Off Road by its very definition is once you leave the blacktop, you're simply travelling off road. However, there are quite a number of interpretations. For some, the term off road may mean traveling down a gravel road to a lovely campsite in a national park and for others it may mean traversing just through an old track or a worn out road. What you need to ensure is that your vehicle and your caravan are set up correctly for the type of terrain that you consider to be offroad.
This article would be very useful if you have bought an off road caravan and planning to travel off-road.
First things First – Setting Up Your Vehicle & Your Caravan
7 Keys for a fantastic holiday and a great journey
To set up your vehicle for an off-road travel, there are a number of additional options that you may want to fit on to or into your vehicle like
- A Bull Bar - The purpose of the bull bar is to give you some frontal protection in case of an animal strike and it also gives you somewhere to mount your driving lights or possibly even mount your winch.
- Your Vehicle’s Tyres - It is a very critical part of your selection if you want to go real off-road. Highway tyres is awesome on the normal blacktop roads but you will find their limits very quickly in off-road conditions. This is why you may want to consider an all-terrain tyre which is going to boost your off road capability and it will also increase your puncture resistance quite significantly. You can also think of mud terrain tyres because this will give you increased capability offroad but it will come at the cost of on-road performance.
- Air-Intakes - Traveling through Australia means that you are at some stage going to be travelling on a dusty outback Road. So, to protect your engine you may consider fitting a raised airintake. This allows the engine to draw clean fresh air in those dusty conditions. Also, if you are traveling as a group in the convoy, you may want to make sure that you've got good separation between vehicles. This allows for the raised air intake to draw that clean fresh air.
- Radio & Satellite Phones - The further you travel the more you're going to have to rely on good communication. A good UHF radio allows you to communicate with other members of your convoy if you are traveling with a group of people. If you are traveling on your own it allows you to communicate with the odd farmer who may be plowing their paddock. The other form of communication that can help is a satellite phone because our normal phones are not going to work everywhere. The satellite phone gives us a greater breadth of capability in more remote areas.
- Towing Hitch & Stone Guard - When it comes to towing offroad there are a number of other things to consider as well like your towing hitch. Check if your hitch have enough articulation for all types of off-road conditions. Also,fitting a good quality stone guard helps to protect the front of the caravan when you're towing off road and it also serves to deflect stones coming off the back of the vehicle so that they don't bounce back into the window of the car.
- Under Body Protection - You also need to inspect at the underbody protection of the caravan. Please make sure the electrical leads,water pipes,discharge pipes are well protected and shielded.
- Spare Tyres & Its Placement – Spare tyres are ofcourse very important when you are going off-road and even more important is its mounted location in your caravan. If it is in the rear and underneath to make it easier to get it out in an off-road situation.
A good preparation is the key to have a fantastic holiday and a great overall journey.
Debog Your Caravan – What is Stopping Your Progress
Two things that will stop a vehicle and a trailer on a track - Traction and Ground Clearance.
If you are bogged while travelling, get out of your vehicle and check to see if you have hit a rock or ran out of ground clearance. Even something on the track can get jammed up in front of one of your wheels which could stop your progress.
Lower Your Vehicle's Tyre Pressure
If it is a simple traction issue, you might want to lower the tyre pressures on your vehicle but not just your vehicle but on your trailer or caravan as well.
This in turn would improve the tread pattern length of your vehicle. It spreads it out over a far larger area so your vehicle is far less likely to dig holes and more likely to grab that traction on the track so that you can drive on. In some cases, it can also be the setup of your vehicle. Check if you got all your traction aids activated. Remember, if your vehicle has a rear differential lock, that changes the traction options so much in your vehicle. It will become essentially a tractor when you lock in that rear differential lock, you can drive your vehicle forwards or backwards and obviously backwards is a great way to go when you've got a trailer on the back. If you can get out of trouble and then reassess the track, lower your tyre pressures and then drive forward which could well be the easiest way to go.
Turn Off Your Vehicle's Stability Control
There are a host of other electronic options in modern 4wd’s that can really help you out when you're off-road but some of them can also be a hindrance in a buggy situation. For example, in a good 4x4 vehicle, your stability control can be turned off for precisely those times when you get into a bog but there's another button called the off-road button which does wonderful things offroad.
It will change your traction control so that it works far better in a boggy situation and it also changes your throttle input and your brake input. So it really is an advantage to know your vehicle and specifically what it needs to do in that buggy situation.
Using A Snatch Strap
Now that we've determined that we can't drive either forwards or backwards out of our bogs, what comes in handy is a snatch strap. They stretch around 20% of their length and that means that they store quite a bit of kinetic energy if you attach them to another vehicle, it will pop you out of that bog but they are very misused and there is a correct way of using them so you can avoid any pain or any damage.
Obviously for a snatch recovery, you need another vehicle there to tow you out and it is best if that vehicle is the same size or even larger than the one that you're pulling out. You also have to make sure that your recovery points are going to be up to the load that you're pulling out. Using something like the pin through a tow hitch is usually okay but the recovery point on the vehicle needs to be able to handle that load as well. To connect those vehicles, use a shackle you want to make sure that it is a rated shackle and not a regular hardware store shackle. Make sure it actually is stamped with a working load limit and that will tell you how much weight you can pull with that shackle anything more than the specified weight, it could turn into a disaster.
