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Ten Handy Off-Road Driving Tips

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by Ann Job

There's a lot more to driving off-road than simply putting your rig into 4WD and heading into the wilderness. To do it right requires equal amounts of preparation, patience and technique.

With the help of off-road specialist and Camel Trophy veteran Daphne Greene, I've pulled together a list of tips that are essential to fun and safe off-roading.

  • Pack appropriately. Pack supplies, tools and extra gear, just in case. Be sure the gear is secured inside the vehicle so it doesn't bounce around while you're off-road.

  • Know the underside of your vehicle. Look under your vehicle and learn where the lowest-hanging parts are located so you can avoid damaging them.

  • Learn your angles. Study and know your approach and departure angles-as well as your breakover angle-to avoid damaging your vehicle.

  • Scout tricky terrain on foot. Don't hesitate to get out of the vehicle to examine, up close, the terrain and soil conditions. And be sure to scout out what's on the other side of a hill ahead of time so there are no surprises.

  • Go slower than they do in TV commercials. Drive "as slow as possible, as fast as necessary." Remember to use the gears to efficiently manage engine power, braking and torque.

  • Don't wrap your thumbs around the steering wheel. Sudden steering wheel movements can result in injury.

  • Drive with both feet. Having both feet on the pedals speeds up your response time for needed power and braking input.

  • Create a mental picture. Look ahead and visualize the paths you want your tires to travel. Follow those paths.

  • Drive straight up and down hills. Avoid diagonal lines that put the vehicle in a situation where it might roll.

  • Wear your seat belt and be safe.
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