If you love off-road adventures, you can’t do without four-wheel-drive vehicles. However, getting off the beaten path or into remote areas or hazardous conditions sometimes requires a bit more preparation than the average adventure driving. Simply put, if you’re going to drive somewhere that’s not commonly traveled and far from access, it’s not a good idea to just jump in the car and go.

You Should Prepare Before Any Journey

Are you thinking about driving off-road? If so, there are questions you should ask and equipment you should have. Being properly prepared can mean the difference between an exciting experience and a dangerous one. Remember, these areas are not easily accessed by emergency vehicles. In addition to having a good vehicle, there are several other items that you need to know about before heading out on your adventure. Click here for a list of potential vehicle upgrades you can choose from.

What’s the Terrain Like?

When planning an off-road trip, it’s important to know what type of terrain is in store for you. The very first thing to do is look at a topographic map of the area you’re visiting and make sure that your vehicle is capable of handling it. Often, this can be determined by the color of the map or the contour lines. Green indicates easy off-road travel, while red is difficult and black is very dangerous. Assuming you’re driving on a paved road, if you see areas that are red or black, it’s best to avoid them.

Will Rain, Snow, or High Winds Be a Factor?

If so, you’ll need a good four-wheel-drive vehicle with traction tires and high ground clearance to traverse challenging conditions. While certain vehicles can handle snow and ice better than others, in some cases you may need more equipment than your regular run-of-the-mill 4×4 if there is potential for extreme conditions.

Are There Any Nearby Trails I Should Check Out?

When it comes to driving off-road in a remote area, it’s important to know the terrain so you can make safe and smart choices. If you have time, consider going to an area with a history of environmental damage that is relatively close by in case you must be rescued. By knowing the dangers, you can decide whether these areas are worth your time.

Do I Have Enough Fuel to Get There and Back?

If your trip will require refueling along the way, make sure that you have at least 25 gallons (113lts) of fuel on hand. If there are seasonal changes that can affect this, prep with plenty of gas.

Do I Have a Satellite Phone?

If you find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere, it’s important to have the means to contact your friends and family. If you don’t have one, consider purchasing a satellite phone. The financing, maintenance, and running costs can become expensive in certain locations but they can be an invaluable tool if necessary.

Do I Know Where the Nearest (or Most Accessible) Hospital Is?

If you need medical care, it’s important to make sure that you’re able to get there safely and quickly. As you move through off-road areas, take note of hospitals and other medical facilities along the way. Also, consider getting a membership with a medical alert service or program that can help keep you safe in the event of an emergency or accident while off-road.

So, before you get started on your next off-road adventure, take a step back to make sure you’re prepared safely. Otherwise, you run the risk of getting stuck or worse, injuring yourself or others.