Off-Roading for Total Newbies: Everything You Need to Know to Start

February 9th, 2023 by

Taking your vehicle off the main road is one of the most exhilarating activities you can do on four wheels — There’s just something about driving your rig through rough terrain that makes your heart race and your adrenaline flow. While it’s all very exciting in concept, but where do you begin if you’re new to off-roading? This guide is here to help you embark on your journey and learn all the fundamentals of this thrilling activity.

What’s the best kind of vehicle of off-roading?

If you are looking to have a little bit of fun beyond the beaten path, you might not want to take your mother’s sedan along for the ride. With this in mind however, not every SUV or big-rig is build to go off-roading; there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a ride that makes the cut. Essentially, what makes a good off-roading rig is a vehicle that is categorized by their high ground clearance, drive system, capable suspension, durability, and ability to operate on rough terrain. However, some vehicles are better suited for off-roading than others. Other than dirt bikes, the most popular types of off-road vehicles include SUVs, trucks, Jeep Wranglers, or ATVs. Most off-road vehicles are four-wheel-drive, but some specialized off-road rides are rear-wheel-drive. Toyota has several tenacious vehicles that are equipped for the job, like the 4Runner, the Land Cruiser, the FJ Cruiser, the RAV4 and the Tacoma.

Should I consider modifications?

Something to think about when you begin off-roading, is that you need  the proper setup to make sure your vehicle is capable of handling tricky terrains. If your SUV has standard street tires, you want to upgrade to all-terrain tires at least if you plan to occasionally travel on light trails. More moderate backcountry environments require dedicated off-road tires.

Another important factor to keep in mind is that making modifications to your ride can have a domino effect, requiring even more mods (and more $$$). Make sure you understand how the change will affect other components and carefully plan out your build. Adding bigger tires often means you need to add a suspension lift in order to fit the tires. Lifting your ride alters the geometry of the suspension components, which can put too much stress on other parts of the vehicle, causing weak points to break. This is not something you want to happen while you are out in a remote area.

Depending upon how much you’re looking to upsize, you can see that it’s not always quite as simple as just adding bigger tires. Choosing which modifications work best for your vehicle before you take to the trails is the best way to play it safe.

What is mudding?

Mudding is just a different style of our highlighted sport, and is just what it sounds like; off-roading through mud. The perfect environment to go mudding are places like lake shores, streams and wet fields. Just like when you go off-roading in dry conditions, you need to equip your mudding vehicle for all-terrain driving. For the best performance, “mudders” use pickup trucks and sports utility vehicles with four-wheel drive. The correct tires, known as mud-terrain tires but commonly called mud tires, have extra-large tread separated by wide deep grooves, and are essential for mudding. In addition to these extras that are essential to mudding, make sure you also have a power-washer.

Where can I take my vehicle off-roading?

If you’re not sure where to take your vehicle for your off-road adventures, it might be intimidating trying to navigate this part at first. There are tons of resources online to help people find different places to take their rig with varying degrees of difficulty, remoteness and other factors. Ride ATV Oregon is a great resource for Oregonians to search for different trails by difficulty, class and location. Permits are required in some areas, so make sure that you know before you go if the trail you are planning to ride on requires one or not.
Another great resource for folks looking for a place to go would be the website All Trails which you can use to explore the most popular off-road driving spots in Oregon with extensive maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from those who have visited them.
Another great way to find trails is to look through trail guidebooks, which most often are region-specific and can be found online or in bookstores. Trail guidebooks not only provide trail coordinates for your journey, but they can also interesting background information about local trails.

Off road etiquette? What are some important things to keep in mind?

There’s nothing more annoying for other trail-goers than running into someone who has poor off-road manners, whether you’re a newbie or not. It’s good to keep in mind that off-roading has it’s own etiquette you should pay attention to ensure that everyone stays safe and has a good time. Here are three major pieces of etiquette to keep in mind:

  1. Clean up after yourself & leave things as you found them

While this pretty much goes without saying, don’t leave a mess behind you. Littering of any kind goes against off-roading trail etiquette and is just a terrible thing to do in general. We all know that there are some bad players out there, but keep in mind that when you are off-roading, you could potentially be damaging delicate ecosystems in the wild. Pay attention to where you are, clean up after yourself and make sure to leave nothing behind. Be especially mindful of fire starters, like smoldering pits, fireworks, or cigarette butts. A wildfire is not something you want to be responsible for.

  1. Stay on the marked trails

This one is one of the most important trail guidelines to follow. By going off on your own trail, you risk getting lost or encountering dangerous obstacles. However, staying on the marked path isn’t just imperative for your own safety; it is also important for preserving the land. Off-roading is all about appreciating and having a good time in nature— not destroying it. In addition to these risks, off-roading outside of designated areas violates the Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which can land you with a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to six months in prison according to the National Park Service. If you end up killing or injuring a protected species in the process, the fines and jail time increase tremendously. In short, stay on the trails.

  1. Let passersby know how many vehicles are in your party behind you

When driving with a group of other vehicles, it is common trail etiquette to let other riders know how many vehicles are behind you. The first person in the procession can easily do so by sticking his or her hand out the window and holding up the number of fingers that corresponds to how many vehicles are driving behind. Such information is especially useful to know when driving on narrow trails or in areas with minimal visibility. If you’re the last vehicle in the group, simply raise your fist to let the other drivers know.

Off-roading is for everyone.

Hopefully, this serves as a guide for individuals looking to enter the world of off-roading. This exciting and adventurous activity that can bring you closer to nature and challenge your driving skills. It provides a unique opportunity to escape the busy roads and enjoy the thrill of driving on rough terrains, surrounded by tranquil wildlife; whether you’re looking for a heart-racing experience or a peaceful getaway, off-roading has something to offer for everyone. It’s also a great way to test your vehicle’s capabilities and make modifications to enhance its performance on different terrains. So, if you’re seeking a new hobby or just looking for a different kind of adventure, give off-roading a try and discover the beauty and excitement of the great outdoors.




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