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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Pretty good article: http://www.drivingline.com/2014/05/off-road-basics-trail-etiquette/

Off-Road Basics: Trail Etiquette

On May 29, 2014

So you bought your first Jeep or SUV, possibly made a few modifications such as a set of Nitto Trail Grapplers, and now you’re ready to start taking your vehicle off pavement. If you’re a newcomer to off-roading, there are some important points of trail etiquette to know that will help to keep you and others safe as well as get you started in the dedicated and fun community of off-roaders.
Whether you’re joining an organized trail run or just exploring trails with a few friends, you should be familiar with these basic trail etiquette points – they help to protect land use for the future, demonstrate how to respect other wheelers, and guide you towards keeping yourself and those around you safe.
Land Use

Most of us are out there because we love spending time in the beautiful outdoors and we have great respect for the land. Nobody wants to be the jerk who breaks the rules and causes damage resulting in trail closures, ruining it for everyone.

  • Know who owns the land you will be travelling on and any rules, fees and permits required. For example, Southern California National Forests do not charge an entrance fee to travel the trails, but a Forest Adventure Pass is required to park your vehicle. If you plan to stop for lunch or a hike you will need the Pass.


  • Familiarize yourself with the agency’s trail signage. Trail signs frequently include color coded difficulty levels and will indicate what modes of transportation are permitted on the trail.
  • Tread Lightly. Stay on marked trails, don’t drive over vegetation, cross streams only at designated fording points where the trail crosses the stream, drive over (not around) obstacles to avoid widening the trail, and respect all signage and barriers.


  • Leave No Trace. Pack it in, pack it out. Better yet, carry a trash bag and pack out more than you pack in. Stop to pick up that plastic water bottle you see on the side of the trail. I have one friend who keeps a running count of the Mylar balloons he finds along the trail. This includes policing your brass if you plan to do some shooting and the area allows it. I once cleaned up 7.5 pounds of spent brass at a historic location. (It’s unthinkable that people would use historic buildings for target practice!)


  • Leave gates the way you found them. If you open a gate, close it behind you.
Safety

While we all love nature and our vehicles that get us there, it can also be a dangerous place. Following a common set of etiquette helps to keep everyone out there safe.


  • On multi-use trails, yield right of way to mountain bikes, hikers and horses. Slow down and give them plenty of room and keep in mind to not dust them out. Take special caution when encountering saddled horses, they can be easily spooked by loud noises and unexpected movement. If you come across a horse on the trail you should pull over to the side, shut off your engine and ask the rider how to best proceed.


  • No, that guy in the on-coming vehicle isn’t flipping you off or flashing a peace sign! He’s telling you how many vehicles are behind him. It is common practice when traveling with a group of vehicles to let on-coming traffic know how many rigs are in your group, especially on narrow trails and obstacles with limited visibility where someone needs to pull over to let your group safely pass. A raised fist means “I am the last vehicle in my group.”


  • When two vehicles meet on a steep hill, the vehicle traveling up the hill has the right of way. This is because the vehicle traveling uphill may need to maintain momentum, and because it is more difficult and dangerous to back down a steep narrow trail. Common sense should prevail though; if it is easier and there is room for the uphill vehicle to pull over, it wouldn’t make sense to expect the downhill vehicle to back up the hill. Either way backing up is tough. If you are going up a big obstacle like a long, steep rocky climb, it may make sense to send a spotter up on foot to make sure the trail is clear and to warn any on-coming vehicles.
  • Leave plenty of room for the vehicle in front of you, especially when navigating obstacles, climbing steep hills or in low visibility. If the vehicle in front of you loses traction (or worst case scenario, rolls over), you don’t want to be right behind it.
  • Never stop your vehicle on a blind curve or in the middle of trail, wait until you reach a place where you can safely pull over off the trail.


  • When traveling with a group of vehicles, each person is responsible for keeping an eye on the vehicle behind them. It’s not uncommon for vehicles to become widely spread out, especially on dusty trails, but you don’t want to lose anyone, particularly if they run into trouble. If you lose sight of the vehicle behind you, slow down until you can see them or attempt to make radio contact if you can’t spot them. Always stop before making a turn off a trail to make sure the vehicle behind you sees where the turn is. You are also responsible for maintaining visual contact with the vehicle in front of you. If you have a problem and fall behind or need to stop, use your radio to let your group know.
  • Save drinking for the campfire. Drinking alcohol is extremely dangerous while wheeling, endangering not only you but also everyone else on the trail.
Respect for Others

While these things are fairly commonsense, keep them in mind whenever venturing out to go wheeling. Everyone has more fun when the community keeps one another in mind.


