Q&A: Going off-road in the summer
The summer in the UAE is a time when most off-roaders lock away their 4x4s in the garage.
However, some people are still intrepid enough to venture out.
So, for those thinking of going off-road over the next few month, Driven quizzed the team at 'UAE Off-road Explorer' about the dos and don'ts of going in country during the hot weather.
What are the main problems about going off-road during the summer?
It is very hot so you are not going to enjoy it as much. The problem is that you are going to be spending most of your time in the car, as you won’t be able to get out there and do something; you’re only going to be driving from A to B.
So if you are really bored and want to go and see the countryside, then you are just going to have to drive and spend most of your time in the car. The drive will be enjoyable assuming you have good AC in your car. It is only unpleasant when you get stuck, and that usually applies if you are driving on the sand.
Therefore you should avoid driving on sand during the summer months. It really is not recommended, because if you do get stuck, you do not want to be stepping in the scorching hot sand unless you are wearing boots and socks, to protect you feet from the soft boiling sand – and you won’t be wearing that in the summer!
Focus on driving into the mountains, and aim to get high – the good thing is that when you drive away from the coast or into the mountains, the humidity is less.
Where are the best places to go in the summer?
It is recommended to go higher up – in the mountains – therefore towards the top of Musandam, Jebel Shams or Jebel Akhdar.
The evening tends to be very pleasant, because you lose 4-5 degrees per 1,000m elevation change. For example, if it is 33°C in Dubai in the evening, it would be a cool 23°C around 2,000m up in the mountains. During the day it is still boiling hot, but in the evening, it is suitable for camping.
What should drivers do to their vehicles before setting off in the summer?
Assuming you have taken the normal precautions you would do the rest of the year (checking tyres, making sure your vehicle has enough oil and petrol…etc), then you really just need to check your engine coolant.
Most cars function perfectly fine in the heat, so there’s nothing out of the ordinary that you need to do during the summer months.
What other precautions should they take?
The usual precautions apply. Travel with someone else, take a phone and charger, spare tyres, and take a lot of extra liquid just in case you unfortunately breakdown.
If you break down, it is going to be unpleasant wherever you are, but if you are off-roading in the UAE and Oman, help is usually easily available as there is good mobile coverage everywhere.
Is there anything extra they should take with them?
Again, it is just ensuring you have taken the normal precautions you would take any season.
Get your vehicle checked, letting your friends know where you are if you are exploring somewhere for the very first time… The only difference in the summer is that you should take some more water for the worst case scenario, and avoid desert driving!
Could drivers go off-road first thing in the morning or at the end of the day to beat the heat?
It really depends on your personal preference – you could go around 4am-5am or head out in the late afternoon. You’re going to be remaining in the car anyway.
What is your top piece of advice to anyone thinking of going off-road this summer?
Just do it! The most important thing to remember is to avoid the sand, and go high; keep to the mountains. Just get out there and enjoy.
Everybody tends to be pleasantly surprised as they discover that in the summer it is not as bad as it seems. It's hot, but drier, less humid in the mountains and wadi plains. As long as you avoid the sand. So ditch the sand dunes and go for gravel/rocky terrains, wadis, mountains…etc.
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