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You’ve driven the trails numerous times. Have hundreds of hours of 4WD experience under your belt (some of which, of course, is spent outside of the vehicle). You’re good with people, and feel your managerial skills are top notch. You’d like to be Trail Leader for an upcoming excursion. What’s next?

First, I commend you for wanting to take on a leadership role. As a certified professional 4WD Trainer with more than 40 years of off-road experience, I know the value of a good Trail Leader. Our hobby could use more people willing to step forward and fulfill this role.

Being a Trail Leader is not an easy task. It involves skills, personality and patience. Here are my Top 10 qualities of a great Trail Leader.

Getting stuck is a common occurrence among four wheelers. After all, we intentionally drive in difficult areas. Every situation is different, but one common trait I see is the inappropriate use of power to get through. It seems logical enough: I’m stuck or losing momentum; why not just hit the gas? In reality, you want to throttle back or back out in most situations.

Hitting the gas (throttle) often just causes the wheels to spin. Without traction, you begin to drift or slide. Because the ground is never level, you’ll slide in whatever direction is off camber. You could slide into a pile of rocks or worse—go off the edge of a cliff.

You could go from being merely stuck to a life-threatening situation.

Off-roading takes many forms.

It can be a remarkable adventure into the outback, or a simple drive to your favorite backcountry picnic spot.

It can be a hair-raising crawl over mountainous rocks or a family camping trip in the Sierras.

Wherever your 4x4 takes you, there are many important shortcuts and tips that can help make your adventure all the better.

That’s why land use warrior Del Albright and I wrote and published 102 Off Road Tips.

Spotter guides a vehicle up Wheeler Ridge

A friend sent me a quick note asking if there are universal hand signals for the spotters. Every spotter may have a slight variation, but below is a sample of the most commonly used signals.

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