Winter is here which means so are the horrendous road conditions and road closures. For many people, these nasty conditions caused by the snow and rain call for a dreaded drive or a shelter in place. But for us four-wheelers, we embrace this time of year. Even if the snow hasn’t reached our town, we go out of our way to find it. And it always pays off to be winter ready, even for the most well-equipped and experiences four wheelers. No matter if you’re driving up to the snowy trails or expecting heavy snowfall in your region.
When you want to go off-roading in the snow, make sure you are able to deflate and inflate your tires when you’re expecting thick layers of snow. This allows you to gain more traction because it increases the footprint of the tire. The four-wheeling basics still apply for the snow:
- Check your vehicle beforehand
- Don’t go alone
- Carry the correct gear for the terrain
- Make sure you can always see the driver behind you in your rearview.
Driving in the snow is unlike any other terrain because it is so unpredictable and inconsistent. Even the most experienced four-wheelers may have trouble their first time in the snow. Understanding momentum is key in the snow. If you are on the throttle but not making headway, stop the vehicle. If you continue to spin your tires you will likely dig yourself into a hole and get stuck. If you find yourself losing traction, aim towards the side of the trail because there is usually thicker snow there which will provide more traction.
Understanding the different types of snow is also important. Driving through thick, powdery snow is completely different than driving on compact, frozen snow. However, there can also be compact, frozen snow under a thick layer of fresh, powdery snow. The compact, frozen snow is what you have to watch out for, it is extremely slippery. Having a good set of deflated tires is the biggest key. If you find yourself sliding in ice, release the accelerator but try not to brake abruptly. Braking abruptly can cause your vehicle to slide even more. If you can, aim towards the side of the trail that has thicker snow. This will give you the traction you need to carry on.
Keep in mind when you go out on snowy days it gets dark really early and in heavy snowfall you will have extremely poor visibility so upgrading your lights might be a must. Did you know yellow lights are better for nighttime vision? They are far less reflective than white LED’s and they help eliminate much of the glare, which helps you see better.
Shackles, recovery points, recovery boards, shovels, and kinetic straps. These are all things you’ve probably thought of. It’s important to be ready for everything from pulling a disabled car out of traffic to crossing a snowdrift. While we already talked about winches, and with them being the first recovery tool often coming to mind, these other options can be cheaper alternatives, or gear that is nice to have in addition to a winch.
Whenever you drive on ice and snow during winter, you always run the risk of slipping and landing in a ditch. Having a recovery rope could mean the difference between making it home for dinner or spending a night out in the cold.
Kinetic straps help to provide a running start when getting out of mud, sand, or snow. The energy created by your vehicle stretches the rope up to 30% and acts like a slingshot when pulling the vehicle out of whatever predicament you find yourself in.
Traction boards are great options as well, but when all else fails, a shovel can be helpful both on its own and in addition to recovery straps and other tools. The great thing about adding a shovel to your off-roading gear list is that it has so many uses from smothering fires, to being handy in bathroom breaks, you can’t go wrong with this tool.
- Weather can degrade quickly, so be prepared with additional clothing, blankets, food, fuel, and supplies.
- Carry redundant methods of communications such as a cell phone, HAM radio, and radio beacon and/or satellite communicator.
- Get a good tire gauge and air down. If you get stuck, air down further.
- Bring extensive recovery tools and equipment as you will likely need them for your vehicle and potentially for others you meet along the way.
- Carry an EHBO kit with heat blankets