Tough Love

Recon ?

Time for a little short-but-sweet tough love.

Four-wheeling involves near constant decision making. Numerous challenges face you along the trail. Whether you successfully navigate around or through those obstacles falls entirely on your shoulders.

Sorry, my friend, but you can’t blame anyone else. Not your spotter. Not your mechanic. Not the fellow camper who messed up breakfast that morning.

Some 99% of all mistakes are caused by the driver. (The remaining 1% can be blamed on testosterone poisoning. But I’ll leave that for another article.)

It all boils down to:

Your assessment: How well you evaluated the obstacle.

Your decision ( go or no go): Most obstacles can be overcome. But sometimes you need to back away.

Your execution: How well you implement the driving techniques required to successfully negotiate around or through that obstacle.

A flop

Follow the fundamentals of four-wheeling

Four-wheeling offers unique circumstances every moment. Sure, city driving has its hazards “ screaming police vehicles, major road construction, zombie cab drivers, an occasional pile up. But you get used to those. Off road, it’s a different story. You have to learn to expect the unexpected. And act accordingly.

Because every situation is unique, there are no cookbooks to guide you. Adhering to sound principles and executing properly will ensure a successful 4WD adventure.

All driving involves getting from Point A to Point B. Four-wheeling sets itself apart by constantly challenging drivers. For simplicity, I use the word obstacles to refer to all challenges. Understand that doesn’t mean just a large boulder. It could be a blind curve on a hillside. Or a narrow passageway through a brush-shrouded canyon.

You first must recognize the obstacle. That involves doing the recon. Four-wheeler’s don’t reconnoiter enough. My mantra is, recon, recon, recon.

Ditch ahead.

Often that involves getting out of the vehicle and checking out the scene. Sometimes you can’t see well enough through the windshield. Get out and walk up to the top of the hill or down to bottom of slope. Whatever the situation calls for.

Next, decide on your path. That is, pick the line. Every obstacle off road has to be analyzed. Determine the best route to take; there could be more than one. You’re looking for the one best suited to your vehicle.

How to pick the best line

As you analyze the situation, consider these four factors.

  1. All four wheels must remain on the ground. If on a slope or mountainside, the vehicle could pitch slightly. Minimize the pitching or sideways sliding so all four wheels are available to you.
  2. Verify clearance on all sides. Any rock outcroppings, branches, brush, or ruts that could hang up or damage your vehicle? Don’t look in just one direction. Consider all angles: overhead, underneath and from either side.
  3. Maintain traction. If driving on soft surfaces, adjust accordingly. You may have to air down, for example. Like point #1 above, you want to keep all four wheels working for you.
  4. Use appropriate throttle. Don’t go too fast or too slow. A good rule of thumb is: Go as slow as possible but as fast as necessary. Maintain that momentum.

Beautiful sunset on the clouds.

Four-wheeling involves diligence on the driver’s part. From assessing the situation to making the decision to executing. It’s all about using the fundamentals properly. You as the driver are responsible for the successful execution of the trip. Keep driving, and over time you will develop the necessary skills.

As those skills develop, you will routinely make sound assessments and prudent decisions, and successfully execute those decisions.

P.S. While we’re on the subject of decision making: For god’s sake, never try to help retrieve stuck vehicles by hanging or climbing on them. It is very hazardous to your health. We have safer ways to free them.


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Here is a recap of all 2019 articles.


The 2020 schedule of clinics and adventures trips has been posted on the web site.

All dates are posted to our web site. You can register for all 2020 events. The Wilderness First Aid class, Easter Safari, Death Valley and the Rubicon trip have been opened up and are available for registration.

