Confidence is key when it comes to off-roading adventures. It's not just about having the right gear or a capable vehicle; it's also about having faith in your skills and decision-making abilities. Whether you're a seasoned off-roader or just starting out, building confidence can enhance your overall experience and make your outings more enjoyable and successful.

One important aspect of off-roading confidence is knowing your vehicle inside out. Understanding its capabilities and limitations allows you to push boundaries safely. This means getting familiar with features like drive systems, traction control, and pedal power. You don’t need to know about these before your adventure, but seek out knowledge from more experienced friends, and purposefully learn each time you go out. Regular vehicle maintenance and pre-trip checks also play a role in building trust in your vehicle's performance.

Subaru with roof top tentoverland kitten

Our personal journey into off-roading began when we stumbled upon the world of modified Subarus. It was a game changer, as we discovered a vehicle that blended capability, comfort, and accessibility to diverse environments. With our Subarus, we found ourselves empowered to explore remote and rugged terrain, unlocking a newfound appreciation for adventure and the great outdoors.

Building a support network of fellow off-roaders or joining off-roading communities can also boost your confidence. Sharing experiences, tips, and advice with like-minded enthusiasts not only enhances your knowledge but also provides reassurance and encouragement. So if you've been thinking about it, go ahead and post in that group asking for friends to help teach you. Be open and honest about where you are in the learning process, but also where you want to be. This car community is full of like-minded, enthusiastic, friendly people who would love to answer questions, build your skills, and give you the confidence you need to go and explore! Take it from me (Dorothy), I started a car club specifically for Subaru’s to trail together, and it’s one of the things I’m most proud of!

An often-overlooked aspect of off-roading confidence is mental preparation. The unpredictability of off-road terrain demands quick thinking and adaptability. Visualizing potential scenarios and planning actions beforehand can improve confidence when encountering obstacles or unexpected challenges on the trail. Additionally, physical preparation is essential, as off-road driving requires concentration, hand/eye coordination and can be strenuous.

Subaru overland camping in the canyonplotting a route

Safety is #1 when embarking on a new off-road journey. Here’s a quick list of the things we think of before we head off on an adventure:

⁃ Vehicle Inspection: Conduct an inspection of your vehicle. Check tire pressure, tread depth, brakes, fluids (oil, coolant, brake fluid), belts, hoses, and overall mechanical condition. Become familiar with your vehicle and learn what is typical or normal, so it’s easier to spot troubles while on the trails. Address any issues or maintenance needs before hitting the trail.

⁃ Safety Gear: Make sure you have the necessary safety gear on board. This includes a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, recovery gear (such as tow straps or kinetic rope, shovel, shackles, and a winch if possible), flashlight, spare tire, tire repair kit, and tools for minor repairs.

⁃ Navigation and Communication: Plan your route in advance using paper maps, GPS, or off-road navigation apps. Inform someone of your itinerary and expected return time. Carry a reliable communication device such as a two-way radio, satellite phone, or cell phone with a backup power source. Set up your emergency contacts before heading out on the road. You never know what could happen to your phone!

⁃ Know Your Limits: Be realistic about your driving skills and your vehicle's capabilities. Avoid attempting obstacles or terrain beyond your experience level until you have gained more proficiency and confidence.

⁃ Weather and Terrain Conditions: Stay informed about weather forecasts and terrain conditions along your route. Adjust your plans accordingly, especially in inclement weather or extreme conditions that could compromise safety.

⁃ Travel in Groups: Whenever possible, travel with other vehicles or in a group. This enhances safety through mutual assistance, shared resources, and quick response to emergencies.

⁃ Driver and Passenger Safety: Always wear seat belts while driving, and ensure all passengers do the same. Avoid distractions while behind the wheel, such as using mobile devices or engaging in activities that divert your attention from the road.

