Critical Wildfire Safety Tips for Overlanding and Offroading

Critical Wildfire Safety Tips for Overlanding and Offroading - Goats Trail Off-Road Apparel Company

Playing with Fire: Wildfire Awareness for Overlanders

As overlanding and off-roading continue to surge in popularity, more and more outdoor enthusiasts are heading out on adventures that take them deep into the backcountry. Getting far away from cell service and heavily traveled trails is much of the appeal.

However, this also leads to increased wildfire risk exposure. With massive fires raging more frequently across the Western United States and other overlanding hotspots, having proper fire awareness is absolutely critical before embarking on your next big trip.

Wildfires can ignite and spread astonishingly quickly, facilitated by hot, dry conditions. They can completely block off roads and destroy vehicles left in their path in mere minutes.

The consequences of unexpectedly encountering a raging fire deep in the wilderness could clearly become tragic very easily. That's why paying attention to fire alerts and conditions should become part of every overland trip planning regimen, right alongside checking trail statuses and weather forecasts.

If ending up trapped in a fast-approaching wildfire is any driver's nightmare scenario, the good news is that following fire safety best practices can effectively minimize such risks.

What to Do If You Encounter a Wildfire

Even the most careful planning cannot fully predict where and when wildfires may ignite and spread. Despite your best efforts, you may unexpectedly find yourself facing down a raging fire while out on the trails. Knowing how to respond can save lives and vehicles.

If you spot smoke or flames ahead, stop immediately and evaluate the speed and direction. Unless the fire is small and isolated with confirmed safe access ahead, turning around is likely the only viable option, even if it means significant backtracking. Fires can spread at astonishing 14 mph rates or faster, quickly cutting off any possibility of escape.

If flames, smoke, or intense radiant heat block safe passage, seek out shelter instead in one of these locations if possible:

  • Areas already burned
  • Creeks, lakes, or cleared areas
  • Rock slides or road cuts

Look for these features as a temporary refuge. If trapped, close all vehicle windows and vents and cover up with wool blankets on the floor to avoid breathing smoke. Run AC/ventilation on recirculate so flames and embers cannot enter gaps.

Activate emergency beacons to notify authorities and have communication plans for checking in with others. Fires may pass relatively quickly but can also sometimes burn areas for extensive periods. Your emergency kit can make the difference in staying safe while awaiting rescue.

The key is avoiding panic and having reliable systems prepared when encountering fire dangers. Include emergency contacts, map routes showing burned/unsafe areas, and contingency plans for backups or evacuations.

With thorough readiness, overlanders can still venture out while adequately accounting for wildfires and other extreme risks that may arise.

Tips to Avoid Starting Fires

It’s not just about avoiding fires – you need to know how to avoid being the one who unintentionally sparks one!

While proper awareness and response plans for encountering existing wildfires are crucial, overlanders also carry responsibility for not igniting blazes themselves. With extremely dry conditions in many areas, the smallest spark can easily flame out of control. When camping restrictions are high, any fire caused by an overlanding group could potentially lead to tragic consequences or even legal prosecution.

Following strict precautions to prevent human-caused fires should become standard operating procedure:

  • Don't park or drive through dry grass or vegetation; hot exhaust and catalytic converters reach 1500+ degrees. Spark shields are a worthwhile investment.
  • Never tow chains or attachments without installing proper catch plates and rubber guards that prevent scraping the ground.
  • Maintain exhausts and repair any leakage - carbon monoxide poisoning is also a danger for occupants.
  • Adhere strictly to any campfire bans that may be in effect. Use camp stoves carefully, following guidelines instead.
  • When allowed, build campfires responsibly away from overhanging branches in established fire rings using existing logs instead of cutting.
  • Put out every fire completely before leaving by splashing water and mixing ashes to extinguish embers.

Following Leave No Trace principles by using established sites, containing fires properly, and extinguishing responsibly gives overlanders the best opportunity to enjoy remote destinations like forests and grasslands sustainably while preventing catastrophic wildfires. With expanding access comes expanding obligations to protect our shared lands using thoughtful fire safety awareness.

Play It Cool This Summer

Overland adventures often pursue the appeal of hidden hot springs, untouched mountain vistas, and secret trails far from civilization.

However, venturing off the beaten path also leads to increased wildfire risk exposure if proper precautions are not taken seriously. Raging fires can instantly transform remote scenic wonderlands into catastrophe zones, cut off roads and endanger lives – and fast.

By making thorough wildfire readiness an essential component of all excursions, much tragedy can be averted. Monitoring alerts, avoiding high-risk zones, establishing contingency evacuation plans, and preventing accidental starts are all part of the necessary checklist before any fun can be had responsibly.

Rather than abandon the epic trips completely during extreme conditions, preparing adequately allows overlanders to balance safety alongside awe-inspiring adventures. Stay alert out there and watch those roasting marshmallows closely! With the right knowledge, precautions, backup plans and quality equipment, overlanders can thrive while promoting fire safety and sustainable access on our incredible public lands for years to come.

For the latest tips and gear for safe and exciting off-road travel this season, visit Goats Trail Apparel. We’ll keep you informed – and clothed – in the best overlanding gear to keep you safe all year round!

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