Always bring enough water to stay the night. You are more likely
to get stuck in the snow and not have anyone around compared to tons of people on the trail to help.
Like above you should bring enough food and an extra change
of clothes. Several pairs of wool socks. If room permits you should just toss in a tent and sleeping bag.
Extra boots and gloves. They will get wet.
ALWAYS HAVE BLANKETS JUST IN CASE! If you don't have room for
the above, toss in some wool or wool/poly blankets.
Dress apropriately. Don't go up to the snow in shorts because
you will be in your rig all day... dress in pants and pack snow clothes jsut in case you have to do outside repairs. (Just
in case... I MEAN WHEN YOU DO!)
Bring a long tow strap, in fact bring a couple!
A winch is good but don't use it to plow you through snow, properly
dig out a little before winching in deep snow.
Bring a shovel! Not only can you dig out you can make a snow
cave or snow screens to block the wind.
Sipe your mud tires.
Take a bag of Solar Salt, with you. Soalr salt can be used to
freaze the snow into a more firm surface for either getting out or working under the jeep or just plain walking around in
camp. It melts the top layer slightly and the snow freazes it back to form a firm surface.
A sheat of cardboard or a blanket or something to lay on and
help prevent loosing bolts and other parts will help you tremendously if you have a break down.
Basic off-the-road driving*
By SchtooFirstly, some rules.
I know that chances being what they are, if you are
reading this, you have a vehicle that is capable of being driven off sealed roads. But do you actually drive it ‘off
If not, why? Not enough time? Don’t know how to?
Believe that you will just flick the magic lever/button and all will be well? I have a newsflash for you if this is the case.
If you do not learn how to handle your vehicle off the beaten track, chances are you will get into trouble that you A: will
not get out of easily or B: should not have gotten into in the first place. Essentially, learn the tricks now while you can
and you will have a far better chance of staying out of situations you need not be in. I guess you have heard all that before,
but it is true.
Before we start there are 3 golden rules of driving
off the road.
They are: Do I need to get there? Is there a better
Am I capable of taking this path?
Is my vehicle capable of taking this path?If
you cannot answer yes, or possibly a maybe to all of these questions, then find another way. It is as simple as that. There
is little point trying a set path, striking trouble, then spending more time getting out of it that it would take to find
another way round. Set these rules in stone, they are THAT important. If you follow them, then you will avoid most
kinds of difficulty inexperienced drivers face when they venture offroad. Of course some kinds of trouble can’t be avoided,
and sometimes the answers to the questions are out of your control. As you gain experience, you will find that your vehicle
is very capable, you have more skill than you thought and there is less need to find another way.Know your vehicle.
Before you set foot off a sealed road, you should know
your vehicle, what it weak points are and where to attach recovery devices to it. You should also know how to correctly pack
items in your vehicle to avoid upsetting it balance and reducing it abilities. So go have a look at it!
Identify where the low points are like differential
centres, engine crankcase, gearboxes and fuel tanks. See what has a guard on it, and if that guard is likely to strike an
object in the road. Will you need to put some kind of protection on those easily damaged components? Even if that guard is
well made and quite strong, it is protecting something that is fragile. No guard will stop all potential damage, so be aware
of these ‘soft’ points.
Where do you attach a recovery device? Are there proper
‘rated’ hooks under there, or only flimsy transport attachment points? Are there set out jacking points? Are these
recovery points well defined, and easy to find if needed? Do not forget that in the case of needing them, they may be under
water, in the mud, buried in the sand or otherwise obscured. Know where they all are, and what they will do for you. Also
know that if you choose the wrong point, that it can do something to you. Know where these ‘hard’ points
are, draw a sketch if it will help.
Take a look under the skin of your vehicle. Do you know
where the engine oil goes? Where do you put the coolant/water in? What parts can affected by water ingress? What about those
sets of gears? Where does their oil go? All these hard working parts need to breathe, all of them! How high does the water
need be before they drown? What about the brakes? Dust, dirt sand, stones and water will affect their performance. Even driving
into water when they are hot might damage them. Some electronic parts will drown, where are they? Will they be kept high and
dry, or will they be swimming even in a puddle? Don’t just look in the engine bay and under the car. Inside the car
is also vulnerable. If you get stuck in a water hole, will that radio gurgle and die? Is that computer tucked up and out of
the way? Will the electrics that run the engine get wet and leave you stuck after just a small splash? All of these things
are important, especially if you need to keep on moving. Even just a small hiccup can cease your forward motion, and leave
you very stuck.
Now, take a look at the car from the outside. Never
mind the view, be it good or bad, but how big is your vehicle? Ever thought about it? Does it get scratches and dents by magic?
Do you know how big it is while you are inside it? While having a large vehicle can be a little problem on the road, it can
be very difficult off the road. Knowing if you can fit between trees, under that branch, drive around that rock. Having a
good idea of the outer dimensions of your car is very important. But knowing how to negotiate those tight spots, without having
to leave your seat is even more important. Leaving this dimensional problem down to "I just don’t have it" is not good
enough. It is easily learnt, and easy to apply. I can accept that some folks can just put a car in a tight spot, leaving just
‘negative’ hair widths to either side ( I know, I am one of them :), while some just can’t bring themself
to try and fit in a spot that appears to be too small.
The only way to gain ‘dimensional awareness’
is to go out and put the car in tight spots. If you have little confidence, have someone outside the car guide you. While
you negotiate the obstacles, notice where all visible points are in relation to the road, and to other objects. Use those
mirrors, that’s what they are there for! Recall what you are driving over, even when you can no longer see it. You should
have already memorized the road just ahead, and made adjustment so that anything that might catch will be avoided. But do
not just concentrate on what you drive over, but also what you drive around, and what you just drove past. This is being aware
of your surroundings, and while driving off the road, being very aware can keep you on the track, rather than being part of
So now you have identified all the weak points in your
car, or at least most of them. You know where all the parts that make the vehicle go, go. You have good vehicle dimensional
awareness, as well as what’s around you.
