With the dusting of snow this morning in central Minnesota, the roads are a little slippery out there. So even if we’re not the ones in the ditch, we’re always grateful to hear about the Good Samaritans who are willing to pull us out—like this ProMark winch owner and his trusty pickup truck. Recovery winches come in handy for more than just offroading!
ProMark Offroad Blog
Offroad riding in the snow is an adventure! Thanks to one of our customers for submitting this photo of his UTV (“Big Bird”) about to get winched out with a ProMark Offroad UTV winch.
When driving off road anytime, especially in winter, use common sense. Getting stuck in cold weather is a lot more dangerous and life-threatening than getting stuck in the warmer months of the year. Don’t take your safety, or the safety of those traveling with you, lightly.
Driving in Snow
Make sure you have a good gauge of how deep the snow is and how dense it is. If the snow has frozen and thawed several times, or the snow depth includes layers from several snowstorms, there may be differing densities in the snow. For example, a hard layer of snow may be crusted between two soft layers. This hard layer can make driving difficult. Also, remember that even though in the morning you may pass easily over a hard layer of snow on your way in, the afternoon sun can melt that top layer and make the return pass much more difficult.
Usually early season snow is easier to drive through than late season snow because there’s less snow (and densities) built up from snowstorms throughout the season. If the snow is too deep, your rig can easily get high centered. And if the snow is heavy and deep enough, even a good, solid recovery winch might have trouble pulling you out.
Don’t let too much snow pack under the rig. It can freeze the engine and clog the radiator. Snow bashing is hard on the rig, so take it easy when you’re trying to break through the trail. Drive forward slowly, back up, and repeat. Take turns breaking a trail with the other rigs in your group. It saves your rig from taking all the abuse, and it gives everybody a chance to get in on the fun.
Driving with Tire Chains
Use your discretion on when to use tire chains. If you can drive easily on top of a hard-crusted, deep drift, you might be better off without chains, which can churn up the top crust and sink you deeper into the drift. Chains work great in more shallow drifts, say up to 3 feet deep, where the bottom is hard enough to provide solid traction for the chains. Be extra careful when driving on icy rock faces with chains. You’ll have very little control on these surfaces.
Watch out for stumps, logs, roots, rocks, and other obstacles that are hidden under the snow. These can cause major damage, especially if you’re driving with chains. You can easily break an axle or hub, or worse.
Besides the precautions for winter off road driving, remember to follow other off road safety tips, such as traveling with other rigs, checking the weather before you leave, and leaving your travel plans with friends or family at home.
Winter off road driving takes a bit more preparation than during the warmer months. The cold weather makes it dangerous to get stranded, and the more remote the areas you travel are, the harder it will be for rescue crews to find and get to you.First off, every time you drive off road—whether it’s winter or not—let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return. Ask them to check up on you if you don’t show up when you said you would. They can alert emergency crews and let them know your travel plans to help rescuers find you in a worst-case scenario.
Secondly, travel in a group. You’ll have another vehicle to help you in a recovery process. And if one vehicle gets stranded, you can always come back for it later. In case of emergency, one vehicle can go for help or bring everyone back to warmth and safety.
Finally, it’s critical to pack well. A spontaneous off road trip in the winter without the proper planning and supplies could turn into a disaster. Make sure you pack enough food and water for everyone in the group to survive for several days in a remote area. In case you do get stranded, make sure you have the supplies needed for winter survival.
Here’s a basic winter off road kit to get you started. Add your own items to the list as needed.
Off Road Winter Survival Kit
- Extra food
- Extra water (at least one gallon per person)
- First aid kit
- Extra layers of warm clothing
- Signal mirror
- CB radio
- Emergency road flares
- Lip balm
- Sunglasses to protect your eyes
- Flashlight and batteries
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Fire starter
- Nylon cord
- Camp saw
- Duct tape