When you see footage or photos of people off-roading, it all looks so awesome. That’s because it is – until it isn’t. The fact is that subjecting your 4×4 to off-pavement riding is more than a notion, even for vehicles that are made with such activity in mind. But it’s also a fact that people do make blunders, mistakes that turn what should be an exhilarating experience into more like a bad dream.

The good news is that most common off-roading mistakes can be avoided. Here are those missteps and how you can prevent them.

Off-Roading mistakes

Not Looking up the Forecast

A common mistake is not checking weather conditions in your destination area before heading out. Your skill level notwithstanding, even a novice trail can become difficult to maneuver in a pounding rain. In fact, the terrain can become perilously slippery and soft. You also don’t want to be out in blinding snow, which poses its own problems. So, yes, do check the forecast before hitting the road.

Doing Too Much

No, we don’t mean cramming too many trails into your excursion. What we mean is attempting things that exceed your skill level. Having said that, it’s fully understood that challenging oneself – and one’s vehicle – is part and parcel of most off-roading sorties. However, you shouldn’t push it. If you’re an off-roading newbie, taking on extremely steep inclines or massive obstacles that are out of your comfort zone could really damage your ride – and risk your safety.

If you’re an inexperienced off-roader, you should put the time in on beginner-type trails, allowing yourself to work your way up to more demanding routes. Don’t push the envelope off the bat. Thus, it’s imperative that you honestly assess your skill level so that you can know when a trail or obstacle is outside your current abilities.

Not Being Prepared

If you think mulling what kind of emergency supplies you might need is antithetical to the whole rough-and-tumble, adventuresome, trailblazing off-roading spirit, think again. The fact is that plenty can go wrong, so you must be prepared in case something does. After all, you don’t want to wind up stranded for who knows how long without some essential items that could keep you from harm.

Such equipment should include, at minimum, a blanket and warm clothing, a sleeping bag, enough food and water for a couple of days, a flashlight, and recovery gear including a winch, traction pads, and recovery gear and the like. It also helps, of course, to have the ultimate off-roading equipment: a Jeep. After all, the brand is basically synonymous with off-roading. If you’d like to pick one up, check out these Jeep lease deals.

Packing Too Much

This is the other side of “not being prepared.” The fact is that bringing too much stuff along can also be hazardous. Why? Because every 4WD vehicle has a max towing capacity. When that’s exceeded, you’re putting excess pressure on components including the engine and suspension that can ultimately cause a breakdown. At a minimum, your vehicle’s performance can be impaired.

Further, too much weight can affect the ride’s center of gravity and render negotiating bumpy terrain or steep inclines very dangerous. So, before heading out, do check your vehicle’s owner’s manual to make sure you’re within the maximum towing capacity.

Going Solo

Not only is it more fun to bring a friend along – it does make for great stories but it’s also smarter. Sure, we get that going it alone seems like a nice way to commune with nature and enjoy peace and quiet. But what do you do when your ride gets stuck, runs out of petrol, or rolls over, and now you’re stranded in the boonies all by your lonesome. That could be dangerous.

The bottom line is that many things can go left when you’re out in the wild, pushing your and your vehicle’s capabilities to the limit. But if you don’t have a buddy with you, you just may have to chill until someone comes along. After all, you may not even have cell phone coverage.

In the end, avoiding these common off-roading mistakes can help ensure that you have a sublime experience out on the trails. And if you’re in a Jeep, even better.

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