HerJeepLife’s Trail Etiquette Basics for Off-Roading

When it comes to off-roading escapades in your Jeep, it’s easy to envision yourself behind the wheel, blazing down the trails with your hair blowing in the wind. It’s a well-known fact that conquering insurmountable obstacles and plowing through swamp-like terrain and mud holes is the fastest way to a dirty Jeep girl’s heart, after all.

Although this may be a fairly common notion of what off-roading adventures are all about, the reality is often quite a bit tamer with slower, more respectful, and enjoyable journeys through lush natural landscapes.

If you are thinking about heading out on an organized trail ride, exploring off-the-beaten-path routes with friends, or are wanting to take your newly modified Jeep out for an inaugural run, here is what you need to know about trail etiquette.

Slow Down, Be Considerate, and Stay on the Trail!

When it comes to the trail, and in keeping with the Tread Lightly! principles, make sure to always go over, or through any obstacles, you encounter such as mud and rocks or remove them from the path. You never want to create a new path around a mud hole or a fallen tree, as doing so can create major devastation for the local wildlife and fauna in the area. Blazing your own trail will only result in destruction, erosion, and fewer opportunities for you to revisit some of your favorite off-road haunts.

Next, make sure you aren’t a lead-foot driver on the trail. Your Jeep is built to take a beating, but you’ll prolong its shelf life if you take it nice and easy over bumps and obstacles. Slowing down on the trails also ensures you have enough time to spot wildlife, hikers, broken down or stuck vehicles in your convoy, and oncoming vehicles while having plenty of time to react. Lastly, slowing down keeps the dust in the air to a minimum, affording you better visibility for all those things we just mentioned along with an overall ability to safely navigate the trail.

If you encounter other off-roaders, hikers, people on horseback, or wildlife, turn down your radio, quiet down the engine, and be respectful and considerate in sharing the trail.

Understand Who Has Right-of-Way to Avoid Dangerous Situations!

It is important to remember that all vehicles which are heading in an up-hill direction have the right-of-way as they often need their forward momentum to get up the incline. This may mean that you have to back up until you find a spot where you can pull over and let them pass you. This does not mean that it is okay to blaze a new trail and it does not mean that if the trail is a one-way, that you continue on. An easy way to deal with this is to have a spotter set up to ensure that the trail is clear for you and as a way to warn oncoming vehicles of your descent.

Garbage: Pack It In, Pack It Out. (Yours and Any You Come Across)

Bring along a trash bag so that you can pack out more than what you bring with you. This is called packing in and packing out, where you stop to pick up any garbage that you see along the trail and take it with you when you leave.

This means that all the garbage that comes from your snacks, your water, and any of your accessories or pets must also go with you. This also means that if you choose to head out into no man’s land to do some shooting, make sure to pack out your expended brass casings or shotgun shells.

A popular item to assist with “Pack it In, Pack It Out” is the Trasharoo Spare Tire Trash Bag. The bag is a great way to keep stinky trash out of the Jeep. It’s durable and looks pretty cool attached to the spare tire too. The Trasharoo isn’t just for trash though. It can be used for the beach and other adventures also. The bag is a great place to hold wet clothes, towels, and shoes.

Official description of the Trasharoo Spare Tire Trash Bag: You can haul away all the trash you accumulate in a weekend and maybe even make the trails a little cleaner as you go. The bag is made from high quality 900 denier canvas with wide buckles and a heavy-duty attachment to your existing external spare tire. Its large capacity carries up to 50 lbs of weight and fits a standard 30-gallon trash bag for ease of dumping. The Spare Tire Trash Bag is treated with a water-resistant interior coating and has drainage holes at the bottom for unexpected leaks.

(photo: Amazon/Trasharoo)

The three points above are the most critical aspects of off-road trail etiquette, but there are some other common tips to keep in mind. These include the following:

  • Know the trail that you are heading to and make sure you are authorized to wheel there. You’ll also need to find out if there are any permits, rules, and fees required. Further, you need to know whether the trail is open to your Jeep (some trails are only open to small vehicles such as ATVs). Lastly, make sure you read any, and all signs posted as these will have valuable information on them such as modes of transportation permitted and levels of difficulty.
  • While maintaining a decent interval (the space between vehicles), keep checking on both the vehicle behind you and the one in front of you. You don’t want just to assume that the Jeep behind you has made it through the last obstacle because they may be stuck or have gotten caught in a dust cloud and missed a turn.

For the vehicle in front of you, watching them navigate an obstacle can help you choose your own line when it’s your turn.  Remember to keep a little distance between your Jeep and it so you have some reaction time while driving – if they are on a steep incline, they could roll or slide back into you. Be sure to wait for the vehicle in front of you to clear an obstacle completely before proceeding.

