What Do I Need to Know to Go Off-Road?

What Do I Need to Know to Go Off-Road?

By John Lundberg Boise 4×4/Owner

You have a 4×4 and want to take it off-road but aren’t sure what you need to know before you head out on the trail. We understand. It can seem overwhelming and you may be unsure of yourself and your vehicle in the beginning. I will help you enjoy the adventure by sharing some of the basics that I have learned over the past 30 plus years on the trails.

Here I am with my CJ5 on one of my many trips to Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah. 

I found a whole world of unexplored trails and off-roading friends that have lasted a life-time. (The people that you meet is one of the best parts of the off-road experience…they are the best people out there!) 

One of them is my wife now…how lucky am I?

Here are some of the basic things you will need to know to get started: 

1) Do not go alone. Whether being able to work together on any problems that arise or enjoying the scenery, friends and 4-wheeling just go together. 

2) Know what your vehicle can and can’t do and how to work your off road systems. Before going off road you will want to air down your tires. This will make washboard roads smoother and give you more traction. I like to run about 20 psi when driving on dirt roads. 4WD-Hi can be used in situations where higher speeds and lower power are required such as dirt roads without obstacles. 4WD-Lo is for situations requiring lower speeds and more power giving you maximum traction for situations such as going uphill on loose surfaces, on rocky trails or on slippery/muddy terrain. Be sure to read your owners manual on how to put your vehicle into 4 wheel drive. If you have lockers you will have the benefit of real “4 wheel drive”. This means that both wheels on an axle are always turning together decreasing the chance of getting stuck. If you don’t have lockers, don’t worry, they can be added as an upgrade. Make sure everything is working properly prior to heading out on the trail. A trail ready check with a visual inspection and fluid top offs at a reputable shop can take care of that for you. 

3) Know the conditions for the time of year and go prepared for them. Many of the places that are worth exploring are in the mountains and weather conditions there can change rapidly. Be sure to check the weather reports for where you will be exploring since it may be different from what you are seeing when you leave home. 

4) Know your trail. Have accurate maps (we have some local trail maps available at the shop). A functioning GPS is helpful in tracking a good trail and being able to repeat favorite runs in the future. Choose your trail to match your vehicles capabilities and your skill level. Save the harder trails for later as you gain experience and you get the appropriate upgrades for your vehicle. It is a good idea to let someone know where you will be and approximately when you will be returning. 

5) Preparation keeps you on the trails and enjoying the adventure. Bring a first aid kit for accidents/emergencies and recovery equipment. If you or someone in your group gets stuck be sure you have the right equipment to assist without putting yourself or your vehicle in harms way. You will want to have tow straps at a minimum. A high lift or farm jack can be useful not only for changing a flat tire but also for recovery. A winch is a good upgrade when you move to the more difficult trails. 

6) Have fun! Take pictures, bring a lunch, snacks and plenty of water and have blankets available for using during a picnic or if the weather cools off.