An Introduction to Off-Roading

by Chris on January 13, 2011 · 54 comments

in Cars, Manly Skills

A special thanks to the folks at Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, MO for bringing me out for an off road adventure behind the wheel of Toyota’s new off road lineup. If you are in the market for a capable off road machine, Toyota is legendary in the off road world and a good place to start looking. Having been a proud FJ Cruiser owner since their debut back in 2007, I can vouch for their impressive capabilities both on and off the beaten path!

Unfortunately, most 4 wheel drive vehicles on the road today spend their entire lives…on the road. For the average driver, a 4×4 option is only a way to retain resale value in their vehicle and possibly be able to still get groceries when the snow starts falling. It is time to get that off road machine of yours off the beaten trail. Men, let’s get a little mud on the tires.

Off road driving can take several forms. From the weekend trail rider to the die hard rock crawler, off roaders the world over know that there are few better ways to get your jollies than taking total control of your vehicle as you take it places most people never knew they could go. Let’s take a brief look at some of the places you might find yourself when you decide to leave the pavement behind, keeping in mind that this is just an introduction and is by no means all you need to know when hitting the trail. Remember, the most important elements of a successful off road adventure are safety and preparation.

A Brief Lesson in Off Road Vocabulary

4×4 High: All-purpose four wheel drive mode used in most cases. As opposed to 2 wheel drive, all four wheels are engaged and powered by the powertrain. “High” refers to the gear ratio, meaning that the gear ratio is unchanged from the ratio used in 2 wheel drive.

4×4 Low: Four wheel drive mode where a lower gear ratio is engaged, thus delivering higher torque to the wheels and lowering maximum speed. Useful in slower off road situations, rock crawling, and for getting unstuck when things go south.

Locking Differential: Also known as “diff lock,” this refers to the speed at which the wheels turn. In most standard 4×4 modes, the wheels spin at different speeds to compensate for loose or uneven terrain. When the differential is locked, wheels all move at the same speed. A tool used in advanced off-roading and for getting unstuck.

Approach Angle: The maximum incline angle that a vehicle can climb or descend without any part of the body or suspension making contact with the driving surface.

Wheelbase: Distance from the center of a truck’s front wheel to the center of the rear wheel on the same side of the vehicle.

Wheel Travel: The maximum distance a wheel can move up and down. The greater the travel, the more capable the suspension system and the better on and off road traction.

Rock Massage: What you get when you attempt rock crawling without taking the necessary precautions and being properly qualified.

Essentials for Any Off Road Adventure

  • Full gas tank
  • Tow rope (be sure it is rated heavy enough for your vehicle)
  • Spare tire and everything needed to make a change in the field
  • Portable air compressor
  • Navigational aids
  • First aid kit
  • Mobile phone

Recommended Extras

  • High lift jack
  • Vehicle mounted winch
  • Shovel
  • Spare tanks of water (for radiator) and fuel
  • Two way radios for communication between you and your off road buddies
  • Fire extinguishers

Tips and Tricks

On the Trail

Terrain Type: Gravel, Dry Dirt, Grasslands

Equipment Needed: 4 Wheel Drive vehicle

Difficulty Level: Beginner

Trail driving is the simplest and safest of your off-roading options and is a good choice for the beginner just looking to get their bearings in the off-roading world. Many state and federal parks have off road trails available specifically for vehicle travel, so do your research and see what is available in your area. If you are new to off-roading, make sure you are comfortable with the level of difficulty. Don’t attempt any steep climbs or descents or water crossings of any type, particularly if your off road machine also serves as your daily driver.

On The Dunes

Terrain Type: Sand

Equipment Needed: 4 Wheel Drive vehicle, Air compressor and tire gauge

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Before you set out on the dunes, make sure what you are about to do is legal. Most beaches will be clearly marked designating whether the area is 4×4 accessible or not. Since traction is not easily acquired on sand, most drivers will need to deflate the air pressure in their tires down to between 15 and 20psi, allowing the tire tread to spread more and grip more surface (remember to immediately air back up to recommended levels before driving on pavement). Momentum is key when traveling on loose terrain such as sand, so be sure that if you are driving through soft sand you do not slow down unless absolutely necessary. If you feel the vehicle digging in or getting stuck while moving, turn the wheel left and right repetitively to allow the tires to grip fresh terrain and gain better traction.