  • Make sure to let yourself be known to other vehicles outside of your group. It is common practice to tell others how many vehicles are in your group and to indicate if you are the last vehicle in line.
  • If you take more than half an hour to get over or through an obstacle, call it. There is nothing wrong with getting help through it if you cannot make it on your own. You might get a little ribbing from your friends, but it’s better than trashing your Jeep or unnecessarily injuring yourself or someone else.
  • Do not let others pressure you into making a trail run that is uncomfortable. You are the driver of your Jeep. If you’re not comfortable attempting an obstacle, don’t. You can try again later after you’ve gained a little more experience.
  • Stop to help others and do not leave anyone stranded. There will be times when professional recovery trucks will have to be brought in, but in most situations, the right recovery gear can get most vehicles unstuck. If you have to send someone for help, make sure the driver left behind has food, water, and a means of communication.
  • Lastly, NEVER WHEEL ALONE. Although this is listed last, it is the cardinal rule in off-roading. Going it alone on the trails only sets you up for failure. You might make it out on your own a few times, but at some point, you will get stuck or lost without cell signal, and no one will be there to help. Going it alone only increases your chance of injury or death.

By following the above trail etiquette tips, you will be able to keep the entire adventure enjoyable for everyone involved and ensure that you preserve the trail for future use. Off-roading can be dangerous, but it should never be reckless. Have fun out there with your Jeep but stay safe while you’re at it.

A/T, M/T, R/T…….OH MY!!!! How’s a “HerJeeper” to Decide Which Tires Are Best for Her Jeep?

Photo Credit: toyotires.com

In the off-roading world, one of the most important decisions you will ever make regarding your Jeep is which tires to go with. This is such a pivotal decision because your entire rig literally rides on it. Being that your tires are the only part of your Jeep that is actually designed to come into contact with the ground, it’s essential that you set yourself up for success for the type of terrain you plan to do most of your driving on. Tire type can have major impacts on your fuel economy (Ha! I said fuel economy in reference to Jeeps) and your Jeep’s ability to perform the way you want it to.

JK Willys stock tire: 32″ BF Goodrich Mud Terrain T/A.

First things first. Let’s get some tire abbreviations and definitions out of the way so you can follow along more easily if you’re not familiar with these terms.

A/T = All Terrain – This type of tire is designed specifically to handle both on- and off-road driving. With a brawnier tread design as compared to the H/T, the A/T tire is favored by those seeking a more rugged visual aesthetic while cruising around town.

M/T = Mud Terrain – The mud terrain tire is purposefully designed with off-road capability as its primary purpose, while keeping in mind the secondary purpose of highway driving (you’ve got to get to your off-road driving destination after all). If you are a fan of Toyo Tires, you’ll know that they consider M/T to also mean “Maximum Traction.”

R/T = Rugged Terrain – A relatively recent addition to the tire market (introduced by Toyo in 2014), R/T tires are designed as a cross between the aggressive look and grit of an off-road M/T tire and the smooth, quiet ride quality of an A/T tire.

  • Per Toyo, “Off-road performance meets on-road comfort with the all-new Open Country R/T. Built rugged for any terrain, this powerful 4×4 tire offers excellent off-road traction, durable construction, and aggressive styling. Its ability to tackle mud, dirt, sand, and rocks is inspired by the legendary Open Country M/T, while its quieter ride is a nod to our best-selling Open Country A/T II.”

H/T = Highway Terrain (yeah, we use the term “terrain” lightly with this one) – This tire is specifically for paved roads. Most stock sedans and minivans come equipped with H/T tires – but you’re not driving a sedan or minivan, are you? Even if you are the proudest Pavement Princess around, you wouldn’t be caught dead with a set of H/Ts on your Jeep. And if you are, yes, we’re judging you.

There, now we can move on and dig into the nitty-gritty of what all that means for you and your tire-based decision.

I’ll use my own Jeep, Miss-Chief, as an example to illustrate my point. Because Miss-Chief is a Willys Wheeler edition, she came from the dealership brandishing M/Ts. I decided to upgrade my tires from 32’s to 35’s and in doing so, elected to keep the M/Ts on her because I like the aggressive look of them and I had plans to do some serious off-roading and muddin’. Purchasing tires; however, shouldn’t be based on appearance and price point alone.

Miss-Chief’s Toyo M/T tire. Cat not included.

An M/T tire typically features large tread blocks with spacious channels between them. While the channels are wider to allow for faster mud and water displacement (aka mudslingers), the tread blocks are composed of a beefy texture to ensure maximum traction in dirt and mud. Further, this type of tire often features an “over the shoulder” lug that extends from the tread area down onto the sidewalls which allows for even more grip as needed on trails with deep mud, snow, gravel, and rock. When aired down, the protruding lugs become an impressive part of the traction equation. Despite the popular misconception that M/Ts are horrible for the sand at the beach and snow in the mountains, an aggressive lug tire can do well in the sand, even without airing down, and a well-siped tire does well in the rain and snow. The Toyo Open Country M/Ts have an aggressive lug and are well-siped.

