(BPT) - Nothing looks more fun than the freedom of driving off-road, with the exhilaration of exploring the great outdoors and getting away on your own terms. But off-roading in real life is not like in movies and video games. Keeping that sense of fun and excitement is still possible while not endangering yourself — or damaging your vehicle or your surroundings.
To explore the world of off-roading, here are tips to help you stay safe — and have a great experience.
1. Start with the right equipment
Choosing the right tire is a crucial part of preparing your vehicle for off-roading. Don’t be fooled into thinking the tougher-looking mud-terrain tire is always the better option — the tire’s ability to perform should always outweigh its aesthetics.
Knowing both your driving style and the types of terrain you’ll likely encounter are key to making a well-informed decision. Do your research, ask questions and be realistic about what you need from your tires.
2. Know your vehicle
One of the most important ways to prepare for the rigors of recreational off-roading is to know your vehicle, inside and out. A great way to start is by attending a local off-road driving course to learn the inner workings of a 4x4 vehicle, plus get expert-guided instruction on how your vehicle performs off the pavement.
In the world of four-wheeling, knowledge is power. Another good place to find that knowledge is by actually reading your owner’s manual.
3. Understand how to read and ride the terrain
Successful and safe off-roading means being alert to your surroundings while you’re out there, and preparing for that environment before your trip. Research the location before heading out so you’ll know what conditions to expect.
Sand, snow and mud
- Deflate your tires a bit to increase your tire footprint for better traction.
- Use steady momentum all the way through.
- In sand and snow, if your wheels start to spin, ease off the gas a little to let the tires slow down and regain traction.
- In mud, maintain some wheel spin to help clear mud from the drive tire.
Rocks, logs and ditches
- Approach obstacles at an angle so only one tire engages, leaving the other three tires on solid ground for traction.
- To protect the fragile components on the underside of your vehicle, it’s best to drive over an obstacle by placing one tire on it, then gently driving over it.
- Approach the hill straight on, so the weight is distributed equally, providing equal traction to all four tires.
- Use as high a gear as the vehicle will handle comfortably on the hill. If the gear is too low, you will spin the tires. If it’s too high, you won’t have enough power.
- Always prepare for a failed climb and have an escape plan.
4. Have a recovery plan for sticky situations
Safety is the highest priority for any recovery situation where your vehicle is immobilized. Even professional off-roaders find themselves in these positions, but with a recovery plan, you can safely avoid a potentially dangerous situation.
The Strap and Rope Recovery is a method professional off-roaders use to free their vehicle using Recovery Straps and Kinetic Recovery Rope. You’ll connect the rope to your immobilized vehicle and to another vehicle to pull it out. For reference, you’ll want to make sure both vehicles are lined up. Then, the other vehicle pulls forward to slowly free your vehicle.
Always pack these recovery tools to free your vehicle if needed:
- Hi-lift jack
- Recovery boards
- Bottle jack
- Ground anchor
5. Respect the environment
Preserving trails for other riders, wildlife and future generations is the responsibility of every off-roader. Follow the T.R.E.A.D principles to ensure you’re doing your part to protect the environment, including:
- Staying on designated trails
- Disposing of waste
- Respecting wildlife
- Educating yourself about park rules and policies
6. Maximize your off-road experience
Take your off-road experience to the next level with the new BFGoodrich OnTrail app, available for iPhone and Android. The app allows users to find, record and navigate trails, share and connect with other off-roading community members, earn recognition and rewards, plus advance skillsets with easy-to-access tips and resources.
For more information on off-roading equipment, tips and tricks, visit www.BFGoodrich.com.