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Newbie Guide to Responsible Four-Wheeling

Author: themajor

Responsible four-wheeling means doing everything within your power to drive safely, courteously, and carefully. It means taking care of yourself and the land you ride on.

We've all heard about trails closing, environmentalists complaining, and four-wheelers taking a large part of the blame. One of the main reasons that our trails are closing is that 4x4 drivers aren't using trails properly. There is a right way and a wrong way to travel off-highway in a four-wheel drive vehicle. For the future of our sport, please choose the right way:

Do What's Good For The Land
  • Stay on the designated trail at all times - no matter what. Don't go trailblazing your own path through the wilds. Going off the designated trail is a surefire way to get more of our trails closed. Wouldn't you like for your children and grandchildren to be able to four wheel some of the same places that you've been able to? To be able to legally travel off-highway, we have to stay on the trails we still have. If we really want to continue our sport we have to stick to the designated trails.
  • When you are traveling the trail, try to avoid slipping a tire. It requires a certain skill to be able to drive a trail without slipping a tire, but treading carefully ensures that you aren't tearing up the land by throwing rocks, mud, dirt and water. When the trail and its surroundings receive less wear and tear, the land loves us for it. So do the environmentalists. Plus, an added benefit to trying to avoid tire slippage is that it makes riding an easy trail all the more challenging!
  • Another way to protect the land is to stay out of water. While we often have no choice but to cross through water, if you must, simply cross it at a very slow pace. To provide the least disturbance to the environment, avoid creating a wake or spinning your tires on the stream bed.
  • Pack out what you packed in. It's important to always take your garbage with you on the way out. Better yet, take out more then you brought in. Whenever you see it, pick up trash off the trail and do your best to leave the area in better shape then you found it. Most designated trails have a place for your garbage at the trailhead.
Do What's Good For You
  • Never go out alone. Even a short trip could be costly. It's best to play it safe and never venture off the highway alone. Taking along another vehicle is the smart thing to do, because chances are both vehicles won't quit while out. If something should happen to one vehicle, the second vehicle could tow out the first, or go for help if necessary.
  • Don't overload your vehicle. Loads should be distributed evenly inside your vehicle if at all possible. Loads behind the rear axle will cause the rear of your vehicle to sag, limiting your actual departure angle and overhead clearance. If you have a roof rack, be extremely aware of weights and how they are distributed. Excessive loads will change your center-of-gravity, making the vehicle less stable and more susceptible to roll over.
  • Don't drink and drive. Save the drinking for the campsite. If you chose to drink while four-wheeling, you're putting yourself, your passengers, and other drivers on the trail in jeopardy. Besides, while four-wheeling, you need to have a clear head.
  • Be aware of changing weather conditions. Even before you head out, check the latest weather channel for approaching storms.
  • Be courteous to the other people who are using the woods or deserts with you. Hikers, horseback riders, dirt bikers, four-wheelers... we're all out for the same purpose -- to enjoy the great outdoors!

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