A Guide To Gravel Travel





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  1. #1
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    Default A Guide To Gravel Travel

    I thought this thread appropriate to try promote good etiquette towards other gravel travel users over the festive season when everyone is eager to get to their holiday destinations.

    I feel like a lot of people don't understand the unwritten laws/rules on good gravel travel. People who do not travel dirt roads daily can easily make these mistakes as they do not spend enough time on them to see the consequences of bad dirt road driving on their cars. I understand that some people like to travel at 100+km/h, I sometimes do myself if the road is in good condition, at our own risk, and I have no issue with this but when they decide to do this coming past you in the opposite direction or overtaking this becomes a problem for me.

    So these are the rules I like to apply when I drive dirt roads in order to both preserve my own vehicle including other dirt road users vehicles. They are most certainly up to members interpretations and criticism.

    If I have left any out or you can think of more please add them.


    1. Passing another vehicle moving in the opposite direction.


    ​ The two vehicles in this instance should both slow down for each other, and pass as wide apart from each other as safely possible.
    Speeds below 60km/h drastically reduce stones being flung out from the tyres at the opposing vehicles. Once Passed both vehicles increase speed back to their cruise speed.

    2. Overtaking.

    ​ Once you start seeing a vehicle approaching you in your rearview mirror this is an indication they are cruising faster than you. As they get closer slow down for them to overtake so you produce less dust for them to be blinded by. Also by slowing your speed means they need less speed to overtake you saving you and your car stone damage. The car overtaking should overtake as slow as possible and as fast as necessary, they should also overtake as wide as possible of the slower vehicle and keep on this wide path long past the actual overtake to avoid flinging stones and dust in front of the slower vehicle. A lot of people often end up speeding up once they see a car in their rear view mirrors not wanting the person to overtake. This just mean they need to speed up even more to try and get passed you putting both parties in more danger than necessary.
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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    These where brought up in another thread.
    1) let your tire pressure down to suit your vehicle and tires
    2) don't drive fast on a road you don't know
    3) get the vehicle to a speed where the corrugations feel smooth and no more.
    4) use engine and gears to break if possible.
    5) your grip is less so slow down earlier when approaching corners etc
    6) there are generally villages etc off the road so cattle, goats and people crossing are frequent. A national park car managed to wipe out 16 cattle and the herder a few years back!
    7) look out for sandy patches etc ahead, 2 of the 6 roll overs where because of abrupt surface changes.
    8) the roads are generally heavily cambered so people tend to drive in the middle. Just because you have moved over don't expect the oncoming guy to do the same. Trucks almost never move over.
    9) I keep my thumbs out of the centre of the steering, hang over from dislocating one in an old Bedford.
    10) everybody else is an idiot you'll need to think for them, at least that's how I think.
    11) Switch to 4WD mode or lock your center differential. In my Pajero Sport, I just enable CDL and it makes riding much more controlled, specially during those turns.
    12) When a vehicle traveling faster than you are comes up behind you, best slow down substantially and drive over to the left to allow rapid overtaking without becoming endangered by the behavior of he in a rush.
    13) Slow down for approaching vehicles as well, to lessen the impact of any stones thrown up.
    14) Always drive within the constraints of your capability, not the confines of your ego
    15) when driving on a dirt road in 4 wheel drive with the centre diff locked, stand on the accelerator when the vehicle starts to skid to gain traction and steer where you want to go. It's instinctive to decelerate instead of accelerate. I know I have to slow down after it happens too. The wife's look at me usually confirms it.
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  5. #3
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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    Quote Originally Posted by A1ex View Post
    I thought this thread appropriate to try promote good etiquette towards other gravel travel users over the festive season when everyone is eager to get to their holiday destinations.

    I feel like a lot of people don't understand the unwritten laws/rules on good gravel travel. People who do not travel dirt roads daily can easily make these mistakes as they do not spend enough time on them to see the consequences of bad dirt road driving on their cars. I understand that some people like to travel at 100+km/h, I sometimes do myself if the road is in good condition, at our own risk, and I have no issue with this but when they decide to do this coming past you in the opposite direction or overtaking this becomes a problem for me.

    So these are the rules I like to apply when I drive dirt roads in order to both preserve my own vehicle including other dirt road users vehicles. They are most certainly up to members interpretations and criticism.

    If I have left any out or you can think of more please add them.


    1. Passing another vehicle moving in the opposite direction.


    ​ The two vehicles in this instance should both slow down for each other, and pass as wide apart from each other as safely possible.
    Speeds below 60km/h drastically reduce stones being flung out from the tyres at the opposing vehicles. Once Passed both vehicles increase speed back to their cruise speed.

