Going in your 4x4 to a Sahara safari is an easy and very safe experience if one follows rules set for risks that many before you have learnt the hard way. Although some risks are extremely rare, but better safe than sorry. The rules set here are tested and are all based on experience and will help you stay enjoying and safe (much safer than on the roads).
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The first and most important rule in our recreational 4x4ing is that solo 4x4ing is forbidden! Only a Caravan of 4x4s is allowed of two or more 4x4s with one highly experienced Leader.
Other related articles
4x4s Convoy (or sometimes Train or Caravan - Arabic: قُول / قافلة/كارافان) Order and Rules
Other related articles are:
This article --as is the case with all www.SaharaSafaris.org articles-- is editable and is open for the Community’s continuous additions and updates. Therefore, it will remain always an unfinished project subject to Community’s new findings. If you’re not willing to contribute, you still can point out parts you think needs to be added (be positive and mention a structure and hints on how to write it!)
Important Note: Leaders instructions, if different from any part here, will prevail. It is recommended to join 4x4ing Leaders who are following some or all of the rules here.
Formation is very important for the safety and enjoyment of all the safari’s 4x4ers. The Caravan is made up of 3 main parts:
All 4x4ers (including Leader and Collector) have to honor the following in order of importance:
[Photo of a Safe Parking over sand with other cars still moving or Safe Parking too]
Used mainly when a Caravan is needed to halt for a reason or another on a difficult terrain (usually soft sands).
The technique is manage to stop the car on a slope in a nose-down position. This helps the driver starts the motion of the 4x4 again and gaining momentum on this difficult terrain.
If the sands are very flat in the immediate neighborhood of the place of stopping you may travel a bit further on the terrain (but stayseen by others) to find a Safe Parking spot.
Safe Parking could be maintained on any solid rock surface of any slope which 4x4s find traction easily to start motion again. Still you may like to watch on marble terrains from stopping over a sharplydented edge.
On crossing slopes never stop on the middle of the slope (unlessforced of course). You may do that to recover of other 4x4s only and under supervision of the Leader. If you do, always stop with your longer axis aligned with the up-down direction of the slope (looking straight down).
On a slope of any kind, never trust handbrakes to hold the car still! They do disengage suddenly sometimes. A secure parking must be aided by shifting to first (when engine is off) in manual transmission or place the automatic shift at P. In all cases and if keeping it overnight at this position, you should secure it below all 4 wheels by supporting large rocks. In all cases never allow anything important to stay underneath it (camp, people resting, etc.) or it might hurt them on its way down if it gotten loose. Take this Warning seriously in all kinds of vehicles.
[photo: wheels throwing sands behind them]
Traction is the grip of a tire over the ground or the lack of slippagebetween a body and the surface on which it moves. Understanding how tomaintain traction or maximize it requires plenty of skills and varies with types of engines, 4x4s and tires features.
[photo: tracks on the ground with close matching of followers]
When driving on the typically difficult terrain and maintaining your distance from 4x4 ahead of you, it’s usually the case that Leader crossing points won’t be seen except through her/his trails.
Leader should indicate at the orientation (or at every stage of the 4x4ing) how far to side-deviate from the tracks (Arabic: جُرَّة). In most situations sticking to the track is obligatory (usually allowing slight deviation so that to avoid spoilt sand by previous wheel tracks).
In situations with driving along sides of slopes, 4x4ers should not go ‘higher’ than the tracks of the Leading 4x4s so that not to expose themselves to extreme side sloping situations that the Leader has decided to avoid and which appear nearer to the top.
Driving on the longitudinal dune’s sides is possible when it’s not a very steep and soft slipface. Driving should be taken with care and on the sign of too much inclination, 4x4er should steer the car down the slope with no sudden jerks. It’s usually the case that by steering towards the bottom that the 4x4 regains balance and 4x4er can stop descending and starts climbing gradually up to where the other 4x4s are on the dunes side.
