Tips for winter off-road driving

Just because the weather has cooled down doesn't mean your passion for off-roading has. In fact, the difficult conditions found throughout this season are some of the most challenging and interesting a driver can try, which makes winter driving an attractive option for many. Despite the fun and adventure involved in this activity, there are some dangers that need to be considered. 

Here are a few tips you can take advantage of when considering off-roading in the winter: 

Tools for tires
The benefits of snow tires and chains have been discussed, but there are other considerations that should be made regarding this equipment. For example, carrying a spare is a must, but you should also pack an air compressor. These devices convert power into pressurized air, which can then be used to fill tires. Having one of these tools on hand allows you to air down tires for better traction and ride quality depending on the terrain. 

Watch out for weak points 
Investing in items like Jeep JK armor can help you protect weak points on a vehicle, but there are other sections that will always remain exposed to the elements. U-joints are particularly at risk, as they are the weakest point in the drivetrain. Harm to these parts can affect the yoke - and in turn four-wheel drive and similar handling - and they usually cannot be fixed while out on the trails. Make sure you have the proper tools to patch one of these issues up well enough to get home. 

Brush up on vehicle features
Trucks and Jeeps come with a variety of features that are essential to have in an off-road vehicle. Four-wheel drive is one amenity that will be used at any time of year, but you should test it out before departing on a winter trek. Additionally, you should practice steering to test the controls of a vehicle and get used to handling the machine in the snow. Battling ditches or slippery slopes can be challenging, especially if you're following in areas where plows or other large vehicles have already been, so it is important to practice dealing with these obstacles. 

Pack a survival kit
Off-road driving at any time of year requires an array of tools and safety equipment, and that emergency kit should be a bit more specifically catered to winter conditions when the season approaches. Food and water are a must, and it may also be beneficial to have extra layers of clothing and blankets. 

Add in tools like antifreeze, recovery straps, winches and snow chains, and you may be ready to face winter off-roading. You should also be sure to have a small supply of gravel or sand, or road salt, which can help you get out of a rough situation when on snowy or icy surfaces. 

Never go alone
Perhaps the most important thing you should keep in mind as winter arrives is that you should not be driving alone, especially on a remote trail. Stick to set courses or organized trail events to ensure you are always close to safety. At the very least, you should bring a partner along to have someone who can help with sudden repairs, and each of you should have a fully charged cellphone as well as other emergency gear. 

If you do decide to drive alone, make sure you have a backup plan. You shouldn't stray from a distinct trail, and you should always make sure you are within walking distance of shelter and help.