Miss-Chief in the sand at the beach.

I learned through my tire-based research that some of the downsides to the M/Ts are, however, that they don’t last as many miles as A/Ts (e.g., Nitto Trail Grappler M/T Light’s approximately 45k miles versus the Yokohama GEOLANDAR A/T G015’s 60k miles), and because of the added grip their tread blocks provide, some can be overbearingly loud on the roads – especially if you’re rocking a soft top. Another downside to the M/Ts is that additional energy is required to move that bulky tread, so a drop in fuel economy is almost inevitable.

In contrast, the A/Ts pros counter the cons of the M/T. Meaning, you’ll get more mileage for your dollar (in tire and fuel) and a considerably quieter ride on pavement. These factors make A/Ts ideal on your daily driver and are perfect for commuters and traveling longer distances but they’ll still allow you to hit some lighter trails. While A/Ts perform decently on many trails, they will never perform as well as M/Ts which are designed specifically to take you where you want to go off-road.

Miss-Chief after off-roading. Close-up of M/T tire tread.

And this brings me to the R/Ts.

R/Ts are the Goldilocks of tires. Not too aggressive, not too passive. They’re just right because they are a perfect blend of the best-combined traits of the A/T and M/T. It’s a tire that is tailored towards the daily driver and weekend warrior (weekdays for work, weekends for trails).

Toyo put a lot of thought into crafting a tire that would provide drivers with the best of both worlds. With a 3-ply polyester casing to resist punctures and improve overall tire durability when under heavy loads or being operated in an “aired down” state off-road, Toyo backs their R/Ts with a generous 45,000-mile treadwear warranty.

The R/T is like hitting the Vegas jackpot of a tire shelf life. Even better, Toyo offers a no regret trial period of either 500 miles or 45 days. In their words, “Buy ’em, try ’em, love ’em. If you are not completely satisfied after 500-miles or 45-days, we’ll take them back.” Think about how many other tire manufacturers you have ever heard say something like that?

At this point, and especially if you haven’t clicked on any of the outbound informational links sprinkled throughout this post, you’re probably wondering how much a set of these tires is going to cost you. I’ll tell you up front that you may want to consider selling a kidney because quality off-road tires don’t come cheap. And if you do choose to opt for a lower priced tire, you’ll likely sacrifice in quality and performance. That said, you can expect to pay anywhere around $250 for A/T; $300 for M/T; and $315 for R/T, per tire. For this comparison, I chose the popular tire size, 35/12.5R17, and the Toyo brand on Amazon.com. Smaller tire sizes, like 33”, typically cost less. We’re not even going to discuss H/Ts because they don’t deserve it.

Miss-Chief tackling the rocky terrain with Toyo Open Country M/T.

So, while this might seem like a pretty pro-Toyo post, in all honesty, Toyo is the most popular manufacturer of R/T tires for off-roading. And, as a testament to their quality and reputation in the off-road community, I have Toyo’s on Miss-Chief with plans to eventually upgrade to the R/Ts once my current set reaches the end of its tread life.

Miss-Chief’s personal review: These are great tires (M/T) and I highly recommend them. I’ve had them on for about fifteen months now and they’ve done me right. I’ve gone off-roading with them many times and they have gotten me through the most challenging trails. I’ve gone through sand, rain, mud, rocks, and pavement and these tires have taken everything I threw at them. And they’re actually not as loud on the pavement as other aggressive tires. I barely hear them when the window is lowered and the radio is off.

Toyo has been around since 1938. It is not your more affordable tire but what you’re getting is a damn good tire! And it is a brand you can trust!

Tidbit knowledge: Nitto makes a great tire too! That’s because they are owned by Toyo. (insert winky face here)

Herjeeplife is NOT an affiliate of Toyo Tires. Herjeeplife has NOT been paid to write this post.

 

 

 

WHAT IS A JEEP WAY OF LIFE?

Owning a Jeep is a deeply personal experience, uniquely special for each person who relishes their position as a Jeep owner. Because, generally speaking, no other vehicle (except perhaps, motorcycles) has such a dedicated and committed tribe as the Jeep brand.

When you drive by another Jeep, whether on the hardball or off the beaten path (aka off-road), the driver of that Jeep is a comrade who is also filled with a distinctive admiration of not only the other drivers of Jeeps, but for the Jeeps themselves.  So, what exactly is the Jeep Life, and why is a life built around it considered an actual lifestyle rather than a Jeep being just another vehicle on the road?

The answer to these questions is really quite simple. The Jeep life embodies a philosophy which empowers individuals to take hold of their insatiable desire and enthusiasm for adventure and live a life that is not filled with constraints or limitations.

