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Newbie's Guide to Joining runs / off-roading

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 Post subject: Newbie's Guide to Joining runs / off-roading
PostPosted: July 28th, 2016, 7:26 am 
Offroad Prophet
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Joined: November 29th, 2009, 7:42 pm
Posts: 3265
Location: da dale
GUIDE TO JOINING RUNS


Minimum Recommended Trail Requirements:
1) A 4x4 vehicle in good working order with low-range.
2) Roll bar or factory hard top.
3) Functioning seatbelts for all occupants.
4) Functioning Brakes.
5) Spare tire approximately the same size as the ones on the vehicle, or repair kit and the knowledge to use it.
6) Attachment points front and rear (hooks, clevis, D-rings). Tow-balls are not safe attachment points.
7) A tow strap rated at least 2 times the weight of the vehicle. Strap must have loop ends (no metal hooks).
8. Plenty of water and a sack lunch.
9) First-aid kit and flashlight
10) Toilet paper and a small shovel for potty-time
11) Method of inflating tires after the trip (compressor, CO2, etc.) and a tire gauge.

Highly recommended items:
1) A CB radio. Infectious normally uses channel 4.
2) Tools, jumper cables, spare fluids, common spare parts.
3) Tire plug kit
4) Fire extinguisher


Trail etiquette

1) Before attending a run, be sure that your vehicle meets the requirements stated by the trailmaster for that run. If the trailmaster asked for a minimum of 33” tires and a locker, please do not attend that particular run if you do not meet those requirements. It is not fair to the group if you attend with the expectation of everyone else pulling you through the obstacles, which can likely do damage to their vehicles. You may also cause the run to take hours longer than planned. Even the best built rigs get stuck and break down; this is an accepted part of the off-road experience. But do not be “that guy”, who knows his vehicle is not up to the task but shows up anyway.

2) Come prepared! The essence of 4-wheeling is self reliance. Don’t rely on others to provide you with what you should have brought. You will need plenty of water and a sack lunch. A full-size spare tire and jack, or all the tools and knowledge needed to repair a tire. Punctured or un-beaded tires are the #1 trail repair and should be expected eventually. You will also need a compressor to air your tires back up before you go back on the pavement. Bring a flashlight on night runs, a jacket when it’s cold, and a good recovery strap to get you unstuck. Spare parts and tools to install them are never a bad idea. Spare fluids will always come in handy sooner or later.

3) Make sure your vehicle is safe and in good running order. Check all fluids, hoses, belts, brakes, and tires before deciding to join a run. If your brakes are not working well, engine is misfiring, leaking lots of fluid, or overheating, get it fixed before you go. Make sure your seatbelts are in good condition and that your vehicle has some form of roll-over protection (roll cage or steel hard top).

4) Vehicle spacing on the trail, VEHICLES IN FRONT OF YOU = Never follow another vehicle too closely. When on a hill or going through an obstacle, sit back and wait for the vehicle in front of you to go completely through. That vehicle may need to back out, may get stuck, or could roll-over and take you with it. It is considered very rude behavior in the off-road world to tailgate on the trail. At night, never shine your off-road lights at the vehicle in front of you; yes, this means that you may not even use them.

5) Vehicle spacing on the trail, VEHICLES BEHIND YOU = In order to keep the group together, watch out for each other, and to prevent people from getting lost, it is important not to lose sight of the vehicle behind you. If you do lose sight of the vehicle behind you, stop and wait for them to come into view. At turns or forks in the road, always slow down or stop to make sure that the vehicle behind you takes the correct path. In large open areas or on fire roads, the group may wish to spread out pretty far due to dust.

6) 3 strikes and your out! In order to keep the pace going with large groups, it is important not to consume too much time trying to conquer an obstacle. Basically, if you fail a few times, take a strap or get winched. Of course, with smaller groups of friends, this doesn’t matter and seeing your buddy getting repeatedly denied may be the highlight of the day.

7) Getting unstuck. If you get stuck, it is your responsibility to hook up your strap to the recovery vehicle. Don’t expect others to jump into a mud pit to get you out. If you are unsure how to safely hook up a strap or winch line, STOP and ask for help. Once you get unstuck, never drive over the strap or winch line. Recovery lines are very dangerous so everyone should be cleared away from the area. Oh, and you do have front and rear recovery points, right?

8. The Environment. Don’t blaze a new trail; stay on the established path (unless you are sure that you are in an open OHV area). Don’t litter, and pick up trash as you encounter it. Do not disturb wildlife, just enjoy the fact that you get to enjoy it in its natural habitat. Avoid driving over dry brush/grass, as this could start a fire. Keep cigarettes in the ash-tray where they belong. If camping, get the appropriate fire permit and follow the instructions on it. Obey all posted signs. Don’t make white flowers.

9) Passing other vehicles on the trail. Just like on the street, stay right to avoid oncoming traffic. When 2 vehicles meet on a narrow grade, the vehicle traveling uphill has the right-of-way. It is much safer for the vehicle going downhill to back up. When traveling with a group and passing an oncoming vehicle on a narrow trail, The leader should tell the vehicle being passed how many rigs are in his group.

