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Backpacker Magazine – May 2012

The Manual: Rough Road Driving

Don’t get stuck in the mud. Learn to evaluate road hazards, overcome obstacles, and navigate the unpaved passages between your front door and your next adventure.

by: Kristin Bjornsen

Illustration by: Supercorn
Photo by rough_road_driving_445x278
Illustration by: Supercorn

1. Jack each wheel above surface level. Use plywood, a log, or a wide rock to keep your jack from sinking. Fill holes under the tire with sand, dirt, wood, or rocks. Beware of flying debris upon acceleration.
2. Place branches, planks, or floor mats in front of, under, and in line with tires. The traction aid needs to be at least halfway under the tire for the rubber to bite.
3. Deflate tires. Drop to 15 to 18 psi (from 30 to 32). You’ll increase the tire’s surface area and improve flotation. Drive slowly (less than 35 mph) until you can reinflate.

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Ted Dinwiddie
Jul 02, 2012

Pretty good piece, as far as it goes. There is A LOT more to back country driving than one can read in a single trip to the can, however. Cross rivers angled WITH the current, BTW.

Jul 02, 2012

Pretty good piece, as far as it goes. Meanolddog gets it a bit further, but there is A LOT more to this. Check out we can train you! Not yeehaw 'wheelin', real off road skills. BTW, cross rivers angled WITH the current, not against, trust me. Drive Well, Go Further.

Jul 02, 2012

Hi, meanolddog!
I've been impressed with your list and would like to learn how exactly you use each of that items, what situations, etc...
Could you teach me?
Thank you very much!

Old enough to know better
Jun 19, 2012

Don't see jumper cables on your list! Have seen more than a few cars parked at lonely trailheads with interior dome lights, parking lights etc. discharging the battery - easier to get a jump from someone parked nearby than pay big bucks for AAA rescue!

Jun 02, 2012

30 years of off Roading and driving on down old logging roads in the Sierra's and the California Deserts taught me a lot, along with a lot of cross country hiking.

#1. Carry at least two gallons of Water in separate sturdy containers do not put all your water in one container or leave in those flimsy store containers which are design to rot, per person in the vehicle.
#2. Carry extra personal Medications
#3. Carry an extensive First Aid Kit and know how to use it, with more than one Heat and 3 Cold compressess. Water Purification Tablets or a Pump
#4. Sleeping Bag
#5. Rain suit, comes in handy when it's cold out
#6. I carry MRE's and NO Dehydrated foods at all.
#7. Two wool Blankets
#8. Topographic Maps, not general area maps with little detail, detail is what you want.

B. in a plastic storage box carry
#1. 4 ton Come along, costs about $40.
#2. Knitted Nylon tow STRAP forget those yellow ropes every one I had snapped real easy.
#3. A real G.I. Folding Shovel
#4. A multi-use Battery, Air Compressor, Battery Charger Unit and charge it before you leave home.
#5. Tire Jack and spare Stand and Lug Wrench.
#6. Tire sealant
#7. Hatchet which can used as a hammer for the lug nuts should they be hard to get off.
#8. Heavy duty canvas or plastic tarp 12x12
#9. 100 ft. of real 550 Parachute Cord
#10.50-100 ft. hemp rope
#11.A 3 ft 2x6 wooden plank
#12.A 2 ft section of a 4x4 of 6x6 wood block
#13.A multitool set with tool sizes that fit your vehicles size or any special tools made especially for your vehicle.
#14. Distilled water for your Battery.
#15. Extra vehicle fuses
#16. Spare Fan belt
#17. Make sure your spare is a real spare and not one of those Donut tires which will split and pop on any type of rough gravel road.
#18. If you gut tells you your taking a risk, then don't do it..It is that simple.

Thats enough until you become more experienced. Seems like a lot but I have used every item in both lists at one time or another, especially that come along.

Jun 02, 2012

The last advice to drive over two rocks may work if you're driving a Segway or over some long rocks, but otherwise you'll get hung up front to back while trying to avoid a side to side hang up.

AZ Hiker
Jun 01, 2012

And don't forget to read Felix! the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart (Amazon). Learn what survival items to keep in your vehicle, how to get rescued, and how to navigate your way with and without a map or compass. A fast, easy read that could save your life and will definitely make your adventure more safe and enjoyable!

Steve C
Jun 01, 2012

Add to the list: Spare tire(s), winch or heavy-duty come-along, good pair of hiking shoes.


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