In the Mud

Terrain Type: Mud, Shallow Water (6 inches or less)

Equipment Needed: 4 Wheel Drive vehicle, All Terrain or Mud Terrain tires

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

The tendency with driving in the mud is to floor it, spin the tires, maybe slide the vehicle around a bit. While this is certainly fun, it is also risky business. Once your vehicle starts sliding, it won’t stop until it wants to, and you have forfeited all control. Sure, it will impress your buddies to see you pull off that 360 degree spin you’ve been dreaming about, but they’ll forget how impressed they are when your finishing move involves the oak tree on the edge of the mud hole. It is much better to be the guy who maintains control of his vehicle, maybe even the guy who is towing all the showboats out of the mud, than to be the showboat yourself.

Many of the same principles apply to mud driving as sand driving. Maintain momentum if possible. If you feel you are getting stuck, quickly and repetitively turn the wheel left and right. Most importantly, if you do get stuck, the last thing you want to do is dig yourself in deeper, so avoid the tendency to floor it and spin the tires. First, get out and look at what you have gotten yourself into. Depending on how bad it is, you may be able to drive it out, you may not. Try rocking the vehicle back and forth by shifting from reverse to drive, at very low RPMs if you think it is escapable. If not, you may be hitting your buddies up for a tow.

**More advanced off road environments, such as river runs and rock crawling, are best left to those with a great deal of experience, and no written how-to will ever be as valuable as the knowledge acquired through hands on experience.**

Important All Purpose Tips

In off road driving as well as life in general, nothing beats knowledge. Prepare for every circumstance, and know what you are getting yourself into. Familiarize yourself not only with the environment you are entering, but with the vehicle itself. Sure, you know how to switch on the air conditioning, but do you know the location of your air intake or on board computer in case you get into some deeper water and risk submerging them? Familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s manual and you will be best equipped for the unexpected. Most importantly, never, ever go alone. Have another driver in another vehicle with a tow rope and be sure you have cell phone reception in case of an emergency.

Got any off-roading tips? Share them in the comments!

{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ripley January 13, 2011 at 11:29 am

This goes mainly for trail driving, but where it gets deep and muddy, straddle the ruts. There’s nothing like hanging your differentials up on a mud bank while your tires aren’t even touching earth. Also, carrying 2x4s or logs along can help wedge you out of a situation like that.

2 John H. January 13, 2011 at 11:31 am

I’ve got a group of 9 friends since early childhood, and we spend most of high school off-roading in the Washington State mountains in my buddy’s 1968 FJ40 – we could’ve used most of these tips back then. We’re all 30 now, and when we’re together, “The ‘Cruiser ” (1968 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40) always dominates at least one reminiscent conversation. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had with my pals. Thanks for taking me back…

3 Nick January 13, 2011 at 11:33 am

A few more tips:
1. If you’re traveling in a group, let the least off-road capable vehicle lead. That way, if it get’s stuck it doesn’t get left behind and you can plan a different route.
2. If you’re going slow enough through the right type of terrain, you can use chains for that little extra traction.
3. Take big puddles slowly, you never know if there is a huge drop or a massive boulder that could cause serious damage.
4. Make sure you know where you will be attaching your tow strap for if (when) you get stuck. Prepare ahead and have whatever hooks or loops needed.
5. Have fun!! http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-sf2p/v299/245/17/681155250/n681155250_3706820_7078.jpg

4 Mattlouros January 13, 2011 at 11:48 am

If you want the ultimate explanation on why Off-Roading is the manliness thing ever watch the Top Gear – The Bolivian Adventure. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xl57sTB9Ntg .

