Heading out on your first off-road adventure? Whether it’s a few hundred yards or a few hundred miles, there are certain essentials you must remember to take with you on your trip.
1) Choose the appropriate 4WD vehicle
There are lots to choose from when it comes to 4x4 vehicles. But the ones that perform the best off-road include Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover and Toyota 4Runner.
Be that as it may, many of today's 4x4s are not designed for true off-road activities. For serious off-road adventures, you'll want a 4x4 that’s modified with a chassis frame built to withstand the punishment of rough, off-road terrain.
What else can be done to modify your 4x4?
Tires: Off-road tires are typically designed with deeper tread, larger sizes, and higher sidewall ratios than standard tires.
Winch: Useful for vehicle recovery and avoiding tough situations i.e. trees and rocks.
Lights: Off-road lights will cut through dense fog, illuminate the area in front of you so you can see where you are going and let others spot you easily. Needless to say, the most important thing about proper off-road lighting is that it keeps you safe.
On-board air compressor: The most obvious use for an air compressor is adjusting the air pressure in the tires: Less air for off-road speeds and more air for highway speeds. Furthermore, compressed air is useful for powering up air tools and blowing up an air mattress when you’re setting up camp.
2) Don’t leave home without these
Before you take off on your awesome adventure, make sure you pay attention to some important details:
- Get acquainted with how your 4x4 system works, and how to use the controls.
- Remember where the spare tire and jack are located, and how to use them.
- Know your vehicle's dimensions including height, width, length, approach angle, departure angle, and ramp angle so that you can pass through tight areas without damage.
- Know where the lowest point of clearance is located.
- Get used to driving your 4x4. Get a feel for its size and driving characteristics.
- Practice using the low-ratio gearbox.
- Maintenance: Check your tires (including the spare) to ensure they are in good condition and inflated properly. Keep track of maintenance on filters, belts and hoses, and keep all fluids topped up.
- Safety precautions: Pack all of the appropriate "emergency" supplies. Travel with at least one passenger, and at least one other vehicle whenever possible. Let someone know where you are going, and set a time to contact them to let them know you are okay.
3) Know the rules of the trail
- Don't blaze a new trail. Instead, stay on the established path. Don't disturb the wildlife - this includes plants and animals. Remember, you are treading on their turf.
- Drive slowly. Just as on the street, stay right to avoid oncoming traffic. If there is only room for one vehicle to pass, the rule is the more maneuverable vehicle (or the more experienced driver) should yield the right-of-way. When two vehicles meet on a grade and there isn't a safe place to pull over, the vehicle traveling uphill has the right of way.
4) Emergency situations
Sooner or later, your vehicle is likely to get stuck or experience mechanical failure. If you pack the basic tools and supplies, you should be able to get underway again. Here's what to do if you stall, get stuck, or break down.
- If you stall: If your vehicle is about to stall on a steep incline or decline, do not depress the clutch! Instead, first, turn off the ignition and apply the foot brake very hard. Then apply the parking brake. After selecting a suitable route back down the hill, slowly depress the clutch, put it in reverse, let the clutch out, and simultaneously release the parking brake and the foot brake slowly. Then start the engine.
- If you get stuck: If you get stuck on a rock, stump or log, survey the situation first to determine the best way to free the vehicle without damaging it. If you're stuck on an object that can be moved, jack up the vehicle and clear away the obstacle. If you're stuck on an object that can't be moved, jack up the vehicle and fill under the tires so that you can drive over the obstacle.
If you plan to tow a trailer, make sure it can go where you decide to take your 4x4. You say your trailer isn’t able to navigate rough terrain? You might want to consider this… Axle-Less Off-road Trailer Suspension
5) The Vital Tools for Off-Roading
Whether camping or playing with the big boys, here are the vital tools you need before planning your next big off-road adventure.
First Aid Kit
This is a no-brainer. Even conventional sedans should be equipped with a first aid kit. You’ll never know when a simple Band-Aid, gauze pad, or bandage might come in handy. You can prepare your very own first aid kit or you can simply buy it online. Whatever the case, make sure the first aid kit contains basic necessities such as:
- Hot/cold pack
- Antiseptic cleaners or ointments
- Scissors and tweezers
- Medicine (epinephrine, ibuprofen, anti-diarrhea meds, etc.)
- Disposable gloves
If you’ve gone way off-road, chances are your vehicle will get stuck in one way or another. Make sure to bring along a high-quality recovery kit that contains a snatch strap, a jack with base plates, a long-handled shovel, D-ring shackles, recovery straps, gloves, and recovery dampers.
Basic Tool Kit
It wouldn’t hurt to bring along a ratchet, a basic socket set, pliers, screwdrivers, electrical tape, and other handheld tools. These could prove handy if your truck breaks down in the wilderness.
Tire Repair Kit
Of course, your vehicle will most likely be equipped with a spare tire. But what if you get multiple punctures in your off-road adventures? Sharp rocks and foreign objects can easily spoil the fun. Get yourself back on the trails in no time with a simple tire repair kit. You can also purchase a spare tire bracket in the bed or tailgate so you can bring along an extra set of wheels and tires.
Vehicle Jump Starter
There is no electricity in the deep wilderness. It used to be that jump cables were the norm when faced with a weak or dead battery. But now, jump starters are equipped with powerful lithium-ion or lithium-polymer battery packs that provide enough juice to start your truck. It also comes with USB ports and a standard 110/220-volt socket to power your handheld devices and laptop computers.
There are no filling stations in the forest. Modern fuel cans like the RotopaX work best because they are manufactured from roto-molded plastic. They are slimmer to the bed or tailgate in a multitude of ways.
Depending on existing laws in your locale, a fire extinguisher should be mounted within arm’s reach in your vehicle. It is preferably mounted inside the cab rather than in the bed of your truck, especially if you’re carrying a ton of gear. You can buy a fire extinguisher bracket or you can fabricate your own. Remember, the fire extinguisher should be mounted securely.
Don’t forget to bring along extra food and water. The general guideline is to bring at least a gallon of clean drinking water per person for every single day you’re out in the woods. It is also ideal to bring twice the amount of food depending on how long you’ll be camping outside. Having an extra set of blankets, tents, rain jackets, trash bags, toilet paper and clean clothing is essential as well.
These are the basic requirements to ensure that your off-road adventure is safe and enjoyable.
If you plan to tow a trailer, make sure it can go where you decide to take your 4x4. You say your trailer isn’t able to navigate rough terrain? You might want to consider this… Axle-Less Trailer Suspension.