    2. Overtaking.

    ​ Once you start seeing a vehicle approaching you in your rearview mirror this is an indication they are cruising faster than you. As they get closer slow down for them to overtake so you produce less dust for them to be blinded by. Also by slowing your speed means they need less speed to overtake you saving you and your car stone damage. The car overtaking should overtake as slow as possible and as fast as necessary, they should also overtake as wide as possible of the slower vehicle and keep on this wide path long past the actual overtake to avoid flinging stones and dust in front of the slower vehicle. A lot of people often end up speeding up once they see a car in their rear view mirrors not wanting the person to overtake. This just mean they need to speed up even more to try and get passed you putting both parties in more danger than necessary.
    Thanks, I agree. It would be common sense to do this out of courtesy towards others. But unfortunately the vast majority of people only think (if they think at all) about themself.
    Funny enough, often those living in rural areas and driving vehicles that look in their worst shape seem to be the most considerate drivers.
    As you say, if you notice someone overtaking you, slow down. It prevents damage. I even sometimes stop, if the wind doesn't blow the dust off the road. Saves my air filter and costs me maybe 60-90 seconds.
    The other day I overtook a family in their DC towing a popular off road caravan on the way to the coast. They were traveling at less than 100 km/h. Once I was next to them, I was traveling 120 km/h and they were keeping up. I feel nothing for idiots like that and such a case don't bother about preventing stone chips on their vehicles.
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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    On dirt roads where travelling vehicles trail plumes of dust, best drive with your headlights switched on, all the better to be seen by others.
    Stanley Weakley.
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    Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped.

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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    Great advice! I really want to emphasise the locking of the centre diff in 4x4 vehicles. Some folks think it will cause damage but it doesn't, at least not in a noticeable way. Driving with 4x4 engaged on gravel increases stability tenfold

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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    What is the correct protocol when travelling between thick bush gravel on a single spoor when another vehicle approaches?
    Barely enough space for one vehicle let alone an empty patch to give way. Who has right of way and where does that person go off to make some space?

    I ask because I was in that situation recently but I backed off since they were 2 vehicles and I was alone but had to reverse for a long time to find some space and picked up some new rear bumper corner scratches from doing so.
    Last edited by Nabs; 2020/12/23 at 01:05 PM.

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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    Quote Originally Posted by Nabs View Post
    What is the correct protocol when travelling between thick bush gravel on a single spoor when another vehicle approaches?
    Barely enough space for one vehicle let alone an empty patch to give way. Who has right of way and where does that person go off to make some space?

    I ask because I was in that situation recently but I backed off since they were 2 vehicles and I was alone but had to reverse for a long time to find some space and picked up some new rear bumper corner scratches from doing so.
    Whichever vehicle finds the quickest spot to give some space. I will normally see a car coming from a distance and start looking for a spot to pull over.

    Game viewing vehicles don't give a hoot. They just drive up to your grill and look at you to find space for them to pass. Even though they had a gap earlier on to let me pass. I then have to reverse....

    The worst however is guys in much higher 4x4's that expects a smaller sedan or platkar to make way for them. They can drive over long grass or go into the veld much easier than a platkar. I have had many instances of this in game parks. They also just keep coming and force the platkar to make space for them.
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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    Now see, that's what I figured as well.
    I had 2 defenders come towards me in my outlander. I couldn't see them from a distance because of the thick bush. Only had about 20 metres clear view ahead. They were closer to the big open entrance than I was to any place to pull over but still had to reverse about the same distance they could to get to the entrance. I tried going off 3 times only to find really soft sand and didn't wanna risk it so I found another lower spot but then had to go into the bush to make way whereas they could do the same only with much less trouble.
    Quote Originally Posted by IcePick88 View Post
    Whichever vehicle finds the quickest spot to give some space. I will normally see a car coming from a distance and start looking for a spot to pull over.

    Game viewing vehicles don't give a hoot. They just drive up to your grill and look at you to find space for them to pass. Even though they had a gap earlier on to let me pass. I then have to reverse....

    The worst however is guys in much higher 4x4's that expects a smaller sedan or platkar to make way for them. They can drive over long grass or go into the veld much easier than a platkar. I have had many instances of this in game parks. They also just keep coming and force the platkar to make space for them.
    Last edited by Nabs; 2020/12/23 at 01:25 PM.

  14. #9
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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    Quote Originally Posted by Nabs View Post
    What is the correct protocol when travelling between thick bush gravel on a single spoor when another vehicle approaches?
    Barely enough space for one vehicle let alone an empty patch to give way. Who has right of way and where does that person go off to make some space?

