It’s a gorgeous sight, to be sure. There’s nothing quite like watching a well-made vehicle wind its way through piles of snow and ice. However, you definitely don’t want to get stuck in the snow while you’re out and about off roading during this winter. So, what do you do when you want to get out in the worst winter weather, while also making sure that you and your passengers are not only safe, but also that your off roading vehicle is safe as well? There are certain steps and precautions that you as a driver and avid off roader can take to ensure your safety.
- Prepare for the Worst
Before you even go out and about in the powdery white stuff, make sure that you’re preparing for the worst that could possibly happen — such as, you get out in the middle of nowhere and have to spend a few days roughing it in freezing temperatures. You want to always, always follow a buddy system when you’re off roading in the winter. Taking along another person can be a lifesaver, quite literally. However, you don’t want to just have another person in your off roading vehicle; rather, you want to have another vehicle along for the ride. That way, if something happens to one of your vehicles, the other one should be fine to keep going, getting you to safety.
- Prepare for the Worst of the Worst
If both of your off roading vehicles are stuck or otherwise incapacitated, you’ll need to make sure you have enough supplies to last you through whatever’s coming up next, whether that’s a few long nights (if you’re lost), waiting for assistance (if you’re too far out to safely walk back on foot) or dealing with an emergency situations such as a medical emergency. Along those lines, remember, during the winter months, you should never underestimate the weather. Snow storms come up quickly and darkness falls fast and early, so in many cases it’s not a good idea to start out on foot to try to seek help. It’s important to have the proper survival gear. This includes food, water, first aid kits, flashlights, batteries, a snow shovel, air jack, chains, ice scrapers, a radio if possible or a satellite phone and some bright flares.
- Know Your Terrain
While you may think that, if you’re all loaded up with the correct supplies, you’re good to hit the trails, think again. If there’s heavy snowfall on the ground, you want to stick to trails and areas that you’ve visited before, rather than go explore somewhere new. Snow can cover up lots of potentially dangerous areas, from huge rocks to huge dips, any of which can somehow harm your off roading vehicle or leave you stuck in a rut. Even if you do know your way around, go slow and don’t try anything risky.
- The Right Tires
Of course, just as important as what’s in your off roading vehicle when you set off for some winter trailblazing, is what’s on your off roading vehicle. You’re going to want a tire with a wide base and low pressure, so that you can stay on top of the snow, rather than sinking through it to whatever lies beneath. For maximum traction, you may want to consider getting a set of siped tires with good tread. Beyond the actual tires, though, get a set of snow chains. While it’s great to have enough chains for all of your tires, if you only have two, opt to put them on the rear tires, to prevent any fishtailing. Additionally, look for tires with tread that extends to the sidewall, for traction even at low pressure. These reinforced sidewalls can be a godsend during the winter.
- Battery Power
How old is your battery? If it’s even a day over five years old, you’re going to want to get it replaced before you go off roading in the winter. Your battery isn’t going to be as efficient in the cold, which you probably already know, and you want to be sure you can always start your off roading vehicle, no matter where you’re at. Sometimes, you can look for and find a new battery that’s specifically made for super-cold weather.
- Snow Study
It’s important to know what kind of snow you’re driving on and how it’s going to react to your vehicle. Snow can differ, after all; sometimes it’s wet and firmly packed, while other times it’s light, fresh and airy. Other than that, though, is there ice mixed in? Have temperatures fluctuated, resulting in a new snow consistency? How fast has it been snowing recently? How frequently? Knowing what kind of snow you’re dealing with will tell you how to handle your off roading vehicle. If it’s light and powdery, without any ice, you can probably be sure that you’re going to sink right through it to the ground below. If it’s wet and firmly packed, you may stay on top of it, but if you do get stuck, you’re going to be stuck extremely well. Plus, the snow situation can change during the day, so it may start out one way when you leave home, and be another way when you’re out on the trail. Be prepared for whatever kind of snow you happen to come across.
- Get Un-Stuck
Lastly, if you do find yourself stuck in a mound of snow and ice, follow the basic steps and rules to get out fast. One of the most important rules? Don’t spin the wheels. Doing that will effectively melt the snow right underneath your tires, sinking you further down; then, when the melted snow refreezes, it’ll form a casing of ice around your tires, trapping you even further. If you’re not sure if you’re spinning the wheels or not, look. Instead of uselessly spinning your tires, try to use other momentum. Rock your vehicle back and forth, pressing on the throttle only when you start to swing forward. This may help you build enough momentum to get out. If not, however, deflate your tires to about half the pressure, until it begins to look flat. You’ll have better traction, and may be able to use the momentum trick to free yourself. As soon as you’re free, make sure to inflate your tire back to a safe level.