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ProMark Offroad Blog

3 Winter Off-Road Safety Tips for Jeeps and Trucks

Snow offroad

Go prepared for wheeling in the snow.

There’s no need to stow your Jeep or rig away for the winter when snow arrives. Wheeling in the snow can be just as much of an adventure as wheeling in the warmer months. Kids aren’t the only ones who can have fun playing in the snow!

Winter wheeling has its own set of dangers, so it’s important to go prepared. Here are 3 safety tips for winter off-road driving to make sure you get home safe and sound.

1. Get your recovery gear ready.

If you get stuck 20 miles from the nearest plowed road, you’d better be prepared to get out on your own or with the help of another rig in the group. The right recovery tools will get you out fast, which is important in cold, wet weather.

A Jeep or truck winch (rated appropriately for your vehicle), snatch straps, tow hooks, and a few recovery winch accessories will get you out of most situations. Don’t forget a shovel, either. Sometimes a simple tool is all you need to get unstuck.

2. Dress for the weather.

Even though you’ll be riding inside most of the time, be prepared for spending time outside your truck or Jeep, especially if you get stuck.

Make sure your boots and outerwear are waterproof, and avoid wearing cotton clothing. As mountaineers know, cotton kills. Dress in layers with clothing that dries quickly, such as wool, polyester, or synthetic materials. Bring an extra change of clothing in case you get wet. Hypothermia can set in quickly, which is dangerous when you’re wheeling in an isolated area.

3. Pack an emergency kit.

Wheeling in snow requires extra precautions. Make sure you have a medical emergency kit in your vehicle (which you should have with you year round), along with a heavy blanket or sleeping bag, extra water, food, a tarp, and emergency flares. Always let someone at home know where you plan to go wheeling and when you plan to be back. Wheel in groups whenever possible.

Offroad Recovery Gear

Whether you’re wheeling in the snow or in a summer mud hole, we can get you unstuck. Get an offroad-approved Jeep winch or truck winch from ProMark Offroad to get you back on the trail in no time.

Pickup Truck Pulls Toyota Out of Ditch with ProMark Recovery Winch

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!

Winter Offroading Picture

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.

Big Bird stuck

Big Bird stuck in the snow

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Winter Off Road Trail Driving

Dont drive off road in the winter without a winch.

Don't drive off road in the winter without a winch.

Driving off road in the winter has its own unique challenges and rewards. Despite the cold, many off roaders enjoy the solitude and beauty of a winter excursion. Driving off road on snow and ice is a lot of fun, but you should be aware of several differences between trail riding in the summer and trail riding in the winter.

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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 Survival Kit

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.

Throw an off road tow strap in your survival kit.

Throw an off road tow strap in your survival kit.

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.

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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
  • Blankets
  • Extra layers of warm clothing
  • Signal mirror
  • Whistle
  • CB radio
  • Emergency road flares
  • Glowsticks
  • Candles
  • Sunblock
  • Lip balm
  • Sunglasses to protect your eyes
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Fire starter
  • Firewood
  • Nylon cord
  • Tarp
  • Camp saw
  • Duct tape
Off Road Vehicle Emergency Kit