5 Jake January 13, 2011 at 11:52 am

The key to offroading is knowing your vehicles footprint..Knowing what you can squeeze past and how the vehicle reacts in different situations (sand, mud, snow, rocks, etc). Offroad driving is a skill that’s improved by doing it. You can read all the how-tos you want..But until you get on the trail and see how your vehicle reacts to different situations you won’t know what you or your vehicle is capable of.

6 JamesBrett January 13, 2011 at 12:08 pm

- generally speaking, gear lower in off-road situations. faster is usually NOT better.
.
- and brake less — keep your wheels spinning for traction.

7 CA January 13, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I use a 97 4-Runner as my daily driver and as my off-road rig. I can attest to its abilities. Guys with fully modded Jeeps are regularly amazed that I can do what I do with my vehicle.

8 brian January 13, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Of course you had to lace this post with pics of Land Cruisers. What an amazing vehicle (back then).

I question whether Nick’s #1 above can’t be improved upon: My suggestion would be to put the least capable vehicle(s), or less experienced driver(s), in the middle (if there are 3 or more vehicles). This way, the lead vehicle can set an example and, if the middle guys have a problem, there’s somebody at either end to offer assistance, not just from the rear.

9 brian January 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm

A couple more comments:

You explain that a dfferential allows for, ” the wheels [to] spin at different speeds to compensate for loose or uneven terrain.” This is not untrue, but the primary cause for wheels rotating at different speeds is in turns, where the inside wheel rotates slower than the outside wheel. This becomes more than a little obvious if you’ve ever forgotten to unlock your differential and/or hubs before hitting dry pavement.

Also, note that some of your “recommended extras” (and other items) may be requirements to participate in organized or sanctioned off-road events, or in certain areas. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that a modern “donut” does not count as a spare tire. Your spare wheel’s geometry should match that of all other wheels on the vehicle.

10 Pete January 13, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Exactly what Brian said!!! The only other thing I would mention is on the tow straps. As was said, make sure they are rated high enough to be effective with whatever vehicle you are in. Also make sure they have looped ends and not metal hooks. I have seen straps fail and the hooks become projectiles. Almost all sanctioned events will not allow them.

11 Joe January 13, 2011 at 1:44 pm

ONE VERY IMPORTANT THING!!!! STAY ON THE TRAIL!!!
Four-wheelers are losing more and more trails, to the environmental movement and their push for a “roadless” wilderness.
Before you go wheeling, check out, Stay The Trail.org, your area four-wheel drive clubs and your state off road advocacy organizations.
One last thing, know your limitations!!! I’ve seen too many novice wheelers get themselves in trouble, (wreck or get hurt) because they don’t have the skills or vehicle, to complete an obstacle.

Okay, I’m off the “soap box”.

12 Darren January 13, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Great article! I’ve have lusted after a FJ Cruiser for a while now and this has only intensified it.

13 Mike January 13, 2011 at 2:37 pm

A great place to explore the digital side of Offroading, Overlanding, and Expedition Camping is the Expedition Portal: http://expeditionportal.com

The recovery section of the forum is particularly useful for planning and educating yourself on how to get un-stuck.

One important note on the “tow strap” recommendation: What you probably really need is a “snatch strap”. Tow straps are fairly inelastic and are meant for static towing use. A snatch-strap will have a higher breaking-strength and has a fair amount of elasticity built into the construction so that it will “give” some when being yanked on. Imagine the scenario where you are stuck in a ditch and your buddy needs to get a bit of a rolling start to pop you out – the snatch strap will be much safer. I learned all of this and more on the ExPo forum…

14 Ray January 13, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Rule #1: Get a Jeep.

Aside from some of the basic requirements listed above, here’s a few things I think the beginner should know:

