photo by evgenyvasenev via iStock
Let’s take your truck to the dunes this weekend!
Those are sometimes famous last words, at least for people that aren’t used to (or prepared for) off-roading in sand…
Their vehicle gets impossibly stuck, they might not have the right recovery gear to get unstuck, and they find themselves at the mercy of other, more prepared off-roaders to get them out.
Accidents happen, to be sure, but a lot of mishaps can be avoided simply by being informed and prepared for whatever adventure you have planned.
So, if you’re going to be off-roading in sand anytime soon, let’s get you a little more prepared!
Off-Roading in Sand: It All Starts With Your Tires
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Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind for off-roading in sand is the air pressure in your tires.
Any off-road rig is going to be heavy, and heavy things have a tendency to sink in the sand. You can circumvent this problem by airing down your tires.
By airing down your tires, you increase the surface area of the tire, which means the weight of your rig is distributed over a larger area. Deflating also gives the tires more surface area to gain traction in the sand.
There is no precise air pressure you should use for every situation of off-roading in sand. But a good rule of thumb is to pressure down to 20 psi and see how it goes. If you find you need more traction, keep airing the tires down more and more until you find the sweet spot (have a tire pressure gauge to help you). Just don’t forget to air them back up once you get back to a solid driving surface.
Pro Tip: Beware of deflating your tires too much. If you go too low, the tires could roll off the rims and you’ll have a whole new set of problems on your hands.
Keep Your Momentum Going, But Not Too Much
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Driving in sand requires that you keep your momentum up, particularly when you’re driving uphill, like a sand dune.
Of course, you shouldn’t get too wild with your speed, either. It’s a delicate balance – too little momentum and you run the risk of getting stuck. Too much momentum and the high RPMs could result in damage to your rig.
Something else to keep in mind while off-roading in sand is that you should avoid making gear changes when you’re ascending a sandy surface, like a dune. Likewise, don’t suddenly slap on the gas. Gear changes or sudden throttle changes will only make the ascent more difficult.
Pro Tip: When heading up a dune, drive straight and keep the momentum steady. If you get bogged down and need to back up, do so in a straight line right back down the dune. If you try to turn on an incline, there is a very good chance that your rig will tip over and roll.
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If You Get Bogged Down While Off-Roading in Sand…
photo by Lorado via iStock
Whatever you do, if you get bogged down, down slam on the gas to try to get out. You’ll only dig yourself in deeper.
First, see if you can back out, using your tracks as a guide. Your tracks will have compressed the sand, making it the easiest option for getting unstuck. Note that you might need to push sand away from the backside of each tire so you can get going more easily.
If backing out doesn’t work, a second option is to use traction mats to give yourself something solid on which to get your rig moving.
For best results, you need to get your traction mats under the wheels of your vehicle. In some cases, you might be able to push them far enough under each wheel to allow you to move forward or backward. In other cases, you might need to dig out in front of or behind the tires to have enough space to jam them in place.
Of course, a third way to get unstuck while off-roading in sand is to have a buddy help get you out. Heading out for an off-roading adventure with some friends is not only fun, but their expertise (and their rigs and recovery gear) might be the difference between you staying stuck and getting unstuck!
A final option is to dig. This is the worst option, by far. It is very hard work, very tiring, and can take a very long time. But sometimes it’s the only option!
Pro Tip: If you have to resort to digging, take a slow and steady pace. Drink lots of water. Take lots of breaks. Getting exhausted and dehydrated won’t help your situation!
Be Prepared and Know the Limits of Your Vehicle for Off-Roading in Sand
photo by Lingbeek via iStock
Like any adventure, off-roading in sand requires that you take time to prepare yourself and your rig for the challenges of a sandy environment.
If you’ve never driven on sand before, acquaint yourself with tips for driving on sand. Get the right gear in your rig for recovery purposes (like a shovel, traction mats, a high-lift jack, and tow straps, to name a few) and safety (like a 10-foot flag, a first-aid kit, lots of water, and food). Check the weather before you leave, look at maps to familiarize yourself with the terrain, and if you aren’t sure what’s on the other side of a dune, don’t just floor it and go for it! If need be, get out of your vehicle and explore on foot.
As with most things, the more you prepare, the better off you’ll be. Adhering to these four tips for off-roading in sand will get you headed in the right direction!