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The Realities of Off-Roading for Beginners

“Utah Off Road” by indigoprime is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Make no mistake about it – off-roading is a lot of fun.

But off-roading for beginners isn’t all sunshine and roses, either. While we see photos of Jeeps perched on cliffs surrounded by gorgeous mountains, those moments require a lot of time, effort, and money to actually happen.

With this in mind, I thought I’d share a few realities of off-roading for beginners, that way you can start your mission to go off-roading with an accurate understanding of what to expect.

Let’s get to it!

Off-Roading for Beginners: It’s Expensive

Beginner off-roading in a winter forest

“Jeep XJ Cherokee Off-Roading” by Trenten Kelley is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

There are many other outdoor-related hobbies you can pursue that won’t cost you as much money as off-roading. But will you have as much fun? Perhaps not…

You have to buy an off-roader if you don’t already have one. And if you buy an off-roader, chances are it’s a used one that might need a little work. That work can cost big bucks.

Unfortunately, much of what you have to do to your off-roader will be stuff that no one sees. Upgrades to the suspension, for example, are necessary and will give you a better off-roading experience, but they don’t make your rig look “cool,” not that that’s a requirement for off-roading to begin with!

Some beginner off-roading enthusiasts have major sticker shock when the bills start to pile up. That being said, a key off-roading for beginners tip is to just go into it knowing that you’ll need a good chunk of change to make your off-roading dreams come true.

Planning and Preparation is Key

people in a SUV pointing to a map

Photo by jacoblund via iStock

I’ll be the first to admit that planning and preparation are not my strong suits. I like to hop in my rig, get on the road, and get off the beaten path as soon as possible.

However, just blindly heading down a trail is just asking for trouble. It might be a private road. The road might be closed a few miles in. You might encounter downed trees or other obstacles that require you to back down the trail for miles on end. You get the point.

So, off-roading for beginners requires that you plan ahead. For your first few off-roading trips, head for well-known and well-traveled trails, that way the chance of there being problems with the trail (i.e., downed trees or wash outs) is minimized.

Also research where it’s legal to off-road. Just because there’s a Jeep blasting down a trail doesn’t mean that it’s legal to do so!

Go with friends, too. If you break down on the trail, having buddies with you will be invaluable. And no matter where you go or who you’re with, always tell someone what your plan is, that way if you don’t come back in time, they know where to send help.

Just be ready to spend a lot of time in the planning and preparation stage. It will take longer than you think. But the more effort you put into planning, the more successful your trip is going to be.

Learn More:

Off-Roading for Beginners: You Need Mechanical Knowledge

Hands working on an engine

Photo by ljubaphoto via iStock

When off-roading the question isn’t if something will break, but when. That means you’ll need to have a good tool kit and you’ll need to know your way around it.

By no means do you need to be an ASE Certified mechanic, but you definitely need to know how to perform basic maintenance on the trail and at home.

Again, this means doing some planning and preparation. There are all sorts of videos on YouTube that will teach you everything from how engines work to what each component of the suspension does to how to change a tire on the trail.

Keeping up with routine maintenance will go a long way in keeping your rig in tip-top shape as well. Even if you don’t do it yourself, have regular oil changes and filter changes, tire rotations, fluids checks, and so forth done regularly.

Here’s another off-roading for beginners tip: Clean your off-roader after every trip too – it’ll help prevent rust from showing up and it will get you up close and personal with your rig so you can inspect it for needed repairs.

You Won’t Get to Off-Road as Much as You Like

Off-roading tire in the mountians

Photo by molchanovdmitry via iStock

Once the off-roading bug has hit you, you’ll want to hit the trails every weekend. But for most of us, that’s just not possible (or practical).

Just know that for most of us, it’ll be weeks or even months between each off-roading trip. And even then, it might just be a quick day trip to a local trail for a fun afternoon in the sun. Longer off-roading trips where you’re out in the wilderness for days at a time might only happen a couple of times a year, if you’re lucky.

But, hey, a few days a year off-roading is way better than zero days a year off-roading, right?

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