The off-road world is a wide and varied one, but there are some universal laws of 4x4 that no four-wheel driver can argue with.
Dave Darmody from Australian Offroad Academy tells us the top 10 rules that apply to all four-wheel drivers today:
1. There is no ‘best’ 4x4. Drivers are all different, and so it makes sense that their needs and wants in an off-road vehicle are too. For some, the ultimate 4x4 is a GQ Patrol on big tyres and with a big lift, but for others everyday comfort and safety needs mean they feel right at home in their D40 Navara.
2. The best 4WD is a balanced one. It’s important to remember that while you may have the urge to kit-out your vehicle with every accessory imaginable, surplus weight can lead to extra strain on your vehicle, not to mention more fuel needed in the tank to get around. Whether you are shopping for tyres, suspension, or deciding whether to put a rear bar on your 4x4, you should always be willing to compromise what you want for the sake of performance and functionality.
3. You will always get the best gear on the advice of others. There are new products for adventure travellers coming all the time, and whether it be an awning or a difflock, someone you know will regularly be turning up with something new for you to see. One of the best ways to review new gear is by seeing it in action first hand, and asking for reviews from those who have actually used it in real-world conditions.
4. There’s always somewhere new to explore. As far as global off-roading is concerned, Australia is a treasure trove of wild frontiers and breathtaking natural beauty that oftentimes can only be reached in a 4WD. You may think you have a ‘favourite spot’ or have seen it all, but explore further and you’ll find somewhere that was previously unknown that is just as good, if not better.
5. Sometimes things get broken. In learning the limits of our ability as a driver, we sometimes get it wrong, and anyone who has been around 4x4 for a while will understand that sometimes we can’t always keep our vehicle away from the terrain we’re negotiating. A little bump or scratch is no big deal for most owners - a hard slide into a tree is a different story. Careful and sensible driving will normally see you avoid any major incidents, but experience says that it’s not the end of the world if something minor happens out on the tracks.
6. Momentum is the tool you use when you run out of talent. Getting a bigger run-up, might sometimes be necessary to get yourself out of trouble, but probably shouldn’t be your only driving technique.
7. It’s all about torque and traction - that’s it. Being in the right gear, and having the grip you need to get you moving in the direction you want. Modern automatics and traction control have enabled drivers of very comfortable 4x4s to drive with precision and without wheel spin in almost all conditions with confidence.
8. Think about the next generation of off-roaders while you explore. We all have a responsibility to drive in a sustainable fashion on public land. Our relatively untouched wilderness is in growing demand from people looking to get away and experience nature. There are private locations for you to ‘conquer’ in your 4x4 if that’s what you’re searching for, so leave the public places in a condition which will allow our grandkids to enjoy them.
9. Vehicles are changing so much that old-school techniques don’t apply to new vehicles. The 2011 Ford Ranger only has a badge in common with the 2010 Ford Ranger, and your neighbour with the awesome 80 Series really doesn’t have much practical advice for you to get the most from your new Pajero. Time has rapidly changed technology in the 4x4 world, so it’s best to take vehicle and driving advice from the relevant experts, not just someone who is ‘experienced'.
10. We may come from different paths, but we're all heading in the same direction. Just because you grew up roughing it in the back of Dad's old Land Rover Series II, it doesn't mean you can look down on someone who's driving a Discovery Sport with 11 USB ports - so long as you're getting out there, none of that matters.