There is little else our family looks forward to as much as our off-road trips. It has a way of satisfying everyone’s interests – enjoying the outdoors, feeling a sense of adventure, and spending some much-needed time in “throttle therapy.” When the kids are younger, the trips tend to be shorter and include a lot more stops. As they grow and even advance to riding their own machine, the trips get longer, and the packing and preparation become less demanding. Every stage is fun in its own unique way and can be even better with a little advice from some seasoned ATV-families.
At Q9 Powersports, one of our favorite things to do is equip a family with their first ATV or dirt bike. There is a lot of excitement and research that goes into purchasing a machine that will fit the needs of each individual family, and we pride ourselves on being able to accommodate a family of four for less than the cost of one new Honda or Kawasaki four-wheeler. We can help you decide which machine will be the best purchase for your needs, and today we also bring you the next step: tips for a fun, safe, off-road trip for the whole family.
Plan a Route
Everyone loves a picturesque loop trail that exposes you to lots of great sights without any repeats. However, that’s not always possible – so make a plan that includes where you want to go and prioritize what you may want to see. Sometimes we ride to a specific pond and pack our fishing gear, or include a route that we know to have a great picnic spot.
Kids like to stop, so factor in enough time for bathroom breaks, snack attacks, and spots to get out and walk around. Including destinations where everyone can stretch their legs will allow you to ride even longer and help avoid muscle aches. Try not to plan too much for one day – we find that if, in the rare situation we completed all our checkpoints for the day, there is always something extra to investigate along the way.
Bring a Map
It is of critical importance that you get a trail map from the area’s official trails commission or ATV club. The area’s ATV club is usually a group of local volunteers that oversee trail maintenance, coordinate with other local officials, and maintain accurate maps. Trails periodically close for various reasons: washouts, logging and harvesting operations, seasonal closures, etc. The local clubs know this information best and will have it posted on their website or social media page. It’s a wise idea to consult these references while planning your trip.
Most trail maps can be printed from the ATV club or trail association’s website. Keep a copy in the storage compartment of each ATV – that way, if any one person gets separated from the group, they will have a way of deciphering where they are on the map.
Get Good Rest
This may seem like an odd suggestion, but it’s a critical step in preparing for an off-road trip. Some inexperienced riders don’t realize the physical toll that riding a machine on the trails can have on the body. An hour of riding can burn around 300 calories (or more, depending on the difficulty of terrain), and you’ll want to have plenty of rest the night before to make sure you’re prepared for the extra energy demand. This is particularly important for children, who require more rest than adults even on a typical day. Sticking to a schedule in the days leading up to a long ride will ensure an enjoyable experience for all.
Pack a Bag
I’ll always remember the day we set out for an autumn trip on one ATV and one UTV, and made it down a single dirt road to the next town. My son at the time was around three years old and insisted on putting his feet in the pond where we had stopped for a break. In a split second, he was up to his chest in cold pond water on a 50ﹾF day. And I hadn’t packed an extra set of clothes. Needless to say, our trip was cut short. This is our way of reminding you: always pack a bag!
When traveling with kids, pack an extra set of clothes (especially if the weather may get cooler or warmer during the duration of your trip), snacks, drinks, a first aid kit, and a charged cell phone (in the event someone needs to call for help). Depending on the weather you may want to consider bug spray and/or sunscreen. When on a four-wheeler, this can be condensed into high-quality backpacks for each rider, or in a cooler if you have room in the UTV.
Teach Your Family to Read Trail Signs
From a young age, kids can learn to identify trail signs and map symbols. This becomes particularly important when children transition onto their own machine, and its best to start the learning process early. When your family members can both identify trail signs and read a map, you can rest assured that you are all prepared for a situation where you could otherwise be lost in the woods. Understanding the more basic trail signs – stop, yield, trail closed, etc. – will ensure safety for the whole family.
Remember to Enjoy the Ride
Even with the most well-thought-out plans, things can go awry. Stay calm and be flexible. Time on the trails can be a great bonding experience for the whole family, so don’t let proverbial “bumps in the road” distract from that.
Preparation is key to a successful trip, and once you’ve covered the basics aforementioned here, you can enjoy your off-road ride knowing that you’re prepared for whatever situations arise. With any luck, these trips will be some of the most cherished family memories, and become something that your children can both carry with them and pass down to a new generation of off-road riders.