A good trail can present several challenges and thrills in testing your machine's limitations. Some can be a 'walk in the park', while others can cause an adrenalin rush requiring a towel to wipe the sweat off the steering wheel in order to continue. The key is to learn how the Raptor behaves in different conditions or situations, which is only done through trial and error. The objective of this thread is to assist with the trial part, and hopefully reduce the error factor - however, in learning how the Raptor plays offroad, we need to embrace the fact that getting stuck is part of the learning experience. And hell, getting un-stuck is half the fun sometimes Overview/Description For the purpose of this illustration, a trail run can be defined as an off road route through forests, meadows and plains, and can involve river crossings, hill climbs and (mild) rock crawling, with the occasional mud hole. Sand dunes, high speed terrain, and jumping are not included in this description - trail runs are typically done at very slow speeds using the 4Low transfer case gearing. Trails can be wide enough at points to run 5 or 6 trucks side by side, but also narrow enough for only a Jeep or ATV to pass through. (From personal experience, knowing where these tight areas are certainly affect the stress level while out playing...) Do's/Dont's, Tips/Tricks 1. Know where your tires are at all times. Open the window and stick your head out as often as required. This component is key to successfully getting through difficult spots. I've stopped the truck, gotten out, and checked the right side often in order to judge how to approach things. When Ford decided to give this truck a 7" wider wheelbase - they certainly weren't thinking about us taking it for a walk in the forest on Jeep trails. 2. Air down your tires to 20#. While it may sound stupid, it actually has a few advantages offroading. First, soft tires will absorb a lot of the terrain you may encounter giving the suspension a bit of a break. Yes, the expensive Fox Shocks are supposed to do that, but working in tandem, the effect is even smoother. Second, if encountering a mud hole, or ruts that cause your undercarraige to rub dirt, getting some wheel spin will cause the tires to 'stand up' giving you greater ground clearance and using the lug of the tire more aggressively. This effect helps 'clean' the mud from each of the lugs better, allowing for a significant traction increase. Downside is, it can sometimes dig you deeper, but that indicates the hole may have been too deep for 35's Time to get creative, and turn the wheel slightly to see if traction can be gained by 'riding the side' of the rut. The independent suspension up front may grab a hold of the sides of ruts and get things moving again. 3. Attack the trail in 4 Low. Whether you use Off-road mode, Tow/haul, or the default setting - plan to do the trails in low range (a separate post or thread will be made to explain the differences). This makes everything easier on your Raptor, and it's pilot. Avoid using 'D'rive, and select 2nd or 3rd gear for cruising along the trails, as it makes less work for the transmission, and improves braking and handling on hill descents. (not referring to the hill descent button - more on that feature later). 4. "an object in motion stays in motion until another force is applied against it." Einstien or Beethoven or some famous dead dude came up with that line. It's true. You are not stuck, until you cannot move forward or backward, period. More on this in the "mudding thread" but be aware that this will be something encountered on trail runs. In short, sometimes an approach to a difficult situation only requires a little "gentle" speed and it can be overcome. 5. Plan to get stuck. Find a place that is safe to be pulled out of, and play with the truck a little. The Raptor weighs almost 7,000 lbs. so it does not react with the terrain like a 3,500 lb Jeep. Following the truck ahead of you ain't always the best indicator of what your Raptor will do on the same ground. (let alone fit into the same ruts/tracks they do). Work the terrain until you get stuck - and you will discover the limitations of the Raptor in terms of weight and width. This will help learn the best approaches and take-offs in varied conditions including ruts, hills, and avoiding tree-hugs. side note - I encountered a snow covered hill descent recently on a trail made for Jeeps. The two jeeps in front of me made it around a fallen tree with at least an inch of clearance. I tried to ride the crest of the hill on the right side, but another tree prevented this, resulting in the downed tree trying to take off the drivers side fender. One of the members had a chainsaw, and I escaped with only a minor dent in the rear fender 6. Hill climbing is absolutely breath-taking in a Raptor. With the low gearing this truck has, and semi-long wheelbase, climbing is a breeze. It feels like you can climb the hill and the tree at the top of it! That being said, again, find a nice safe place to try it, and go for it. Try to crawl up it at minimum speed before the wheels start to lose traction. Don't push it, as once traction is lost, front end parts can be abused easily. Personally, I don't like using the "hill descent mode" however it does have some good points. Namely, you need not worry as much about trying to control the truck while backing down a hill. I encourage you to try it engaged, then do the same hill without it, to see the difference. I have used it on hills where I couldn't fathom making it to the top - its a nice failsafe to gently help you back to level ground. My dislike comes from my past experience in wanting absolute control over the combination of reverse and brakes while backing down an unsuccessful hill attempt. 7. - More on Hill climbing - you will encounter hills that make you say "**** that - there's no way" But if the trail has only one way through - you will have to get your Raptor through it. This can be the most enjoyable part of learing what your machine can do. Every hill is different. They each have ways of trying to screw up your progress. Whether it be tree roots, loose rocks, ice and snow (separate post on that soon) - or springtime mud - it will always present a challenge to get your 7,000 lb. ass up the slope with the horsepower and tires you have to work with. Before trying an ascent - study the hill for obstacles or things you need to try and navigate around. Once on the hill - you will not be able to see them, so try and make a mental record of when you should attempt steering. If comfortable (having learned about it from smaller hills and practise) engage 'hill descent' before starting the climb. Approach the hill in 2nd gear to start. Monitor your momentum and more importantly, your RPM - too much juice and you could break traction and cause a slide. If you lose traction and momentum - quit immediately! don't assume giving it more gas will help in any way. Hit the brakes (as you will already feel gravity pulling you back down the hill) and shift into reverse ASAP. Being in reverse gives you superior control over the truck as you make your way back down. The almost 4:1 gear in reverse means you may not need much braking to navigate back down. Any obstacles encountered on your way up you should remember, and steer accordingly. Don't worry about getting stuck on the way down, but do avoid trees or large rocks which will impact your suspension or bodywork. Ok - back on the ground and ready for another attempt. Most obstacles are a slippery part rather than a tree root or rock. For these, you simply need more momentum when passing this section. Start the hill in 3rd gear (if the terrain is safe enough and doesnt shake yer teeth outta your mouth) and approach the hill with more speed. Take care, as speed can also infilct damage, but if you tried it in 2nd, you should know where the bumpy spots are and can avoid them. Use 3rd until the RPM's drop and momentum is lost - then slam into 2nd and continue on. The toughest of hills may require 1st to crest the top. There will be occasional times when you can stop in the middle of a hill, and try again. These are typically snow filled ruts, or soft, dusty soil runs that someone tried to spin their tires creating a "lumpy spot". Use these to your advantage, as the HP in a Raptor can certainly carve new ruts. Generally, crawling up hills is the best, but sometimes you need to mash the gas peddle and carve the hill a new one! Ok, this one's getting a bit long - I'll start a Part II later to go over ruts, river crossings and water, and other trail run stuff.