The joy of RVing for many is getting away from it all. Sure, high-class RV resorts are fun at times, but there’s nothing like taking your truly self-contained rig away from civilization. Traveling off the beaten path provides a set of challenges, however, especially if your rig gets stuck off the road.
Experienced boondocking RVers can tell you: The best way to get your RV unstuck is not to get stuck in the first place. Whenever your wanderings take you away from maintained roads, it’s best to look ahead—without the rig. Scouting ahead on foot can help you identify hazards. Obviously mud is something to steer clear of, but check the terrain carefully—it may be good today while it’s dry, but what if rain comes? Will that perfect spot suddenly become a mire?
Despite your best intentions though, things can happen. You may suddenly encounter a muddy or soft patch on an otherwise good gravel road. Be sure to:
• Keep the wheels as straight as possible. Turning the wheels will increase your forward rolling resistance.
• Keep momentum going forward—don’t jazz the accelerator, but don’t slack off either.
• Look for firm ground and a spot to turn around and get away from the soft stuff. If you have to stop, try and find a place where you’ll be pointed downhill when you take off.
• If you are towing a trailer with a two-wheel drive tow vehicle, release the weight distribution hitch to put the weight back on the rear of your tow vehicle and off the front.
When the Worst Happens
OK, you’re stuck. What now? Much depends on what you’re stuck in. If caught in sand, reducing the pressure of your tires until the sidewalls bulge a bit may increase your in-sand traction. DON’T flatten the tires; you can roll the rims out of the tires. Once unstuck, use a portable compressor to reinflate the tires. One wag tells us he simply deflates the nitrogen from his tires, reinflates them with helium, and floats away from his troubles. There’s one in every crowd.
Stuck in mud? Don’t let air out of the tires. Do your best to keep moving if at all possible. Spinning your tires will dig you in deeper; shift to low gear and gently apply pressure to the accelerator. “Rocking” in mud may help, but don’t slam from a forward gear to reverse—let the wheels stop moving before shifting, unless you want to torture-test your transmission.
If you are using a four-wheel drive unit as a tow vehicle, one experienced RVer recommends you steer slowly left to right and repeat the action while your front tires are spinning, following the route that gives the best traction. He swears this will often help you get going. We’ve never tried it, but we pass it along as a possibility. Maybe you ought to practice it with a buddy who has a winch!
Got tire chains? Tire chains have been used to successfully induce a stuck rig out of mud. The more cross-links in the tire chain, the less likelihood there is of spinning the tires and making conditions worse. No tire chains? Try finding dry material to stick under the tires. Stuff can be thrown out from under a spinning tire, so keep people clear of the area.
One motorhomer caught in goop tried the approach of using his leveling jacks to raise the coach and stuff material under his tires. He learned to his chagrin that unless one is very careful to keep the frame of the motorhome evenly lifted, it can “rack.” He wasn’t only stuck; the strain on the rig’s frame broke the windshield.
If you frequent areas where you might get stuck, keeping the right tools and equipment on hand may help bail you out. You might want a long-handled shovel, a long tow strap, a “come-along” (cable hoist), or dimensional lumber like 2x10s to stick under tires. Be “knowledge prepared,” too; know in advance what points on your unit are safe to jack on, and where to attach a tow strap or cable so as not to damage your rig.
Keep safety in mind, too. If you hook up a rope or cable to help you winch your rig out of trouble, keep everyone well clear of the operation. A snapped cable or chain can ripsaw back like a whip. There are plenty of dead loggers whose stories attest to the damage a whipping cable can do to the human body.
Finally, a word on RV tow service. We learned the hard way one fine day when our tow rig skidded off a slick private road into a cow pasture. We called our road service company, which dispatched a tow truck to help us out. When the driver arrived, he announced that since we weren’t on a public road, the road service plan wouldn’t cover the “extraction.” Read the fine print in your agreement to make sure where—and where not—your coverage applies.
Russ and Tiña De Maris are authors of RV Boondocking Basics—A Guide to Living Without Hookups, which covers a full range of dry camping topics. Visit icanrv.com for more information.