Off-roading etiquette

So you’ve gotten your 4×4 vehicle properly kitted out to handle some off-roading. Before you go adventuring, however, there is some etiquette to keep in mind. People used to be initiated steadily into the sport, and could learn how things were done through involvement and initiation, but with the availability of trail-ready SUVs, like the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and the Toyota TRD, the trial-by-fire newbies used to go through is often bypassed. Off-roading has become more popular in recent years, and unfortunately many new-comers (and even the experienced) aren’t aware that there are some guidelines to adhere to keep others on the trail in mind.

Be Willing to Help Out

At some point you might be grateful for a Good Samaritan, so be sure to help someone else out when they need.

Do the Necessary Preparations Beforehand

Bring all the equipment you could need. Here is a comprehensive list of what you should bring. While others will be willing to bail you out in a jam, this might be unnecessary had you brought along what you needed.  Also, research the trail you intend to explore beforehand. Conditions vary from season to season, and they are at different difficulty levels. Don’t begin on a too difficult route off the bat.


This should be obvious, but don’t leave behind trash and don’t drive over vegetation. People come to enjoy the environment in its natural state.


This can sometimes be necessary for getting through rough terrain, but if you are doing this repeatedly, you may be on terrain too difficult for your equipment. Stacking rocks all along the road can irritate drivers who have kitted out their vehicles to handle the route.


If you drive passed someone on a dry dirt road at 10 mph or more, you’re going to dust them. This is not simply uncomfortable for the other party, but potentially hazardous as their eyesight and breathing may be momentarily impaired.


Closely following another vehicle is dangerous in any situation, especially in off-road driving where braking distances and maneuvering is affected. Keep to a distance of at least thirty feet behind the vehicle in front of you. When traversing tougher obstacles allow one vehicle to go through at a time, because if the first vehicle gets stuck, the second will still be free to lend a hand.


When you approach someone nose to nose with someone on a one-track trail, whoever has a wide spot behind them should be the one to back up. But, if you are on a hill, the vehicle driving uphill has the right-of-way for safety’s sake. Backing down uneven terrain can be dangerous.


Wheel spinning lasting longer than a few seconds can lead to flying rocks and dirt, trail rutting, or even an equipment failure. Extended spinning is either because of driver error (you may be going too fast or picking a bad line) or inferior equipment. If the latter, you may need heavier-duty equipment, and for the moment turn around or try another route.

There are no official rules regulating off-road etiquette. This is simply a courtesy practiced for the comfort, safety, and enjoyment of the community.

Queenie Bates is an avid reader, writer and researcher who in her spare time enjoys exploring the trails near Cape Town in her 1999 Toyota Hilux IFS with its new Hilux canopy.

Author: Staff Reporter

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