The Best Precautions for Off-Roading in Arizona

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It gives us no joy to report it, but it’s true—the days are getting shorter, the sun is rising later, and for most of us, the nights are starting to carry a faint briskness to the air. That means that it’s time for us to remember something else: our escape options. Sometimes, you just want to get in your Jeep and go.

When it comes to warm-weather oases from fall, winter, and spring, Arizona stands out as a getaway for golfers, hikers, and off-roaders alike. While Arizona seems like paradise for people who love their freedoms, there are some rules when it comes to off-roading here, and you’d be wise to follow them—the written ones and the unwritten ones. Before you head west, take heed of these best precautions for off-roading in Arizona.

Come Equipped With Sand Tires

If you’re conquering the best off-road trails here in the desert, you’re probably dealing with a lot of very sandy terrain. While off-road tires come in many varieties, including popular all-terrain tires, being an off-roader in sand is a lot like being a clay-court player in tennis: the surface makes you a specialist. You should have tires intended for sand-based off-roading before you take to the trails, and as you leave the pavement and head for the wide-open space, be sure to air down your tires to give yourself more useful surface area and better traction.

Stay Hydrated

We’re not just talking about packing a water bottle. You may want to give your entire Jeep one big water bottle. Many long-haul overlanders attach an external reserve tank for their gasoline, and you can do the same for water. If you extend your off-roading into camping at one of our national parks in southern Arizona, this could prove invaluable. Even though the 110-degree days should be in the rearview mirror, Arizona can still get hot all year.

Watch Out for Those Cacti—and More

Have you heard of the jumping cactus? It’s a species of cholla plant that readily sheds its stems. It’s an extra mean, desert-ready iteration of those “passenger” burrs back home. As you step out of your Jeep, take care not to brush up against any of these eager plants. The same goes for rattlesnakes, those other infamous desert denizens. Step out of the Jeep to take in the scenery, but stay out of their way.

Follow the Rules

One of the best precautions for off-roading in Arizona is simply to observe the letter of the law. Maricopa County’s notorious Tent City may be a thing of the past, but out-of-staters can still run afoul of the law by not having a proper OHV sticker and all necessary equipment. You don’t want to successfully avoid those jumping cacti and snakes only to have an unfortunate run-in with the law.

Written by Kevin O'Neill

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