Every single time you climb up into your Jeep, it could be the beginning of your next adventure. You can drive anywhere, go anywhere, or camp anywhere, without the worry of poor weather conditions or difficult terrain.

The Jeep brand is an unstoppable force that enables you to express your individuality, while still being welcomed into a globally respected community.

What Are the Highlights of the Jeep Life?

I would argue that the highlights of the Jeep Life are limitless. However, one of the major benefits of owning a Jeep is that you never have to worry about the branding or the company ownership. A Jeep is a Jeep through and through, as the model, restoration, or mods and upgrades done to a Jeep don’t change what a Jeep is at its core. Like putting lipstick on a pig, it’ll still always be a pig, an XJ, CJ, TJ, YJ, JK, JL – a Jeep will always be a Jeep no matter what makeup you slap on it.

This means that anyone can enjoy the vehicle and appreciate it because it can be a fun, sport-enabled, lifestyle-fuelling, perfect addition to an active family.  The Jeep lifestyle rewards you for getting out there and discovering new and previously unreachable places.

Finally, there are several benefits to owning a Jeep beyond what it stands for, beyond its off-roading capability, and beyond the community you join that make the Jeep Lifestyle a favorite amongst adventurers. Not only do Jeeps hold their value extremely well, repairs are typically simple and are relatively inexpensive (except those upgrades often necessary to allow a Jeep to perform at its peak capability off-road), most stock Jeeps come with four-wheel drive, and they can get “decent” fuel mileage of anywhere between 16-21 miles per gallon (obviously I use the term “decent” loosely).

So, as you already know about Jeeps, if you are looking for a fun-to-drive vehicle that empowers you to get out and start discovering new places you never dreamed of going before, say those pesky mountain ranges off in the distance that keep calling to you via daydreams, then the Jeep is an excellent choice.

Every drive you take is a potential adventure, filled with unique challenges, passionate experiences, and a story to tell.

Jeep Dogs

You’ve seen them out on the trails, and you’ve probably even scratched the head of a few in your day. You may even be lucky enough to count yourself amongst those of us who have them. They’re our favorite trail companions, they’re our Jeep Dogs.

It’s because we love them so much that we want to protect them and do what’s right for them. It’s also why we want to include them in our favorite activities. It was while I was reading an article recently, published by Jeep Jamboree, USA, that I discovered a little-known fact.

Did you know that this well-respected Jeep event organizer discourages Jeep owners from bringing their dogs along for many of their off-road forays?

Here’s their official statement on the subject:

“Jeep Jamboree USA strongly suggests that pets are not appropriate on Jeep Jamboree USA events. Long hours in vehicles, association with people unfamiliar to the animal, access to inappropriate foods, restricted park areas, leash rules and laws, and many other drawbacks make including pets in the events punishing to the pet, the owner, and the other participants.”

Now, before you roll your eyes and start defending your rugged outdoor dog’s off-road prowess, let me tell you that I’m a JeepHER, culpable of the crime of bringing my own Jeep Dog along for a high-level rated Jeep Jamboree trail ride. It was only during that ride that I realized my mistake.

Although our dogs are always tethered when we ride in any of our vehicles for safety purposes, as Jaxon was that day, along with having a soft and oversized dog bed for his comfort, he did NOT enjoy his ride. Selfishly, I wanted the companionship of my dog and thought nothing of how his 40-lb body would be tossed around inside my JK, regardless of his tether.

While there were a few stops throughout the day, he was fearful for much of the ride (which turned out to be roughly 5 ½ hours in total) and downright panicky at points, trembling, pulling against his tether, and desperately trying to find a way into my lap.

Our dogs typically lay down and go to sleep after their initial excitement of going for a ride wears off, but due to the roughness of the terrain and obstacles, he wasn’t ever able to lay down for more than a moment at a time. To say he experienced a high amount of instability and bouncing around would be an understatement.  You can see the difference in his demeanor in the photos below:

I’ve encountered numerous other Jeep Dog owners out on the trails who, instead of showing empathy for their dogs, laughed and joked how their dogs reacted fearfully or were tossed from the back seat of their Jeep to the front seat. In fact, on the same 5 ½ hour ride I took Jaxon on, a fellow JeepHER was proudly bragging about her senior dog who was being flung about inside her Jeep while laughing heartily about it.

Seeing the look on Jaxon’s face and watching him trying to hunker down while shaking in fear, I absolutely regret taking him on that trail ride. Make no mistake, it won’t happen again.

In the future, my Jeep Dog will ride by my side for rides in the Jeep, but it won’t be on rated trails.

Do you have a Jeep Dog? What are your thoughts about taking them out on the trails with you? Share in the comments so we can all learn from one another!

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