Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Top Tips for Wheeling in the Snow

There is no reason why your wheeling needs to stop just because the summer months are gone and Old Man Winter is blowing. Snow wheeling is a great way to fight cabin fever, and can offer a lot of fun for the well prepared. 

Recovery Gear- Much of the recovery gear that you need for snow is the same as other terrain.  Tow hooks, snatch straps, and winches are all important when traversing deep snow.  A snow shovel is an important addition though, and they are relatively inexpensive.  A shovel can be used to dig out tires, axles, and frames when they are pushing snow and you are not going anywhere. 

Read The Snow- One of the most important techniques in snow wheeling is being able to “read” the snow.  Soft, wet snow in the sun is quite different than hard, cold snow that is found on north facing slopes and in the shadows of trees.  Understanding and anticipating these different consistencies is important.  Wet, heavy snow is often the easiest to get on top of, while dry snow can cause fits. 

Don’t Spin- When you feel resistance in the snow, your natural reaction may be to try and power forward.  Often times this just results in digging holes and if you spin too much your tires can melt the top layer of snow.  When this water re-freezes, it turns into ice and can literally halt you in your tracks.  Instead, ease off the throttle.  If necessary, back up about a foot before trying to continue forward.  Try different lines to the right or left of where you got stuck in order to find a way around the problem spot.

Travel Light- In order to stay on top of the snow, it is best to keep your vehicle as light as possible.  This can often be a delicate balance.  Do you keep the hard top on your Jeep to stay warm and dry, or leave it at home to save a few hundred pounds?  Plan around the weather, and take everything you might need but try to leave everything else behind.  If you are traveling in a group, does each vehicle need a complete tool kit and a Hi-Lift jack when one will do for the entire group? 

Dress Appropriately- These tips are intended to be oriented towards your vehicle, but if you are cold and wet even the best buggy in the world won’t put a smile on your face.  Staying dry is paramount to staying warm, particularly as the day progresses into night.  During the winter daylight hours are short.  Dress in layers in order to easily shed or retain heat. Also focus on synthetic materials, such as inner layers that wick away moisture from your body and outer layers that repel water and wind.  “Cotton kills” is the mantra of mountaineers.  Sturdy, warm footwear is essential as well.  Goggles are another useful item if you are in an open air vehicle, particularly if it is windy.    

Be Prepared- Winter wheeling, and snow wheeling in particular, require extra precautions.  When wheeling in the snow it is advisable to bring along a sleeping bag, extra water, and food such as energy bars.  Leave the alcohol at home since it actually lowers your body temperature.  Even within the shelter of your vehicle, unplanned nights in the snow can be deadly for the unprepared.  Let someone know where you are going and when they should expect your return, so if your trip does not go as planned help will have a head start.  Also always travel in groups of vehicles for safety as getting stuck in the snow is not an uncommon occurrence.

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