For newbies in the four-wheel drive sport, nothing can be more exciting than to make your 4WD an extension of your personality; starting with purchasing the vehicle that you want, and then customizing it to your specific needs.
Off-roading is a very exhilarating experience; especially the very first trail ride. Definitely, once you’ve completed your 4×4’s setup, you just want to hammer away to conquer the terrain and explore the great sights of nature; it is what is all about, anyway. However, a very important thing that newbies overlook whenever they enter the trail is the thing called ‘trail etiquette.’ Yes, etiquette does exist, even in the great outdoors. In this issue of ‘Off-roading 101,’ we give you pointers to follow when driving along the trail to make the experience more safe and fun, not only for you, but for the other off-roaders, as well.
For starters, you must make sure that the vehicle you are using is in good condition. Don’t be the party pooper. Everybody in the trail wants endless fun. But if your vehicle breaks down due to poor maintenance, your companions on the trail are obligated to help you; either by towing you out of the trails or by removing parts from their vehicle just to get yours running. It is just not fair to the others who keep their vehicles in tip top shape, only for their fun to be cut short, due to an ill-maintained unit.
Second – Make sure that your vehicle is equipped with recovery/towing points. Whenever you go into the trails, your vehicles should be equipped with the proper towing equipment just in case you get stuck. Don’t give the other off-roaders a hard time because you got stuck, and your vehicle has no towing points. All off-roaders are always willing to help out other off-roaders in a recovery. The very least you can do is make sure your recovery points are there and up to the task.
Third – Do not park your vehicle in the middle of the trail and block the rest of the group, only because you want to take a picture of the scenery, or capture on video a vehicle behind you while tackling a challenging obstacle. I have seen people stopping at the top of the climb, block the trail and make it difficult and even dangerous for the following vehicle that’s climbing the trail.
Fourth – Remember that you are just a visitor. In most trails here in the country, there will be indigenous folks or a farmer trying makea living in the place where you are having your recreation. Be conscious of the dust you kick up, the mud your vehicle flings around, the noise your vehicle make (that can startle a horse or large animal), and the farm to market route you may be gouging up, making it difficult for them to negotiate. On one occasion, I saw an off-roader, who was trying to avoid a diffucult terrain, drive over a farmer’s crop of ready-to-harvest vegetables, and the leash of a carabao tied to a tree. In the process, the leash got reaped-off of the carabao’s snout.
Fifth – Use your winch. When you get stuck, don’t be a dumb ‘pa-macho’ wheeler. Use your winch, if you must and thread lightly. It’s one of the primary uses of a winch.
Sixth- Firearms. Just like the unwritten rule, only bring it out when it is absolutely necessary. Brandishing it around in front of the locals will just attract attention, which you don’t want. Do remember that along the trails, you are in the middle of nowhere and away from help. I do remember we still have insurgents in the country side.
Seventh – Let the people know where you are headed. Whenever you go trailing, you should inform the officials of the barangay or municipality you will be trailing in, where you are headed and when you plan to get out. You never know when you’ll encounter problems. If and when you and the group gets stranded inside the trails, the local officials can readily organize a search party and narrow down the search area.
Eight – Get a guide. Before entering unfamiliar territory, do get a local guide. There was once a group that went out into the trails with no knowledge of the terrain. One of their vehicles ended up getting washed down the river, with the driver barely escaping with his life. Acting like they’re invincible, the off-roaders thought they could drive across the river without knowing ow strong the current is.
The bottomline—it is all about emphathy and common sense. In difficult conditions and challenging terrain, do not be a burden to those around you. Drive according to your skills and don’t take chances. Happy Trails! ‘till the next Off-roading 101.