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Posted on August 5, 2016 in Articles

So you bought yourself a new 4X4 vehicle and showing it off to your neighbors simply is not enough. Your new off-roader should be doing the one thing it was born to do: Go off-roading. Yet you don’t feel like you have the muster to do it. Your lack of experience hinders your desire to explore the outdoors by car.

Truth be told, off-road driving is an experience that is incomparable with other outdoor activities, whether you’re driving a Jeep, an ATV or a dune buggy. Much of the rush comes from the risks associated with the sport, the discovery of the unknown and the desire to survive. However, some of the most popular off-road routes are not for novices precisely for the reasons mentioned. Even so, you’re anxious to satiate your craving and so you must start somewhere. The only question is where.


Join a Club

The best place for a prospective off-roader to start is by joining you local off-road club. Members will orient you on places near your home where you can drive your vehicle legally and within your experience level. Many of these clubs host off-roading events and trail runs which you can participate. Some clubs may offer topography maps to show what you can expect of certain trails. In addition, a club provides the opportunity to bond with other like-minded travelers and share experiences. This allows you to learn real-life best practices when off-roading. Search this directory to explore your options.

Purchase Basic Equipment

While your typical car benefits from having repair parts and a first-aid kit, your off-road vehicle will encounter forces and obstacles everyday cars are not designed to handle regularly. Using your vehicle will require special equipment in anticipation of mechanical failures and damage. In addition to a basic repair kit and a first aid kit, add the following:

  • Navigational tools (e.g. GPS devices, paper maps, compass)
  • Spare tire
  • Full gas tank and a spare fuel canister
  • Air compressor
  • Tow rope that is rated according to the weight of your vehicle
  • Fire extinguisher
  • CB or FRS/GMRS radio, according to what your prospective drivers will use
  • Food and water

Avoid doing modifications to your vehicle until you are comfortable using it and determine that there are room for identifiable improvements.

Attend Vehicle Manufacture Events

Several vehicle makers have their own events where off-roaders perusing their products can unite and express their appreciation. Most events are family-oriented and offer services and courses that can expand your understanding of your vehicle and the off-roading experience. For example, Jeep hosts its own jamborees across the country, while Land Rover Experiences hosts its own trail runs which can sometimes last for days. You can also attend conventions where you can learn about trends and technologies that could enhance your driving experience.

Learn Trail Etiquette

Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) parks are often multi-use, so expect visitors to wander the trails in a variety of ways such as by mountain bikes, on foot or on a horse. Generally, smaller vehicles will have the right of way, but be ready to yield to others. Do your best to not kick dust upon those you pass. Pay attention to trail signage. Some will contain color codes indicating difficulty. If you are moving in a group and one of the members suffers a breakdown, all group members must stop and assist the driver until the problem is resolved.

Also, learn about and practice the principles of Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly. Both are designed to help drivers like yourself to respect and preserve the land for future users. Collect all trash you produce and stay on designated trails.

Leave Your Ego At Home

When at the park, respect any barriers and gates you see; do not go around them when you see them during your drive. Drive over (but not around) obstacles so that the trail is not further widened and the surrounding scenery remains protected, unless bypass tracks are already provided. If there is an obstacle you cannot pass over despite multiple tries, move your car aside to let others pass through, and don’t hesitate to call for help. Learn about areas that are not designated for off-road vehicles that you may come across. Some of these areas are be protected by law, and trespassers could be heavily fined. Finally, if there is something you do not feel comfortable doing, don’t do it.

Never Go Alone

It is strongly advised that your first drive is through an organized club event. However, if you want to organize a more compact travel group, have someone with experience in teaching beginners on off-roading basics as part of the group. Whatever you choose, never go off-roading on your own; have at least a second vehicle to tag along.

The off-road community is among the friendliest, and they want you to enjoy your off-road adventures. If you approach off-road with the correct attitude, your fellow drivers will welcome you with open arms.

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