Looking to go off-road? As exciting as traversing new territory can be, it is also important to remember that you cannot just head to the backwoods trail without taking some necessary precautions. We always recommend preparing yourself and your vehicle for the best and worst driving conditions of any off-road trails. To get started, check out our complete guide to off-road driving.
Preparing for the Unexpected
Before you buckle up and head off into the wilderness, make sure you have supplies on board in case you get stranded in the middle of nowhere. Accidents can happen on a daily basis, but they can also happen in the wild. Bringing basic automotive repair items can help in a pinch just in case you get a flat tire or puncture your oil pan.
Some situations could bring out your inner MacGyver skills where others just require a quick easy fix. Items such as Duct tape, rope, Fix-A-Flat, JB Weld, and jumper cables can go a long way out on the trails too. We do recommend that you always bring a first-aid kit in case of emergencies that require medical supplies. Other items to bring include: a compass, emergency signals such as flares, snacks, and plenty of water to keep you going if you are stuck in the wild for a long period of time. Sometimes, it can take hours to even a day or two to reach a standard off-roader.
When you’re ready, do that double check of your supplies and make sure to tie down all of your supplies and equipment.
Getting Your Vehicle Ready
Once you have all your safety and auto supplies ready to go, it’s time to get your vehicle ready for the journey ahead. If you plan on doing some light off-roading, you might be able to get by with your factory model, but it’s usually best to invest in some new truck parts, including 4x4 suspension, new tires, and other off-road modifications.
● Switching to Off-Road Tires
Let’s start with the tires. It’s best to choose tires that are made for your vehicle in an off-roading capacity. These tend to feature thick durable sidewalls for more stability, intricate tread designs for more traction, and puncture-resistant rubber for keeping rocks and other sharp objects at bay. Depending on how and where you want to use your vehicle, you can choose between mud tires, hybrid tires, and all-terrain tires. If you still want to drive on the highway, all-terrain or hybrid tires will serve you well.
● Suspension Lift
If you want to tackle extreme driving conditions or compete in a rock crawling competition, you’re better off upgrading to 33-inch tires or larger. This requires a lift kit, making room for those more aggressive off-road tires. You can buy a lift kit online and install it yourself if you know your way around your vehicle, or you can have a certified installer complete the installation. By adding a lift kit, you will gain more ground clearance and allow your vehicle to clear more obstacles.
● Adding a Skid Plate or Body Armor
Going over large rocks and boulders? You should also consider investing in a skid plate or some type of body armor that protects the underbelly of your car. Factory models weren’t designed to traverse the depths of the wilderness, and some of your vehicle’s most sensitive components are exposed underneath your car. That's why it is important to consider a skid plate or other undercarriage body armor. We always recommend steel or aluminum plating. This adds another layer of protection, so you don’t accidentally ram the underbelly of your car into an outcropping of rocks.
● Light Bar for More Visibility
Seeing is believing when you go off-road. Light tends to be hard to come by when you’re miles from civilization. While you might think that your factory headlights will cut it in the wild, adding additional lights can be beneficial. There are so many different kinds of hazards and obstacles to watch out for that having additional lighting will come in handy. Reinforce your ability to see by using a light bar. You can easily attach this handy accessory to the front of your vehicle, helping you see as much as possible in complete darkness.
Tips for a Successful Outing
Now that you’re ready for your first off-road outing, use these tips to make sure you and your vehicle stay safe out on the trail. As tempting as it is, we always recommend light trail riding in order to get used to your capabilities of off-roading.
● Slowly Test Your Vehicle’s Limits and Your Own
Don’t overdo it on your first outing. Driving off-road isn’t the same as busting wheelies in the parking lot or even driving on dirt roads. Slowly increase your speed as you go along, giving yourself a chance to learn the rules of the terrain. Stopping, turning, and accelerating will all feel different in these new surroundings, so make sure you know what you’re doing before you start testing your limits. The same goes for your off-road truck. Learn how your vehicle fares in these new conditions before you start doing jumps, speeding through the forest, or straying too far from home.
● Use the Buddy System
It’s also a good idea to bring along a co-pilot for the ride, preferably one with off-road experience. They can help you keep an eye out for any obstacles in the wild. If you get stuck in the mud or forced into a tight corner, they can help you navigate your way out of this tricky situation. Find someone you trust to help you learn the ins and outs of off-roading before you head out on your own.
● Consider the Weather and Changing Driving Conditions
The weather can make or break your hopes of going off-road. If you’re just starting out, pay attention to the weather forecast, so you can avoid any serious weather conditions. You might not realize how the weather can affect driving conditions, so err on the side of caution and avoid the snow and rain until you get a feel for what it’s like to drive an off-road truck.
Always Remember to Use Common Sense
This guide should help you navigate all the wonders of the natural world in your off-road truck or jeep. Bring along plenty of supplies, make the necessary adjustments to your vehicle, and use caution when you first head out on the trails. Things are always unpredictable when you go off-road.