You finally decided that you wanted to try your hand at driving places that are unpaved, so you went out to a used Jeep dealership and got yourself a Wrangler. Congratulations! Except you’re a newbie, and you know nothing about riding trails, fording water, or adding “mods” to your rig. So far, all you do with your Jeep is drive it to the grocery store and polish it in the driveway. No worries. Here is a list of things to help you get ready to enjoy Jeep life to the fullest. After all, owning a Jeep is much more than just driving.
#1. Join a Local Jeep Club
Whether you’re new to Jeep ownership or have owned several Jeeps, a Jeep club is a great place to meet folks who not only love the excitement of off-roading, but they often share a lot of knowledge about the best places to go “mudding” or “wheeling.” People who love Jeeps come from all walks of life, so you’re likely to meet people of all ages and interests who can also teach you the basics of trail riding, lingo, and how to initiate the Jeep wave. Clubs will often plan events to ride trails as a group, which can be a great way to get out on a trail safely. It’s a good idea to have other Jeeps around when you go out on a trail, just in case you get stuck and need an experienced off-roader to get you out of trouble. Some clubs require a membership fee, and others are free, but you can find clubs on the Meetup app, through the Jeep website, or just Google “Jeep clubs near me.”
#2. Make Sure You Have the Right Accessories for Trails
Just because you bought a Wrangler doesn’t mean it has all the accessories you probably want to take it off-road safely. Sometimes you want to consider modifying your Jeep with after-market accessories, so it works better on trails that often have odd angles, obstructions, large roots or rocks, water, or deep mud to handle. Jeeps are amazing vehicles, but they can still get stuck or damaged. Things as simple as letting a little air out of your tires can make a big difference in your Jeep’s performance on trails, but if you plan to do this, you need an air compressor so you can refill them before you go back on pavement.
A winch is one of the most important tools you hope you never need, but it will be worth the price if you plan to get out there a lot. With that winch, you also want a tree-saver so you don’t damage trees you may use for getting your Jeep unstuck. Other accessories to consider might include a lift kit for better ground clearance, off-road lights, satellite navigation, rocker guards, rock sliders, or other protective equipment to keep your Jeep from getting damaged on the trail. With all this said, before you buy any accessories, you should try your Jeep on easy trails to see if you even like it.
#3. Keep an Off-Road Kit in Your Jeep
Once you start feeling confident about taking your Jeep on trails, it’s a good idea to keep certain things in your Jeep, so you’re prepared in case of accidents. No one wants to expect an accident, but it’s a good idea to have supplies in case it happens. First, get a first aid kit to keep in the glove box. You can find them at a local pharmacy or Walmart, and they can come in handy if you get hurt while far away from town. Make sure the spare on the back of your Jeep is in good condition, is ready to use if you get a flat, and that you have the jack and tire iron to change it.
Keep a basic tool kit in your Jeep with wrenches, WD-40, duct tape, crowbar, socket set, vice grips, hammer, leather work gloves, and jumper cables. This is a very basic list, and you will learn over time what tools are best for your personal tool kit. A tow strap can come in very handy, and it’s a good idea to have a flashlight – particularly the type that you can wear on your head so you can use both hands to work and still have light. Lastly, it’s usually a good idea to bring along enough food and water for a couple of days in case you get stuck, and a change of clothes is a good idea, too.
#4. Find Trails According to Difficulty
As a newbie Jeep owner, you may want to find easy trails you can take on your own without a lot of drama, just for the fun of it. Not every trail has to be about conquering mountains or rocky ravines. AllTrails is a great resource for finding off-road trails which are rated according to difficulty, gives maps of the terrain, and has a written description of what you can expect. The section below the trail information allows people to comment about their own experience with the trail, an often valuable resource beyond the canned write-up. People will comment about their own sense of the trail’s rating according to difficulty, and they may share details about how the trail changes according to weather or time of year.
TrailsOffRoad is another website geared to off-roading, but this site tailors the trail to your capability as a driver and your own comfort level. Join the site for free, and then you can customize the types of trails it will show you according to difficulty, terrain, region, and your vehicle. Each trail also has information about whether or not it’s safe to drive, with updated information according to factors that can make a trail impassable.
There are plenty of ways to find local trails. Join a Facebook group, ask your local Jeep dealership, or just look up different trail maps in your area. The goal here is to find trails that you can have fun on without getting into trouble as a newbie.
#5. Take a Scenic Dirt Road Because You Can
Jeep life doesn’t always have to be about trails and water fording, even though that’s a lot of fun. Sometimes it’s just as fun to get in your Jeep and head down back roads you’ve never seen before. Exploring any time of year on dirt roads that might be too rough for a typical street-oriented car or SUV can be very satisfying. On occasion, you may discover a great view, a lake you never knew existed, or see wildlife while you travel far from highways. Small towns might be tucked into places you never traveled before, or you might discover a roadside stand selling handmade pottery. Lots of people hang a sign by the road when they live in the country, and they have a lot of exciting things to sell. Taking the scenic routes may just lead you to discover a whole new world within minutes of where you live.
Owning a Jeep Has Plenty of Perks
Owning a Jeep has a lot of perks if you like being spontaneous and adventurous. With so much land to explore in the United States, you’re almost guaranteed to find something special when you drive places you could never go with a car. Anytime you feel the urge, you can toss camping gear in your trunk and find a quiet place to enjoy a night or two away from everything. Just remember to take along an experienced Jeep buddy if you plan to go to remote places, and always let someone know that you’re heading out of town in case you get stuck. There’s a lot of world to see if you make time to enjoy it, and joining Jeep culture is almost guaranteed to ensure you enjoy it more often.