John Craddock Ltd Magazine (January 2021)
Know Your Vehicle Inside And Out
Before you take on the trails, ensure you have a good working knowledge of your vehicle inside and out. Although Land Rover and Range Rover vehicles are made specifically for taking on tough terrain, it doesn’t mean they’re immune to damage from rocks, tree stumps and other obstacles. Therefore, prior to even thinking about off-roading, you should take full stock of your vehicle.
It’s important to know that there are fragile parts to your car, which can be damaged and leave you with a big repair job. Or worse, stranded. The fuel tank, engine sump, differentials and gearbox are all vulnerable. Make a mental note of these and keep them in mind when you do eventually hit the trails. In doing this there’ll be less chance of an avoidable problem occurring.
On top of this, take note of your car’s height, weight, width, length, approach and departure angle, ramp angle and ground clearance. Trust us, there will come a situation where you need to know this and being forearmed is definitely better than being caught off guard!
Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, it’s likely to have a slew of on-board technology and features which you should make full use of when driving. Get to know this inside and out. Make a point of understanding when it is best to utilise each feature (and when not to!). If nothing else, this will make your off-road driving experience more enjoyable and exciting.
Off-road driving is, no doubt, exciting. But don’t get too carried away. It is best, for your safety and the preservation of your vehicle, to follow best driving practices.
Firstly, be sure to tell someone where you’re heading off to and at what time you intend to head off and come back. If you can provide them with a route or location, even better. This will ensure that, should something untoward happen, there’s someone looking out for you who knows where you are and is able to come and help you if you end up stranded.
When taking on tough, unfamiliar trails, it’s a good idea to walk the ground before you drive. This gives you an opportunity to read and assess what lies before you before you tackle it in your Land Rover. By doing this, you’ll reduce the possibility of getting caught off guard by an unexpected change in the landscape or conditions. It’s also important to remember that weather can change conditions very quickly. Torrential rain is very good at changing what was once dry mud into a slippery, muddy bog. So, check the weather forecast and plan for every eventuality!
Finally, if you encounter a situation that seems impossible to tackle, don’t be too proud to admit defeat. Pushing yourself and your vehicle in these situations can lead to disaster. If, after stopping to survey the situation and giving it a few tries you haven’t overcome it, it’s probably wise to try an alternative route!
Get Kitted Out
Successful expeditions rely on forward planning and preparation. So, before you get stuck in, make sure you have all the kit you need for the trail you’re looking to take on. This will vary from adventure to adventure, but there are a few staples that are best to carry with you at all times.
Whether you’re hauling yourself out of a sticky situation or coming to the aid of others, a tow rope is a must-have in your off-road arsenal. It goes without staying that standard tow ropes for cars won’t have the pulling power to bail you out of a tricky situation, so it’s best to invest in a high strength tow rope and ensure you have it with you at all times. Alternatively, you could consider investing in a full winch. Take a look at our guide to Land Rover winches to find out more about the best winch for your off-road needs.
Alongside this, ensure you always have plenty of extra climate-appropriate clothing and footwear, as well as a stash of food and water. It’s always best to pack a little bit extra, just in case you get stranded. While it may be tempting to rely on your phone or GPS navigation for finding your way around, it’s also a good idea to pack a physical map along with a charger or power bank for any electronics you’re taking along for the ride.
Finally, the last thing you want is to run out of fuel while you’re in a tight spot or just getting into the groove. So, invest in a jerry can and take along extra fuel with you – even if you anticipate that a full tank will be enough!
Drive For The Terrain
First seen in the Land Rover Discovery back in 2005, Terrain Response is a common feature in every new Land Rover nowadays. This system offers up different terrain options which, when selected, will automatically optimise a range of settings within the vehicle to provide the best driving experience. Current Terrain Response modes include Sand, Rock Crawl, Grass-Gravel-Snow, Mud Ruts and General. Terrain Response 2, which was introduced in 2013, is also clever enough to automatically select what it considers the best mode for the terrain and provide advice in off-road situations.
Terrain Response in itself will go a long way to a more comfortable and capable off-road drive. Combine this with a common sense approach to off-road driving and you’ll be laughing all the way.