Your Complete Guide to Off-Road Safety

What do you do for fun?

Are you an outdoorsy person, always ready to hit the trail at a moment’s notice? If you’re not averse to hearing the rev of a powerful outboard engine in your ear, you might be a prime candidate to get involved with off-road racing — or, if competing for pole position isn’t your thing, off-roading in general.

Of course, motorized off-roading is a fair bit more dangerous than walking along a peaceful hiking trail or contemplating a glorious sunset from a safe vantage point. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth trying at all, notes avid motorcycle collector David DelCollo. Done properly, off-roading is an entirely low-risk affair that appeals to pretty much everyone willing to let their hair fall out of place.

OFFRSphoto credit : pixbay

If you’re serious about taking up off-roading, or simply want to try it out some weekend soon, follow safety tips like these:

  • Know your vehicle’s dimensions: Memorize, or keep close at hand, your vehicle’s height, weight, length, width and other critical dimensions. This information will come in handy if you need to navigate tight spots.

  • Know your vehicle’s clearance: Know your vehicle’s ground clearance to avoid unpleasant surprises in rough terrain.

  • Know the location of your air intake system: Locate your vehicle’s air intake system and measure its ground clearance. This is important for avoiding standing water too deep to cross.

  • Test manual locking hubs: If your vehicle has manual locking hubs, test them out before hitting the trail. The last thing you want is an unexpected decoupling.

  • Check the weather: Even if it’s bright and sunny, double check the weather before your trip. You don’t want to get caught out with the wrong gear.

  • Bring emergency supplies: No matter how quick you plan your trip to be, make sure you have emergency supplies for a couple days. If you plan to be in remote terrain, don’t forget flares.

  • Travel in groups: Always use the buddy (or partner) system. If possible, ride with at least one passenger, and try to have at least two vehicles in your group at all times.

  • Leave an itinerary: Make sure at least one person who’s not riding with you knows where you’ll be and about how long you plan to be there. Put this in writing, if possible, and instruct your contacts to try to get in touch with you if you don’t make it back by a specified time.

  • Load evenly: If you’re carrying gear in your off-road vehicle, make sure it’s loaded evenly. Poorly distributed weight reduces stability, which can have undesirable (and dangerous) consequences on the trail.

  • Know where you’re going: Before leaving, plan your route and stick to it, particularly in remote areas. Resist the urge to “wing it” — and if you suddenly find yourself in unfamiliar territory, don’t be afraid to turn around and retrace your tracks rather than forge a new path.

Safety First, Second and Third

This might be a comprehensive guide to off-road safety, but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking it’s the only risk-reduction resource you’ll need out on the trail. As you learn the off-roading ropes, don’t be afraid to ask a more experienced partner or mentor how to do this, what that means, or anything else you need to know to keep yourself safe and satisfied. As the old saying goes: better safe than sorry.

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