13 Tips and Tricks for Wheeling in the Snow
Not all Overlanders are allergic to snow. Winter off-roading expeditions sound appealing to many four-wheelers. The trails are devoid of human life, and you’re rewarded with stunning views of pristine, snow-capped landscapes.
But to enjoy the sparkling vistas and the peaceful woods, you’ll need to prepare for the hazards that accompany winter: cold weather and heavy snow. To help you adventure safely, we have compiled 13 tips, tricks, and hacks for Overlanding in the snow.
Wear Proper Winter Clothing
To experience the beauty of Overlanding in winter without shivering, you’ll need to dress in layers and choose bulkier and heavier clothing. Have a base layer, mid-layer, and outer shell. For those brutally cold days, get a heavy-fill-down jacket. In addition, wear waterproof ankle boots, warm socks, warm gloves, and winter gaiters.
Get Snow-Specific Tires
Investing in a dedicated set of snow tires will give your rig better traction on icy trails. Apart from preventing skidding and sliding, they will improve stopping power and help you get unstuck faster when you find yourself bogged down. Of course, you can also lower the tires’ air pressure for an improved grip. Don’t forget to pack a dual-function air compressor and deflator.
Invest in the Appropriate Recovery Gear
Out in the snowy trails, chances are there won’t be other overlanders to help you when you’re in a pickle. Bring recovery gear such as a winch, traction boards, recovery straps, tire chains, a shovel, a snow broom, and leather-palmed gloves. Don’t pack unnecessary stuff; you’ll want to keep the rig as light as possible to stay on top of the snow.
Adjust Your Driving Style
The techniques you use to kick up some dirt in the warmer months can be a recipe for disaster on the icy surface. Avoid sharp turns and abrupt maneuvers, apply the brakes way earlier than usual, always stop on level ground, and avoid quick acceleration to keep your tires from spinning. Also, before descending a snowy trail, verify it’s possible to get back up.
Practice Reading the Snow
Don’t go too far afield the first time, as snow-covered trails are substantially more technical. Instead, start with shorter trips. Learning how to judge what surface is safe for what driving style takes some time. Note that your vehicle will cut through fresh and light powder, while heavy and wet snow will most likely hold the weight of your rig. Cutting through crusty snow could get you stuck. Also, snow surfaces change fast, based on the temps, humidity, and sun, so be cautious when using the same trail later.
Know the Limits of Your Vehicle
Before you go deep into the white stuff, take some time to figure out the limits of your 4x4 vehicle. Is it properly equipped to withstand adverse winter conditions? Have you ever driven it in the snow before? Does your battery become useless in cold weather? Do your doors freeze shut? If your vehicle has any issues, work on them before heading out. Plus, ensure the rig is adequately serviced.
Monitor the Weather Rigorously
Continuously monitor the weather along your route. If a storm is expected or temperatures will plummet to dangerous levels, postpone the trip to a date with more favorable conditions. When you’re in the backcountry, check weather updates regularly. Still, weather can be incredibly unpredictable at higher altitudes. So, bring along emergency essentials in case you find yourself in trouble.
Use a Backcountry Navigation App
Relying on regular navigation apps like Google Maps when navigating less-trodden places isn’t advisable. Use a backcountry-specific app that has an offline mode like Gaia GPS to familiarize yourself with directions before you go. These tools rarely lead you astray; you can find your route when cell service is nonexistent. When planning your route, visit the destination’s local websites to learn which roads are closed or unsafe. It’s also smart to print a map of the area.
Have a Solid Means of Communicating
You’ll want to tell a family member or close friend about your travel plans and when they should expect you back. Sharing your location frequently can also give them an idea of where you are if they need to find and rescue you. Don’t count on your cell phone since snow can hamper mobile signal. The smart option is to get a satellite communication device.
Buy Snow-Rated Sleeping Gear
Buy Snow-Rated Sleeping Gear. While you can get away with using clothing that isn’t made for winter, your sleeping system needs to be specifically rated for cold-weather camping. Invest in a 4-season down sleeping bag rated for 20 degrees below the temperature you expect at your destination. An insulated tent and sleeping pad will also add a thermal barrier between you and the cold. It’s also wise to bring waterproof fire-making equipment to help you stay warm in an emergency.
Keep Your Body Nourished
Winter adventures consume lots of energy on foot or by vehicle. You'll need to bring lots of food and water to refuel your body and keep it warm. Pack protein bars and trail mix, and prepare hot soups, coffee, or tea to warm you up on the trail. Before you get behind the wheel, ensure you’re well-rested, hydrated, and sober. Also, pack extra food in case something goes wrong. Plus, don’t forget your medicine.
Choose Your Cooking Stove Wisely
Once you venture into harsh wintry conditions, propane stoves can lose pressure, fail to light, or underperform. To mitigate this problem, and enjoy hot meals, swap your liquid-fuel-only stove with one that can burn Isobutane. They perform better in cold weather. If you prefer to stick to your regular stove, keeping it warm can help it function as expected. Place it next to your body or sleeping bag.
Pack Spare Fuel
When plowing in the snow, your 4x4 will consume fuel alarmingly. The last thing you want is to run out of gas in a remote location, in conditions where you can’t walk to find help. Top off your tank and carry more fuel than on regular trips. Furthermore, bring fuel additives or use winter-blend gasoline to allow quicker ignition when the temps plunge.
Have Fun Adventuring in the Snow
There’s a lot to know about Overlanding in the winter. Hopefully, these tips above will help you better prepare for the cold white stuff and give you more confidence on the icy trails. Indeed, if you’re not experienced, it’s a good idea to travel in the company of fellow overlanders to help each other out during tricky times.
Photography Credit: Patrick Draper @tetriiik
Jeep Build: @jeeping.in.teal