The Up North Lifestyle provides a sense of freedom and autonomy. It’s about getting out of the city, away from the crowds to do your own thing and enjoy some good times with your crew. When you’re out there in the wild, with the fresh air in your lungs and wind in your face, you feel alive. All the day to day stress is miles away and you are free. You might even feel like the rules no longer apply to you. But even out in the middle of nowhere, there are still some rules that need to be respected.
When ATVing, whether you’re on private or public lands, it is important to know and follow some basic rules. For the benefit and safety of yourself and others, respecting the rules and using your ATV Etiquette will ensure a good time is had by everyone. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind next time your out:
- Understand and follow the laws. Know where restricted areas are, read and follow posted signs and don’t push your luck. You don’t want to ruin your outing by getting a big fine, facing trespassing charges, or having riding privileges revoked in other areas because you didn’t feel like following some rules.
- Protect existing riding privileges by staying on the trail! Soil erosion is a big issue with ATVing, so the fastest way to get trails shut down is by making your own and damaging vegetation and wildlife habitat. Ripping up wet bogs, unstable slopes and stream banks, riding over small trees and shrubs, or even just riding on the edge of trails instead of down the middle will all lead to erosion and possible trail closures for remediation. Don’t be the guy that ruins it for everyone else.
- Be a good ambassador for the sport. Ride respectfully, share the trails with others, watch your speed, be mindful of the environment, and please don’t modify your muffler – loud exhaust is disruptive and annoying to everyone.
- Do not litter. Pack out what you pack in to keep the trails clean and in good shape for all. This means your gum and cigarette butts too! Not only do they take years to break down, certain components of both chewing gum and cigarettes are non-biodegradable and also contain toxins that can pollute habitat and water sources. Not to mention the risk of cigarette butts starting a fire.
- If you do come across litter on your travels, be a good sport and pick it up. It is everyone’s responsibility to pitch in and keep the wild naturally beautiful.
- Never harass wildlife. This is not only dangerous for you and your party but harmful to wildlife. Remember you are in their backyard and behave accordingly.
- If you pass through gates on your ride, obviously close them behind you. Many public lands serve as community pasture and you don’t want to be responsible for someone losing their livestock.
- After each ride, give your machine a good wash to prevent the spread of noxious weeds and algae.
- Always wear proper safety gear for your ride, such as a helmet, eye protection, proper footwear and dress for fluctuating weather.
- Keep an emergency kit on your vehicle so you are prepared to handle minor injuries, deal with a breakdown or getting stuck.
- Never drink and ride. Frosty beers have their time and place when you reach your destination.
- Have a map or reliable form of GPS if you are unfamiliar with the trails to avoid getting lost.
- Never go out alone. Use the buddy system if in a large group to ensure everyone is OK and accounted for.
- Pack extra food and water in case you are caught out longer than you planned for.
- Follow fire regulations and safety if you plan to have a campfire on your trip.
- Carry bear spray with you and keep it ready to deploy in case an encounter gets dangerous. Never provoke wildlife and keep a safe distance with any animal, even the cute ones can be deadly.
- Know your machine and respect its limitations. An over-inflated ego has no place on the trail as it can result in damage or injury.
- Leave plenty of room between you and the next vehicle. If you plan to overtake another rider, wait for them to signal it is safe to do so and go easy on the throttle to avoid spraying them with stones.
- When meeting ATVs or other vehicles on a hill, the vehicle heading uphill has the right of way. Back up or pull off to the side so they can safely climb up the hill and get by you.
- Never stop on a blind corner or hill. You don’t want to risk a collision, so continue until you have found a place that has better visibility to park your ATV.
- Non-motorized trail users also have the right of way. Slow your vehicle and leave plenty of room for hikers and mountain bikers to get past. And if you encounter horses, pull over and shut off your engine to avoid spooking them until they are a safe distance away.
- Stop to help others if you come across someone broken down or stuck on the trail. Leave no man behind. Remember, it could be you in need of help next time.
By keeping these rules of ATV Etiquette in mind, you can ensure everyone has a good time, the wild stay natural and that sense of freedom can be enjoyed by all.
~ Janine Up North