10) Be courteous to all other users of the trail. Hikers, mountain bikers, motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles, horses, ranchers, farmers, forest rangers, hunters, etc. should be treated with kindness and respect. When encountering horses, pull over, turn the engine off, and wait for the horse to pass. Always close gates behind you and obey “no trespassing” signs.

11) Keep some form of control over your kids and dogs. Part of the fun of the outdoors is that everybody gets to return to their "wild roots", and kids and dogs seem to enjoy this aspect the most. While it is OK to let them have a good time and blow off all of that excess energy from being cooped up in a jeep all day, make sure they do not ruin the experience for other people on the run. KEEP THEM OFF THE TRAIL while vehicles are moving and away from other people's campsites. Be mindful that taking kids and pets on an off-road run requires many additional responsibilities, which sometimes can be a complete headache if your kids/pets are particularly unruly. Just as you yourself will need an adequate supply of water and potty breaks on the trail, your dog will need just as much.


Trail ratings

1) Graded Dirt Road: Still passable by most high-clearance 2wd vehicles, however caution is required and lower speeds may be necessary. Small rocks (less than 5”) may be embedded in road surface. Some steep grades possible. May be muddy if wet. EXAMPLE: Titus Canyon, most Forest Service fire roads.

2) Formed Track: Not passable by standard passenger vehicles. High clearance preferred, 4WD preferred. Steep grades present, larger rocks embedded in trail (less than 7”). Some loose trail surfaces and shallow water crossings possible. Sand and dry washes may challenge available traction requiring lower air pressure. Trail may be narrow and require backing to allow other vehicles to pass. Mud or snow may make traction difficult. EXAMPLE: Mojave Road, Goler Wash, Chicken Corners.

3) Rugged Trail: High Clearance SUV or Truck required with low range gearing. Trail will be very rough and heavily eroded, with large, loose rocks present and steep, loose climbs requiring good traction and driver skill to negotiate. Wheel placement critical. A spotter may be needed to get through obstacles with minimal damage. Skid plates required, along with larger tires (31”+) necessary to prevent damage. Deeper water and mud crossings possible. Parts of the trail may be entirely in a wash, with loose sand and large rocks present. Possibility of rock ledges, and crossed axle obstacles. Good suspension articulation required to maintain traction. Sand Dune conditions may exist. Low tire pressure necessary. 4-lo required for most of the trail. Aggressive all-terrain or mud-terrain tires 31"+ highly recommended. EXAMPLE: Freeway Ridge, Last Chance Canyon, Sherman Pass Trail, Pismo Dunes, BC109, Fins and Things.

4) Challenging Trail: High clearance modified vehicle required. Not within the capability of a stock vehicle without damage. Trail likely in river / wash bottom or narrow canyon with very large rocks present. Deep mud possible requiring aggressive tires and higher speeds. Water crossings in excess of 24” possible. Heavily rutted and crossed axle terrain present, with large ledges and very steep hills with embedded and loose rocks. Body protection, especially rocker protection, required to prevent damage. Stronger (or spare) axle and steering components necessary. Winching and extraction possible. Aggressive 33” tires, at least one locking differential, and flexible suspension required. 35” tires and 2 locking differentials recommended. EXAMPLE: Rubicon Trial, Swamp Lake, Dusy-Ershim, The Maze.

4.5) Trail gets very off-camber and requires climbs up "waterfalls". Big rocks encountered with no bypasses. Highly skilled driver and spotters required due to frequent unsafe situations. Winching probable. 35" tires, both axles locked, skids/sliders, and beefed-up axles required. EXAMPLE: Chocolate Thunder, Turkey Claw, Pritchett Canyon, Hell's Revenge, Fordyce.

5) Extreme Trail: Heavily modified vehicle with very experienced driver required.
Extreme rock crawling, with very large ledges and waterfalls present requiring winching. Body and drive-train damage likely. Very cambered terrain may cause roll-overs. Water crossings may be hood high, and mud may be very deep and heavily rutted. Rocks over 36” high encountered frequently. Vehicles will require heavy modifications. 35” tires required, along with front and rear locking differentials in upgraded axles. 37” tires and built/locked axles recommended. Experience driver will be challenged by highly technical obstacles. EXAMPLE: Sledge Hammer, Jack Hammer, Chain Reaction, Scrambler Canyon.

5+) Beyond extreme: Custom vehicle, very experienced driver required. Rock Buggy/Juggy/Truggy level vehicles on insane terrain with frequent roll-overs and drive-train damage. Full custom vehicles with massive axles, 37”+ tires, very low gears, 1 ton drive-train, custom chassis, and full roll cages with harness belts. Beyond the realm of most full-bodied rigs. EXAMPLES: SOS trail, Arrowhead Trail, URF Canyon, Punisher, Full of Hate.

* NOTE: Many trails are in-between the ratings. For instance; the Calico Loop (Doran/Odessa) would rate as a 3.5, as 33" tires and one locker would be the recommendation. Trail conditions like snow, mud, and erosion will also change trail difficulty.