In short, "You knoweth thine chariot!"Throw it in the
But what about when the vehicle has some weight in it?
Where should you put it? Is it safe to keep it there? Are you overloading the vehicle? Can you really tow all that weight?
For that matter, do you know how much your vehicle weighs all by itself? Do you know how much extra weight it will carry with
safety? If the answer is no, then go find out!
Unfortunately all vehicles have different weights, and
how much they can carry around. They can all tow around different amounts, and few have the same carrying capacity for gear
on the roof. You need to find out what the maximum payload capacities are for all parts of your vehicle. Failure to do this
may result in an unbalanced vehicle that will easily roll over, it may be difficult to drive, it might just be plain dangerous.
When you do discover these capacities, obey them. They are not there as a guide, they are there to keep you and fellow road
users safe. Exceeding these limits is a recipe for disaster. And if you do add weight to your vehicle, make allowance for
it. You will need longer to stop, longer to accelerate, you will use more fuel and you will make the engine work alot harder.
So keep it safe, and pay attention. There is little point to having a reliable vehicle, if it’s rolled over or just
can’t make it any further because of poor planning.
While on the subject of vehicle loading, what about
things you place inside the passenger area? Is it all tied down, or just sitting there? Is there some kind of solid barrier
between you and your luggage? Even small lightweight objects can be become lethal missiles when you come to a sudden halt.
Yes, even that Bic pen might do some serious bodily injury if it takes to the air in a crash. They have been used for emergency
tracheotomies. I have seen where stuff goes first hand in a crash, the answer is: everywhere! So tie it all down, have some
kind of barrier between you and your gear. If a pen will hurt you, imagine what a tin can will do? Never mind that ‘safe’
unloaded rifle!!! Does ‘high tech club’ ring a bell?What else do I need?
Well, you now have a vehicle you should know well in
all areas. But there are some things you should have with you if you venture offroad. In fact, many of them should be in the
vehicle at all times. Things like a jack, wheel brace, first aid kit, fire extinguisher and a basic tool kit should be present
in any vehicle you drive at all times. If not, do this as soon as possible, and learn how to use all of them. Changing a tyre
in the dark while it’s raining, is not my idea of fun, but sitting waiting for help is something I would like even less.
You have decided to get off the road, what else do you
need to take with you? Some basic recovery gear for a start of course. Essentially, the extras are items that will get you
going again in case of getting stuck, or mechanical failure. So some basic recovery items, in order would be a shovel, an
axe, high lift jack, recovery straps and winches, both hand and powered-mechanical. The shovel will get you out of anything,
with enough time, the items along the list just allow you to get going in less time. With that in mind, get a good quality
shovel first, and acquire the rest as you think you need them.
Add to the recovery gear a more extensive tool kit.
If you already carry a comprehensive set of tools and spares in the vehicle, then that is fine. If not, have the means to
re-attach anything that might fall off. Also carry some basics like spare hoses, some engine oil and some water. Various other
items like fuses, lamps, clips, ties, nuts and bolts are also very handy to carry along. I will not elaborate on some improvised
repairs, short of saying "if it will work, do it!". The repair does not have to be pretty, it just has to do the job.How does
the vehicle operate?
You now know the vehicle over, under, inside and out.
You have some basic tools, safety gear and recovery items packed away safely and securely. You have left the sealed road and
are now off a made road. What do you do now?
Well, depending on what kind of vehicle you are
driving and what’s attached to it should depicts what you do now.
If you are driving a standard car/truck with only 2
wheel drive and road oriented tyres, then the first thing you should do is SLOW DOWN!!! Understand that your car will not
handle as well in these conditions as it will on a sealed road. Also realise that the tyres losing grip with the road surface
is very likely to happen, even with your now reduced speed. At first this can be unnerving, but as with everything practise
makes perfect. In time, you will be comfortable with driving your vehicle off sealed roads, but above all keep it safe. Yes
slithering down a dirt road can be fun, but not if 40 tons of logging truck is coming the other way!
If however you are driving a vehicle equipped with 4
wheel drive and tyres oriented for dirt or mud then the prevailing conditions should depict what you do next. If conditions
are good and the road offers pleasant driving, continue on with caution. If however the road is slippery or wet and muddy,
you may choose to engage what I call the ‘magic lever’, that being the 4 wheel drive select lever. This may also
be a button you simply depress. You might also engage 4WD in icy conditions, or even sealed roads that have become slippery
due to localized conditions.
But there may be one thing you must check before engaging
that lever/button. That is engaging the front axles to drive. On most 4WD vehicles these are only needed when 4WD is selected,
otherwise they ‘freewheel’ to reduce wear and improve fuel economy. On some vehicles these are engaged automatically
when 4WD is selected, on some they are always ‘on’ and on others still this may be a ‘lock’ situated
on the front hubs.
So, you are ‘off’ the road, with hubs engaged
and 4WD selected. Doing this alone offers you more grip than you had previously. Not a great deal, but enough to be noticeable
so go ahead, notice the difference! But do not forget the vehicle can still lose grip. You may also notice that the steering
effect has changed and the brakes may behave differently.
At this point you should know what lurks underneath,
inside, outside and all around your vehicle of choice. You should also know what goes where, whether it be parts and pieces
to keep it running or additional items you plan to carry along. You should also have a basic set of items that will aid you
in keeping forward motion, whatever problem may arise. And you should have noted how it all goes together, unloaded, loaded
on and off the road.