  • Mind your dust. Slow down when you pass other vehicles, hikers and campsites.
  • Monitoring your own language on the CB/ham radio may not be second nature, but some people in hearing range may have kids with them – be aware that any foul language you’re using is being heard by them too.


  • Know when to say when. There is nothing wrong with being winched through an obstacle if you can’t make it through on your own after a reasonable number of attempts. If you’ve made multiple attempts at an obstacle and there is a line of rigs backed up behind you that have been waiting half an hour for you to get out of the way but you still want to keep trying, move aside and let them through before making another run at it.
  • Leave your ego at home. Don’t let others pressure you into doing something you’re not comfortable doing. There is nothing wrong with taking a bypass if you or your vehicle is not up to tackling an obstacle.


  • Stop to help others. All of us out there rely on each other, especially in remote areas. The off road community is the friendliest and most helpful group of people there is. If you see someone stopped on the side of trail, ask them if they need help and be prepared to give it.
  • Leave no man behind! I would hope this wouldn’t even need to be said but I can tell you I’ve seen it happen. If a vehicle in your group has a problem, the group stays until the problem is resolved. It is not right to leave someone out on the trail to fend for themselves with a stuck or broken vehicle, especially in a remote location where things can quickly turn into a life or death situation. Be prepared for it every time you go out. Always carry extra food and water in case you are out several hours longer than you had planned. Be patient, helpful and keep a good attitude because next time it could be you!
Following these tips will help preserve trail access for the future and keep off roading fun and safe for everyone. Welcome to the off-roading community!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thank man!!! I clean up every camp site we use as well as pack out as much trash as possible on and off the trail. We really respect our trails and mother nature as we are fully aware that we could lose them at any time!! Creating a "presence" on the trail can help curb this type of childish camping and shenanigans and that's what we hope to do in our first year... Wish us luck!!!
 

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I agree, I also thought of something else. Leave room on the trail if your away from your vehicle. Sometimes your taking pictures of the awesome scenery, or someone in your group is taking that harder bypass on the trail and of course you want to check it out. It hasn't happened to me often but every once and a while someone in a group is parked in the middle of the trail and the group coming up the trail is giving you the WTF look or vice versa.
 

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"Pick up litter and leave public and private lands better than you found them." 100%!!! Arriving to some of my favorite areas and finding this drives me crazy!!
In CO, it used to really upset me how many beautiful camping spots were trashed with broken glass, general trash, and brass everywhere. I cleaned up more camping spots than I could could. It bothers me for two reasons. One, its just wrong and spoils the beautiful natural scenery. Two, crap like that gets areas shut down. Growing up in the SE, I've seen way too much of it and way too many areas get shut down. I thought it was a southern thing, but apparently there are rednecks everywhere. :(
 

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This is a fantastic post, this should definitely be a sticky. I'm pretty new to offroading and I didn't know some of this stuff even though a lot of it seems like common sense. Some of the guidelines are actually quite similar to trail etiquette for mountain biking.

Quick question about the image in the post above. It says if you can't get over a tree contact the land manager. Is it taboo to pull out a chainsaw and clear a downed tree that is blocking your path?

There are a lot of old forestry roads in Alberta that get used for camping that don't get maintained. It is pretty common practice around here to clear the downed tree. Same has always gone for mountain biking. I regularly carry a pocket saw to cut up downed trees.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Canada Guy, in reference to your tree question, we have received permission to move "downed trees" if it can be done in a safe manner. Some good, winching/snatch block work can usually get the job done. If it is anything of a "widow maker" we are not supposed to touch them at all. They actually hire out a 3rd party professionals to deal with widow makers and it is our job to make them aware.
 

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I wish we had open trails here. :(
 

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I wish we had open trails here.
Maybe I'm missing something - or being naive, but I don't think any of what's been discussed or posted is exclusive to public lands ... I would think it can be applied equally to private property (like off road parks, hunting leases or private access).
 
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