1. Tow hooks front AND rear. If you have a receiver, you can purchase a shackle mount that will fit it. Make sure that your tow points are mounted solidly to the frame.
2. Disconnect your front sway bar. Keeping it connected will limit wheel travel (up and down movement) and can cause one tire to be in the air when it doesn’t have to be.
3. Two way radios are great, but CBs are better and usually same price or cheaper. You can have everyone in your party on one channel so everyone is on the same page.
4. SKID PLATES!!! Nothing spells trouble like a hole in your oil pan.
5. If you are even casually interested in trying your hand at offroading, find your local 4×4 club. Some clubs might be vehicle/manufacturer specific, but almost all of them are open to anyone. You’ll only learn by going with people who know what they’re doing. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people and everyone is inviting and welcoming to all newcomers.

15 Animal Chin January 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm

If ‘Rule #1′ is a get a Jeep then ‘Rule #2′ is get ready to replace a bunch of broken parts.

Good write-up Chris!

16 Mike P. January 13, 2011 at 4:34 pm

I’m not huge into off-roading, but here’s a good suggestion that hasn’t yet been mentioned:

Keep both hands on the wheel, but keep your thumbs out of the spokes. Just rely on the grip from your hands and fingers. If you drop into a rut suddenly, the shock can cause your front wheels to turn sharply, and if your thumbs are in the line of fire…well, ouch, to say the least.

17 Ray January 13, 2011 at 5:18 pm

I have learned through many years of off-roading that nothing, nothing beats having a winch on your vehicle. A winch can keep you from having to rely on other people and it also allows you to explore the outer edges of your skills.

I have seen a lot of people go out and buy a winch and have no idea of what kind to get. Hopefully this information will aid people in the right choice.

You need to know the weight of your vehicle. As a rule of thumb, if you are stuck deep enough to cover the bottom side of your tires, your winch will have to have the pulling capacity of the weight of your vehicle.

If your stuck up to the axles, your winch needs to pull twice the weight of your vehicle.

If your stuck up to the body, your winch needs to pull four times the weight of your vehicle.

Also remember that each layer of cable on the drum reduces your winching capacity by almost 15%. Winches are their strongest when they are fully unwound.

It is also a good idea to have a snatch block on your vehicle. I use an 8,000 lb warn with a 16,000 snatch block. A snatch block almost doubles the capacity of your winch.

18 Dave Lewis January 13, 2011 at 5:28 pm

Those Land Cruiser pictures brought back a bunch of memories both pleasant and unpleasant. I owned a 76 model Cruiser which I bought new and rarely have I had such a love/hate relationship with a vehicle.

My Cruiser was incredibly rugged and would go almost anywhere. It was a wonderful bad weather vehicle. I was working as a stationary engineer (boiler operator and general facility maintenance guy) at a large suburban NJ hospital when I owned it and I needed to get to work no matter what the weather. I remember pulling the hospital’s 3/4 ton 4WD International pickup out of a snow drift with my Toyota one day when we were hit with 18″ of white in about 12 hours.

That was the good news – now for the bad. People have always bragged about Toyota’s engineering. Their vehicles today might be too sophisticated – and that might be part of the current problems with Toyota – but nobody has accused them of being primitive of late. Well I take you back to 1976 when my Land Cruiser had 4 wheel drum brakes that weren’t even self adjusting, solid lifters in the “unstoppable big 6″ that was just a Chevy clone, engine and body noise that would have provoked an instant OSHA citation, and a drive train that ate very expensive mud and snows every 25K miles or so.

Those old FJ-40s were great vehicles if you replaced the front drums with a set of disks, pulled out the Toyota 6 and dropped in a small block Chevy, and wore a set of earplugs or turned up the stereo. They definitely weren’t intended as a daily driver.

19 Milehiscott January 13, 2011 at 5:29 pm

Don’t forget the most important rule of off-roading: 4-wheel drive means you are farther away from help. You and your group need to be fairly self-reliant in the wilderness. Even if your cell phone works, it will take time for someone to get to you.

