Choosing the Right Trail for Off Road Camping
So, you’ve got a trailer, an open weekend, and an itch to get outside. Now what?
One of the first things to consider when planning an off road camping trip is your schedule. If you’re planning to head out on a Friday after work and come home on Sunday afternoon, picking a marathon trail that’s six hours away from home could turn your camping trip into a driving trip. Choosing closer trails means that you will spend less time driving to a trail and will have more time to camp, hike, and explore.
This of course doesn’t mean that you should only choose local trails, just that you should be aware of any time constraints when planning out your trip and picking trails. Factor the time it will take you to get to the trailhead and back into your itinerary. If you have a week, then a day-long drive to a trail (or set of trails) still leaves five days to camp and explore.
Time-specific characteristics of a trail should also be considered in your plans. There are many factors at play here. Some of these routes are loops that take you back to where you started, some are one-way paths which require you to follow the same route in reverse to get back to where you started, and others will deposit you at a highway or the trailhead for a different trail. Based on the weather, terrain, or difficulty of the trail, the time to complete it can vary wildly. Just as driving five miles through residential roads means something different than driving five miles on an open highway, five miles on an easy trail will play out differently than five miles on a highly technical trail. Some of the most difficult routes require an hour to traverse each mile of their length. Keep in mind that your gas mileage will be roughly half of what it is on paved roads when you’re off roading, so pack extra gas if you will need it. The map on VORSHEER’s website includes an expected time to complete for each trail, reflective of a one-way trip of the trail.
Aside from requiring more time, difficult trails require more skill and often require vehicle modifications to even be possible. Be realistic about the capabilities of your vehicle, as well as your own capabilities. A bruised ego will recover with a lot less time and money than a severely damaged undercarriage or a flipped vehicle. Most trail guides include a difficulty scale for this purpose. VORSHEER’s map uses a 1-5 rating, with 1 representing a paved, semi-paved, or dirt road navigable by virtually any kind of vehicle and any kind of driver, while 5 represents extreme trails that require body modifications, tools, and that are best done with more than one vehicle. More detail on this rating system can be found with the map. Just remember, off road camping is meant to be a fun escape, so if you get your thrills by navigating a narrow cliffside path, then find a narrow cliffside path! (And if you’re terrified of heights, stay away from said cliffside paths!)
Another important consideration is camping availability. If you’re planning a trek and hope to be able to stop along the trail (whether at a dedicated campground or on the side of the trail), it will be important to check the availability and legality of camping both in the area and on the trail you are considering. Some regions and trails are open enough to offer plenty of space to set up camp off to the side of the path (although many places restrict how far off the trail one is allowed to set up camp). Some trails are in tighter areas and may only have a few spots along the way where camping would even be possible without blocking the trails. A number of trails (notably those in southeast Utah) have laws strictly regulating camping, such as prohibiting fires or requiring that all campers pack out their solid waste. Other trails don’t allow for any camping at all, whether due to the nature of the trail or legal restrictions on the area. Vorsheer’s map has tagged each trail with a camping tag of “Yes”, “Limited”, or “No” to reflect these conditions. Always be sure to check for any local regulations that may be in place. The United States Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Land Management are great resources to use in figuring out exactly what is and isn’t allowed for visitors in the area.
In fact, using a second or third (or more!) source is an excellent practice. No one resource has all the information on any trail or area, but through cross-referencing, you should be able to get a clear idea of what exactly to expect on the trail in terms of scenery, obstacles, and general conditions. And when you come back, be sure to share your experience with an online group or site to help ease someone else’s future research!
Before leaving, check the weather, and be prepared in case the weather report is wrong! When researching trails, check to see if they may become impassable in inclement weather. For example, some dusty trails become muddy vehicle traps when it rains enough, and other trails with creek or river crossings may see rising waters which make these spots impassable for virtually all vehicles. In some regions, the Bureau of Land Management will close certain trails seasonally. Familiarize yourself with such restrictions or regulations before heading out.
Always have a Plan B (and Plan C and D, etc.) Off road camping is an adventure, and what is an adventure without surprises and a dash of the unknown? You never know what each day will bring while overlanding, whether it be a sudden downpour, high winds, trail closings, crowds, or vehicle trouble. Prior preparation will greatly mitigate the disappointment and frustration that come from having your plans ruined by outside factors and needing to adjust with limited information.
Overlanding provides a unique opportunity to experience the beauty of the nature around us. Maximize your enjoyment by bringing the best off road camper you can find. VORSHEER’s camper trailers are unparalleled in quality and function. Premium materials and expert craftsmanship ensure that your trailer will meet the demands of even the most rugged roads, and the full customizability of VORSHEER’s off road campers meets the demands of even the most discerning users. Learn more about our trailers today, and give us a call or an email to explore customization and purchase options.