Updated: May 6, 2020
One of the best parts of owning a Jeep is that it opens the door to the great outdoors in ways others never get to experience. Exploring Mother Nature is not only relaxing and fun, it comes with great responsibility. Jeep owners since 1941 have often been thought of as carefree while off-roading yet we are very considerate to others and the environment. When trail stompin' there are always a few tips to remember to ensure that we continue to protect the environment, stay safe and have fun!
(1) Trail Ride Pre-Brief Meeting
Gather all your trail drivers and any riders so everyone involved knows protocols and is up to speed in case of an emergency. First, establish who will be the trail leader and who will be the tail gunner, or caboose. Next, make sure prior to your ride that everyone has a form of communication for the ride such as a 2-way radio or a CB are the most commonly used. Clearly state which channel you will be on. If a rider does not have either device, you will want to place them between riders who have good communication options. If you are new to trail riding, you should consider purchasing one of these as many areas where you may be trailing do not have cell phone service.
(2) Heading out to Ride
While driving and leading a convoy, you want to always obey the rules of the road. It’s a very good habit to practice the following:
• It’s best to try and stay in the middle
if traveling on an interstate.
• Keep enough open space between
Jeeps so that other vehicles not in your
convoy can easily maneuver around.
• Give updates of how much further the
trip is or your ETA to the venue.
• Stay in direct communication with your
tail gunner, or caboose.
• Be sure to have the caboose let the lead know when they have cleared all traffic lights and
made all turns.
• When arriving at the venue, be courteous and allow any members the time to air down or
make adjustments to their vehicles as needed for improved riding experience.
(3) Out on the Trail
It is very important for any Jeeps that are new to trail riding, or not equipped with recovery items, be placed in line between Jeeps that are experienced. This way the fellow Jeepers can help anyone who may be in need and are capable of pulling someone free should they get stuck. Be considerate of other trail riders who may be out and about. As you encounter others, whether friends or strangers, experienced or inexperienced, always have the riders best interest at heart. Give them advice and encouragement as they begin this incredible new journey!
Remember, at one time you were new to this too. It is extremely important to make sure you are riding only where permitted. Be aware, you are in the home of many different forms of wildlife and we have to protect what is theirs. In their world they often are not aware of the vehicles so always be on the lookout. You certainly don't want to hurt a deer that may suddenly dart towards the road. They may even run into your Jeep as they are running and jumping by. So, be cautious and keep your eyes open. A few friendly tips to be courteous on the trails: Stay on the right side of the trail if someone is coming towards the trail group. Be courteous to other riders and hikers on the trail, always making sure to yield. It's best to avoid kicking up unnecessary dust. When riding downhill, yield to uphill traffic.
Uphill traffic may have difficulty starting again after stopping and they will need the momentum. Always slow down and proceed with caution while approaching other vehicles. Keep the vehicle behind you and in front of you in plain view of sight, always! If you come to an intersection or a curve, make sure the vehicle sees which direction you went.
Remember, a lot of trails, especially during the Summer months are very dusty. Don’t assume they know which way you went, they could be caught up in a dust cloud or covered by low-hanging branches. Never leave marked trails. If you have to stop while on a trail, pull completely off the trail. There is always a good chance there are other riders out at that time. If you have to pull over, find a spot that seems to have been used before. Try not to park on tall, dry grass. With the heat coming off your Jeep, a fire could be possible. While on the subject of fires, don’t throw your cigarette butts out the window. That is considered littering and could also result in a fire. Always pick up your trash. What you bring in, always take out. It is also good to get in the habit of bringing a mesh trail bag to pick up other waste items you may encounter.
(4) Gettin' in the Mud
If you brave the mud, remember, mud can be the devil! If you go in, make sure you give enough room for the Jeep ahead of you to completely pass over the obstacle before making an attempt. If you proceed through, please advance far enough so that the Jeep behind you can clear the mud hole.
Don't like the mud? No problem, most trails have bypasses. Be a good Jeep friend and don’t pressure other riders to go into a muddy pit if they don’t want to do so. When recovering a stuck Jeep, always practice safety. Be sure to have an experienced user with a winch or approved tow strap assisting. Know the limits of your winch and winch lines. Use extreme caution if your preferred method is cable versus a rope.
(5) A Few Final Trailin' Thoughts
Did you know there is an actual protocol for bathroom breaks? Boys go on the left and girls go to the right. While on the trails, slow down and enjoy the ride.
With this practice, you will see a lot more scenery and your chances of needing Jeep repairs will decrease. Don’t drink and drive. You are not only putting yourself at risk, but others too. Whether you are a new Jeep owner, an experienced off-roader, or an adventure thrill seeker, you’ll find your trail experience safer and more enjoyable by following these trailin' tips.
So get out and experience Florida nature as it was intended and remember to always use off-road trailin' etiquette!