How To Drive in the Sand

Lowering your tire pressure is key when it comes to sand-born pursuits. Photo: Lowe-White

There are few things in this world more satisfying than driving down an empty beach in search of a lonely peak with a few friends. That being said, there are also few things in this world more emasculating than having to ask another man to tow your crippled truck out of the sand. Unfortunately, surfers from Hawaii to the Outer Banks have felt the sting of spinning tires more times than we care to admit. To ensure that none of us find ourselves in that oh-so awkward place again, we consulted North Carolina’s own off-road rambler, Jesse Hines, to talk us through the ins and outs of beach driving.

Drive with Confidence: The first thing you need to do is to have a truck with four-wheel drive. When you’re driving in the sand, keep the truck in 4 Low. Other than that, the best thing you can do is to be confident, and sometimes slightly crazy, depending on where you are. The best sand driving I’ve seen was done by guys who may have a few screws loose. I went to Oman and we got in some sketchy situations in the middle of the desert. The only reason we didn’t get stranded was because our guide was a madman behind the wheel.

Keep the Pressure Low: The most common mistake that will get you stuck in the sand is not lowering the pressure in your tires. I think the best pressure is around 20 psi. It’ll make your truck feel like a pirate ship sailing through seas of sand.

Stay on Track: Another common mistake is trying to make your own tracks in the sand. People tend to roam around the beach trying to carve their own path. You want to drive in the tracks that are already there. It’s almost impossible to get stuck in another vehicles tracks because the sand has already been packed.

Start Digging: If you do get stuck in the sand, start digging. And if you haven’t already let the pressure out of your tires, do that. It’s also a good idea to look for any driftwood or washed-up lumber. Put them under the tires for traction. If all else fails, you can start accosting other folks with a rope or a bigger, unstuck truck.

Overgunned: The absolute worse thing you can do is to start gunning it over and over again. Once you’re stuck, gunning it will only dig you deeper until the vehicle is resting on the axles. That’s pretty much the worst thing that can happen. That and getting stuck when you’re too close to the water and the tide is coming up. I’ve seen some trucks lost to the sea that way.