    I ask because I was in that situation recently but I backed off since they were 2 vehicles and I was alone but had to reverse for a long time to find some space and picked up some new rear bumper corner scratches from doing so.
    I would use common sense. If one party is towing, it would be more difficult for them to back up.
    If one party has got a vehicle more capable to get off the track, way to go.
    In essence, use common sense, be decent and if the other guy is intent on sitting it out, ask yourself how much time you have to waste.
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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    Quote Originally Posted by Nabs View Post
    Now see, that's what I figured as well.
    I had 2 defenders come towards me in my outlander. I couldn't see them from a distance because of the thick bush. Only had about 20 metres clear view ahead. They were closer to the big open entrance than I was to any place to pull over but still had to reverse about the same distance they could to get to the entrance. I tried going off 3 times only to find really soft sand and didn't wanna risk it so I found another lower spot but then had to go into the bush to make way whereas they could do the same only with much less trouble.
    I just try and pull over first. Even if the car/bakkie in front of me is 100m down the road.

    I must say, there were more times that both myself and the car in front pulled over then it was like a disco with us flashing lights at each other.
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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    Totally agree.

    Had different experiences on gravel roads, for instance where a gravel road leads to a holiday destination, the rules hardly apply. I had a rock hit my windscreen due to a defender 90 driver not slowing down and not keeping distance between the vehicles.

    Where there are gravel roads linking farms and towns, people tend to adhere to these guides. I have just experienced it again in the Overberg, where every vehicle I encountered, slowed down and moved slightly to the outside of the road.

    I won't even call it guides, just common sense.
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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    Quote Originally Posted by Schambies View Post
    Great advice! I really want to emphasise the locking of the centre diff in 4x4 vehicles. Some folks think it will cause damage but it doesn't, at least not in a noticeable way. Driving with 4x4 engaged on gravel increases stability tenfold
    Locking of center differential is definitely not applicable to all 4x4 vehicles and in doing so you can actually increase your risk.

    I drive a Land Cruiser 4.2 TD VX (Sahara). When I lock my CD, the VSC (Vehicle Stability Control) is overridden and cancelled. On gravel, I trust the VSC system in a loss of control situation more than I do a locked center diff.

    I do agree that if this is not the case, then lock your CD on gravel.

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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    Baie goeie raad van almal nog n punt don't drink and drive rem egallig

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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    A few points to complement those already offered:

    As soon as one leaves a sealed surface, apart from appropriately altering tyre pressures, slip the vehicle into 4WD if the vehicle is a part-time 4WD. Simply put, having drive going to all four tyres will result in much better overall handling than being in 2WD! Moral of the story: never wait until your vehicle is struggling with traction before going into 4WD. A great example is a hard off-road surface covered with a layer of rough gravel over it! On the flat everything seems great until one brakes! On a steep uphill section an otherwise very capable vehicle still in 2WD will struggle to climb that hill while the same vehicle in 4WD will often climb that hill with no difficulty!

    When travelling in the same direction as other traffic on gravel/sand drop back out of the dust cloud from the vehicle in front... Not only is this much safer your air filter will love you for it!

    If a large vehicle like a truck is coming towards you STOP and get as far OFF the road as far as is practical. DO NOT continue until the dust cloud has completely cleared. Doing this limits the damage from any rocks and stones thrown up by the larger vehicle. In addition, by waiting for the dust to clear there is no risk of collision with another oncoming vehicle in the dust cloud... And you air filter will love you!


    If a comparable or even smaller vehicle than yours passes you and you cannot see properly for the dust cloud get off the road and wait for it to clear... If the surface and the conditions mean that a lot of dust will be generated and hang over the road with every vehicle that passes you do not wait for the vehicle to pass before getting off the road to wait for the dust to clear.

    On corners loose rocks and gravel will be thrown to the outside of the corner. All things being equal avoid the outside of the curve as sudden loss of traction can occur with accompanying loss of control.

    On gravel the best driving line is the best driving line! It is not the left-hand side of the road! If there is an oncoming vehicle move over as appropriate to the left and slow down as much as is needed.

    The best driving line is often where everyone else has driven... It is often (but not always) the smoothest and the least likely to have sharp stones and rocks that tend to cause punctures or damage rims.

    Conditions can change dramatically on gravel/sand roads! Excellent driving conditions over the last 50-100 km can change to dangerous conditions just around the next bend... It means that no one can afford to have their concentration waver for a second while driving... Even having driven a particular route the previous day is no guarantee of what the route will be like today! Frequent breaks with light food and something to drink for rehydration can help to maintain concentration over long days of driving.

    With respect to driving lines there is no "set-and-forget" line! Constant vigilance is required to continually make small (and sometimes large) adjustments to the driving line. This is often the key to avoid tyre damage and punctures and often damage to other parts of the vehicle from tree branches or rocky outcrops...

