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Monday, April 29, 2013

Taking Your Jeep Off-Road

Greetings, Jeep Lovers!
You know that part in the movie, when the action hero goes flying off the road in a vehicle and leads the camera on a bumpy, twisted ride through crazy terrain, only to emerge safely afterwards? Looks like such fun, right? Puddle running, leaping into the air, crashing through underbrush... Well, I'm sure it comes as no surprise that none of that happened the way it looked. Paths are carefully plotted out, debris removed, vehicles outfitted with thousands of dollars of equipment, and on top of all that, they're driven by professionals! But as the glimmer of Hollywood bedazzles our eyes, keep in mind that off-road driving is enjoyed by countless enthusiasts, and as the nice weather rolls around we wanted to discuss this enjoyable hobby. It's not quite so impossible as you may think.

The Place
Before we get started, let me make it clear that you can't just pull off the highway and go out places that are specially designated to allow off-road drivers. The US National Park Service reminds us that in order to safely enjoy this hobby, you need to follow a few simple rules in terms of where to do it. It's not every park that allows Off Road Vehicles (ORVs), but when they do, it is clearly marked and regulated. Get your permit, look for the picture of the Jeep (and make sure it is not covered by a red circle with a slash through it). Be mindful of animals - many more are endangered than you may think. Get your permit, know the entrance and exit points, be courteous and be ready for a safety & equipment check by a Park Ranger.
That brings us to the next point...

The Parts
Jeeps are solid, well-built vehicles. Many are equipped with 4-wheel drive capabilities and perform excellent in mixed terrain and/or unseasonable weather. However, if you plan on really hitting the bumps and mud, you may find it beneficial to install some aftermarket parts. Although we are not affiliated in any way, you might want to check out the Drive Off Road Blog ( for some great tips and advice on what to add and where to add it. Basics we've already covered in this blog are; bigger profile tires, winches, and additional lighting and bumper options. You'll also most likely want a GPS system and, depending on where you'd like that GPS to lead you, invest in aftermarket gearing, skid plates (to protect the underbelly) and additional suspension. That brings us to the talent portion...

The Schools
There are actually a number of places scattered throughout the country that will train you on how to drive off-road. You do NOT just get in the car and go for it, unless you want to be injured. Again, we're not affiliated with them, but check out Overland Experts (at They are run out of Connecticut and offer classes in many levels (both professional and amateur). Even better, you don't need to bust up your beauty to enjoy them, they have specially outfitted vehicles for you to use!

Let's Go!   
We are not licensed and insured to instruct off-road driving, but with the resources available, I'm sure you can find a way to get into this amazing hobby. In case you find yourself having to wing it, the barest bones instruction goes like this; put both hands on the wheel, keep your thumbs UP and out of the wheel (that way, if you hit something and the wheel shoots to one direction you won't break them), consider using the left foot to work the brakes and keep that right foot smoothly planted, rolling on and off the gas as smoothly as possible. I urge you to do your research and consider outfitting your vehicle to handle the workload, but don't shy away from the trails; there's a whole world out there, far from the blacktop, where fun rides lead to stunning vistas and favorite memories can be made.
Until next time, stay safe!
J.M. for Lahti's Jeep