An off-road overlanding adventure is an exhilarating experience. It gives you the opportunity to travel to some of the most remote destinations and the chance to experience what ordinary travellers can’t.
Safety and preparation
If your dream is to set off and explore raw, real and remote destinations, you’re going to need the right vehicle and preparation to get you there.
Built to tackle even the toughest terrain, the Land Rover Defender is reliable, robust and holds incredible 4×4 capabilities.
Once you have the right vehicle, the next step is preparation and practice.
If you’re planning an overland trip, you need to take on the responsibility of your own safety. Do your research, plan your route strategically, watch ‘how-to’ videos, learn how to avoid tricky situations, and start off with shorter trips before heading out on a big expedition. Confidence in knowing what you’re doing is key to a safe overlanding journey.
An experienced adventure driver knows there is an art and technique when it comes to driving a machine through remote destinations and is always open to advice and best practices.
To all overlanding enthusiasts, here are a few technical pointers to help get you through some tricky terrain, safely.
Off-road techniques and basics
Most drivers are well-versed in driving through suburban areas. But when the tarmac ends, it’s time to adapt your driving style and incorporate off-road techniques.
The first step is to drive at a pace that’s as slow as possible while maintaining a speed that’s as fast as necessary. This rule applies to both on-road and off-road driving.
Never take your hands off the wheel, while it might be tempting to point something out, the surface is uneven, and if you’re not aware and alert, you could lose control of your vehicle.
Don’t hook your thumbs inside the steering wheel. The uneven surface and steering kickback can sprain them.
Be gentle with your driving. Harsh and sudden movements like the slamming of breaks or mashing of the accelerator on a rough surface could result in your vehicle skidding and sliding out of control.
Be vigilant and assess potential obstacles ahead. Stop the vehicle if you need to get a closer look.
And lastly, avoid gear changes when conquering tricky terrain.
If you’re a 4X4 veteran, these tips will be second nature, but if you’re just starting out, you might want to jot down these off-road technique essentials.
The right gear
While some of our Defenders come with automatic transmissions, most of them come with a stick shift, which means you’ll need to find the right gear.
When climbing an obstacle, always use the highest practical gear.
When descending a steep hill, use the lowest gear, or if you’re lucky and your truck comes with it, engage the Hill Descent Control (HDC).
If you’re stuck in icy, slippery, or muddy conditions, you’ll need to shift your Defender into lower range and take off in first. If you’re driving an automatic, stick it in second and move forward, slowly.
Made for mud
Ploughing through mud can be fun. In your Defender, you’ll most likely need to engage low range while in second or third gear — this will allow your tires to cut through the mud and find traction on firmer ground.
Don’t spin your wheels. You’ll only be digging yourself a deeper hole for your vehicle to be wedged in. Ease off the accelerator so your tires can slow down and regain grip.
When driving on muddy roads, you’re likely to encounter ruts which are long deep tracks created by other vehicles. If you’re driving in a rut, make sure your front wheels are pointed straight.
Lastly, when you’re about to climb a muddy hill, remember to use as much momentum as possible, this will help reduce your need for traction.
Rocks and Gravel
Your Defender can quite literally take on the rocky roads, however, you need to climb with caution. Before you start your ascent, get out of your vehicle and assess the risks.
Once you’re ready to tackle the rocky roads, set the vehicle into lower range and shift to first gear. If you have a travel companion, ask them to be a spotter outside.
When tackling a rugged route or crossing, make sure all onboard equipment and other items are secure. This also applies to the roof-rack.
Crawling up the hill will mean using the lowest gear. Try to avoid steering up the slope.
If your vehicle starts to slide sideways, steer the vehicle gently downhill and apply some throttle. If at any point you lose traction on your uphill, stop and reverse slowly. Once at the bottom, select a new route up.
When on gravel, use the highest gear possible and drive at a slow pace. Keep in mind that the surface is constantly changing, offering little to no grip.
While it’s always tempting to keep the convoy close together, we recommend keeping a safe distance apart, as there’s always a risk of flying rocks and dust clouds.
To conquer a mountain, you need to overcome many hills. Before starting your climb, and if possible, do an investigation of the area on foot. Remember to check your approach angle to make sure the nose of the truck doesn’t dig into the hill.
When you’re ready, approach the hill straight on. If you attempt to make the climb diagonally or attempt to turn your vehicle while ascending a steep slope, your chances of rolling are much higher. Use the highest gear your off-road vehicle is comfortable taking off in and keep at it till you reach the top.
Once you’ve made it to the top, it’s time to go back down. Before your descent, stop to assess the situation and make corrections where you see fit. Don’t forget to check your departure angle and make sure the position and descent of the vehicle won’t hit the ground.
If you have HDC, now is the time to use if. If you’re driving manual or automatic, you need to engage lower range and stay in first gear. If you need to stop, apply breaks slowly and gently.
When driving a manual Defender, never roll or reverse the vehicle downhill in neutral or with the clutch pedal pressed.
Lastly, always plan an escape route in case the climb fails.
When attempting to cross a river, you need to gauge if it is safe to do so. Before entering, you need to investigate how deep it is.
Never attempt a deep crossing if the water is fast flowing.
Always wait until the water has settled if there are other vehicles ahead of you.
Enter the water slowly at first, then build up speed. When you’ve reached the other bank ease off the throttle.
Back on the road
Before driving off into the sunset, always stop and inspect your vehicle for damage and debris. Also, clean mud and grass off from lights and number plates.
With older Defenders, it’s important to check your air intakes like your radiator grills. If you’re driving at highway speeds with a hampered cooling system, it can cause substantial damage to your engine.
We hope this information has been helpful and that you are inspired to build your own overlanding adventure memories. Remember, preparation is key to a safe overlanding adventure. Safe travels!