Off-Road tips for “newbies”.

• Items like expensive winches and off-road lights will not make your Jeep more trail worthy. Invest in lift, tires, sway bar discos, sliders, recovery attachment points, snatch strap, gears, and lockers first, as these will make your Jeep significantly more capable on the trail. Add the winch, lights, and other doo-dads from the Quadratec catalog last. DO NOT buy those Jeep roof racks or huge full-length bumpers as these actually KILL your Jeep's performance offroad. Roof racks add unnecessary weigh up high making the vehicle likely to roll in off-camber situations. Full length bumpers kill your approach and departure angles, add hundeds of pounds of unnecessary weight, and hinder your ability to put your front tires on rocks. You can spot a newb/mall crawler from a mile away by looking for full-length bumpers and those unsightly roof racks.

• Start on easier trails and build up your confidence as you gain more skill and experience. Being a good driver on the road DOES NOT make you a good driver on the trail. Off-road is an entirely different skill set. I have seen professional race drivers completely suck on the trail. Don’t jump into an advanced run just because your Jeep can handle it, learn to drive in off-road conditions first. Many advanced trails are VERY dangerous and require a skilled off-road driver to avoid disaster.

• Air down your tires for more traction. 18-20# is often good for 1-3 rated trails. More advanced trails require lower pressures of around 12-15#. Snow and sand may require even lower tire pressures in order to acquire traction. Always carry a tire gauge and an air compressor to air back up before returning to pavement. Driving on pavement with low tire pressure is extremely dangerous, so ALWAYS air back up before hitting the pavement.

• Don’t straddle rocks; put your tires on them and drive over. This prevents damage to your axles and drive-train. Sway bar discos make this much easier and safer. This does put your rocker panels at risk of damage though, and is why rock sliders are so important.

• On most trails, put the transfer case in 4-lo once the graded dirt road ends and leave it there until you return to the graded road. If you are driving the trail at less than 20 mph, leave the TC in low. If you are in a fast section of trail, go ahaead and switch to 4-hi or 2-hi. Drop the transmission into 1st or 2nd gear on hills and obstacles for more torque. Go slow, its rock crawling not the Baja 1000. Heavy use of the gas pedal is the leading cause of axle / drive-train damage off-road.

• When going down steep hills, use 4-lo and 1st gear to “engine brake” down the grade so the brakes are not required to work too hard.

• Watch and study the lines that more experience drivers take through the rocks. If you are unfamiliar or unsure of what lies ahead, It is always helpful to get out and walk the obstacle first. If an obstacle seems too demanding for your vehicle, or visibility is poor, ask for a spotter to help you through. Make sure you use an experienced off-roader as a spotter, as inexperienced spotters often do more harm than good (they often fail to line up the rear tires). Many trail roll-overs are the result of bad spotting. Once you choose an experienced spotter, trust him and follow their directions.

• Bring a camera along. The scenery on the trail is often fantastic, and wildlife viewing opportunities are often present. And of course, you always want evidence of your buddy's trail fail.

• Get a CB radio, they are very cheap and easy to install. The group is in constant contact with each other; warning of oncoming vehicles, road wash-outs, best lines through obstacles, vehicle damage observations, calls for help, planning, and directions at forks in the road. You will often be driving blind without a CB.

* Kids and pets. There is nothing like pulling your little brats away from their Xbox and making them spend time with you in the great outdoors; its good for them. Also, your Jeepin' mutt will love you forever if you take him with you on your off-road adventures. But be mindful that things can get scary and even very dangerous at times. Keep the kids securely in their seatbelts and car seats while the vehicle is moving and cargo securely fastened down so it doesn't become a deadly projectile in a rollover. Sometimes tough obstacles scare kids, and it would be better to remove them from the vehicle and let them watch while dad tries to conquer "gatekeeper". Dogs are seldom provided with adequate restraint systems, so are very vulnerable to injury on the trail. If you think there is a possibility of rolling on an obstacle, take the mutt out of the Jeep and let another member of the group watch him while you crawl through it. I have seen a couple of heartbreaking incidents on the trail involving dogs and roll-overs.

* DONT WHEEL ALONE!!!! Especially in the winter, when being stranded in the elements for even 1 night could kill you. Off-road vehicles break down on the trail out of cell-phone and CB range; this is an unavoidable fact of life. Having another rig with you to get you out or to go for help saves lives every year. Being a newb, wheeling alone is VERY irresponsible.

* Pack needed miscellaneous items for the trip. In the summer, bring extra water and sunscreen. In the winter, bring cold weather gear. In the snow, bring waterproof snow gear and snow boots. Seems simple, yet someone doesn't do it on almost every big run. We almost always eat a lunch on the trail, so don't forget food. Bugs are often nasty on the trail, especially summer runs in the mountains. Bug repellent with DEET works the best.

* Leave the flip-flops and high-heels at home; off-roading is often a lot of work. Dress like you are going to be stacking a ton of rocks, walking for miles, laying under an oily Jeep, digging holes, and hugging a big-ass dirty tire.

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