Tag: training

The Secret to Good Trail Teamwork

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

When Ken Brubaker of Four Wheeler magazine, Jp’s sister publication, asked me to guide the first Overland Adventure, one of my biggest concerns was how to bring together a group that was going to be far more diverse than the usual all-Jeep run. With everything from rock crawling Wranglers to overland monsters like John Marshall’s U-600 Unimog, and a smattering of various off-road trailers, the vehicles and the experience of the participants were vastly different. We planned to travel from Wickenburg to Prescott and onward to Overland Expo in Flagstaff—via 260 miles of backroads over three days. What came of this eclectic event was a lesson in teamwork and camaraderie unparalleled in any other large groups I have led.

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How to Be a Good Trail Leader

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

When people think about what is required to be a good trail leader, they often think of spotting skills; however, it’s much more than that. Trail leaders don’t just know how to drive their own rigs through some tough terrain—they also help others drive their rigs through it. And, most importantly, they properly prepare for the trip in advance with information, comfort concerns, and safety logistics to help the group enjoy the whole day from start to finish.

Good trail leading means starting with a plan. Beyond the date and time you are inviting the group to meet, provide information about the intended route, itinerary, pace for the trip, weather forecasts along the route, whether the group needs to bring lunch on the trail, if there are bathroom facilities or the participants need to plan otherwise, and any other special considerations people should be prepared for, like permit or entrance fees, gas stops and fuel range expectation, and if pets and children are recommended or permitted in the areas you are visiting.

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Why Do We Train?

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

Who among us hasn’t broken or stuck something on the trail, which, in retrospect, became a very clear lesson about what not to do? Many of us learned our 4WD skills the hard way, by trial and error, or by learning from watching others make costly mistakes. Most would agree there is tremendous value to receiving professional training. Paying for training up front may cost money, but it usually results in saving an exponential amount of money and time in the long run.

When I started working in the tour industry in the 1990s, typical commercial training consisted of “ride with this guy for a while to learn the ropes, go out and practice by yourself, and when you feel ready, take us on a tour and we’ll see how you do.” Needless to say, companies that operate like that have very high liability and vehicle repair bills.

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Hi-Lift Jack Do’s and Don’ts

By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

There are two common Hi-Lift jack misconceptions circulated among new Jeepers. The first one is that if they have 35- inch-or-taller tires, they have to carry a Hi-Lift jack with them. The second one is that they shouldn’t use a Hi-Lift jack because they are not safe. The truth is that a Hi-Lift is a very useful and versatile tool to have, no matter what size tires you own, and they can be unsafe if not used or maintained properly. Though I cannot go into all the possible ways to use a Hi- Lift jack in this short space, I will share with you the most common ways I use my Hi-Lift jack and a few key safety points.

First, what I don’t do with the Hi-Lift jack is change tires or work on my Jeep. I find an appropriately sized bottle jack or the factory scissor jack with a broad and sturdy base to be a far simpler option for tire changing. I also never use the jack for holding up a car to crawl under it—use jack stands.

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Rollovers: What To Do Before, During, and After

By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

Roll, flop, dirt nap—whatever your favorite term for a Jeep ending up not on its wheels, rolling over is one of the biggest fears people have about four-wheeling. We can talk all day about good driving techniques to avoid rolling in the first place, but no matter how good you are, mistakes happen. It’s good to be prepared. Protecting the occupants is the number-one priority. Here are things you can do to help everyone walk away safely from a rollover.

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Overlanding 101: Eating, Sleeping, Pooping

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

The term “overlanding” is quite the buzzword these days. I would say the difference between “overlanding” and “camping” is determined by your primary intention for setting up camp: Are you setting up a camp to just squat around a fire and drink beer in one place all weekend, or are you exploring cross-country and you need a place to sleep each night on your journey? Whether you are “camping” or “overlanding,” the bottom line is that there are three simple things that one must do in the great outdoors: eat, sleep, and poop. Here’s a quick look at how I do it when I’m overlanding or camping.

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Four-Wheeling Lessons From a Hellcat

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

I could say that the day spent at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving was strictly for work, but, seriously, it’s just something I have always wanted to do. One can always learn new skills from other professionals. What I came away with, aside from a day of adrenaline-junkie-pleasing driving, was that the same skills we emphasize for 4WD training are just as critical for high-speed driving: where you look, smooth driver inputs and corrections, and constant focus.

Being accustomed to driving lifted rigs on a minimum of 35-inch tires, the first thing I thought while settling into the nearly ground-level seat of my assigned Challenger Hellcat was, “Wow! How can I see anything from down here?” The answer is the same as it is from the seat of the Jeep—look farther. On the track, this meant that as we headed into a 180-degree turn, we were looking almost 90 degrees to our left, at the exit of the turn where we would again start applying the throttle. Because if we were looking over the hood at the tire wall in front of us, we would not be able to execute steering input or the right amount of braking to result in a smooth turn.

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When Do You Lock Your Jeep’s Axles?

By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

Ever since the introduction of the Rubicon model in 2003, the axle lock feature or “locker” has been a mainstream feature for anyone who walked onto a Jeep dealer lot. The continued growth in sales of Rubicon-model Jeep Wranglers (new and secondhand) will mean more new owners on the trails who may not fully understand when and where to best use the electronically activated lockers in the front and rear axles of the Rubicon model. Even for the experienced, a refresher and examination of our own thinking can be helpful.

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The Pressure: Where Should You Run Your Tires?

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

You all know by now that airing down your tires is one of the simplest ways to improve the trail performance and ride quality of your Jeep. The big question is always: To what pressure should I air down? Whenever this topic comes up on forums or social media, the answers vary from to “tire circumference minus rim diameter, multiplied by pi, minus GVWR, multiplied by ambient air temperature, and divided by your age” to “6.” What I have found is that there are two methods to effectively and safely adjust tire pressure that apply to a variety of vehicle and tire types.

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Off-Road Basics

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.

With all of the time we spend studying advanced winch rigging techniques, comparing tire composition, and ogling the latest navigation applications, it is easy to forget the fundamentals. Ignoring these fundamentals cause the majority of four-wheeling difficulties we see on the trail. The difference between an enjoyable trip and a catastrophic one can be as simple as these four things: knowing and using your Jeep’s 4WD system effectively, airing down the tires, picking a good line through the obstacle, and having a functioning jack. These few basics should be the foundation of every Jeep driver’s education regarding his or her specific rig.

Many people get into snags on the trail simply because they didn’t use 4WD at the appropriate time. It’s easier to shift to 4WD before you need it, rather than spinning and chewing up your tires, digging up the trail, and making your situation worse. It doesn’t make you less macho to use 4WD—it means you are smart, have mechanical sympathy for the rig, and are respectful of the trail. Though running in 4WD all of the time on flat, tractive surfaces is not good for your rig’s driveline and steering, it is important to recognize when a little better distribution of power will smooth out the trip. What about the infamous hot oil light? Using 4L is the solution. A basic guideline we teach is to use 4H whenever you start on an unmaintained road, and 4L if you are going less than 10-15 mph due to narrow, steep, or rough surface.

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