The Beginner's Guide to Off-Roading | RMHP Blog

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The Beginner's Guide to Off-Roading

Off-Road Basics For Colorado’s 4WD Roads

 

Off-roading is nothing like your daily commute, and the driving skills you need to safely navigate the rugged dirt roads of Western Colorado don’t even compare to cruising down pavement. However, with a bit of background knowledge and some practice, you’ll be ready to head off into the wilderness with your 4x4 vehicle.

 

If you’re ready to get off the beaten path, here’s what you need to know about off-roading.

 

Know your vehicle and it’s capabilities

Every vehicle is different, so never make assumptions about what your truck or SUV can and can’t do. You need to understand which off-road features your 4x4 has, it’s clearance, and more. Your owner’s manual will have a lot of this information, but vehicle-specific forums are another great place to learn about the types of terrain you can tackle.

 

Learn how to use your truck’s most important off-roading systems

Any off-road capable vehicle will have a few key systems that help you navigate the rocky, rutted terrain of a typical 4WD trail. These include:

  • Traction control. The majority of modern 4x4 vehicles come equipped with some degree of traction control. Yours might have a simple on/off setting, or a complex electrical system with different settings designed to conquer a variety of traction situations. Either way, the system controls wheel slip so that torque is transferred from tire to trail. If you’ve never experienced traction control kicking in, it can be a surprising feeling, but you’ll know when the system is doing its job.
  • 4WD High and Low. You’ll need more torque than usual to traverse 4WD roads, and this is where 4WD Low comes into play. You can’t drive fast in Low, so remember to switch back when you’re done off-roading.
  • Locking differential. Also called “diff lock” or “locking diff,” a locking differential controls the speed of your wheels. If you get stuck on the trail, this ensures the wheels turn at the same speed.

 

Make sure you have the right equipment

A capable 4x4 isn’t the only tool needed for a successful off-roading trip. You also need:

  • First aid kid
  • Jerry can with extra fuel
  • A spare tire, plus the required tools to change a tire
  • High-lift jack
  • Portable air compressor
  • Tow rope
  • Shovel
  • Spare water in case the radiator overheats

 

Other useful tools include a fire extinguisher and a two-way radio for communication with your off-roading companions. Winches are also handy for truly tough terrain.

 

Always have a plan for recovery

When off-roading, you need to think about what you’ll do if you get stuck. At the very least, you need to know your vehicle’s recovery points, which are the points where a hook and strap can be attached from your vehicle to another allowing the other 4x4 to pull you out. If you aren’t sure where these points are be sure to check your owner’s manual.

 

This is one of the reasons why experts recommend you never go off-roading alone — having another vehicle on the trail means you can help each other out of sticky situations.

 

Learn how to drive in different conditions

Sand, mud, rocks, ice, and other types of terrain require different techniques to navigate. If you’re unfamiliar with what it takes to make it through certain conditions, do some research first. Off-roading can be hair raising, to say the least, but educating yourself will make things more enjoyable and much safer.

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