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Love off-roading? Love your family? Me too. Believe it or not, you can combine your two passions into one adventure without too much trouble if you follow some basic rules. That’s why, when Chevy reached out to me and asked me to test drive a 2020 Chevy Silverado Z71 Trail Boss for a weekend of off-roading with family, I said, “hell yeah!” and packed up the wife, the kid, and even the dog for a little 4-wheeling fun.
Off-roading with family can be a fun adventure, but a safe outing requires you to know the limits of your truck and your own driving abilities. You also need to know your family’s tolerance for the challenges and peril that comes with off-roading. If you push it too far, you can become stranded, injured, or faced with an expensive tow and repair bill. Follow these basic tips for off-roading with family and you’ll end up with a phone full of awesome pictures and memories to last for years.
Remember that Boy Scouts TV commercial back in the 80s with the funky theme song and full brass section that went, “Be Prepared! Are you ready to take the lead!” No? Well, you should watch it here. It’s awesome. And it’s also a good reminder to pack a bunch of stuff you probably won’t need on your off-road adventure, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it. Just don’t pack so much that you weigh your vehicle down. Key things to pack: first aid pack, some basic tools, a sturdy tow rope, metal shovel for digging out wheels, duct tape (always bring duct tape), flashlight, extra clothes, extra food, tasty snacks for the kids, and plenty of water.
Off-roading has a lot of variables. And so does your family. First, the off-roading part. Things can break, weather can change, dirt roads can be unexpectedly closed, and maps are not always accurate. If you get stuck or lost, it’s time to use that flexible thinking you’re always encouraging your kids to use and alter your off-roading plans. That means shorten your trip, turn around, or find an easier way. No sense in ruing off-roading for your family the first time out. Speaking of which, your family has their own limits. Be a good dad and pay attention to the warning signs that you’re pushing them too far. If they’re smiling, laughing, cracking jokes then you’re all good. But if they’re silent, huddled in a ball, and mumbling to themselves it might be time to break out that flexible thinking again.
Most off-roaders have epic stories of narrowly getting their 4-wheeler out of gnarly jams. “The incline was THIS steep, man!” “The creek was WAY deeper than it looked and the water came up to my windshield!” First of all, they’re probably stretching the truth. And second of all, they probably didn’t scope out the route before they left. When you’re off-roading with family, this is even MORE critical. Google Maps is your friend. So is AllTrails.com. If you don’t do your homework before you head out you can do major damage to your truck and mental damage to your family.
If you’re off-roading with family in your old beater Honda Accord, you might want to stick to the dirt parking lot at the fairgrounds. Not that I haven’t seen rickety sedans miraculously make their way to places they shouldn’t, like Moab’s Basecamp Lodge, for example. I saw a Mercury Mystique (or was that the Mercury Mistake?), make its way over a chunky slick rock pass to get there a few years back. No thanks. In my last off-road trip, I had the pleasure of driving the Silverado Trail Boss, so I knew that beast could handle just about anything except the most extreme rock crawling. We explored some dirt trails off Kenosha Pass in Colorado and drove the 22-mile stretch of the all-dirt Boreas Pass from Como to Breckenridge, and the Silverado was a champ the whole way.
Here’s a rundown of the truck I was driving:
Model: 2020 Silverado Double Cab Z71 Trail Boss
Color: Red Hot
Engine: 6.2L Ecotec3 V8, 10-speed, 420 horsepower
Tow capability: 13,400 pounds
Z71 Package: Rancho shocks, hill descent control, off-road tires, auto rear locking differential
Bottom line: the Silverado Trail Boss was a rock star of a truck. Even better, we drove a total of over 200 miles the first day, including about 35-40 miles off-road, and we only used half a tank of gas. Impressive. I’ve never been much of a Chevy guy. I’ve had two Toyota pickups and a Toyota 4Runner, but the Trail Boss made me think twice—three times—about maybe switching it up the next time I need to buy a new camping vehicle.
Last tip next time you’re off-roading with family: follow the principles of Leave No Trace. That means pack everything out that you bring with you. This can be turned into a game for your kids. Young ones want to feel helpful, and giving them the job is a sneaky way of getting them to help out. Make a game out of it and see who can pick up the most trash after your trailside picnic. There are 7 total Leave No Trace principles, which are fantastic guidelines to teach your kids so they respect the outdoors and keep it clean for generations to come.
Steve Lemig is the founder of Wilderdad. He's been a lot of things over the years. Skateboarder. Mountain biker. Climber. Snowboarder. Bike mechanic. Forest firefighter. Woodworker. Creative director. These days he's a runner, writer, husband, and father. He writes stories to empower dads and encourage them to share outdoor adventures with their kids as a tool to strengthen families and build respect for the environment. He has also been the Communications Director at Road Runner Sports for the last 13 years.