There can be few things more stressful that getting your (or someone elses) vehicle burried axle deep in sand, or mud… It happens to even the best overlander, but skill comes into play in a variety of different places.
Trying to prevent getting stuck in the first place;
The obvious option is to try and take a safe and easy line through your obstacles you encounter, getting out of your vehicle and trying to make it as easy on your vehicle as possible. Move some rocks around, make a little ramp, think about where your diff and wheels are and try to maneauver the wheels over the rocks instead of trying to nip past them,often attempting to sneak past a rock can have you miscalculating and catching the sidewall of your rear tyres against a sharp rock. You will over time develope the skill to see how best to get your vehicle over the trails. Its a hasty and lazy attitude that will more often than not get you stuck, or cause damage to your vehicle. The point at the end of the day is to be able to safely travel to your destination and return home to do it again another day.
Deflating your tyres to appropriate pressures for the terrain you’re driving. A bit of a starting point might be something like the following: 2.5bar(36PSI) for highway riding, with speeds up to 120km/h. 2.0Bar (29PSI) for Good gravel roads, up to speeds of 80km/h. 1.5-1.8Bar (21-26PSI) for corregated dirt roads and rocky/muddy terrains, up to speeds of 60km/h. 0.8-1.2Bar (11-18PSI) for Sand, obviously going lower in softer sand (If necessary you can go abit lower to get out of a sticky situation, but you dont want to risk your tyre coming off the rim with a pressure that is too low.These are just starting points, you can adjust up and down on those pressure to suit your comfort and terrain. The moment you get off of that terrain, you will need to reinflate your tyres or you will have an increased risk of puncture or even a blow out. The side walls of the tyre actually over heat at low pressures and begin to disintegrate from the inside, so its highly recommended just to inflate back up to the appropriate tyre pressure for your current terrain and speed.
The best tyres to have for Overlanding is generally a tyre with a good, high profile, which allows for much more options in your ride quality through different terrains and will give you a better ride comfort over a lower profile tyre, and will be more puncture resistent. For Example, Landrover Defenders and Landcruiser 70’s (The Pinnacle of Offroad performance) come standard with 235/85/16 tyres, which are 32″ diameter tyres, this allows your wheel to often pass over potholes rather than dipping into them and have a very large profile, which allows for the rubber to wrap around objects and rocks when at lower pressures, but to still protect the rim. the pressure varience allowed and the flexibility of the rubber over a lower profile, will save you more than you might think. An Overlander’s ultimate enemy is a puncture, it can leave you truly stuck with nowhere to go and no way to escape, so looking after your tyres and choosing the right tyres to begin your adventures with is a very important step in the right direction.
Now you may take head of all the advice and one day still find yourself stuck, what then?
Thats where the fun begins… Recovery, is one of the most popular spectacles of offroading, people find the drama to be quite exciting, especially spectators. First piece of advice, ignore the spectators and get in your own zone. Recovery isn’t always as dramatic and exciting as it may seem, the best and safest recoveries are often made with a shovel and some traction aids like Maxtrax or Treds. In all honesty, they could probably get you out of 90% of situations. Whether you are on the dunes or the beach or stuck in the mud, this simple technique will often be more effective than having dangerous metal objects attached to your vehicle to try and pull you out. In my opinion, the less you can get other people involved in your recovery, the safer it will be.
So what about that other 10% of the time? Thats when things get really serious, and too often people have been injured due to misinformation or poor quality equipment. So that will be covered in a very indepth way in another post.
Its about planning and being prepared for the worst case scenario at the end of the day… Weather is unpredictable, the roads in Africa are often even more so. However, there is no need to fear adventure because of what might happen.. Worst case scenario you have to dig a bit more than expected. If you still dont manage to get out, you can always phone for help and get your vehicle recovered.
You can read about my first time getting stuck here:
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