The Leader takes risk of opening way if 4x4 finds the Leader stuck they need to immediately find a Safe Parking spot. If the bottom of the dune is desert-pavement (gravelly) or rocky, it may be safer to descend off the slope.
Some top-loading cars with elevated CG may not be able to drive onsome degrees of inclination and Leader should take notice of 4x4ers whodescended off the slope.
Using your 4x4 brakes while driving on sand at speed is advised not to be a strong one: a too strong one may lead to total loss of traction.
When coming to a complete stop on sand, try to release brakes just before it reaches total stop. This will allow the tire to stand on flat sands. If the 4x4 comes to a complete stop with strong brakes, it develops a large front in front of the wheels making the restarting of 4x4 motions almost impossible without removing such fronts by shovel or hands, or even retreating which is usually very difficult if the 4x4 stops with a nose-down position.
4x4s tires on sand can benefit from additional traction by deflating the tires from the typical on-roads 30 PSI. Sometimes and in some situations, down to 8 PSI is useful. But in average, 20 seems to be good for most situations. Please note that on sharp-edged rocks, it's better to have it inflated to above 30 PSI (40 PSI is not unusual) which protects the tires from puncturing. For on-road safety, tires have to be inflated back to 30 PSI before getting on road on the way back home. If a 4x4 had to stay deflated on-road, speed should be kept very low or suffer possible problems with car-handling.
Logic and common sense is needed here. You will need to assess the ground around the stuck car. Look for slopes, inclinations, angles, harder sands. Unless the car is stuck in too deep (which is usually the mistake of the driver giving it more fuel while trying to recover the 4x4 out of the situation), go into the first and easiest choice.....put on the 4L gear to get the max. torque, slowly press the gas pedal. If it gets out, point your nose towards a slope or towards stronger sand. Make sure not to further dig your car by pressing too much on the gas pedal. You can also move slightly the steering right and left to gain more traction, in case required. You can always get the help of a push from your fellow conveyers.
If this didn’t work out. Get out of the car; remove the sand in front of your wheels in case you decided to move forward or behind your wheels in case you decided to move backwards. You can start off by moving the sand with your hands to the use of shovels as required. Make sure to have an adequate area of sand around your wheels removed. Also make sure to remove sands away from your differentials so that to reduce sticking friction. For cars with low ground clearance bumpers or fiber "protector-look-alikes", try to remove sands away from them so that they do not get broken or detached whilst recovery. Put the sand mats (in the direction you are heading too) + 4L with sensible gas pedal and a push will do in many cases. In more severe situations, you may need to deflate your tires.
If still this didn't work out too, this will mean that your 4x4 is really stuck!! You will need another 4x4 to pull you out either using its own engine's torque (tied to a strap of steel wire) or by a winch. In all cases, NO ONE SHOULD STAY WITHIN THE CIRCUMFERANCE OF THE WIRE/STRAP. CONVOYERS SHOULD STAY AS FAR AS POSSIBLE AWAY FROM THE AREA AND TRY TO PROTECT THEMSELVES BY "HIDING BEHIND THEIR 4X4s, so that if the wire/strap is broken, it does not fly into any of them. Both drivers should synchronize the recovery together, by giving their engines the required torque towards the slope or the harder sand area.
There are more tactical situations which would need some more common sense and knowledge of your 4x4..... being stuck at the peak of a step "selemah" dune with your 4 wheels not having any or low traction, for example. The only way here is with the help of another 4x4 or its winch. Make sure to stop your engine so that to put your gearbox in P position (if automatic) or give it the first gear (if manual), put on your parking brakes to the maximum and disengage your 4H. Also take ultimate caution when hooking or D-ringing the strap to your 4x4, since you will be underneath your vehicle doing that. When being pulled down (put on your reverse gear and have your 4x4 on 4L for more control), make sure to be very careful with the gas pedal so that not to gain a lot of momentum down the dune and could ultimately hit your rescuer.
