Best Tips for New and Experienced Off-Road Trail Leaders

Best Guidelines and Top Tips for Expedition Leaders when off-roading

3/13/2017

Being the Leader isn’t Easy, but it’s Very Rewarding Being a Trail Leader

If you have been off-roading for a while and would like to take more of a leadership role, then you may want to consider becoming a trail leader for your group. Trail leaders have many hundreds of hours experience with 4WD and off-roading in general and want to make sure the entire group has a good experience. Trail leaders have the skills to plan, manage, and communicate; they also have the desire to lead. There are many people who would make good trail leaders, but have no desire to do so, because that would not be enjoyable to them. So, lastly, trail leaders enjoy leading.

Tips & Advice for Off-Roading Trail Leaders

Do Your Research

Don’t pick a location or trail without knowing what to expect, it’s best to choose trails you have driven at least once before. Make sure you know the difficulty level of the trail and any obstacles along it. Touch base with the governing body of the trail to see if there are any permits required or issues you should be aware of. Also, make sure to know where gas stations, parts stores, and other pertinent locations are if the situation arises. If you are planning to camp during your expedition choose both primary and backup locations. A little extra planning beforehand can go a long way if things don’t go as smooth as you’d expect.

Be Able to Keep and Create a Schedule

To ensure you get to where you are going create a reasonable timetable beforehand and stick to it. Give yourself a little cushion since you’re more likely to go slower than expected. You can also have a few extra stops planned in case you get ahead a schedule.

Excellent Off-Roading Skills

Probably obvious, but you need to know what you’re doing when it comes to off-roading. You should know how to read the terrain and pick the best lines to travel. You also should know what to do in case of a variety of situations, such as a vehicle getting stuck or suffering mechanical issues.

Have a Communications Plan and Keep to it

Good communications starts with informing the entire group of how to communicate with one another on the trail, whether it be over the radio or hand signals. Before you head out don’t forget a radio check to ensure all radios are in proper working order. As a trail leader your communications extends beyond your group and to other groups you encounter while out. Touch base with other trail leaders you encounter to trade information on the trail.

Take Care When Placing the Vehicles in Order

There are many different ways to sequence all the vehicles in the group, but here are some handy tips:
*Place a very experienced and knowledgeable driver as the sweep, who hopefully has a powerful radio. As the sweep, they’ll be able to see potential issues with other drivers more readily than you and if they have a powerful radio will be able to easily relay information to you.
*Place the least experienced drivers closest to you. They’ll benefit from being able to follow your exact lines and will take cues off of how you drive.
*The slowest drivers should be as far forward as possible to stop the convoy from breaking into multiple groups.
*In case of issues coming up, it’s good to place trucks with winches spread out throughout the convoy.

Make Sure Everyone Stays Together

Keeping the group together will stop someone from turning off the wrong way and getting lost. Keep an eye on all vehicles behind you, not just the one immediately behind, and slow down or stop to give any lagging vehicles time to catch up. If something happens, such as a mechanical issue that cannot be repaired on the spot, and the group needs to break up, stay in radio contact and use the buddy system.

Be Courteous of Others

Off-roading can kick up a lot of dust and debris, so make sure to slow down when you approach other people. When you encounter other groups of people off-roading it’s good to be flexible when it comes to things like passing or pulling over so others can pass.

Stay Cool Under Pressure

Being the lead means you’re the one making on the spot decisions about lines and how to handle unexpected occurrences like inclement weather, mechanical failures, or even vehicles becoming stuck; you need to keep your cool in all situations. If the group sees you start to crack under pressure they will be less likely to follow your expertise and guidance.

Be a People Person

While similar to “Be Courteous of Others," being a people person means being understanding towards drivers who are nervous or going slow. It may be an easy trail for you, but for someone who is new to the sport it could be a very nerve wracking trail and how you treat and assist them can affect their entire experience.

As a Leader, Your Group Comes First

Being the leader means you’ll reach each break location or camp site first, but that doesn’t mean you should forget the rest of the group and pick out the prime spot for yourself. Check on the rest of the group before picking out your spot and offer to assist anyone who needs help.

Help Train Future Trail Leaders

If you’re an experienced off-road trail leader, consider having a “junior leader" for your trip to give an interested inexperienced or new trail leader a chance to lead with training wheels.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the online inventory of used trucks in Olympia, then visit South Sound Trucks to test drive the truck of your dreams and find a new weekend warrior to hit the trails with.