When you think of ways to get outside, you likely imagine going hiking or fishing. Though those are great activities, they’re not the only way to get some fresh air and spend quality time with those you love. Off-roading offers the same benefits with a bit more adrenaline and a lot more fun.

If you choose to get started with the sport as a way to spend time with your family, you’re not alone. More than 76 percent of people go off-roading as a way to spend time with their families in the great outdoors and to access more recreation opportunities further away from crowds.

Though it’s fun, off-roading isn’t without its challenges. Here are a few key off-roading mistakes you’ll need to avoid when you get started.

1. Not Planning Ahead

One of the worst off-roading mistakes you can make striking out on a whim without a clear plan in place. Remember, off-roading trails are completely different than driving on even the roughest dirt roads.

Conditions can change and, unless you’re driving in an off-roading park, the trails likely won’t get maintained often. This means you need to scout the trail out before you push your car to its limits.

You don’t even have to leave the house to do this. Just hop on the internet and do a little digging. See what the most recent conditions are like and read up on any reviews you can find from drivers that hit the trail in the last month.

This will give you an idea of the types of conditions and potential new hazards you might encounter.

It’s also a good idea to get detailed maps of the area before you leave home. This will give you an idea of the types of terrain and elevation changes you can expect as you drive. Even better, it will keep you from getting lost when you’re out of range of a cell tower.

2. Keeping Tires at Maximum PSI

Every car, truck, SUV, and off-road capable vehicle has a manufacturer-recommended tire pressure. This pressure is best for driving down smooth pavement or well-groomed dirt roads around town. It’s not ideal for driving in the outdoors over rough terrain.

In fact, driving at that maximum PSI rating can end up leaving you on the side of the road with a popped tire.

The rubber needs to move a bit and be able to absorb impacts against sharp rocks and branches without popping. This means you’ll need to decrease your tire pressure at least a little in each tire.

You don’t have to go crazy here. Check with the tire manufacturer and see what they suggest for off-roading. It will likely be a few pounds per square inch lower than street values.

3. Going Out on Your Own

On the surface, driving in the outdoors can seem like the perfect way to relax, unwind, and get in some quality alone time. This is fine if you’re going hiking on a trail you know or driving down a well-maintained paved road. However, it’s one of the worst things you can do when you’re off-roading.

You should always off-road with a buddy.

Think about what would happen if your car got stuck or you got injured while you’re out in the middle of nowhere. If you’re alone, you’ll either have to wait for help to come along on the trail or find a way to make it back to the starting point under your own power.

When you’re driving with someone, you’ll always have a helping hand. If you’re injured, they can help you get back home. If the vehicle breaks down or gets stuck, they can help you perform the necessary off-road vehicle maintenance and repairs to get the car back up and running.

4. Using Standard Street Wheels and Tires

Even the most off-road ready vehicles rarely come stock with the right wheels or tires for your off-roading adventures. This is because manufacturers and dealerships assume you’re going to use the vehicle primarily for street driving.

Worse, the standard wheels used by manufacturers won’t be up to the constant strain of off-roading. They’ll bend, warp, and otherwise ruin the drive quality of your vehicle.

Instead, you’ll want to invest in the best off road wheels and tires before you hit the trail. Better quality wheels will make your driving experience in town more pleasurable and dedicated off-road tires will give you added traction both on and off the pavement.

5. Packing Too Much or Too Little

When you’re heading off-road for several hours at a time, you need to be ready for just about anything that can happen. This means you’ll want to pack a first aid kit, tools for basic off-road vehicle maintenance, and enough food and water to get you through.

That said, you don’t need to pack everything under the sun. Remember, adding too much weight to the vehicle can change the way it handles on even the best off-road trails.

You need to be sure of how your vehicle will handle and maneuver before you start going on uneven terrain. Keeping your cargo weight down will make it much easier to predict movements and handle your vehicle safely in changing conditions.

6. Pushing Yourself Too Hard, Too Fast

Before you hit the trail, it’s important that you understand your skill level. The last thing you need to do is take on a trail that’s too technically difficult for your current skillset.

Think about your experience going off-road and choose trails accordingly. If you’re new to the sport, look for novice trails. If you’re more experienced, take on more challenging courses.

If at any point you feel that the trail is too hard, don’t push it. Turn around and go back to a less challenging course until you’re more confident in your skills.

Avoid These Off-Roading Mistakes at All Costs

Taking your car off-roading is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while getting that adrenaline rush you crave. Just make sure you avoid making these off-roading mistakes every time you hit the trail.

As long as you take the time to prepare yourself and your vehicle, you’ll be able to enjoy the drive.

Looking for more tips and tricks to help you improve as an off-road driver? Check out our latest posts.