Respect Your Trailmates. Arrive Prepared.

Four-wheeling is often a team effort. Indeed, I always recommend that at least two vehicles go out each time. If you are part of a group, make sure to arrive fully prepared. Any deficiency causes delays – or worse – and affects the entire group.

How to prepare for your trip

Many factors go into preparing for an off-road trip, a number of which have been covered in these blog columns. (A list is included at the end of this column.) In a nutshell, being prepared means being ready to go at the trailhead or wherever your group decides to meet.
Remember this simple mantra:

Be on time with a vehicle in good working order, and have sufficient fuel, ice, and wood. Also, be prepared to help out your fellow four wheelers.

“Be on time” means just that. A few minutes late usually won’t hurt, but if you’re really late and not fully prepared, you can cause problems. Consider an off-road trip just like any other obligation. Set the alarm clock a little early, if that’s what it takes. Pack as much as you can the night before, so there’s not much to do in the morning.

Make sure your vehicle is in good working order. Adhering to a proper maintenance schedule allows you to catch a problem while it is still relatively minor. Simple steps make a big difference: Inspect your tires. Check fluid levels. Take a peek under the frame.

You shouldn’t go off-road with significant issues. When your vehicle breaks down – you know it will at some point – the problem affects everyone.

As you pack, consider carefully where you are going and how long you will be gone. The amount and type of supplies varies depending on the environment and type of trip. Clothing and bedding, for example, tend to get shortchanged. If there’s any possibility of hitting cold or rainy weather, pack accordingly.

Create and use a checklist, even if you’re a seasoned four wheeler. You’re bound to forget something, especially if you pack in a hurry.

Bring along enough food, ice and wood. And remember to top off your tank. Your trailmates may be able to help you in a pinch, but you shouldn’t rely on them. They need their supplies for the trip. Take fuel, for example. If you run dry and borrow gas from another vehicle, that driver is now in a precarious position. Will he have enough to finish the trip? You see how an oversight on your part can have dire consequences for the group.

Help each other

For a trip to be successful, everyone needs to pitch in when needed. An obvious example is when one vehicle is stuck or damaged. It’s not a happy situation by any means, but it can be a good experience. Working together as a team you learn how to manage a tough situation under difficult circumstances. You grow individually and as a group. Many heads are always better than one, as I like to say.

You can also help clean up and break camp, and do other chores. By showing your team spirit you encourage others to do the same, and you leave a good impression on your trailmates. That good impression may get you invited back, as well.

Here are some other suggestions to make your event go smoothly:

  • Stay up with the group; don’t get way behind. People will wonder where you are.
  • Don’t wander off. Say you’re in camp, and you decide to go hiking. After awhile people will wonder what happened. Tell somebody that you’re going somewhere.
  • Be nice, be patient, and have a sense of humor. The last point is especially helpful during breakdowns and challenging situations.
  • Be flexible. Things happen on the trail, and plans often change. Just go with the flow.
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