Off-road driving: expert tips on what to bring

Jeep on downhill off-road terrain
Jeep on downhill off-road terrain

Driving off road in your vehicle can be an exhilarating experience as you test your extreme driving skills on different terrains.

We asked some of our in-house off-road experts – Lyn Woodward, Jeff Glucker, Micah Muzio and Brian Moody – on essential items to pack for your off-road outings. We also used their expertise for a checklist to review before going off-road.

If you’re planning an off-road adventure, you’ll need this guide to help you enjoy the ride and stay safe.

Must-have items for off-road driving

off-road driving in a jeep

off-road driving in a jeep

First, you’ll need some basic supplies, including a first aid kit, water and food if you’re going off-road. Our expert team suggests you never leave your home without these, plus the following items:

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Checklist for your car before hitting the trails

Grab air during offroad adventure

Grab air during offroad adventure

  1. Have your oil changed† Before you leave, check your oil level and make sure change oil if necessary.
  2. Pay attention to the tire pressure† Make it a habit to use your tire gauge regularly. Check the pressure before, during and after off-roading as you will likely deflate and inflate during your trip.
  3. Checking fluids† Inspect your coolant, transmission fluids, and differential fluids. It is essential to properly maintain your off-road vehicle. This includes flushing or changing these fluids when needed, especially if you’re planning long-haul trips without much hope of help.
  4. Top up windshield washer fluid. Add windshield washer fluid before you go as not seeing well on the trails can be dangerous.
  5. Inspect your spare wheel† Make sure your spare part is undamaged and filled with air.
  6. Fill your gas tank† Never drive off without a full tank of gas. It makes sense to carry some spare fuel with you when you go off the grid, but it’s only necessary for longer rides.
  7. Write down your medical information† Keep any critical medical records written down and in your wallet in case of an accident.

What to do if you find yourself in a dangerous situation?

Going off-road in a jeep

Going off-road in a jeep

“Keep calm” when you encounter a dangerous situation, Glucker says. That’s the best you can do. Be prepared by following the packing list and completing your checklist before you go.

His advice is practical. “If you get a flat tire, you have the tools (and gloves) packed,” he says. “You can rectify the situation and then move on.”

Lyn Woodward reminds you that any time you go outside, it can be potentially dangerous.

“I’ve had some close contacts overcoming big rocks,” she says, “but I’m pretty conservative when it comes to off-road driving. One of my mentors always says that when it comes to rallying, your navigator can get you lost, but your driver can kill you. I take that very seriously, even if I’m driving for fun, and minimize the risk.”

She adds one more important thing to remember: “Proceed with caution and never drive anything you can’t see.”

“You’ll Have to Drive” [your off-road vehicle] on your adventure, but you also have to drive it home.”

And like the best off-roaders, you also learn on the trails of your mistakes.

Glucker says he once underestimated the nighttime cold and that his sleeping bag rating wasn’t good enough for the conditions.

“I froze… so I added some more layers, zipped up the top of the sleeping bag to get in deeper, and put myself together as best I could,” says Glucker. “In the future I will be better able to control the weather and temperatures and make sure my equipment is up to the conditions.”

He also plans to put an extra blanket in the car just to be safe. Now you can add that to your list.

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