10 Tips for Desert Off Roading

The barren landscape, the endless dunes, and the rock outcrops make the UAE deserts some of the most remarkable places to visit on the Arabian Peninsula. But the steep slopes, the remoteness and the scorching heat are not without risk. Here are 10 off road tips to consider before you hit the dunes.

  1. Be Prepared and Plan Ahead. It all comes down to preparation. Know your environment, check the weather forecast and plan for worst case scenarios. Draw out your route in advance: start, duration, finish. It is advisable to have some fall back scenarios especially when planning a long drive. So look for options on how to shorten the route in case of an emergency. Discuss your preparation with your friends and have the numbers of emergency services readily available.
  2. Check your car. Make sure your car is in a good condition, regularly serviced and that you know how and when to engage your differential locks and 4-wheel low gear. Please ensure your car is filled up with fuel and that you carry spare can of fuel with you in case of longer drives. Check that your spare tire is in good shape and that you have the equipment needed to change a tire.
  3. Never go out on your own. For even the most experienced off-road drivers it is important to remember that they never should go out alone. You need at least another vehicle to assist with recovering of a car that is stuck or if the car breaks down to get help or assist with moving passengers to a safe location. We recommend to go out with at least 3 or 4 cars.
  4. Secure Passengers and Cargo. Your car will be tested on steep ascents, descents and hit with sudden bumps in the terrain. Therefore, passengers should always wear seat belts and keep limbs inside of the car. Please keep in mind that cars can roll over! Your cargo also needs to be properly secured and stowed to avoid that passengers are injured by cargo flying through your car. In case of a heavy cargo load, make sure it is properly balanced.
  5. Communication is Key. As it is highly advisable to drive with multiple cars, it is important to be able to communicate with each other while being inside of your vehicle. Carry radios, walkie talkies or if no other option use your mobile phones. Please remember that you can lose cell coverage if you are driving in remote locations, so vhf radios are a better option. Make sure your devices are fully charged and that you carry charging equipment for longer adventures.
  6. Be visible and keep distance. If you drive in terrain with sand dunes, it is easy to lose track of the car in front of your or behind you. An off road flag is essential to be visible to the other drivers around you and avoid car collisions.
  7. Deflate and inflate your tires. To increase traction in the sand, you need to deflate your tires, best to do with tire deflators. We recommend to deflate your tires until tire pressure is between 15-18 PSI (this will depend a bit on personal preference, and weight of the vehicle). You can check your tire pressure using a pocket gauge. When leaving the off road terrain you need to inflate your tires. This can be done with an inflator or at your nearest gas station (in this case it is advisable to plan ahead with your route planning).
  8. Carry Recovery and Emergency Equipment. Getting stuck is part of the experience and half of the fun. There are many techniques and products available to assist with the recovery of a stuck vehicle. However, we feel that these off-road essentials are the only products you need to recover a vehicle that is stuck in the sand provided that you follow Tip #3. In addition, always carry a first aid kit.
  9. Bring Water and Food. Especially in the desert, you need water to survive. Please bring enough water and food for emergency cases. Water also has the added benefit of hardening sand around a stuck tire. This is only a last resort in our view and you should bring at least an extra gallon of water should you wish to make use of this recovery technique. Avoid driving mid-day during the hot summer season.
  10. Have fun, stay mindful of the risks, and respect the desert. Please enjoy the adventure and nature, but be mindful of the area, the farmers, the wildlife, etc. Mind the camels and let them pass from appropriate distance. Keep in mind that most of the accidents happen when drivers become overconfident in their abilities or at the end of a long day when concentration lapses. Take enough rest and keep in mind that mother nature will try to beat you whenever she can :-)

We hope you find it useful but appreciate that there may be a difference of opinion on what is essential. Feel free to reach out in case you have suggestions or comments, and make sure to check out our blog <<“How to drive in the desert”>> for more insight on 4x4 vehicle settings and desert driving techniques.