Complete collection of Jeep and off-road trails in the Las Vegas area

Jeep Trail Best Practices

Preparing for the Run

The first part of taking your Jeep offroad is to figure out where you are going. You may already have an idea of the trails in your area and know where you want to go. Or you may want to explore some new areas. Good places to find Jeep trails include sites like this one, other Jeep forums, and local Jeep clubs. Jeep clubs often have organized runs to help you get familiar with trails in your area. They also typically have experienced trail leaders who can show you good offroading techniques.

Once you have determined where you are going, you should learn everything you can about the trail and area to which you are planning to go. Read descriptions about the trail. Use mapping software such as Google Earth get an idea of how the trail area is going to look. Download gps tracks of the trail to use while you are on the trail.

Check the weather. Have an idea of what the weather will be on the day of your run. Depending on the trail you are running, having good weather conditions can make the difference between a fun day on the trail, and a disasterous day. I am not suggsting that bad weather by itself will make a bad day wheeling, however it can greatly the changes of getting stuck or making a relatively easy obstacle more difficult. Prepare for weather accordingly.

In the Garage

Now that you have figured out where you are going, it's time to make sure that your Jeep is ready for the trail. It is important that each of these steps is taken before each trail run. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that is certainly the case with your Jeep.

  • Check ALL the fluids in your Jeep and top off as needed
  • Make sure your windshield wipers work
  • Check all lights to make sure they are functional such as headlights and all blinkers
  • Check pressure on tires, including the spare
  • Verify that all bolts are tight underneath your Jeep including the control arms, shock mounts, track bars, and steering assembly
  • Tighten bolts on any after market parts installed such as bumpers, winch, rock sliders, antennas, lights, armor, etc.
  • Start engine, bring to operating temperature, and check that the heat works and all dash gauges are displaying correctly
  • Test brakes including the parking break
  • Test winch if you have one
  • Do a visual inspection of all parts of the Jeep to check for any loose parts, wires, bent components, or other damage

By checking and correcting the items listed above, you will avoid 90% of the mechanical problems you may encounter on the trail

What to Take

This is not a comprehensive list of all things that you should be carrying with you on the trail, but does cover the basics.

  • Extra clothing such as jackets, ponchos, hats, towel, etc.
  • Food and water for a full day for each passenger in case of emergency
  • Sunscreen
  • Leather gloves
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight and spare batteries
  • Functioning CB radio
  • Basic mechanic's tool set that includes screw drivers, full socket set, wrenches, pliers, torx sockets, etc.
  • Spare fuses
  • Spare tire
  • Tire puncture kit
  • Jack capable of lifting your Jeep high enough to change tire, and lug wrench. Lug key if applicable
  • Recovery strap (not a chain or a tow strap, an actual recovery strap)
  • 12v air compressor or other means of filling a tire
  • Fully charged cell phone
  • Ratchet strap and tie downs, rope
  • Any other tools and gear needed for recovery, such as winching tools, tree saver, snatch block, etc.

By having these essential thing with you on the trail, you should be able to handle most problems you encounter. Obviously if you become severely broken down with a broken axle or other catastrophic failure, you will need to be helped off the trail and towed home. It would be impossible to carry with you an entire auto parts store, but these basic supplies should cover a majority of your trail issues.

On The Trail

Having a good understanding of trail etiquette will go a long way to make the Jeeping experience for you and the others around you great. Many different people runs trails in different ways. Some clubs have certain rules that you need to follow if you want go on their runs. So check with the group with which you are travelling to see if they have specifics that you need to be aware of. But in most cases following these guidelines will be expected.

  • Never off road alone.
  • Reasonably understand the capabilities of your Jeep and do not go on runs that have obstacles that you will not be able to make.
  • Show up on time at the meeting place for the run.
  • Make sure you have a full tank of gas when arriving at the meeting place.
  • Know who the trail leader is. Generally the trail leader is in charge of the run and you go where he/she goes. Avoid taking alternate routes or obstacles without first asking the trail leader.
  • Listen for instructions on your CB.
  • Try to stay in the order of Jeeps if the trail leader has assigned one
  • Make sure you can see the Jeep in front of you and behind you. Ask on the CB for the group to slow down if you or someone else is trailing too far behind.
  • Do not attempt an obstacle that you are not comfortable with.
  • Take the advice of the trail leader if he advises you not to attempt an obstacle.
  • There should be only one spotter on any particular obstacle. There are times when a secondary spotter will help the primary spotter - usually with issues on the back of the Jeep.
  • Ask for a spotter if you feel like you need one.
  • Ask if you have questions.
  • Be responsible for your own tools and supplies.
  • Be respectful of the group you are travelling with.
  • Take lots of pictures and share with the people in your group.

Much of this is common sense. But you would be surprised by how many times you will encounter someone who just doesn't get it and will make the run annoying for everyone.

Finishing Up

When you are done with trail, air up your tires, connect your sway bar, and do a visual inspection around and underneath your Jeep. Check for loose or broken parts. Check your fluids again. Thank the trail leader and exchange any information with the new friends you have made on the run. When you first get back on pavement, start driving slowly and see if you feel like there is anything out of the ordinary. Stop and check if anything isn't right. Once you have confirmed the Jeep is driving as it should, you can slowly go up to freeway speeds and head home.