Driving in the desert requires a good understanding of landformsforms and names. For communication it’s important to know the landmarksnames (such as Seif, Sand-sea, Qara, etc.) for navigation and gooddealing with obstacles. By recognizing a landform the 4x4er is able torealize the rest of the landfrom that she/he cannot see from theirapproach view.
Science of landforms is known as geo-morphology (geo=earth, and morphology=shape).
Slopes must be approached perpendicular to the axis of the slope.The risk being tipping over, by climbing this way on a steep slope, a4x4 is placed so that its long axis is towards the direction ofturnover and therefore safe. By approaching the slope in other angles,the smaller axis of the car (width) is exposed and may cause the car tooverturn on its side.
In practice many 4x4s cannot ascend on the first try and may have toslightly increase the speed and have another try. If you have to retreat, descending must be done withoutturning: 4x4er shift rear.
This is when the fun begins.
You are going steady on your gas pedal, your 4x4 is running happily in its natural habitat and all over a sudden your engine starts roaring as an angry lion, your car slows down, you keep on pushing down on your pedal, the lion keeps on roaring and it comes down to a full rest; this is when you know that you are stuck.
Well it is always good to know what to do when you get sand-stuck (Arabic: غرزت) or another vehicle is stuck in soft sands.
a-step out of your car and assess the situation of your car wheels;you may be able to get out by simply removing some sand that surrounds your stuck tires and get a pushed by others.
b- Decide if you will move forward or backward
c- In hard situations you may need to put your gear on 4 wheel low; this is where your engine provide the highest torque needed to get your car out. REMEMBER you need to maintain a slow and steady speed so as not to burry the car in the sand and make it harder.
d- if you can't get good traction after applying all the above, you might considering 3 things: 1- use sand mattes (metal sheets that have some holes designed to provide traction to your car tires) put them under the car tires in the direction you are headed to (here you need help from your passengers or other drivers to put them for you). 2- flatten your tires to get more traction. 3- get pulled by another car using a snatch strap.
In announcement, the Leader/Organizer must make sure that all other 4x4ers are aware of the purpose and the schedule of the Safari. For example, Photography Safaris gives additional time to stops and may need a very flexible schedule. Other purposes are camping, cross-country, exploratory (drawing maps of terrain new to 4x4ers), recovery (reaching with help/tools to a remote point with a need, etc.
There are many types of failures that may happen in cross-country trips. Each car model has known problems and known techniques to solveit. In emergency the rules above should help you leave the failing carbehind with or without few of you to guard it (your choice) and mark the spot EXACTLY on your map/GPS and then back with mechanics or towing service capable of entering into the terrain (recovery in desert israre service and quite expensive but available.)
Such emergencies are rare and sometimes it's enough to call your mechanic on the phone (nearest road coverage or satellite phone) to know what to fix with your ready tools. In other cases you may need to allow for an additional day or two to solve it (while sending back others who have to reach city in schedule).
This is just a quick reference on 4x4s. For more thorough review, please refer to the Community for recognized courses, experts, or references.
Any 4x4 (usually referred to as SUV or Sports Utility Vehicle), has typically the following features over and above what you find in other normal cars:
It’s the distance under the lowest parts of the 4x4 facing the ground and which allow the wheels to cross bumps and most natural obstacles without brushing against the car’s low parts. Most 4x4s have shields covering its most sensitive parts to protect even if brushing against the ground has occurred.
It is the large bulb in the middle of both wheel axles. In fact, differentials exist in any types of cars (on the one driven axle that is) and distribute the power differently to each wheel according to speed. Their main drawback in desert situations is their design gives power mainly to the least resistant wheel. On 4x4s they could be locked to eliminate power-loss in situations when there’s one wheel spinning freely in the air.
It is the largest angle for a slope the 4x4 is approaching and which will find both car and bumper (Arabic: اكصدام) touching at the same time when it should be only tires that hit the slopes to keep your car going. Obviously, the larger this angle the better.
