Dune Bashing: What Is It?
Dune bashing is a form of off-roading on sand dunes. Large sport utility vehicles such as the Toyota Land Cruiser is an example of vehicle used. Vehicles driven on dunes may be equipped with a roll cage in case of an overturn; similar to auto-racing, experience and skill is required to manoeuvre the car and prevent accidents.
Before entering the desert in an everyday-use SUV, it is essential to reduce the tyre pressure. This is done to gain more traction by increasing the footprint of the tyre and, therefore, reducing the downward pressure of the four-wheel-drive on the sand as there is a greater surface area (much like the head of an axe, the axe must be sharp in order to split the wood).
For example, tyres with a recommended pressure of 35 psi should be reduced to approximately 12 – 14 psi. Upon entering the desert, it is common to meet with a pack of vehicles and a group leader before proceeding. The group leader then leads the pack through the stunts in single file. The main reason for this technique is to prevent vehicles from losing track of direction and getting lost. Also as many people as there are seat belts in the vehicle are able to go dune bashing.
Clearance is the main consideration because a lack of clearance will mean the vehicle drags in the sand and slows it down. Experts suggest a minimum clearance of 210 mm, which includes most of the ‘soft roaders’. However, remember that clearance is reduced if you have several passengers and cargo on board.
All-wheel-drive vehicles, which only operate in four-wheel drive when the vehicle senses slip at a wheel, are okay for flat sand running. However, if you are going to be travelling long distances in soft sand or trying to scale dunes, you need a permanent four-wheel drive system. The steeper the inclines, the more likely you are going to need hill descent and a low ratio.
Don’t forget to turn off the traction control, as it will only serve to get you bogged. Most supposed off-road vehicles these days come with highway tyres, which are useless in the sand. A good set of sand tyres or even all-purpose/all-terrain tyres will make sand driving easier.
While most experienced sand drivers prefer a manual gearbox, for novices and even some expert drivers, an automatic gearbox is almost foolproof in the sand as it keeps the revs and the gear matched to the conditions. The last thing you want to do is try to snatch a lower gear when you are running out of velocity up a steep dune.
If you are heading into the vast desert landscape, tell someone where you intend to go, install the desert app (mentioned below), and if possible take an emergency position-indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) in case you get stuck, though in Qatar if you stick to the dunes closest to the beach someone is bound to come across you and offer help. You could also call 999 in case of emergency.
If the beach is more your thing, check the tide times in the newspaper and plan to drive at low tide. Many a vehicle has been lost to the sea by drivers who didn’t check tide times. The most important equipment when sand driving is your tyres. Additionally, if you drive through sea water be sure to give your car a thorough wash after.
Depending on how big your load, you can deflate the tyres to 18 – 20 psi or even lower if tackling powdery sand (12 – 14 psi). Don’t guess pressures, use a gauge. Also, take a compressor to re-inflate your tyres. Sand driving puts strain on the engine and transmission. Carry extra fluids (water, oil, and so on). Deserts are hot, so take extra water for passengers, too. All the tools you’ll need are easily available at various locations around Doha.
Sand can be a trap and if you get stuck, you will need some form of retrieval gear such as a shovel, ropes, snatch straps and/or a plastic ‘piece of road’ you push under the bogged wheels and then simply drive out.
Practice on a small area of sand before tackling the desert. Momentum is your friend, so keep the revs, not necessarily the speed, high. Sand tends to form into ruts and will push the vehicle around. Within reason, let the sand steer the vehicle and don’t fight it too much.
Keep your hands light on the steering wheel with your thumbs pointed out so they don’t get caught if the wheel suddenly spins. Drive smoothly as sudden steering input doesn’t work and stopping and starting will bog the vehicle.
Always look way ahead for ruts, gullies and other obstacles. Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. If the vehicle in front gets stuck, the chances are you will too. If you’re travelling over dunes, put a high flag on the front of your vehicle to alert vehicles coming the opposite way. Slow down at the top of a dune to look for approaching vehicles.
Also read: Desert Adventure with the 2016 Honda Pilot
You will get stuck at some stage. But don’t worry, that’s all part of the adventure and if you have the correct gear, you will get out. There are many ways to escape a sand trap. You can use your winch, but only if there is something to attach it to.
Snatch straps are good, but you need another vehicle and they can be dangerous if they let go. Shovels are a must to clear sand from in front of and behind the bogged wheels.
Quick Tips on Driving Over Sand Dunes
– Check tide times and drive at low tide.
– You’ll need a vehicle with a higher clearance than a standard car. An all-wheel-drive is better for areas with loose sand.
– Give your vehicle a maintenance checkup before you embark into the desert. Do it at least two weeks in advance so you know for sure that everything is in good shape once you set out.
– Install high quality tyres that won’t burst on the first sharp rock you run over. Carry a good spare (not the temporary duty tyres that accompany many new cars). Deflate the tyres to about 18 – 20 psi or even lower at 12 – 14 psi, depending on load. Use a tyre pressure gauge. Do not guess the pressure.
– Bring a tool kit. Load up with tyre tools, screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, extra motor oil, jumper cables, spare fuses, a flashlight, and if possible, extra fan belts and radiator hoses. Carry a fire extinguisher on board, along with a sturdy shovel for digging out a stuck vehicle. Add a tow chain or heavy-duty towrope and a set of sand mats to help gain traction in sandy areas.
– Travel in groups, or even better, in a convoy. In very remote desert areas, it’s advisable to add an extra car to your convoy to carry supplies and be ready as a back-up vehicle.
– Watch out for quicksand when driving along the edge of the water. Quicksand is usually found in small, shallow patches, and is a huge danger for cars, because it can’t support the weight.
– Soft, fine, loose sand is also trouble. Scout ahead on foot to see how large the soft section is. If you don’t have another vehicle in your group and a winch or tow chain, be very conservative about attempting to cross. If you get stuck, try rocking the vehicle, but don’t attempt to power your way out.
– If the tide has come in and if the water is too deep, muddy, or swift to wade, then don’t cross it by vehicle. A vehicle could easily be swept away or get bogged down in such conditions.
– Enjoy your adventure over Qatar’s beautiful desert terrain!
Ooredoo’s Dedicated Inland Sea app
The application, which is the first ever Qatar desert navigation app, will provide users with important information such as geography and terrain, camping sites, emergency numbers and Supernet signal towers, so that desert visitors can stay connected.
Most importantly the application will offer users satellite navigation through the desert to the Inland Sea using Ooredoo’s Supernet, offering peace of mind for families and friends visiting the area.
In another first, the app will also provide visitors with dune names as they exist in Qatari lore. This is the first time that the spoken Arabic traditional dune names have been translated onto a digital map, and will offer visitors cultural insight into the area.
Ooredoo enhanced its nationwide Ooredoo Supernet across the desert recently, launching ‘Operation Desert’ to upgrade and install new network towers at popular desert sites and camping spots, including rolling-out 4G+ towers.
To ensure families stay safe in the desert, the Ooredoo Inland Sea App also has a direct contact button to ‘Fazat Mawater’ – a team of trained professional desert drivers, who volunteer to rescue people from the desert in situations such as marooned cars, trapped wheels or being lost.
Copyright © Marhaba Information Guide. Reproduction of material from Marhaba Information Guide’s book or website without written permission is strictly prohibited. Using Marhaba Information Guide’s material without authorisation constitutes as plagiarism as well as copyright infringement.