Everything you need to know about Off roading in UAE from Desert, Mountain, Wadi and Camping
As simple literal meaning off-roading means any terrain off the road, but it gets way too confusing as per so many people different understanding with not enough clarity. After spending 12 years in UAE off-road scene, I feel this write up will help many offroaders clear their doubts and explain a lot of intrigue details to other aspiring offroaders.
Off roading is a way of life
For a vast majority of UAE population venturing offroad over the weekend is a way of life, that you sneak away from your busy lifestyle and enjoy the adrenaline rush to forget all your worries and recharge yourself. Why and how do you forget your worries? While off road driving your brain has to process hundreds of instructions per seconds that you will eventually forget all you were thinking in the first 5 minutes. And this process continues for the whole offroad drives and keeping you super alert at all times to have the best experience every time.
Offroading is an act of driving a standard, stock or modified vehicle on any surface other than the tarmac road. It can be on loose gravel track, beach sand, desert, dunes, mountains or in wadi's (riverbeds). There are several different ways of off-roading in UAE based on your adventure appetite from leisure drives with stock (unmodified) vehicles to slightly modified vehicles to competition level with highly modified vehicles.
Off road drive
This is the most basic and first step towards an offroading. This requires your standard road 4x4 vehicle with proper 4x4 and LO gearing or even AWD vehicle is acceptable to a certain extent, but not an SUV. All you need to do is deflate your tires to 14-15 PSI to gain more traction and increase the footprint of your tire to spread the vehicle pressure on a greater surface area. At first, learn some basics of offroading in the sand in UAE. Plan your entry and exit points carefully either by following offroad books available in UAE or by existing trails from wikiloc. This level of a drive can be done on the beach, desert or any place close to the habitat territories. In the desert, it's usually restricted to either flat tracks (sabka's) or easily passable tracks on the broad dunes. Dune Bashing
This is the most common level of offroading in the UAE, where the group of offroaders get together and venture in desert dunes and explore the uncharted and uninhabited territories. This requires a proper 4x4 with minimum 8-10 inches of ground clearance and deflation of 10-15 PSI depending on the tire and vehicle load. This level of drive organizes in the desert having plenty of dunes to make your own path on virgin sand dunes. This challenge requires special skills of reading the sand and riding the 4x4 with precise control to continue moving without getting stuck. Self-recovery in the sand is the most important skill that every offroader should learn after the first few drives. If you are stuck in the sand, then listen to the instructions very carefully without getting panic. Get out of the car to analyze the situation and also to help the person who is helping you either by shoveling or by fixing the tow rope to your car in the proper recovery point (tow hook). Once you are out of the stuck, do remember to get out of the car for removing the rope and thanking the person. In dune bashing chances of getting stuck are very high and that's why most of the offroaders venture in groups to help each other with proper offroad recovery gears. You can join the like-minded offroad club freely available over Websites, Facebook, Meetups and Whatsapp groups. All you need to do is join a couple of few to find where do you fit the best, as every offroad club and groups are different and unique in their own ways. Some people do prefer private drives over the club and vice versa, check out the reasons here. Mountain Driving
This is the second most common level of offroading in the UAE, where offroaders get together to explore beautiful mountains, wadis, and gorgeous camping spots. This requires a proper 4x4 with minimum 8-10 inches of ground clearance and deflation of 22-25 PSI depending on the tire and vehicle load. This level of drive organizes in scenic mountains either accessible by gravel track or by tarmac road to a partial extent. Traversing through rocky mountains or riverbed, do require a special skill that is easier to learn with capable offroaders. Similar to dune bashing, you can join any offroad club for quickly gaining the right experience with safety. These are the Top 3 off-road mistakes in Desert & Mountain that you can learn and avoid.
Off road cars
Depending on the level of off-road adventure you seek, you need a capable off road vehicle to make you a good offroader. Not all 4x4 and SUV are made equally capable and some are better, stronger and more reliable than others. To begin your offroading journey you can take your regular road vehicle if it's equipped with 4x4 gearing and LO gear option and also have 8-10 inches of ground clearance. Once you get a hang of this new offroading hobby it's always better to invest on a separate dedicated offroad vehicle because of several reasons:
You can enjoy the best of both worlds: a comfortable vehicle for road and stronger vehicle for regular off road use An offroad vehicle will be limited to weekend bashing to prolong it's offroad usable life, as every offroad car require more frequent maintenance than the road car. If your offroad vehicle is under repair, you can still safely use your road car for daily commute. You can freely modify your offroad car by trimming bumpers, lifting the suspension, additional lights etc. You will be more comfortable in pushing the rev limiter in 20-40K dhs offroad vehicle than in 200K road car. Here is the list of best offroad 4x4 cars under 10K and 20K dhs in UAE, if you really get serious for offroading.
After every offroad drive, you need to check your vehicle before hitting the road again with these post offroad drive car care checklist to make sure if your vehicle is safe for the road again or not.
For more serious and regular dune basher, you should learn from other offroaders mistake to know what went wrong just before the accident. These discussions and feedback from seasoned offroaders will help you avoid the disaster and save your life and vehicle.
Last but not least wherever you venture, please do not throw your trash or anything as it's a house of beautiful wildlife who get killed by eating plastic, tins, glasses and even metal threw as garbage. If you spot anyone doing it, please explain this to them as many people think that desert is an abandoned area and they can throw anything there. Due to this inconsiderate approach authorities are fencing lot of conservation area and also issuing hefty fines for offroaders littering in the desert or mountains.
Feel free to ask me any question for more details or suggest me to add more valuable points for offroading in the UAE.
The most important question here is..
Which 4x4 from all the listed above is worth breaking your bank for.
When you do things for the love it, money is hardly a factor.
So all you enthusiasts and dune lovers why dont you list your fav 4x4 (only one) for which you are ready to bleed from everywhere and yet not ready to sell it for any price( if wife/gf allows i.e .) . I am sure everyone has or have had such a car with whom it was very hard to depart... and you remember every drive in that car and the pleasure it gave inspite of all its error signs and leaks.