It’s worth noting that a car with a speed approaching a slope may have to consider the compression of wheel's suspension which will make the approach angle even smaller at this speed. Therefore, CAUTION should be taken so that the approach angle is bigger enough than this of the slope so that not to get the bumper hit the slope at a speed causing air-bags to go off with other unsafe consequences.
It’s the same as approach angle but from behind and is affecting how the 4x4 descends from a slope. If the car’s angle is smaller than slope, then the rear bumper of the 4x4 may hit the slope before the wheel reaches the flat part. Departure angle if bad (small) may not cause major damage of the car if the car's tail hits the ground when climbing a slope.
With same ground clearance of two 4x4s, the one with the shorter length (shorter between the two wheel axles) will have a larger (better) breakover angle. The larger the angle the more car can cross situations which it is prone to brush its bottom parts against the ground
In the following example, note how the Wrangler (first car below) has superior angles than those of the Hummer (second car below).
Usually made up at least of the following:
There are other concepts important for 4x4ing in the Sahara such as:
Please read the article of Sand Dunes found elsewhere on this website.
Driving on dunes (sometimes are called dunes bashing or "Taghreed" in Egypt) requires experienced 4x4ing Leader to open ways and make good control over a Caravan in addition to handle situations. One follows Leader's trail, instructions and agreed ground-rules for safety and best experience, but all participating 4x4ers should be able to understand communication (what's a Urf) with Leader and know how to cross obstacles
There are plenty of types of 4x4ing. We describe here what seems to be 99% of the cases we meet:
Other types such as industrial, scientific, military, etc. may benefitfrom this article but will not be included here. Also, regions such asArctic, Jungles, Glacial or Mountainous (good for rock-crawling) arenot considered here.
4x4s are classified (on the high-level) as two types:
The article here will consider things to be arranged from both Leaderas well as other 4x4ers point of view. Both should be aware of all thearrangements and all responsibilities are divided on all (includingknowledge of the terrain sometimes) but roles differ.
This article is confined to the 4x4 Safaris (Arabic: سفارى) done in theSahara (Arabic: الصحراء الكبرى الأفريقية) so please use with care inother regions. Books such as those of R. A. Bagnold may indicate thattraditions of such activities maybe started almost a century ago(1920s) since Kamal elDin Hussien’s (Arabic: صاحب العظمة السلطانيةالأمير كمال الدين حسين) and Bagnold’s 20th century trials which have had the first trials of any motor-vehicle to desert travelling on known trails or without. More correctly they follow more the undocumented millennia-old traditions of desert travelling.
It’s worth mentioning that 4x4s and equipment of a safari’s duration of1 day (short range) maybe entirely different from those of lasting for3 days (medium range) or week and more (long range). In long rangedsafaris, the 4x4s may need to be designed/equipped to take theadditional loads of gas, camping water/food, etc. Other lighter 4x4smaybe superior in crossing obstacles and handling terrains but willbecome completely unable to carry on such level if they carrylong-range necessary loads.
Therefore, if you intend to Lead a medium-range 4x4ing for thefirst-time you may like to notify your 4x4ers so they would know whythe change in your checklist and to manage expectations.
In most 4x4ings, Leader don’t have to know the terrain she/he isleading the Caravan through if she has enough navigation skills on themacro and micro levels. She/he --however-- is highly encouraged to honetheir skills of:
As Guide the Leader has to be able to manage:
It’s worth noting that Leader’s word is final during a Safari. The riskof danger in a group splitting against each other is always higher thana group that follows the wrong opinion of an experienced Leader.
There are few important MUST-DOs
<to be added by SaharaSafaris community members>
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Every 4x4er should have her/his own custom checklist. Checklists could be specialised such as for a specific model of a 4x4 that has known problems or drivers tendency to use one recovery technique over another.
A 4x4ing is usually under a winter sun which is nice under the sun but cold in shade specially early mornings. Fleece is the solution which can help warm you in the morning and can take some heat and sweat without a problem.