    Dappled shade over the road is an EXCELLENT camouflage for all sorts of hazards on a gravel or sand road like holes, ruts, rocks (even boulders), tree stumps and branches, and any other manner of hazardous items. Always travel slow enough to be able to slow to a stop if required within the range of your visual ability to recognize those camouflaged hazards and the vehicles ability to stop!

    As driving conditions change so might the need arise to change tyre pressures. Resist the urge to hack on with current inappropriate tyre pressures.

    A hard day's driving on gravel or sand means that your vehicle needs a check over before driving again the next day. It is a PITA to do but cannot be neglected. With respect to previous points always check your air filter (more than once a day if driving in very dusty conditions) and remove the air filter and blow out the dust using your air compressor! Check out a Youtube video on the topic if you are unsure of how to purge your air filter of dust. Cleaning your air filter like this will definitely help the engine and your fuel consumption.

    Weight distribution. If all the weight on a vehicle is over and especially behind the rear axle then traction and grip for the front tyres is much reduced. On sealed roads the issue may not be particularly evident! However driving on unsealed surfaces may quickly unmask the problem especially when cornering and/or simultaneously braking. The understeering that is so characteristic of sandy or gravelly surfaces will be magnified potentially beyond the ability to control the vehicle. Therefore one needs to be especially attentive to weight distribution when driving offroad! Apart from trying to centre the load between the axles as much as possible making sure that the weight is as low as possible is also key.

    Tyre pressure monitoring, for me anyway, is absolutely non-negotiable! Should the worst happen and a tyre is punctured the quicker one stops the more likely it is that the tyre can be repaired. Without tyre pressure monitoring a puncture sustained on a challenging, bumpy and uneven driving surface will not be noticed until that tyre is well and truly wrecked.

    There is probably a lot more but that is all I can think of for now...
    Last edited by Tony Jay; 2020/12/23 at 02:03 PM.

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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    Quote Originally Posted by Nabs View Post
    What is the correct protocol when travelling between thick bush gravel on a single spoor when another vehicle approaches? .........
    As I have mentioned in the past, if it so happens that a vehicle pulls off for you, pass it but do not proceed further until you are sure it is not stuck and has safety re-entered the track.
    Stanley Weakley.
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    http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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  26. #16
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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    I don't think I will try it in SA, but in Australia, drivers move to the "down wind" side of the road when another approaches, from the front or rear.

    This prevents the other vehicle from having to drive through your dust.

    Brilliant!
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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    Something that has not been mentioned; - When approaching a blind rise, slow down and pull as far left as possible even if it's not the best line of travel. It's frightening to see people not bother about what could be on the other side. It could be an animal, stopped vehicle, person or another vehicle coming your way at speed. Once on top, scan the area you're going to travel to for any dust indicating the next vehicle you might meet.

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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    Quote Originally Posted by Olyfboer View Post
    Something that has not been mentioned; - When approaching a blind rise, slow down and pull as far left as possible even if it's not the best line of travel. It's frightening to see people not bother about what could be on the other side. It could be an animal, stopped vehicle, person or another vehicle coming your way at speed. Once on top, scan the area you're going to travel to for any dust indicating the next vehicle you might meet.
    Very true.

    Also letting down your tyres to good gravel pressures as aforementioned, not only gives the vehicle a better ride, better grip, takes more impact on your tyres instead of your balljoints, cab mounts and suspension and less chance of getting punctures it also has less affect on the dirt surface itself, corrugations are often created from tyres that are still at on-road pressures.
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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    I am afraid I disagree with one point. The further you are from the vehicle passing you, the more space there is for the rock thrown up by your (or his) wheel, to gain altitude and possibly hit a windscreen. Always pass other vehicles as close as possible on dirt roads. If you do throw a rock then, it will hit the other vehicle either on the underbody, or low down on the body!

    C
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    Default Re: A Guide To Gravel Travel

    Quote Originally Posted by C Africa View Post
    I am afraid I disagree with one point. The further you are from the vehicle passing you, the more space there is for the rock thrown up by your (or his) wheel, to gain altitude and possibly hit a windscreen. Always pass other vehicles as close as possible on dirt roads. If you do throw a rock then, it will hit the other vehicle either on the underbody, or low down on the body!

    C
    Would you deem it safe to pass at speed on a gravel road less than a meter apart?
    Also, at close passing distance the vehicles' bodywork will pick up chips and possibly dents from larger rocks that otherwise won't make it far.
    Your engine will suck in even more concentrated dust.

    I'd rather slow down, if a stone hits the windscreen, it won't cause damage.
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