On that note, a few VITAL take along items are missing from the lists above. The above lists are good for the vehicle, but there are people in that vehicle. Don’t forget the basic survival items you would take if you were hiking. Make sure you are prepared to spend the night if you have to.
1) Drinking water.
2) Food.
3) Extra food & water.
4) Extra clothing: take a coat even if it is warm and sunny when you start, it may not be when you end.
5) Ability to start a fire.
6) Blankets
7) Sunscreen
8) Hat

Enjoy the view along the way.

20 Mike January 13, 2011 at 6:19 pm

As someone who has been off-roading for several decades, I would like to say NEVER go alone (with one truck) if at all possible. There is a reason Camel Trophy, Dakar, etc. drivers have support teams. A winch doesn’t count. Winches break, hurt people (even kill) and people get injured. You don’t want to roll your truck, injure your passengers, and have your truck on it’s roof wondering if anyone is going to notice (done that).

21 jerry January 13, 2011 at 11:04 pm

We run the beaches near my place north of desemboque chasing Corvina with old Jeep Cherokees and 10-12 lbs. is better on the south dunes
http://picasaweb.google.com/corvidsupply/TheCorvinaHunt#5127279684473742034

22 Kyle January 13, 2011 at 11:11 pm

You don’t want a tow strap, you want a recovery strap/snatch strap. A tow strap will put 100% force because it doesn’t flex. A recovery strap flexes up to 20% and is much better suited for pulling out.

23 Robbo January 14, 2011 at 12:18 am

A very timely article. I’m seriously considering buying a Toyota Hilux for a daily runner with the intention of using it for a bit of light offroading. Seeing as I work for the local Toyota dealership I should be able to obtain one for less than the sticker price (trade-in special plus employee discount, perhaps.)
Lately I’ve been slightly jealous of my good friend who has a yacht and goes on weekend adventures regularly. Being a landlubber, I’ve been wanting to find something similar to do myself, where I can get out into the wilderness, take charge of the situation and have fun. I think offroading could be that something.

24 Basil January 14, 2011 at 2:36 am

Heh. “Chelsea Tractors”. Wealthy people buy those toys for the school run when they want all the other mummies to know how much money they can afford to waste on fuel. Nothing manly about 4X4′s unless you are a farmer, and then it’s a tool not a toy. I don’t know any farmers who spend their weekend playing games in the same Landie they use to go feed the sheep.

25 Declan M January 14, 2011 at 4:00 am

3. Take big puddles slowly, you never know if there is a huge drop or a massive boulder that could cause serious damage.

This ^^^^

I was going too quickly into what I thought was a shallow puddle, that turned out be a big, deep mud pit. The mud when halfway up my doors, and I had to climb in and out through the windows. It took 7 hours, 9 4wds and a ripped off nudge bar to get me out. Sometimes it pays to go slowly.

26 Mick January 14, 2011 at 6:07 am

@Ripley; Maxi-Tracs mate are flatter and easier to carry than logs.

@Nick; Point 3. You should be gauging the depth first with a pole or on foot or both.

@Brian; A 4WD shouldn’t actually come with anything but a full size spare. What the hell did you buy?!

@Ray; Modern 70 series Toyota. Get one! Oh wait. They don’t have them in the U.S do they. Hope you don’t live there then. :-)

@Animal Chin; Right on Brother!

@Ray; There should always be four turns of cable on the winch when you start off.

@Dave Lewis; Modern 70 Series Toyota.

@Basil; Sorry mate, that is just a stereotype. I own a 4WD and I ive in the city. My family property does not live in the city or come with nice easily driven roads. Much of what needs to be done out there is accessed through the paddocks without any kind of road, and the country is rough as guts to boot. Nor can I afford to own a special town car as well as a 4WD with rego, insurance, maintenance etc. It is one or the other, so if I look like a wealthy Daddy or my wife looks like a wealthy Mummy showboating how much we can afford on fuel, then that is because you and people like you are idiots. I would suggest you re-think your statement. We don’t all come from a country that has rolling green hills with nary a rock or stump to be seen.

