Tips for Safe Trail-Riding

Ready to hit the trail? Whether you’re new to the sport of trail-riding or an experienced wheeler, safety should always be your first concern.

Before the Ride

First things first, never wheel alone. Always use the buddy system. If you get stuck or break down, another rig will be there to help. Make sure someone who is not riding knows the area you will be in and your expected end time. Spending the night in the woods is no way to end your ride.

Before you set out, convene your drivers for a meeting to cover where you are riding and the rules for the area you are going to be in. This is a good time to discuss things like:

  • Leaving trails cleaner than you found them.
  • Rules like “no driver left behind” and “no off-trail riding” (particularly on state land).
  • A review of each driver’s equipment, such as CB radios and proper tow points.
  • Who’s leading the ride and who’s running “tail gunner.”

Off the Road

Speed is not your friend. The off-road driver’s idea is “as slow as possible, as fast as necessary.” And keep in mind the old adage that, sometimes, you can’t get there from here. With that in mind:

  • Stay on the trail.
  • If you feel uncomfortable, walk the area first, pick your track, and use a spotter if necessary.
  • Listen to spotters and other, more experienced Jeepers.
  • Tell someone if you need help and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Safety Gear

The safety equipment that absolutely, positively needs to be in your rig includes:

  • CB or ham radio.
  • Proper tow points.
  • A “crash bag” of hand tools that includes a 3/8-inch socket set, jumper cables, zip ties, proper jack, lug wrench, and spare tire.
  • Small air pump and some tire plugs.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Plenty of food and water.
  • First aid kit and bug spray.


When it’s time to winch, use proper tow straps or a Bubba Rope-style stretching cable. Never, ever use a chain. Whenever you are pulling or winching a rig out, make sure everyone stands far enough away to avoid the whip of a broken cable. And don’t forget to bring:

  • A smaller strap that can be wrapped around a tree, beneath the cable, to protect the bark.
  • A proper-size block for your winch line.

Remember that accidents only happen when Jeepers become complacent.

Happy trails!

Nuts and Bolts

Ted Johns is president of Bear Off-Road Alliance.

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