Some Upcoming Events (click on the link for details)

January 2020
January 18, 2020 Winching Clinic
January 25, 2020 Sand Dune Off-Road Driving “ Oceano Dunes
January 25, 2020 Getting Started Off-Road “ San Diego area
January 26, 2020 Day 2 Getting Started Off-Road “ San Diego area

February 2020
February 01, 2020 Tire Repair & Hi-Lift Mini Clinic
February 02, 2020 Super Bowl Club Run
February 08, 2020 Getting Started Off-Road “ LA area
February 09, 2020 Day 2 Getting Started Off-Road “ LA area
February 22, 2020 Getting Started Off-Road “ San Diego area
February 23, 2020 Day 2 Getting Started Off-Road “ San Diego area
February 22, 2020 Starting Rock Crawling

March 2020
March 14, 2020 Getting Started Off-Road “ LA area
March 15, 2020 Day 2 Getting Started Off-Road “ LA area
March 20, 2020 Death Valley Adventure
March 21, 2020 Getting Started Off-Road “ San Diego area
March 22, 2020 Day 2 Getting Started Off-Road “ San Diego area
March 28, 2020 Wilderness First Aid (WFA) Course
March 28, 2020 Self-Recovery Clinic
March 29, 2020 Winching Clinic

April 2020
April 01, 2020 San Rafael Club Run
April 05, 2020 Easter Safari
April 18, 2020 Getting Started Off-Road “ LA area
April 19, 2020 Day 2 Getting Started Off-Road “ LA area
April 25, 2020 Getting Started Off-Road “ San Diego area
April 26, 2020 Day 2 Getting Started Off-Road “ San Diego area

May 2020
May 02, 2020 Getting Started Off-Road “ LA area
May 03, 2020 Day 2 Getting Started Off-Road “ LA area
May 09, 2020 Tire Repair & Hi-Lift Mini Clinic
May 16, 2020 Winching Clinic
May 23, 2020 Memorial Day Club Run


Wilderness First Aid (WFA) Clinic Announcement
Sign up for the WFA clinic. It is only a few months out! (We had to turn people away last year.)
This will be the best first aid course you have ever taken. 
Everyone should be prepared when they go outdoors. The WFA clinic will provide you with skills, knowledge and training to handle life threatening medical emergencies and allows you to be better prepared to protect your family in an emergency. Wilderness First Aid is a two day immersion into general medical concepts and Basic Life Support skills. This course teaches what to do with a medical emergency when help is miles away and calling 911 isn’t an option.
The clinic will be held March 28th & 29th, 2020 at the Hungry Valley State Vehicle Recreation Area (SVRA) near Gorman, CA.

February 01, 2020 28, 2019 Tire Repair & Hi-lift Jack Mini Clinic Announcement

This 4-hour clinic will provide you with the knowledge and skills to repair the most common tire problems and to use a Hi-lift jack safely to aid you in the process.

The clinic is February 01-2020 from 8:30am to 12:00 noon. It will be at a location in Hawthorne, CA.  (Directions will be provided when you register.) We are limiting this one to 10 people.

Giant Loop Gas Bag™ Fuel Safe Bladder

Conveniently transport 3-5 gallons of hydrocarbon fuel for power sports racing in a collapsible welded film and ballistic nylon reinforced container that rolls up or packs flat when empty.


  • Available in 3- and 5-Gallon versions
  • Compatible with most petroleum fuels, including gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and jet. NOT COMPATIBLE WITH ALCOHOL RACING FUELS.
  • Volumes:  3 gallon maximum capacity (11.3 liters), 5 gallon maximum capacity (18.9 liters)
  • Empty Weights: 21 oz (3 Gallon); 28 oz (5 Gallon)
  • Dimensions (flat and unfilled):  22³ long x 14³ wide (3 Gallon); 30³ long x 15³ wide (5 Gallon)
  • Rolled diameter (empty): approximately 4-10³
  • Filler neck is standard size, fits universal spouts such as EZ-Pour
  • Materials & Construction: Welded film bladder sewn into ballistic nylon sleeve with webbing daisy chain anchor points and handles.
  • Made in U.S.A.

I hope to see you on the trails!
Tom Severin, President Badlands Off Road Adventures, Inc.
4-Wheel Drive School
Make it Fun. Keep it Safe.

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Want to Use This Article In Your Magazine, E-Zine, Club Newsletter Or Web Site? You are welcome to use it anytime, just be sure to include the following author/copyright information: Tom Severin, 4×4 Coach, teaches 4WD owners how to confidently and safely use their vehicles to the fullest extent in difficult terrain and adverse driving conditions. Visit to develop or improve your driving skill.

Copyright 2020, Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Inc.

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