Some points I would recommend with regards to vehicles, Get the optional accessaries: Bullbar with extra hitching points and high lift jack points, siderails and steps. Rear steel bar and hitching point, snorkel as opposed to a high air intake (Such as what the land-rover supplies. A Snorkel is water tight, H.A.I’s are not necessarily), Driving lights with one pencil beam and one spread beam. UHF/CB radio has been mentioned but ensure the aerial is right for the terrain or have a middle of the road 6db aerial. Skid plates, diff lockers are handy, dual battery set up and jerry cans for extra fuel and water. I could go on, but really you set your 4WD up to suit the intended purpose.

27 Julian January 14, 2011 at 7:41 am

Alternatively, you could just use the mark 1 boot to get around, thereby not imposing the noise and air pollution and trail degradation on others, and giving yourself the outside chance of seeing some wildlife by not scaring it away…

28 Shane Williams January 14, 2011 at 9:10 am

A great article & wonderful tips in the comments. I love seeing Land Cruisers too :)

29 Zach January 14, 2011 at 10:05 am

Great Article. Im from Florida and you can imagine all the rain we get makes the huntin woods fairly muddy. My whole county is full of big jacked up 4 scratch trucks. Iv allways went mudding my whole life all u gotta do is split the ruts and ease through it. lol

30 Steven January 14, 2011 at 10:14 am

05 Chevrolet extended cab Z71 with military style 900s all the way around it. GREAT n the mud..not on the highway lol. Them 900s KILL front ends but damn do they pull.

31 Jan January 14, 2011 at 10:24 am

And is there a reason this article is specifically pointed towards men? There are a lot of off-roaders out there who are women, having owned Jeeps and Land Rovers and Range Rovers that are all excellent off-road machines…not just for the luxury/status conscious…

32 Jeff January 14, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Jan, can you point to something in the article that is specifically pointed towards men? I can’t see what you’re referring to.

33 Mick January 15, 2011 at 3:47 am

@ Jan, what are you doing reading the art of manliness in the first place?! :-)

Another 4WD tip is to always dicomnnect the fan belt in deep water crossings

Cover the grill with a tarp during deep water crossings as well.

Bullbar and winch = Beef up the suspension or you’ll regret it.

34 Darren January 15, 2011 at 3:48 am

Why is this article directed at men…uh, because it’s on a website for men? Why are articles in Cosmo or Redbook directed at women?

35 Woody January 15, 2011 at 2:33 pm

While I usually enjoy the entertaining articles on AoM, a man should know the consequences of their actions. I am a land manager and can tell you that off road vehicles have produced some of the worst ecological issues I have encountered. We are talking about a loss in hunting and fishing land. Just last winter we had emergency rescue on hand to pull one group of off-roaders out a a river as they spilled gasoline into salmon spawning habitat. This article attempts to glorify this activity and I think the AoM community should recognize the repercussions of thier actions.

http://www.stopthrillcraft.org/

36 Adam January 15, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Here in Wisconsin, a 4×4 isn’t absolutely necessary, but it’s more fun to be on the giving end of help — whether it’s changing a tire or pulling someone out of a snowy ditch. So I carry a recovery rope at all times and I’ll normally have an opportunity every winter to help out someone who was going too fast for conditions.

I was told by someone more experienced than me, that if you use a rope with hooks, point the hooks up (pointy end up). That way, if something fails or a hook slips, the hook “should” fly harmlessly down into the ground. But I can see how it still might become a projectile, so I might be gaining a looped strap on my next trip to Fleet Farm.

Oh, and don’t go cheap on your tires. Good tires will save the day and are as important as anything.

37 nick January 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm

I four wheel almost everynight for a living (U.S. Border Patrol) and I can say that an often over looked tool is reverse. Your first response to getting stuck may be to start digging or getting the tow straps out, but try backing out, you’d be surprised how often you can get out of the rut and re-approach.

