are talking about speeds of 10 mph, not 60 mph.
Tip #2: Always have your vehicle tuned up and re-tired.
Preparing to go off-roading in your personal vehicle can give you some advantages in that you are used to driving that vehicle. However, this can also make you overconfident in terms of estimating how your car or truck will perform under conditions different than what you are used to.
The best way to combat this is to have your vehicle inspected, tuned up and topped off before your trip. Also make sure your tires are up to the challenge of variable terrain. Not only is it important that your tires are new and have new tread, but it is important that they be rated for the terrain you will be encountering (muddy, rocky, icy, slick, swampy, steep, et al).
Finally, be sure you know how to change a tire, attach a tow strap and top off fluids in case you need to do this during your trip.
Tip #3: Plan (and pack) ahead.
Sometimes having a vehicle can lull you into a false sense of security on off-roading adventures. Unfortunately, that vehicle is not the safety net it would be if you were on a traditional road trip. One bump too many and you may be spending the night….or walking all night to get back to Point A and some help.
So be sure to plan and pack ahead for any contingency. This means including the standard vehicle safety and first aid kit plus sufficient food and water rations to tide you over on foot until you make it back to base. You will also want to pack some tools to free your vehicle from mud, sand, dirt or water and fluids for top-offs as needed. And definitely bring flashlights, toilet paper, bug spray and mosquito netting in case you have to bed down outdoors for a night or two!
Tip #4: Don’t assume you can reach Point B.
My Jeep Accessories said, “Part of the fun and the risk of off-roading is the adrenaline rush of never knowing what you will encounter next on your journey.” But as exciting as this can be, there is also always the possibility you will not be able to navigate to your intended destination.
This holds particularly true if you are off-roading in an area that has not been scouted in advance (either by you or by a fellow off-roading enthusiast). Sometimes, the difference between a successful off-roading adventure and a total bust comes down to knowing when to say when and turn back or take a different route.
Tip #5: Never, EVER rely on cell phone signal or GPS!
It is an ugly truth in the age of over-connectedness, but there are still some areas of the country that remain unserved by cell phone towers. As such, you cannot count of getting a cell phone signal or having GPS to map you out a turn-by-turn route.
If you get out into the open country and you are without these aids, how will you navigate? You must bring along a map, preferably one that has been well-researched and marked with possible route options. Bring a compass and a pair of good binoculars as well. And if you can find a guidebook, forest map, ranger map or off-road guide that covers the area where you will be driving, this can be an invaluable source of information as well.
By following these 5 safety tips, you can make your next off-roading trip a fun and a safe experience. If you plan to go off-roading on your own, be sure you leave your itinerary with a loved one along with instructions for what to do if you do not show up at expected checkpoints by certain times. Of course, for the safest experience, it is always smart to invite a sidekick along to enjoy the ride with you!