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Off-Roading 101

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.

102 Off Road Tips CoverEach issue I will share some of my favorite Off Road Tips here in the pages of Cal 4 Wheel’s venerable magazine In Gear.

If you would like to skip ahead and get your own copy of 102 Off Road Tips, visit metalcloakoffroadtips.com

Tip # 3: Travel as a team. Don’t go off road alone if you can avoid it. You need a partner not only for spotting your rig, but also for emergencies where one of you may be incapacitated and need help.

Tip # 5: Have a way to communicate. Many times, you will have no cell signal while off-road. Carry a quality CB or, if you are licensed, a Ham Radio. Be familiar with the emergency channels in your area and always know what channel others in your group are on.

Tip # 7: Take a jacket. During cold weather, be sure to have extra clothing and perhaps a sleeping bag and small tent in your vehicle, in case you get stranded in the backcountry. Shelter and protection from hypothermia can mean the difference between life and death.

Tip # 12: Know your limits. Don’t hide from your limitations as a driver when going off road. Do not attempt to go over obstacles that are beyond either your rig or your capabilities. Egos and cheering crowds can be dangerous, so know when to call it quits! Facing up to your limits will make you a better wheeler, and keep you from unnecessarily breaking down.

Tip # 14: Carry Band-Aid’s. Carry enough basic first aid supplies in your vehicle at all times to treat any first responder type injuries. Include wraps, bandages, bee sting stuff, and whatever your area dictates for emergencies. Be able to stop blood flow and keep someone breathing.

Tip # 18: Stay put when stranded. If you break down and are alone, it is best to stay with your rig and wait for help to arrive. If you have an emergency GPS device, you will be found by authorities. If you’ve left proper word with friends of your route, your chances of being found are better if you’re still with your vehicle.

Tip # 24: Minimize trail impact. It’s all about the conditions of the route that dictate your speed and approach. Slow steady speed is usually the best bet in mud and sand.Remember that it is best to “go as slow as possible, but as fast as necessary.” If you get stuck, you were either driving too slow or too fast!

Tip # 34: Stay in charge of your rig. Keep in mind that the driver controls the vehicle; the vehicle does not control the driver! Lose sight of this and you are going to be in big trouble. Know what your rig is doing and what you are capable of; keep control.

Tip # 38: Know what’s hanging low. Remember that while 4x4s and other off road vehicles usually have high ground clearance, there are still critical parts of the vehicle that are low enough to get hung up on obstacles. Critical components like the oil pan, T-case and differential can be easily damaged if banged too hard.

Tip # 43: Listen to the elders. Off-roaders with some gray hair or a few wrinkles, or those that have been around a few trails in their time have tons of advice you can learn from. You might have to learn to sort through the stories, but gain what you can and learn the easy way.

Tip # 48: Smell the flowers. Take the time to enjoy the surroundings and being outdoors with your friends. You are in the backcountry in areas that not many people get to see. Use a guidebook, learn about the history, and enjoy the full experience each time you go.

Tip # 52: Big tires are meant for big rigs. As you add tires that are bigger then stock to your off-road vehicle, the manufactured rated pressure does not apply. Most big tires are designed and rated for larger, heavier trucks; if you run the recommended tire pressure on a lighter 4x4, your on the road ride quality will suffer. Check the forums or your local shop for recommended tire pressure based on your tire/vehicle combination.

Tip # 56: Keep the rubber side down. Try to keep three wheels in contact with the ground at all times. Lifting one tire, or getting air, is not unusual and can be controlled with practice. Getting more than one in the air can be dangerous and result in a roll over.


Matson is the co-founder of Metalcloak, author of 102 Off Road Tips, and the founding editor of ModernJeeper.com

Tags: driving techniques

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