38 Steve O January 15, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Good info, not only in the original post but also the commentary. I cut my teeth four wheeling while working deep in the jungles of Liberia, West Africa. The gold standard in that part of the world is, hands down, the Toyota Land Cruiser in the W.Africa configuration (semi-ling wheel base, springs above the axle, breather on the diesel). My favorite model is the Toyota Land Cruiser HZJ78 (ambulance version). We used one as a general utility vehicle. An amazing machine.

39 Michael January 21, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Another rule, top ten list for sure, LEAVE THE ALCOHOL BEHIND! Drinking before or on the trail is not a good thing, liquid bravery is going to get you into trouble and people killed.

Wear your seat-belts! Everyone should be secure before you move no matter what the trail looks like as well as anything that you have on the trip is to be secured too. Nothing says embarrassing like needing stitches from being clipped by a first aid kit or cooler in a bounce.

Also, never give in to pressure to do something that you do not feel confident to do, if there is another way around an obstacle you can take then take it.

40 Gary in AK January 24, 2011 at 6:20 pm

I’m astounded that you couldn’t choose an American truck to promote with this, patriotism being abundantly Manly….

41 Brad January 25, 2011 at 9:40 am

Possibly, Garry, because the internet is not just the domain of America!? There is a whole other world out there that is full of men & 4wd’s.
To Basil, my 4wd is a city 4wd but I often drive onto boggy worksites, comes in very handy then. I also like to seek out of the way places to go hiking & photographing in my leisure time, 4wd’s are great for that because you can escape the maddening crowd. And for what it’s worth my diesel Mazda uses way less fuel than a lot of sedans.
The best advice for off road driving, is use your common sense.

42 MIck January 25, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Gary in AK, I have to agree with the first lines that Brad wrote. I would also add that many patriotic Americans (and others) are currently invading Afghanistan and Iraq in their American 4WD’s (e.g. The Hummer). Patriot shouldn’t get in the way of Practical though, and the Toyota has to be the most practical, proven 4WD on the market. Especially the 70 series. Most other 4WD’s (Jeep included) require a fair bit more modification than the 70 series if you intend to get serious about the hard going. Older 4WD’s in most cases were a far-sight better than our modern vehicles that are designed for just the sort of thing that Basil, in an earlier post, was talking about. Namely carting the kids off to school and shopping trips and posing. Toyota 70 series doesn’t cater for them like the 200 series, Range rovers and civilian Hummers and jeeps seem to these days. But, hey! Each to their own. If it weren’t for individual choice then we wouldn’t have such a variety to choose from.

43 Frank Ledwell January 27, 2011 at 1:24 pm

As the publisher of a Jeep adventure lifestyle publication, I was intrigued when I saw the title of this article. Overall, excellent write-up on the basics of off-road driving, etc. Of course, there are all sorts of things in this realm that can be discussed including the use of your off-road vehicle to access remote areas to mountain bike, camp, kayak, travel overland on long-term expeditions, etc.

Good job and for more articles on the subject, you can visit JPFreek Adventure Magazine at http://online.jpfreek.com. Once you start integrating off-road adventure with outdoor recreation, it fuels a passion that will never stop!

44 jcd January 31, 2011 at 10:27 am

Most places a manly man will want to go won’t have cellphone reception. I have an earlier version of this device, but the now have a new version that links to your ipod touch, iphone or droid that allows you send custom messages via satellite from anywhere. Check it: http://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=116

45 Brax February 7, 2011 at 4:17 am

A real manly man would communicate with smoke signals none of this sissy satellite nonsense ;-)

46 Balls Deep 13 February 8, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I learned a good tip from a guy that 4 wheels frequently. Its a tip about how you hold your thumb on the steering wheel in certain terrain ex… deep snow ruts, mud, rocks. He had his thumb dislocated when he was young because he was gripping the wheel with the thumb gripping under so when the tires grabbed, darted, and the wheel suddenly spun. Well if this has happened to you, that pressure on the thumb is very uncomfortable. So to prevent this from happening keep your thumb on top next to the pointer finger. I drive in deep snow which covers certain terrain surprises and this tip has prevented me from relocating my thumb in a place it doesn’t belong. Good day AoM, hope this helps

47 Greg Williams January 24, 2013 at 7:37 pm

1985 K5 Blazer, 350 bored .030 over with high compression dome topped pistons. I’m the guy that gets Jeeps un stuck.

48 ted January 26, 2013 at 7:37 am

My rule is always have a bigger 4×4 at home.

