First Time Off-Roading: 3 Tips

You probably have come across someone who owns a lifted Jeep Wrangler or Toyota 4Runner. The vehicle looks like a beast and can probably handle whatever rough terrain the owner throws at it. The truth is, there’s a good chance that the most off-roading that vehicle has done is gone down a dirt driveway.

Many people tend to buy 4×4 vehicles and underuse them. They buy these trucks thinking that they will use them when it snows or on muddy roads during the rainy season. Others buy them because they simply want a bigger vehicle to haul all their stuff. These are all viable factors where no one can be blamed.

However, 4×4 owners may need a few tips on utilizing the full power of their vehicle. Off-roading is a sport that can be practiced by everyone. If you’re a city slicker with something like a Toyota Prius, you obviously will need to find a friend who has a 4×4 if you want to ride along. The major challenge you must overcome as a first timer on the rough road is being prepared for whatever you might face.

Here are a few things you can do to prepare to head for a wild ride on a boring beaten up road.

1. Do not go alone

Off-roading requires teamwork. Never go at it alone, ask a friend to accompany you. By this, I mean, the friend you bring along also has their four-wheel drive vehicle. This is essential in case you try a crazy idea and wind up stuck. Your friend will help you get unstuck or drive to an area where he can get extra help if needed. Even if your new hi lift jack mounted on the back of your Jeep, it won’t do you much good if you get stuck in a ravine. A buddy with a winch will be a lifesaver in this case.

2. You are not an expert

You are not headed for a rally race like Dennis Anderson, Tanner Foust or Ivan Stuart. It is also not a monster truck exhibition. Begin by establishing your limits. Do not be in a rush; drive slowly. Practice on a dirt road that could have a bit of mud. After that, head to a basic rough road trail whereby you can ask an experienced driver to accompany you.

If you are not so confident when driving on a trail, there is a chance you could be in trouble when you move to the next level. This means that you can only drive in more difficult rough roads when you have had adequate practice. A great tip one of our readers emailed me is that if you want to learn how you would maneuver on various rough roads, visit old Forest Service roads.

In addition, if you’re not a “car guy”, get educated about vehicles including how an engine works, what each part does, and know the signs to look out for when something is on the verge of failure. For example, if you rear shocks are making a lot of noise going over bumps or the ride is harsher than usual, they may be symptoms of bad shocks which could fail at any moment.

3. Carry food

It’s all too common to find that people don’t carry anything except a few drinks when they go for an off-road adventure. This of course is not recommended as there is always the possibility of getting stuck or even lost somewhere. Just as in hiking or mountain climbing, you want to prepare for the worst.

Before you drive out, make enough preparations. Decide on the area you will be driving to and carry a map or GPS device with you. Tell some of your friends where you are headed in case you do not have phone service in the area. Pack essential things such as a shovel, tow strap and have enough fuel. Grab a few sandwiches with your buddies before you get going. Also, don’t forget some warm clothes (think how cold it can get at night) and water!

If you make use of these tips, your first time off-roading will be guaranteed to be an amazing experience and you’ll likely be hooked.