Tips for off-road driving

Basic off-road driving shouldn't be something to fear. As long as you're sensible and have some essential equipment, you can tackle simple trails in no time.

Many pick-up owners may work their trucks hard on the streets in day-to-day business, but never actually taking them off-road. Some worry about breaking down in a remote location, others about getting stuck and some simply become consumed in mechanical sympathy. However, working off-road needn’t be stressful.

It is possible to reduce the impact of off-road insomnia. Here are a few ideas to help keep your business on-track, whether on or off-road.

Off-road tyres

off-road tyres

The tyres originally fitted to most modern pickups are often all-round tyres, and are not designed for serious off-roading. Replacements that offer higher levels of grip and traction in off-road conditions are recommended.

Keeping a spare tyre in your pickup should go without saying yet is commonly forgotten – especially if you’ve changed the tyres from the original factory specifications.

A number of new LCVs no longer come with a proper spare tyre, which may not be a big deal for city driving, but will be more problematic if you suffer a puncture somewhere well off the beaten track.

Jack & lug wrench

A jack is a vital tool for tyre changes, and the standard units supplied by many manufacturers are rubbish when trying to lift two tonnes of laden pick-up off the ground. Check the original jack and lug wrench supplied with your vehicle to see what you’ve got before heading away from civilisation.

You may want to look at an electric jack, which will certainly make the job of changing a wheel easier. These simply run off your cigarette lighter or 12-volt power socket.

It’s also advisable to invest in a heavy-duty lug wrench to properly loosen and tighten the lug nuts when changing wheels, as once again the standard-issue model is probably inadequate.

Vehicle protectors and flat-bed storage

Purchasing headlight protectors for your vehicle could be handy, as it’s quite common for stones and other debris to fly up and break your truck’s headlights, leaving you in the dark.

Investing in plastic bonnet defenders should further prevent the outside world from causing costly dents and scratches. These are not overly expensive and are much cheaper than having your bonnet repaired or repainted.

Bear in mind that your vehicle may bounce around a lot more on rocky terrain than a smooth road. This can mean your load gets spilled or damaged en route, or even bounced out of the tray altogether.

To prevent this, it’s advisable to get some decent tie-down straps which can be had for not much money at all and are much better than normal rope. You can also get storage boxes for your tray that can keep smaller items secure. It’s definitely worth it to avoid breakages or losing items.

Isuzu D-Max Huntsman tray
Keep your load safe and secure with a proper storage solution

Satellite navigation

Imagine having so much fun exploring the wilderness that you completely lose your bearings and suddenly become lost. While most smartphones have a mapping app built in, that’s not much good if you can’t get any mobile signal out in the wilderness.

If you have a satnav system to hand, however, you can follow the on-screen directions to get you back on track. If your vehicle doesn’t have factory-fitted satnav, you can get a relatively cheap portable unit pretty much anywhere.

You should also take a traditional map, in case your satnav malfunctions or runs out of batteries.

Shovel & traction aids

Ever heard the saying ‘stuck up a creek without a paddle’? This can be applied to becoming bogged off-road. To avoid such a scenario, maintain a relatively low speed. If you do end up stuck, do not make the mistake of spinning your wheels at full throttle.

Instead, you should attempt to extricate your vehicle with a shovel and some carpet-covered planks. If you’re really struggling, then it may be best to use a trusty high lift jack and strong recovery line.

Toyota Hilux Invincible X on a muddy trail
Slow and steady, gentle on the accelerator to maintain your momentum

Mobile phone

An absolute essential that you have to have so you can contact colleagues, family and perhaps (but hopefully not) the emergency services if all goes wrong. They should be able to provide assistance in an accident or navigational problem.

Most mobile networks have pretty extensive coverage across the UK, but check your coverage before heading abroad.

Lastly, don’t forget your phone charger. The best phone in the world is no more than an expensive paperweight if the battery goes flat!

Ford Ranger cresting a ridge

Stuart Masson
Stuart founded sister site The Car Expert in 2011. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for the car industry for over thirty years. He now provides overall direction for our four automotive titles.

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