Best Tips for Off-Roading in the Desert

keep safe while off-roading in the desert with our best safety tips


Summer is almost upon us and we know many off-roaders planning excursions to the Southwest for some desert trail runs so we wanted to share some helpful safety tips for off-roading in the desert over the next several months.

When in the desert, weather is a huge factor. Extreme heat during the day, cold nights, and risks of flash floods mean you need to plan well and remain vigilant throughout the day.

Water Water Water

You need to take water not only for yourself, but for your truck too in case it starts overheating. Deserts tend to be very harsh dry environments, so it’s not like other areas where you could purify water from a stream in a pinch. It’s better to pack more than you think you will need than to run out partway through the day.

Check Your Lifted Truck Before Heading Out

It’s imperative you inspect your rig to make sure everything is in working order. You want to minimize the risk of breakdowns and take the necessary tools and items to fix minor issues that may pop up.

Pack a Shelter

It can get very hot in the desert during the summer, so pack a lightweight tarp that you can easily throw up as a shelter in case of breakdowns. It could also come in handy during lunch stops or other breaks to give people a place outside to be out of the sun.

Map and Compass

You can’t rely solely on your GPS since the road and trails do not get updated in realtime. A recent flash flood could have turned a trail you wanted to take into a dangerous endeavor. It’s a good idea to check with a park ranger or at the visitor center before heading out to learn about recent trail conditions. Then you can mark any trouble spots on your map.

Extra Gas

It’s a good idea to pack extra fuel for your truck since gas stations are sparse in the desert and running out of fuel can be disastrous.

Backup Form of Communication

There is no guarantee that your cell phone will work for you while on the trail. A personal locator beacon, satellite phone, or ham radio could save from being stranded out in the desert for a long period of time.


Leave your off-roading plans with a person you can trust and make a plan for checking in. If your person doesn’t hear from you by a certain time give them instructions on who to contact as well.

Pack for Night

While the days are extremely hot, nights in deserts can easily drop to below freezing. Make sure to pack clothes and things for warmth just in case you end up stuck in the desert overnight.

Watch the Weather

Keep a close watch on the weather leading up to your excursion and throughout the day. Flash floods are extremely dangerous and it takes less water than you would think to sweep your truck away. These floods are fast moving and will spread quite far from where the rain actually fell.

Don’t Leave Your Truck

If the worst happens and your truck breaks down while off-roading in the desert, don’t leave your truck. Stay with the truck, a truck with a shiny paint job is much easier to spot than a small person. If you followed the rest of our guidelines you’ll have what you need to wait for rescue crews to locate you.

Keep Your Lifted Truck Running Great With Our Post Off-Roading Checklist

We’re sure you know, but off-roading can be tough on trucks. Even the most tricked out lifted truck needs to be thoroughly and carefully inspected after each trail day. Trails routinely push trucks to their limits with their many obstacles. And, even if you are just hitting easy scenic fire roads, you need to make sure to look your truck over for any potential issues. The sooner you catch problems, generally the easier and cheaper they are to repair.

We’ve compiled a list of several things you need to get into the habit of routinely doing and looking at after each time you hit the trail.

Clean Your Truck

Mud, dirt, debris, water, and many other things can get into your truck during the course of a day off-roading. Take the time to clean both the exterior and interior of your truck of all debris. This includes under your hood.


You’ll want to do a visual inspection of your tires, including your spare. Look for deep cuts and missing lugs. Check the tightness of your lug nuts and tighten them if needed. You’ll also need to check your tires’ air pressure and then again the next day.

Differential and Transmission Checks

Do a visual inspection of both the differential and transmission for leaks or damage.


Check your shocks, bushings, and mounts for damage


Check to make sure your brake drums don’t have any sand or mud in them. You should also check your brake lines for signs of stress.


You’ll need to jack your truck up to properly check your axles. Do a visual inspection to check for cracks or bends. Then tug on each wheel to make sure they aren’t loose or wobbly.


Start by doing a visual inspection of all suspension parts and look for any issue, such as wear and tear, damage, or pieces rubbing together. Next, you’ll need to get under your truck and check for loose parts and tighten accordingly. The last part of the suspension inspection includes checking the steering box for issues.


Carefully grease any components to ensure proper lubrication.


Do a visual inspection of your truck’s frame, looking for damage or cracks. Places you’ll want to pay particular attention are along the weld lines and in high stress areas.


Take your time and check the belts, hoses, and clamps on your engine for anything that looks worn or is loose.


Check all your fluid levels and refill if needed. You’ll also want to make sure none of your fluids have been contaminated, and if they were, replace the fluids.


Do a visual inspection of your radiator to ensure it didn’t get damaged on the trail. Also check for clogs and leaks.

Hopefully our list helps to give you an idea on what you need to look over after a good day of mudding in your used lifted truck. While it may seem tedious to spend the time checking so many components on your truck after a long day, just imagine how annoying it would be to not find out about an issue until you were miles into a trail and unable to easily fix the issue.

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.