49 Steve Murtha January 27, 2013 at 8:47 pm

Piggybacked onto this 2-yr. old conversation from the “Going OffRoad-5 Epic Escapes…..”
and enjoyed some of the repartee between posters. Great conversations about preparedness—reminiscent of my constant admonitions to 2 daughters as they grew up, “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance” (the 5 P’s:)— I was the proud owner of a 1973 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ-55/station wagon bought new, and then had a ’72 FJ-55, both equipped with Hone Overdrives that helped offset great 4.11 off-road gearing and 3-speed trannys, aiding in their streetability. I must admit, the only time I ever got one stuck was due to youthful ignorance and exuberance (stupidity) and a few times, regrettably, being high or slightly or significantly alcohol-buzzed—not too smart! They were very stout vehicles that were bulletproof and enabled one to get to where the Winnebagos and Cadillacs couldn’t go, and beyond. We’ve owned three 4Runners since then, and they are a fabulous combination of on-road civility and utility, and Land Cruiser-ish capability on back roads and beyond.
Too bad, in the USA, that we’re still denied the torquey diesel offerings that are available in foreign markets. What a world we live in….diesel fuel is significantly cheaper overseas (my trip to Germany confirmed it), delivers better fuel economy, gives you power where/when you need it in the power band, and the engines are built to last 2-3 times as long as most gasoline motors.
And, I like what several prior writers added, that a stout 4X4 will get you even closer to wilderness areas that you can then access by foot, canoe, etc., further enhancing your outdoor living experience–away from the madding crowd!

50 Jason October 12, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Any advice for 5 ton, M923′s folks?

51 Adam October 14, 2013 at 7:17 pm

A locking or closed differential means that both wheels on that axle are getting equal amounts of torque. Contrary to popular belief two wheel drive is technically one wheel drive because an open differential, which is most cars, only propels one wheel to allow the other to spin freely limiting tire wear. Thus, even four wheel drive without closed differentials is strictly speaking only two wheel drive. The best option is usual manual hubs or remote (electric or air) lockers to open the diff on the road and close it in the mud.

52 Davis October 15, 2013 at 11:33 pm

The ultimate off-road vehicle…. Is the human body. Or a 2001 F-150 with a 6″ lift and 35`s ;)

53 Matthew January 22, 2014 at 9:55 am

This article has made me miss my ’73 FJ40, ’76 FJ55, ’84 BJ40 and an “85 BJ70. All have gone to the great off road trails in the sky. Sniff.
Toyota really did have the best all round, no bull, get you there and back line of 4×4′s through the 60′s to early 90′s.

54 dennhop January 23, 2014 at 5:20 pm

A couple of comments…
Someone mentioned using a bullbar. Not a bad idea, but ensure if you do, you get one that actually functions as a true bullbar. Too many of the aftermarket ones are designed to do nothing more than mount lights on and look cool, but if you look at the way they attach to the vehicle, any amount of stress on the bull bar will turn it into a flying projectile at worst, or merely rip it off the truck at best.
A trick I learned years ago while rock climbing with an open diff/limited slip differential, is if you ever get into a position where you absolutely can’t move because your one tire that’s getting traction is the only one spinning, you can lightly set the parking brake which will in most cases trick the LS into thinking both tires have traction and will force them to both spin.
Last but not least, the biggest vehicle should never be first….If it gets stuck, it’s harder to get out, and if it ruts out the path, smaller vehicles behind will have a harder time making a new line if needed.

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