I started traveling alone years ago with my dog and found it to be peaceful, but also exciting. All the open trails in the peace and quiet made me feel like I was pioneering, and it felt good to navigate and trek with no support. The remote trails and open plains of Utah and Northern Arizona were my typical overland destinations for solo adventures. From high desert sands, to red rocky terrain, off roading solo in the back country offered up epic experiences with a set of unique considerations. So what’s the difference between off-roading with groups versus soloing off the beaten path? Several experiences come to mind, and some came with some harder lessons learned than others, so let’s lay out the basics.
Navigating with a group offers different experiences and different setups for a variety of navigation options. One person might be running satellite or iridium based devices, which can provide live track and mapping, while others may be using standard GPS. Some may be proficient at map and compass and have a distaste for electronic navigation. The point is you have a myriad of options, and let’s be honest, how many trail runs have you been on where you just follow the rig in front of you assuming the person in front of you knows where they are going? With navigation when rolling solo you have to have your own backups that make sense for where you are going. I like to use app based navigation with offline imagery options like Basemap. Basemap allows you to filter and download offline maps in segments and details of your choosing, so when you eventually lose reception you can depend on your GPS connection, separate from your cell reception and still allow you to see where you are on the map. I also always carry maps and conduct map checks at major intersections and terrain features to pinpoint my exact location. This will build confidence that you are where you think you are and is a great cross check for your electronic mapping.
Recovery for me has always been something I take very seriously. I have overlanded in austere parts of the world like Libya and Afghanistan where getting stuck or breaking down meant life threatening circumstances. A lot of great kits out there are built for buddy recovery, which is always great but don’t necessarily serve a dual purpose in solo off-roading. I am a big fan of winches as a primary recovery method with cordless or long leashed controllers that allow you to control the winch from inside your vehicle, remember we are doing this alone. I’m also a big fan of synthetic lines instead of steel. Steel for obvious reasons is abrasive and dangerous when pulling solo, we’ve all seen or heard the stories of the winches that snap and take someone’s head off, not something I’m willing to risk alone. In addition, bring a shovel and a high lift jack, these have saved me in bad spots where my winch options were sparse in high desert regions.
In Part II we will discuss power options, and medical supplies, all necessary when running a solo off-road adventure.
* OutdoorX4 Magazine – Promoting responsible 4×4 adventure travel and outdoor recreation