Even the most prepared 4×4 can get into difficulties
In the UK, there are some extreme off road courses, which attract huge numbers of people to have a go.
There are also some excellent 4×4 driving schools that will introduce you all types of situations, and show you how to get out of them. I have done quite a few of these over the years and Land Rover’s ½ or full day courses are excellent, and so is the Suzuki one in North Wales, which was further enhanced by a blanket of fog which descended up on us making visibility almost zero for the mountain crossing!
4×4 adventure trips are now quite common place, especially in foreign countries like Morocco. There are quite a few organisations that specialise in this type of trip, but more commonly a new group of DIY adventurers are emerging.
The main message to all travellers is to be prepared. Think about the worse situation you might find yourself in – then double it!
Firstly, make sure the vehicle chosen to do this trip is up to the job. This vehicle will be your home and lifeline for the weeks or months to come so must be equipped to cope with the journey, the terrain and extreme conditions. You must have a winch fitted and be competent and trained in the use of it – accidents with cables and rope are common and very nasty.
The best bit of advice I can give is to make sure you have studied your proposed route and practice your driving in similar conditions to what you may find. Deep mud and sand are normally the problem, however handling a vehicle on slopes and in rock strewn terrains must also be expected. Map out the route, set checkpoints and dates when you should be somewhere and get a plan to always call somebody on that date. If you are a day late, it’s a bit of a panic – anymore and they could raise the alarm and save your life.
Make sure you have good tyres, including the spare, which are suitable for the trip. Ropes, spades, a few key spares etc need to be carried as you will almost certainly not be able to purchase such items on route.
A small compressor and puncture repair equipment will also be essential, but having Tyre Weld kits for emergencies will be really useful. Fit an oversized fuel tank to cater for long trips between fuel stations. Gerry cans, containing both fuel and water are essential, especially in desert conditions.
The most experienced drivers get stuck too!
Here is a few of our top driving tips and techniques to start you off:
- In soft sand or muddy conditions, reduce the tyre pressure to ½ the normal – this will allow more traction. Remember to re-inflate once on normal roads.
- Always select a low gear in soft conditions, and don’t brake suddenly.
- If you get stuck, don’t spin the wheels. Place mats or boards under the wheels, clear the mud as best you can, select the lowest gear and drive out. Use the winch to pull you and help.
- Once moving, keep moving!
- If you need to drive in water, check the depth. The water must not be deeper than the air intake. Once in the water do not stop the engine. Keep a steady and slow pace so not to swamp the vehicle.Once through, check everything is ok i.e. the brakes work and all debris is removed from under the vehicle.
- When descending, select low gears and use the engine breaking and not the foot brake to control decent. Descend slowly.
- When ascending, select a suitable low gear and stay in that gear. If you cannot make the ascent, stall the engine and come back down using controlled engine breaking.
- Keep power constant, apply only what is needed to maintain control.
- Always walk a route that looks tricky. It’s too late once you are committed and making sure you know what to expect will save a lot of problems – and could save your life.
- Subscribe to a satellite tracking service to ensure you can be found if you get into trouble. If you are going to extreme remote locations, take a Satellite phone with you as well.
4×4 Adventure trips are an amazing way to really see new places that many travellers will never see. It is the ultimate in testing your skills and if you are prepared will change the way to travel forever.