So you’re interested in gearing up and hitting the trails for an off-roading adventure. You’ve probably gone along with friends before and are now on the hunt for your own 4×4 vehicle.

Getting into the sport of 4×4 off-roading can be a fun, adrenaline-inducing activity for experts and beginners alike. But if you’re new to the trails, you’ll need to learn some basics before leading the pack in your own 4×4 vehicle.

In this post, we’ll go over basic information and tips for off-roading beginners like you so that you’re not left with a busted truck or a broken arm.

Vehicles

Choosing the right vehicle for your off-roading adventures may take some time because you want to make sure you get the right kind of vehicle with the right kind of modifications.

Below is a list of a few good suggestions for model types when looking for your new 4×4 vehicle:

  • Jeep Cherokee
  • Jeep Wrangler
  • Toyota 4-Runner
  • Nissan Pathfinder
  • Suzuki Samurai
  • Toyota Landcruiser
  • Ford Bronco
  • Toyota or Nissan trucks

Most of these options can be found used for under $5k, though some (like the Landcruiser) might cost you a little bit more unless you find one with higher mileage.

Some of these models will be pricier than others because of their name (a Toyota will cost you more than a Suzuki), but depending on your budget and the terrain you want to traverse, any of these 4×4 vehicles can be a great option. Just be sure to do your research and get the best vehicle for your budget. You don’t want to buy the lowest-priced bargain because it might have some costly repairs to add to the price tag.

At Colorado Axle and Gear, we modify and repair vehicles – so if you do find a great deal on one you can bring it in for an upgrade. For example of a total cost, you may end up with a used Jeep or Nissan for $4,000 or $5,000 purchase price. Bring it in for a lift and some new tires and you could potentially have your first 4×4 vehicle for under $7,000!

Off-roading Vocab

You’ll want to be sure to learn some new vocabulary so that off-roading is not only more fun but also safe.

Air Down

Simply put, to lower the air pressure in your tires. This will help with traction when going off road.

Approach Angle

The maximum angle that a vehicle can climb before the terrain meets the vehicle’s undercarriage or bumper. You’ll get to know this term well when practicing on new trails and encountering rocks and dips.

Articulation

In other words, how flexible is your suspension? If your vehicle has more articulation, you can cross over rocks, holes, and roots much better than a vehicle with lower articulation, or suspension movement.

High Range and Low Range

A high-range gearbox is used in most vehicles you see on the road. But you are looking for a trail-crushing 4×4, so finding one or modifying with a low-range gearbox will be your best bet. Low-range gears use the engine to slow down your vehicle, making it safer when going downhill. This type of gear also uses more engine torque which will get your 4×4 up hills much better than a vehicle using high-range gears, which might lose momentum toward the top. A low-range gear vehicle can bear the terrain that many trails offer – such as snow and mud.

Off Camber

A trail that is “off camber” means that it has a steep incline to one side. The outside of the trail might be higher than the inside, which can lead to a rollover if the driver is not careful.

Wheel Travel

This is the distance that a wheel can travel up or down. If your vehicle has more wheel travel, or better suspension, you’ll have better traction on the trail.

What to Bring

To stay safe and have fun on the trail, you’ll need to make sure you’re covered with essential supplies.

First, don’t forget to fully fill the gas tank! You never know if you’re going to get stuck – or even lost – when out on the trail, so best to be safe and keep the tank full in case you’re out longer than anticipated. You may even want to pack a spare tank of fuel if you’re going out for a weekend off-roading camping excursion.

Make a list and check it for these items:

  • Spare tire (in case of a flat)
  • Tools to change your tire
  • Rope or tow straps (in case of a tow emergency)
  • Shovel (in case you get stuck!)
  • First-aid kit (in case you get hurt shoveling your 4×4 truck out of a hole)
  • Snacks and water
  • Cell phone
  • Two-way radio (when you’re out with other off-road buddies, radios can be fun and keep communication flowing)
  • A friend – don’t go alone!

Trail Difficulty Levels

As a 4×4 off-roading beginner, you may want to start with the easier trails to get to know your vehicle and the land. Trails are typically marked with a difficulty level from low to high. When looking for a trail to tackle for the day or weekend, make sure to do your research to see which trail or set of trails have an easier rating. Even if you’ve ridden with friends 100 times, driving your own 4×4 off-road vehicle comes with a new set of challenges, so better play it safe than sorry by choosing some easier terrain for your first few off-road excursions.

Practice

Before diving in, you may want to take your 4×4 vehicle out for some practice rounds. Find some easy-going dirt roads or fields where you can practice handling your vehicle, but the risk of getting stuck, rolling, or bottoming out is low.

You can even take a course in 4×4 off-roading by finding a company that offers lessons. Perhaps renting a 4×4 vehicle and taking a lesson before diving in and purchasing your own trail-blazing 4×4 will prep you better for knowing how to handle the truck and the terrain.

Safety First

Always remember, safety first! Make sure your 4×4 off-road vehicle is well-equipped to run smoothly. Do not forget your essentials and your safety kit, along with extra water and food.

Make sure to take a friend (or a group) on your off-roading adventure in case of emergency. You never know when your 4×4 truck might break down, bottom out, or if you will end up needing a tow – so going with others is always a safe move for a fun, 4×4 off-roading adventure!