4WDrive - - Contents - Words by Tom Sev­erin, photos by Budd Stan­ley and Cara Duffield

What makes the per­fect 4WD trip?

Close your eyes and think about that for a mo­ment. Pic­ture the ideal of­froad ad­ven­ture. What does it look like?

I got to think­ing about this the other day. I had just re­turned from a cou­ple days off-road. I was sit­ting in my favourite chair, with my feet up and my left hand oc­cu­pied with some of na­ture’s golden nec­tar. While re­lax­ing (mean­ing, the tequila was kick­ing in), I had the chance to re­flect. It dawned on me that, yeah, this is a pretty neat hobby. Four wheel­ing al­lows us to es­cape the grind of ur­ban life for a few hours and be­come im­mersed in Mother Na­ture. Just can’t beat it.

Over 40-plus years, I’ve en­joyed some pretty good times on the trails. As I sipped away, I be­gan to dwell more se­ri­ously — good tequila does that to you — on what con­sti­tutes a suc­cess­ful 4WD ex­cur­sion. A num­ber of im­por­tant com­po­nents came to mind.

Good com­pan­ions:

Those who show up on time, stocked up on gas, wood and all the ap­pro­pri­ate gear so you can leave be­fore traf­fic and stop at a fa­mil­iar donut shop. The guy with the new truck who says, “I wanna get it dirty and dented.” (That’s my kind of 4-wheeler.) Good com­pan­ions bring im­por­tant skills, too. They can fix ve­hi­cles, cook great meals, know first aid, and can spin a yarn like the best of them. Yep, a good story teller is al­ways in de­mand. You know, it can get a lit­tle bor­ing sit­ting around the camp fire if no one has any good sto­ries or jokes to tell. Do you re­ally want to make an im­pres­sion? Of­fer to cook for the gang. You’ll be every­one’s buddy. Are you any good at donuts and Dutch oven peach cob­bler? Just ic­ing on the cake, as we say.

Per­fect weather:

We marvel at the strik­ing sun­rises and sun­sets. Ev­ery day is dry and sunny, mid-20s. No wind, rain, snow, sleet or hail to deal with. Nights are per­fect for camp­fires (calm breezes) and sleep­ing — high teens or so. Some­how you man­aged to pitch your tent so sun hits it with the first ray to dry it and wake you up nice and warm. Some­one has al­ready made a pot of cof­fee and of­fers you a cup as soon as you get up.


The per­fect trail pro­vides a cer­tain amount of 4WD chal­lenge but is still doable. But there is that an­tic­i­pa­tion of the un­known chal­lenges ahead. It’s not too far away — we don’t want to waste valu­able time get­ting there — and of­fers great scenery, his­toric fea­tures (old mines and ghost towns are favourites) and lots of fresh air. Driv­ing is part of the fun, but we also like to ex­plore and learn while off road. At the end of the trail there’s the per­fect camp­site with an epic view. See

- Per­fect Base Camp. You spot some­one through a dif­fi­cult ob­sta­cle and they don’t get stuck. No story to tell here. You get to use your tools or that new winch to res­cue

some­one (not in your group) – hero! And no bro­ken parts. You see a new ac­ces­sory on a buddy’s ve­hi­cle that will make your life bet­ter – maybe com­plete! You must have it!

Great camp fire:

The smoke goes straight up, not into your face. You en­joy those danc­ing flames with­out your cloth­ing smelling like a fur­nace. Every­one brought wood, so we don’t run out. The wood is cured prop­erly, too. None of that just-cut crud that hisses and foams with­out throw­ing any heat. Nope. Real campers like their fires clean and mean. The tem­per­a­ture is just right, though: hot enough to en­joy, but you can sit close by. And to make it more per­fect the camp­fire ring is pre-built and some­one left wood.

Story telling:

The heart and soul of ev­ery great camp­fire. Lies, jokes, good­na­tured rib­bing, crazy sto­ries — they’re what make the evening spe­cial. You’re sit­ting back and re­lax­ing af­ter a hard day of four wheel­ing and your buddy Jim opens up about the time when…well, like the fish story that gets more out­landish with each telling. The big­ger the lie, the bet­ter. Though we’ve heard ‘em all be­fore — about the lost dog, Larry’s rock or the Ru­bi­con trip — we pa­tiently lis­ten to these sto­ries once more. And when some­one tosses out a bad joke (you hear the one about fly­ing geese?) every­one chuck­les.


Af­ter a long and dusty day, there’s noth­ing like tequila to quench your thirst or clear your throat. Heck, that’s why it was in­vented. But there’s a proper tech­nique to con­sum­ing this fine liquor. Be­cause we four wheel­ers are a cul­tured lot, we sip our tequila. None of this chug­ging stuff. We’re not col­lege kids on spring break — we’re so­phis­ti­cated. Thank­fully, most of the tequila is pretty good stuff. If you want to make a mar­garita, that’s fine. But, boy, it’s tough to beat a shot of tequila at the end of the day. Es­pe­cially while sit­ting around that per­fect camp­fire.

You don’t want the trip to end, but con­sole your­self with the thought of that great burger place on the way home.

Ev­ery four-wheeler has his or her idea of what makes a per­fect 4WD trip. These are my top el­e­ments. Of course, not ev­ery trip is per­fect. But we en­joy our­selves none­the­less. What’s im­por­tant is that we get out on the trails, and fre­quently. As I like to say, a day on the trails beats a day at work any day. Wouldn’t you agree? Tom Sev­erin, 4x4 Coach, teaches 4WD own­ers how to con­fi­dently and safely use their ve­hi­cles to the fullest ex­tent in dif­fi­cult ter­rain and ad­verse driv­ing con­di­tions. Visit www.4x4­train­ to de­velop or im­prove your driv­ing skill.

Trail runs are great for catch­ing up with old friends and meet­ing new ones.

Great weather means just the right tem­per­a­ture, and maybe a lit­tle over­cast to keep the dust down.

A per­fect trail is one you know you can tra­verse, even if the odd ob­sta­cle pops up

Our the­ory – the hot­ter the fire, the more ver­ti­cal the smoke will rise.

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