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 > Boondocking in the sand -- how soft is too soft??

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profdant139

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Posted: 03/25/21 09:56am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We are gearing up for a trip to Utah, and several of the boondocking sites we are considering are on BLM land near the national parks.

Looking at Google Earth, I can see that the little access roads sometimes cross over sandy creek beds. Once I've got "boots on the ground," is there a way to determine when the sand is just too deep and soft to cross?

I've got big tires on my truck and also on my trailer, but I don't plan to air down -- none of these sandy patches would be more than 50 feet wide or so. Airing down would be a big hassle, mostly because of the time and effort it would take to re-inflate the tires.

I understand that serious sand towing is one of those skills that requires experience, and often painful experience. But, as part of that skill set, is there a way to tell when the sand is not suitable for towing? Some kind of a rule of thumb?

For example, you stomp your foot and it goes in six inches. Not good. Or it goes in a quarter inch. That's good.

Any and all wisdom will be gratefully accepted! Thanks in advance.


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2oldman

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Posted: 03/25/21 10:18am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Yeah, walking on it, or a bicycle could work, and that could take all day!

profdant139

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Posted: 03/25/21 11:31am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Well, sometimes it could take all day, but in this case, maybe not. Each potential boondocking site that I have picked out on Google Earth involves just one "dry stream" crossing of about 50 feet (the width of a forest road).

If there were more sand crossings than that, I removed the site from my list of possible sites!

So this is about a very limited problem. I certainly will get out and stomp on the sand before driving over it, except that I have no frame of reference -- how soft is too soft?

I am guessing that I could get stuck in a little sand patch, just like a bigger one -- ten feet away from solid ground is nine feet too far! [emoticon]

So that is my question -- is there a way to evaluate sand by stomping on it, kicking it, or whatever??

2oldman

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Posted: 03/25/21 11:34am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

profdant139 wrote:

So that is my question -- is there a way to evaluate sand by stomping on it, kicking it, or whatever??
I place a foot on it and twist it around. I can sink a little, but usually I can tell if there's any solid footing under the sand.

ndrorder

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Posted: 03/25/21 11:52am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Can only offer to be prepared to air down should the need arise meaning taking portable air compressor with you. Be in 4wd before you need it. If 2wd, limited slip or a locker is a must.

Checkout youtube videos from Matt's Offroad Recovery. Depending where you are in Utah, it might not be a bad idea to have his number on speed dial.


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time2roll

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Posted: 03/25/21 12:09pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I find sand hard to judge. Not just how soft but how deep. I would tend to go 'all-in' with 4LO and moderately high speed to carry you through. Look for other tire tracks to guide you. If you go in too slow or just 2WD and get bogged down it is even harder to get moving again even if you dig some, engage 4wd and air down the tires. Slight inclination is much harder than anything level or down. Go at an angle if you can. If you meet someone on the trail... stick together for the difficult parts. Best of luck.

Soft like dry sand on an ocean beach is about max. Some desert sand is very fine blown in by the wind and just bogs down any heavy vehicle.


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Yosemite Sam1

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Posted: 03/25/21 12:35pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

You might want to consider bringing a pair of surplus military Marston mat -- or modern plastic equivalent.

profdant139

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Posted: 03/25/21 01:19pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Great tips -- keep 'em coming! Yosemite, I bring carpet scraps -- never had to use them yet, but this could be the time that I will.

time2roll, that is a great point about 4wLO. I will have to look in the owner's manual to find out how fast I can go in 4wLO -- I think there is a speed limit.

ndrorder, I do have a compressor, but it is not the big beefy type that real off-roaders carry. Mine is fairly small. It works fine, but slowly. That is why I am going to avoid airing down, if at all possible.

jshupe

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Posted: 03/25/21 01:25pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We've boondocked all over Utah and *knocks on wood* haven't gotten stuck in sand here yet. On the way to our current site, there is several hundred feet of soft sand that I sink down a couple inches in, when walking on it. 4H is usually more than sufficient for small bouts of sand, 4L is more useful when you need granular control for crawling over rocks. If you have at least a rear locker, that'll help a lot.

One of our friends got stuck nearby with a semi tractor pulling a fifth wheel, but their drive tires aren't well suited for off road and they had probably 12K plus whatever the truck itself adds on the rear axles.

We alternate between a fifth wheel and truck camper, both of which are much heavier than your rig. Take traction mats and don't worry about it.

We never air down unless we're talking about the Jeep, and only then for specific trails.

* This post was edited 03/25/21 02:00pm by jshupe *


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time2roll

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Posted: 03/25/21 01:33pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

profdant139 wrote:

time2roll, that is a great point about 4wLO. I will have to look in the owner's manual to find out how fast I can go in 4wLO -- I think there is a speed limit.
You will be limited by RPM. Probably 45 mph would be the max anyway in a situation. I mean you don't want to barrel in carelessly and don't get all froggy on some dips.

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