While there are plenty of extensive guides when it comes to off-roading, complete with suggestions regarding the planning and execution of your adventure, these are the three gigantic, universal “no-no’s” that EVERYONE in the off-roading community needs to know, especially if you’re a beginner. To be frank, this shit can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. You could seriously damage your Jeep, harm yourself, get your Jeep stuck, roll it, and there is even the potential of having a fatal accident if you don’t off-road properly. There is a certain type of trail etiquette that must be followed in order to keep you and others safe.
DON’T Modify Your Jeep Too Much
While this one isn’t necessarily present as life-threatening or dangerous, it’s more for the benefit of your wallet and Jeep. If you modify your Jeep too much, you can potentially end up adversely impacting your ride quality on the road. As in, your Jeep will no longer be as comfortable or effective when it comes to on-road travel. There is no need to spend an unnecessary (and ridiculous) amount of money in order to conquer trails in reasonable comfort.
One of the biggest areas of concern involves lift-kits. Sometimes, people go overboard when it comes to a suspension lift. After a certain point, you need to rework other parts of the Jeep in order to maintain decent ride quality on the pavement. Unless you absolutely need 35-inch tires and a big lift (and know what you’re doing), then don’t go overboard.
Mod only what you need, and only after you find out that you do actually need it. Take it slow, and add things on one at a time.
DON’T Leave the Designated Trails
Off-roading can be a very misleading concept. The idea of roughing it through unknown territory is something else entirely. That’s called trailblazing, and is often done on foot with a machete, like you’ve seen in the movies.
Off-roading in itself is much simpler than that. You are off the pavement, driving on rougher — but manageable — terrain. Therefore, unless you’re in an area that lends itself to driving all over the damn place, stick to the trails. This isn’t only to keep you safe, but also to help the environment of the area you’re exploring. If you decide to cut a swath up the next hill at the wrong angle, then everyone else follows suit. Congratulations, you might have loosened a boulder or network of tree roots that was holding 3/4 of the hill up. During the next heavy rain, this hill will likely wash out in a mudslide.
Stick to the trails.
DON’T Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Finally, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you have a date in your Wrangler, don’t say “Hey babe, watch this,” with false bravado, then proceed to take the expert level trail — when you failed to tell her it’s your first time out — and end up rolling the damn Jeep down the side of the mountain.
Even on a trail that’s rated for your skill level, you might come across something that seems too difficult to handle. Or, you simply aren’t comfortable tackling that obstacle. Spoiler alert: that will happen and that’s okay. Either turn around and ask someone with more extensive knowledge and experience to ride with you and teach you how to traverse that hardship next time, or find a easier and safer way around the obstacle.
Know your limits, trust your gut, and use common sense. In the end, that’s what off-roading really boils down to.