Even though I had owned a Jeep Wrangler for nearly 8 years, I had never really gone “off-roading” beyond the occasional mudding spree or random forest trail. My first off-roading event completely changed my perspective on the hobby and got me hooked instantly.
Why do people go off-roading? As Jeep’s slogan “Do Anything.” states, off-roaders love to push the bounds of what modern life has tamed us to. To get off the concrete and asphalt and see parts of this earth that may never have been touched is the off-roaders dream. While off-roading has a wide variety of types, the community is all about pushing limits, exploring, and beating the mundane.
Off-roading and the reasons for going are different for everyone. Even if you think you don’t like it, give it a shot first. Below I have outlines some reasons I found that makes off-roading so desirable.
What Makes Off-Roading Special?
While the formation of the highway system has without a doubt made life easier, quicker, and more efficient, it has also taken away our connection to the wilderness and sense of adventure.
When pioneers wanted to go somewhere, they had to forge their own trails and beat their own paths through miles of untouched land. Talk about a sense of accomplishment when you look back and see you overcame Mother Nature and her obstacles.
It’s this very same sense of adventure that has put the love of off-roading in many people’s hearts. A chance to leave the city, get dirty, and conquer things put in your way is also a chance to get in touch with our roots and what got us where we are today.
Like I said above, off-roading is a wide term that has many categories and each one appeals to it’s own audience.
There is mudding, where the whole point is to see whose vehicle can make it further before getting stuck and also just to have a reason to get extremely dirty and not get scolded by your Mom.
You also have rock crawling. While much more meticulous and slow, rock crawlers often have the most fun. Because of the slow speed, you spend all day going over massive obstacles and are surrounded by people with the same passion. What makes for a better day than talking to people who love the same things.
Next you have over-landing. While maybe not as capable as some extreme rock crawling rigs, Overlanders probably see the most amazing scenery and experience the things many people never will even know existed.
Off-roading is not limited to one terrain either. You can find yourself on sandy beaches, terribly tall mountains, or on the river banks. It’s your choice and that is why it’s so freeing.
In each of these (and many many more) categories of off-roading, the sense of community is very present. The more you find yourself on these trips, the more you form a close friendship with a common group of people.
You begin to help each other with their own builds, start YouTube channels, and experience amazing events together. And at the heart of off-roading, I believe lies our human nature to crave relationships with people that have common interests.
And at the end of the day, you can look back and know you conquered something that day. You overcame an obstacle and had fun doing it. Sure things can be rough sometimes. Just ask a rock crawler who snapped an axle or mudder whose engine is caked with mud….somehow on the inside.
Regardless, off-roading is special because it is what you make it and there are no limits.
Where Can I Go Off-Roading?
There are rules to off-roading and it isn’t just a free for all. I know this seem contradictory to my last statement above, but I think you all know what I was getting at.
Because of the world we live in, we can’t go driving over someones property or crashing the cars in the city because we have a vehicle capable of doing so.
There are extensive areas sectioned through the U.S. alone that are allowed to be driven and explored. The most notable one being Moab, Utah where you can pretty much go where you want.
There are countless off-road parks and trails and often times, if you have permission, there many many people who will open their land to responsible off-roaders.
The best way to learn where you can off-road is do a quick google search to see if there are any places near where you live. If you live in places like Utah or Colorado then you never have to leave state to meet all your off-road needs.
A wonderful gem I love is Palo Duro Canyon here in Amarillo, Texas. While not as well known as Moab, many of the Jeepers I have met here claim that this is by far the better experience.
As you get more involved in this hobby, I highly suggest you join a local group and begin planning trips around the country. Even though there are regulations on where we can go, I can almost guarantee you that you have more than enough terrain for a lifetime of adventure and new sites.
Off-Roading Tips for Beginners
Many people think off-roading just entails drunk red necks playing in the mud or wrecking their vehicles on stuff (which is sometimes exactly what it is). There is however a science and lots of knowledge that goes in the hobby.
Some of the best physics minded people I have ever met are people who know the ins and outs of their off road rig and understand what it takes to have a successful trip.
While off-roading can take a lifetime of learning there are a few tips that every beginner should stick to.
First, don’t go alone. And at some point all of us have done it. But nothing is worse than under estimating a drop and flipping your car, running out of gas, getting stuck, or getting lost and having no help and no way of contacting anyone. Lets face it, cell service is probably limited where we go.
Second, always have extras. Extra tire, spare parts and bolts, ropes for towing, food and water. About anything you can fit, bring extra. It could end being for you or someone else. And if everyone does it, chances are everyone makes it home with a functioning vehicle.
Third, know your limits. Don’t try to show off. Trust me when I say that absolutely no one in the off-roading community will be impressed with stupidity. The ones who have done it the longest will you tell you that careful driving can make all the difference.
Fourth and final for this post, listen to others and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Every enthusiast had to start somewhere. And the ones that understand this are always more than willing to lend a helping hand anytime they are asked.
There are so many more tips that I could add here. But I would be better off making a whole separate post for that. The bottom line is, learning is a lifetime thing. Every trip you go on you’ll pick up a nugget of knowledge to pass on to the next guy. And again, that’s the treasure of having a family in the off-road community.
What is OHV? OHV stands for Off Highway Vehicle. Most states, if not all, require an OHV sticker to be allowed on trails or into parks. The stickers are good for a season and cost about $20.
Is Off-Roading Bad for Your Vehicle? Depending on your vehicle, off-roading can severely damage your car. In order to go off-roading, make sure you have a properly equipped vehicle and know your limits in order to ensure both you and your vehicle make it home safe.
What Car Do I Need to Off-Road? There is no straight answer here. Obviously, I am biased to Jeep. But there are many brands out there up to the task if properly equipped and if driven smart. I do believe Jeep has the ultimate advantage, but it is by no means the only one capable.