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Backcountry trips aren’t exclusively for trucks and SUVs. Ambitious and inexorable car drivers can still hit the forest roads. They’ll just need to take it easy, acknowledge their vehicle’s limitations, and make the proper preparations.
What To Pack
The packing list for a sedan isn’t much different than a truck. However, cars need to plan more items for protection and getting out of trouble. You can’t expect the wildest off-roading adventure the way you might in a 4×4. The essentials include:
- Air compressor
- Jack and full-sized spare tire
- Engine oil and coolant
- Tow strap
- Basic toolset
Make sure you have these items organized, stored away securely, and easily accessible.
Prior To Leaving
You should know how to maintain your car for backcountry road trips. It might even be sensible to service your transmission. Before you leave, examine your small but mighty car for the condition of these vital vehicle components.
- Essential fluids: engine oil, coolant, power steering, brake, transmission, and windshield wiper
- Tires and wheels: air pressure, tire tread, and brake pads
- Air filters
- Belts and hoses
If you’ve mainly stuck to standard pavement before now, you might want to practice with an experienced friend or stick to nearby dirt roads. This test run will help you get a feel for your car’s capabilities, clearance, and handling before you leave. It’s also a way to make sure everything is working correctly with your vehicle.
During Your Trip
The trip en route to wherever your little heart desires is when having a car is a drastically different experience than a truck. Key things to remember are:
- Stay on the road. Cars and off-roading don’t mix—don’t be risky about it. Be especially wary of driving on gravel, sand, or mud.
- Avoid difficult roads. If you can barely drive forward, it’s going to be nearly impossible to reverse. If you’re still unsure, get out and walk down the road.
- Steer clear of obstacles. Don’t try to drive over rocks. Move around them or get out and roll them out of the way (if you can). You can straddle deep tire tracks; just make sure they eventually fade away.
Arriving Back Home
Congrats! You made it back. Now it’s time to finish off the adventure before you take your next one. Learning how to maintain your car for backcountry road trips will ensure that there will be more to come.
Clean your car, both the interior and exterior. Get rid of tree sap, bird poop, and bugs so that they don’t damage the paint. Give all the mechanical parts of your car another run-through, just like before the trip. Note any perceptible changes in fluid levels—drastic changes could indicate a leak or another issue that’s causing your car to burn through it excessively.
Having a car doesn’t mean you have to abstain from going on adventures. By following these precautions and considerations, you’ll be off soon and back safely in no time.