We all start somewhere.
I was once, like many of you, a brand new Jeeper with NO CLUE what I was doing.
I’ve learned SO MUCH about Jeeping that I thought I should share some general advice on “Learning How To Jeep”. Jeeping is a great hobby, but with great hobbies also come great responsibilities that shouldn’t be underestimated or taken for granted. Here’s what I think you should know:
Be prepared and carry basic tools with you. Even if you don’t know exactly how to use any tools, carrying some with you never hurts. You never know when you might need them, and there may be someone around who can help.
Don’t underestimate the need for the proper recovery gear. Aside from a winch, you should have recovery points in both the front and the rear. Most Jeeps do come stock with recovery hooks in both the front and the rear, but if yours doesn’t, there are other options. For one, you can opt for something less expensive like an OEM hitch receiver and a Factor55 hitch link in the rear, if you can’t afford heavy duty steel bumpers yet. The hitch link is a great option to create a safe, closed winching system. In the front, you can use the stock recovery points as well, or bolt some aftermarket recovery points into the frame, without having to purchase a whole bumper. These recovery points, however, will be useless if you don’t carry a strap with you. Assuming that others will have the recovery gear you need is the wrong mentality when it comes to Jeeping. Need to know more? Find out What’s in My Recovery Kit.
Just because you don’t have a winch doesn’t mean “someone else always does”. This is far too often the mentality of inexperienced Jeepers who don’t see the value of having their own winch. There will be times you can be stuck and no other Jeep is capable of helping you but yourself. On many occassions, there will not even be enough space for another Jeep to pull or winch you out. A winch was one of my first purchases, because it’s important it was to be self reliant when it comes to recovery.
Be selective of who you trust. You may not see it right now, but off-roading is an extremely hazardous and dangerous hobby. You should be off-roading with the kind of people who truly and honestly care about your LIFE. Just like spearfishing, or hunting, or any other dangerous activity, off-roading can take your life if you are not careful.
Once you make it to the big leagues of off-roading, one wrong move can send you down a mountain. Don’t believe me? Take a tour around Windrock Park, TN for yourself, and let the memorials on the side of the road humble you. It is better to start practicing safe techniques now, rather than learning the hard way later. This might be harsh, but it’s reality.
In the Jeep world, there are tons of friendly Jeepers who are always willing to help and lend a hand. It will be difficult learning how to distinguish who to trust, and whose advice to take with a grain of salt. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to start small when learning to off-road with others, and take into account every angle you possibly can, before making decisions and forming your own opinions.
Do your own research. Don’t just listen to someone else’s opinions and take them as fact. A cool profile picture on Facebook does not make someone an expert in the sport of off-roading. Watch videos from reliable sources, like Teraflex. They do a great job explaining very important topics, and I have spent plenty of time watching their videos. Another invaluable source of information I have found is the podcast On the Trail with Kevin & Scott. They are encyclopedias about Jeeps! Bored on a long commute? Tune in to an episode and be prepared to LEARN. A lot of people out there do not practice proper techniques and there is a lot of misinformation, so take the initiative and educate yourself.
Take advantage of local Jeep events. I can speak to Florida Jeep events like Jeeptoberfest, Jeepin With Judd, and Jeep Beach when I say these events are perfect for new Jeepers. Take advantage of them! At these events, plus more, you can practice off-roading in an extremely controlled environment full of people who want to help you! They may seem like easy courses in some cases, but you can never start too small. You can also watch countless others do the courses as well and take note of which methods work and which don’t. These events also make for great opportunities to network with others who love off-roading, and speak to vendors, and LEARN.
And finally, it’s okay to be a beginner. There is never a need to do something you’re not totally comfortable with for the sake of showing off. It’s okay to be in the learning stage, and to ask questions, and to be well prepared for whatever may happen.
Despite this advice, I by no means claim I’m an expert. I still have endless things to learn, and I haven’t even wheeled my own Jeep outside of Florida. In, fact, I’ll NEVER stop learning. However, I’ve have picked up a lot from going off-road myself and learning how to off-road from the ground up. My experience going on out-of-state trips with the teams at Inspired Engineering and Truckin Motion have also taught me endless lessons.
I started this blog to share what I know, and hopefully help educate a lot of Jeepers who may not know better (yet), or may be lost on how to get started in this complicated Jeep world. The photo on this post is my friend and I playing in the dirt for the first time when both our Jeeps were stock. Like I said, everyone starts somewhere!
Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Is there something I missed? What have you learned so far?