⁃ Respect the Environment: Practice responsible off-roading by staying on designated trails, avoiding sensitive habitats, and disposing of waste properly. Use Leave no Trace principles and preserve natural landscapes for future generations.

⁃ Emergency Preparedness: Familiarize yourself with basic emergency procedures such as how to handle vehicle breakdowns, medical emergencies, or getting stranded. Carry emergency supplies like food, water, blankets, and signaling devices.

⁃ Continuous Learning: Stay updated on off-road safety guidelines, techniques, and best practices. Consider taking off-road driving courses or joining off-roading clubs to improve your skills and knowledge. By taking these safety precautions before a new off-road journey, you can minimize risks and enjoy a safe, memorable adventure in the great outdoors.

Overland Subaru on the trailIn the iKamper Showroom

Let’s dive a little deeper in the brands we trust for our gear. When it comes to portable shelter, we trust the iKamper Skycamp Mini series. It's incredibly easy to set up and break down, making it the perfect tent for our adventures. In addition to sleeping accommodations, we rely on the iKamper Annex or Awning for shelter during rainy weather in Washington state. These versatile options provide additional coverage beyond just sleeping quarters.

A good ole’ camping chair is a must-have for those fireside chill vibes after a long day of wheeling. And when it comes to our camp kitchens, we trust the iKamper AIOKS and the iKamper Disco Series. Both feature great packability and quality craftsmanship, making meal prep a breeze on our adventures.

We also love the iKamper Packing Cubes to organize our spices and cooking supplies and their sturdy and compact Camp Cutlery Kit with stainless steel spoons, knives, forks for four and even a set of chopsticks in an organized roll!

Moving on from the campsite gear, our on-the-road confidence comes from reliable recovery boards. Brands like MaxTrax™ are great for traction, bridging and recovery, while GoTreads™ offer leveling and recovery options. We also love kinetic straps from Yank’Um, Bubba Rope®, and Deadman Off-road. I’m a Milwaukee® Tool gal, so I always carry a full socket set, wrench set, driver set, impact gun and torque wrench for all those on trail fixes. Lastly, we always carry a portable battery jumper from Wagan Tech® or Noco® to keep last night's campfire party rolling onto the trails to explore in the morning!

Ultimate Outback BuildOutback overlanding in the forest

Alongside gear preparation, honing your driving skills is paramount. Practice in various terrains and conditions to become comfortable handling your vehicle in challenging situations. Techniques such as proper throttle control, steering input, and reading the terrain ahead can make a significant difference in how confidently you navigate off-road obstacles. Off-road obstacles will come up when you’re out and it’s about how you work to conquer them.

One memorable experience that highlighted the importance of skill and adaptability was our exploration of Sand Hollow, UT. Some folks may say Subarus shouldn't go there, but we proved them wrong. We encountered a spot where the length of my vehicle was inches away from not being able to fit, and there wasn't an easy way to back out. It took multiple tries and different approach angles, but with the help of spotters, my Outback triumphed. It received its first battle scars during that fight with multiple rocks. And guess what? The next purchase was rock sliders!

As you build confidence in off-roading, gather your gear, and get out on the trails, it's vital never to overlook respecting the environment. Embrace the "Leave no Trace" and Tread Lightly® principles and encourage others to follow suit. Stay on designated trails and admire views without harming future growth. While group trails are appealing, it's crucial to recognize that large convoys can cause lasting damage to ecosystems. Start by utilizing tools like the iKamper Trash Caddy bag to collect trail litter and preserve the natural beauty for generations to come.

In essence, confidence in off-roading comes from a combination of technical knowledge, driving skills, mental preparedness, community support, and a willingness to learn and adapt. Cultivating these aspects can turn every off-road excursion into an exciting and rewarding adventure. Trust your instincts but also be open to learning from mistakes and don’t be afraid to ask for help sooner than later. Off-roading is a continuous learning journey, and each experience contributes to your growth as a confident and capable off-roader. So gear up, get out there, and enjoy your adventure!