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You’re driving loose in a very muddy creek in your 4WD truck, blocking the throttle and digging through deep ruts when you suddenly end up stuck. Equipped with high ground clearance and a set of proper tires, your truck is now spraying dirt, mud and creek bed everywhere, including the foliage above you. Frustrating, but that frustration will not get you very far, unfortunately. Thankfully you buddied up and brought a friend that will help you get loose, or did you just bring your trusty cell phone instead?
It sounds like this wouldn’t happen, right? Well, it does; many off-road adventurers don’t leave home as prepared as most of us would prefer to see and are faced with dire consequences of making mistakes while off-roading.
Unfortunately, being ill-prepared can turn a trip that was supposed to be fun into a perilous one. And having an accident off-road can leave you stranded, injured or sitting on a hefty rescue and repair bill.
The following off-road mistakes can easily be made but even easier to avoid. As a result, you’ll spend less time troubleshooting and more time simply enjoying most of your off-road experience.
Going Solo is One of the Prime Mistakes While Off-Roading
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Going off-road always comes with the necessary dangers. That’s part of what makes it so much fun, after all. But it’s a terrible idea to do it by yourself. So, if you double up, at the very least, you now have a towing buddy that can drag you out of a predicament, or they can get help for you when you end up needing a professional towing service and happen to be stuck just out of a cell phone range.
So if you want to go out for another off-road adventure, don’t go alone. Even if you don’t have any 4×4 friends yet, there are so many options these days to meet up with fellow off-road enthusiasts over social media. And who knows, maybe that stranger you meet up with tomorrow becomes a lifelong go-to friend for all your off-roading trips!.
If you happen to go alone, tell someone exactly where you are going and when you are planning to be back. Just to be safe.
Not Packing the Right Gear
Going off-road in your 4×4 truck isn’t just driving in the dirt; it is actual survival. Especially if you plan to go overlanding on those longer trips. If you don’t prepare for the journey properly, things can go sideways very quickly and you’ll find that you’ve made mistakes while off-roading that can get you in real trouble.
You can end up risking hypothermia overnight, being unable to treat a wound that requires more than ‘just a band-aid’. You can also end up staring at an easily fixable engine problem with no tools in sight. But, on the other hand, you could have all those things and end up with an overheated engine because you epically overloaded your truck with stuff you were never going to need.
So, What are the Essentials?
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First and foremost, a decent first aid kit. Even if you don’t have any proper medical training, either someone in your team might, or you could run into people that know how to use the tools but do not have access to them at a moment of dire need.
Essential car tools, a map, a proper tow chain (and preferably a backup, just in case), a lantern and a flashlight, night clothing, warm clothes and an extra pair of shoes and socks, enough food and water, and lastly, it is always a good idea to bring some long-distance walkie-talkies. You will most likely end up out of cell phone range because you’ll be far from civilization.
Winging the Route is Among the Common Mistakes While Off-Roading
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Going in prepared is half the battle. For off-roading, that means you have to know where you are going yourself and not just the person driving upfront. If you blindly follow your buddy off-road, you can easily be caught off guard by simple things in the terrain that can cause you an unnecessary accident and a lot of damage to your truck that could have been avoided.
It’s better to be safe than sorry. So even if you have an experienced driver up front, make it a practice that before going off-road, you discuss the route in detail and make sure all party members know what they will be facing. It may even be wise to explore the area on foot before you fight it head-on in your truck. Don’t drive haphazardly into places where you have no idea what’s coming.
Picking the Wrong Tires for the Job
Worn tires are generally speaking dangerous to drive with, even on the road. They become downright dangerous if you take them off-road. Of the mistakes while off-roading that can be made, this is perhaps the easiest to combat.
The wrong tires aren’t just the ones with too much wear to them. The leading causes of failing tires are under-inflation, irregular wear due to mechanical problems or damage from road hazards. Everybody prepares for a tire burst by bringing a spare. But nobody wants to have to change their tires on a trip.
Of course, it may be unavoidable in some cases, but picking the right tires for your truck can significantly increase the chances of you coming back from an off-road trip without a tire change and with your knees unscathed.
Mistakes While Off-Roading: Crossing Standing Water
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Standing water often hides the type of mud that gets you stuck, making river crossings potentially disastrous if the water ends up being deeper than you anticipated. There are about 1500 pounds of buoyancy force for every form of water. Once that force exceeds the weight of your vehicle, you will end up losing control. The breathers on your axles, manual transmission and transport case will suck in water on contact, and if your engine’s air intake sucks water in, you’re in some serious trouble.
Test the depth of the water before you decide to venture through it and find a shallower spot if you are unsure. Extend low-lying breathers with flexible hoses to increase your chances of safely crossing standing water, and make sure to bring a tarp along. They don’t just come in handy when you want to cook in the rain without an awning. You can place a tarp over the front of your truck while crossing standing water to reduce water entering the engine compartment.
Always Be Safe
Safety should always be your first concern while you are off-roading. More than that, you want to minimize mistakes while off-roading.
Sure, sometimes mistakes simply happen. But planning and preparing properly can go a long way in minimizing those mistakes.
Remember the advice in this article and do not start your journey without proper preparation!