When it comes to the snatch trap itself, they are rated at different weights. Generally there'll be 6 tonne, 8 tonne and even 12 tonne weights and the key is to match them up with the weight of your vehicle. They need to have a minimum breaking strain that is more than your vehicle and your trailer but don’t overkill it.
For example, you've got a vehicle that weighs six tons and a 12 tonne strap won't actually stretch so I won't do you any good at all.
Finally , using cable dampeners at both attachment points which have a tendency to break as it ages and at most times, they'll actually go at the stitching which is near the eye. If the snatch strap breaks, The cable dampener, keeps everything nice and low to the ground and out of harm's way. Please make sure your family is either in vehicles or well away now and no one is near the recovery area just in case something goes wrong.
Once you've attached the strap to the vehicles, see if there is at most one and a half meters of slack between the 2 vehicles and it comes down to the driving and here are some key points to it.
Very clear lines of communications - be it the signals or UHF CB radio between both of those vehicles and it helps time that recovery.
You do not to need to absolutely gun it in a snatch recovery in the first snatch like some experts say. In fact that first snatch should be really nice and slow. It is nothing more than as if you're taking off of the lights and you can presume that you've got no-one behind you simply take off with normal throttle and you'll find that 99% of the time that will get this vehicle out of trouble.
A snatch recovery is fine if you've got a friend but if you are traveling alone then recovery tracks can come in really handy. They're designed to actually sit underneath the tread of your vehicle to give it a good firm, grippy surface so that you can drive up and out of your bog. Essentially, with this, we're solving two problems, the ground clearance problem and also the traction problem at the same time.
How does the recovery tracks work
They help you actually get in under your vehicle and dig out the offending matter which could be sand,mud,snow or could be just about anything under there.
The beauty of these tread pros is the fact that they are scalloped at the ends. They've also got essentially good handles on them as well so you can simply grip and dig deep and that sand or mud or snow whatever it might be out from underneath your vehicle. The other side of the recovery track actually has wonderful raised lugs and in a muddy situation, they're really fantastic at really working with the grip on your tyres and also cleaning the tread a little bit. These raised lugs are actually made out of a pretty robust material. They can lose it sharpness if you get any sort of tyre slip and so don't want to spin your wheels up on this but it does happen in a slippery situation. Now, if you are going out in a 4wd with no trailer then, 2 of these will do just fine but whenever you have got a caravan, always consider that additional essentially dead weight on the back of your vehicle and that is when you want all the traction and all the ground clearance that you can get. Take out 4 of these and when you are towing that way, you can put them under all four corners of your fault rive driving wheels and you will find that you will have much more success by doing so.
Where Exactly To Place These Tread Pros
Also, When you're putting the tread pros in place, it should be placed hard up against the tyre. Don't leave any gain between because they simply won't work as effectively. Most times you can really feel that traction grabbing as you drive out of your bog.
A great form of self recovery is mounting an electric winch to the front of your 4x4 vehicle. It will require a specific bull bar to mount. It has an incredibly strong motor and really nice low gears to pull you out of of different situations. A safety precaution is to actually weighing both the vehicle and the trailer fully before you even head away on your trip. This is give you an idea of the gross combined mass of your whole rig and is really handy in a recovery situation.
The first step when you're winching is to pop on your recovery gloves.
The next step is to attach your winch controller and then flick your winch in to free spool mode and that allows you to simply pull the cable out.
Next, you need a good solid recovery point. Choose a tree that isn't completely rotten. In some areas, there may not even be an adequate recovery point and in that case you need a ground anchor. It is often actually burying a spare tyre beneath the surface of an area like sand and then winching off that.
Once you've found your anchor point, you need to put the tree trunk protector around it. Don't just wrap the cable around because that will simply ring back the tree and kill it. There are two basic types of recovery with a winch. First one is a single line pool where we simply attach the cable to the tree trunk protector often through a shackle and then pull it in a straight line and that is the quickest and most simple.
However, when you're towing a caravan, you're often towing a lot of extra weight so you should do the double line pull. Use a pulley which is also called a snatch block and run the cable through the snatch block back to the vehicle itself. What that does is it actually halves the weight on the winch so it's doing things far easier than it would have with a single line pull and is really recommended when you're towing. Whenever you're winching with a steel winch cable, make sure that you put an air brake or a cable dampener in the centre third of that cable. If anything breaks, it keeps that cable at a nice low height.
To winch, you got to make sure that there are no bystanders anywhere nearby just in case something goes wrong with the recovery. After starting your vehicle, you will see that your winch is actually powered by your starter battery which is powered by your alternator and so make sure your vehicle is running the entire time to charge that battery.
Then, you need to select drive in your vehicle or first gear low range because you want to provide that winch every assistance possible. That includes all 4 wheels driving in your vehicle and that also goes for any traction aids that you've got in your vehicle. Once it is time to winch, let everyone know that is all clear and then winch.
The next step is to simultaneously activate the winch and your accelerator at the same time. Be very careful not to actually out drive your winch because you want the winch to be doing the majority of the work.