North America encompasses 6.8 million square miles. Less than 0.1 percent of that is paved roadway. So, to see North America, to really know the place, you need to keep rolling after the street ends.
But don’t be intimidated. With mild modification, most four-wheel-drive vehicles, including pickups, can handle recreational wheeling. 13 Provinces and forty-one states offer Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) areas, backcountry trails on public land sequestered for motorized play. Places that are hard to get to and amazing to see once you’re there. That doesn’t mean you should just hop in your truck and head out there.
Whether you’re just planning a day trip or a longer expedition. Leave being prepared. Preparation is most important thing to consider before you head off road.
Always be prepare. Whether its a travel medical kit or survival flashlight, be prepared with your provisions list: never assume you’ll have access to food, water, fuel, medication, or cell service. Protect anything that’s vulnerable to the elements. Paper maps, for example, can go inside a transparent zip bag. Aim to be self-sufficient. This is called building a bug out and you should have this if you want to go off road.
For vehicle upgrades, focus on tires, shocks, and LED lighting. Don’t cut corners, but shop smart; a couple grand buys serious capability. Still, Bower says, “they’re just tools.” Success ultimately rests with the person behind the wheel.
A huge mistake you can make is failing to respect the power of the terrain. Nature doesn’t let you hide from it. You will be soon tested by Mother Nature on how well you prepared.
One challenge for drivers who are used to pavement driving is learning to see those obstacles—boulders, logs, debris—as assets.
Trying to avoid the obstacles can lead to drivers punching out the side walls or bending bumpers or worse If you see a big, sharp rock on the path make sure you hit it with the center of your tire. It’s the hardest point. Consider you tire like a foot, you never hit the hardest step with your ankle so why would you do it with your tires?
Going off-road means adjusting how you think.
Pay attention to the details. This cannot be stressed enough. Something’s going to happen. The prepared off-roader lifts and assesses. But this all happens very quickly, quicker than you expect, even at 10 mph. Driving off road is an intense kind of awareness, and you might be going over all kinds of lumpy stuff for 12 hours. Oftentimes, people get rolling along and the routine and bumpy road lead to them becoming distracted. It’s kind of like driving the commute home from work. You sometimes wonder where the last 20 miles went by but your home.
Co-drivers help newbies stay vigilant. So read online forums for OHV outings or tag along on a four-by-four owners group meet-up. Find somebody who’s experienced, Bower suggests, and let them teach you. But even if you have to go it alone, the going is the important part.