4x4 off-roading in Namibia

Landrover Defender

It’s the middle of Namibia’s rainy season and travelers are flocking to Windhoek’s 4×4 hire companies before setting off into the countries beautiful desert expanses, gravel trails and famed rugged skeleton coastline to enjoy one of Namibia’s best 4×4 off-roading holidays on offer.

Although the roads in Namibia are usually decent there will undoubtedly be a few hilarious and some trying encounters with the deep mud pits and endless seas of sand. Here is the official Drive South Africa top tip book on how to off-road Namibia style and what to do if you get stuck.

When planning a 4×4 off-road trip you should read your manual thoroughly beforehand and at least be able to do the basic quick patch jobs yourself! Know what your 4×4 hire vehicle can handle and make sure that it is fully equipped with all the tools and spares you might need should you break down.

You have to think about every possible mishap and prepare your hire 4×4 and yourself adequately for them. On top of a full tool kit there are 5 items that every 4×4 traveler needs in their travel bag:

  1. Fire extinguisher
  2. Shovel/Spade
  3. Full tool kit with a jack and wrench (make sure it fits before you leave)
  4. Tow Rope
  5. A good flashlight with spare batteries

Never go off-roading or on a 4×4 safari in Namibia alone. Convince one of your friends to join you on the trip of a lifetime. Not only will your trip be way more enjoyable with some great company but it might even save your life should anything happen and you injure yourself.

Always be sure to pack plenty of water, sunscreen and food just in case your 4×4 breaks down in the middle of the desert and find yourself stranded far from anything or on a route with no passing traffic.

Read up and make sure you know the weather conditions and any changes in the areas in which you plan to travel off-road. Ask locals about the conditions of the roads and off-roading trails and keep up-to-date regional maps on hand.

If you come across terrain you are unsure of get out your car and take a short walk- it could save you hours of digging and winching or the embarrassment of having to explain the damage to your Namibian 4×4 hire agent when you return it. If you are still not sure if your rented 4×4 will survive the crossing don’t risk it!  Rather turn around and back track until you find another route.

Lastly always change down to low range gear before you enter a difficult section and make sure to use it until you are miles clear of the obstacles or dangerous. If you are driving a vehicle fitted with a manual center diff-lock you should turn this on and turn it back off when your wheels find traction again.

It’s always a good idea to drive on existing 4×4 tracks, hug the coastline and head for higher ground when its raining to escape the flooded desert floor. Even so there’s a good probability that you’ll end up stuck axle deep in some notorious black cotton mud or sick sand at least once and be forced to dig your 4×4 out. Don’t panic here is quick lesson on how to get yourself safely unstuck.

In soft conditions like sand and mud you can free yourself most of the time by gently pushing down on the accelerator and rocking the 4×4 back and forth until your wheels gain traction and you can maneuver it safely out of the hole or pit it is in.

Namibia 4 x4 off-roading digging the truck out the mud

[Photo by Tamzyn Degoumois]

If all else fails and you are properly stuck, its time to start digging! Fetch your shovel from your 4×4 and dig the excess sand or mud that has collected away from the wheels. Then look around for any large sticks, logs or flat rocks and place them in front and under the wheels to create a makeshift ramp and give your wheels some traction (Handy Tip: if there are no sticks lying around use your car mats instead).

You can read more on how to traverse the various Namibian terrains or read up on what to visit and where to go.

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