SAFETY GEAR FOR ATVS & UTVS

APRIL 2019


Enjoying outdoor sports takes two things. Having fun and keeping it safe. Wearing protective gear designed for just about any activity is how you do both.

Campers wear hiking boots to gain traction while avoiding sprained ankles. Fly fishers wear waders to sneak up on trout while protecting their bodies from hypothermia. Boaters wear life jackets for obvious reasons.

ATV and UTV riders are no different.

In fact, protective apparel and accessories are even more important when riding off-road vehicles. You are fully exposed to everything standing in the way of you and the outdoors. That includes slapping tree branches, flying insects and airborne gravel.

The adventurous thrill of traveling through the countryside and going to new places where other motorized vehicles cannot. That is the allure of ATVs and UTVs (also known as side-by-sides), which can even double for farm chores. Just make sure you are prepared for anything you might encounter on the trails.

Be safe and have fun by wearing the proper safety gear on the following list. Make your ATV and UTV experience even safer by visiting the ATV Safety Institute website at atvsafety.org.    

  

Number one on the list for safety gear, and for more reasons than you might think. Nearly every state has a law in place requiring that all riders wear a helmet—and not just any helmet. When shopping, look for the “DOT” and “Snell” logos on the back of the helmet, which mean the helmet passed a high level of safety standards that are approved by state and federal authorities.

Your helmet should fit snugly and fasten securely. Full-face helmets protect the face and head, while open-face models are lighter and cooler for hot summer months. Either way, make sure there is no obstruction of vision, including peripheral, so you can see any danger approaching from either side of the vehicle.

Above all else, the first thing you should put on is the helmet. Make it as routine as fastening the seat belt in your vehicle. The only time not to wear a helmet is when stopping to talk with landowners or others you meet on the trails. To some people, your helmet is a mask and can be intimidating.    

Don’t be tempted to wear sunglasses as an alternative to goggles. Ideally, wearing a helmet is more of a safety precaution. On the other hand, and especially when trail riding, goggles combine safety and practicality. You get protection from anything airborne, from bugs to flying gravel and branches. Goggles also keep sweat, dust and dirt from getting into your eyes. Tinted goggles are easy on the eyes and can double as sunglasses.

Good goggles should be scratch resistant with hard-coated polycarbonate lenses, and should bear the standard marking VESC8 (or V-8), or z87.1. Shop for models that are well-vented to prevent fogging. Above all else, make sure the goggles are a match and fit for your helmet. 

Sunglasses can’t double as googles and hunting gloves can’t double as riding gloves. Hunters wear gloves to keep hands warm. Off-road style gloves are padded over the knuckles to prevent bruising from slapping limbs and flying gravel. These specialized gloves also absorb vibrations transmitted from the handlebars for a more comfortable ride. Plus, they help prevent getting callused and blistered hands on long rides.

Goggles and gloves protect your eyes. A long-sleeved shirt and long pants protect everything else. If the shirt is labeled with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) label, it can provide protection from sunburns. Just make sure the lightweight fabric is tear resistant. Lightweight hiking pants offer the same protection and are much more comfortable to wear in summer. 

Legs, feet and ankles get quite a workout as you shift body weight when taking turns or hills. For those reasons, you will need the support and protection offered by ankle-length boots. The treaded soles of hunting boots can do double duty by protecting ankles and providing more traction on the trail. Good alternatives for summer are lightweight hiking boots.    

Space is limited on ATVs, but you should always carry a small first aid kit. Household first aid kits fall short of having all the items needed to treat injuries most common in the woods and on the trail. Bleeding control dressings, bandages and antiseptic solutions are among the basics to pack. The American Red Cross offers a Stop the Bleed Kit and other essentials to customize your off-road first aid kit.    

GPS

We rely on our GPS-enabled smartphones to get just about anywhere these days. Don’t be tempted to use your phone as a navigation aid in the woods, though. Coverage can be spotty, and losing the phone is always an unpleasant possibility.

GPS units of today are so specialized there are versions designed just for ATVs and UTVs. Handheld models are ideal and many come with mini mounts for the handlebars or rails. You can mark the location of the parked vehicle and then use the track back feature to find it when hunting or hiking. Pre-loaded off-trail vehicle maps—some with topographic views—are another benefit. 

For once, and not all bad, is your mobile phone might be useless as you seek to get away from it all. A better option that also adds fun to your off-road experience is the old school two-way radio. You can communicate with other riders about cool sights and, most of all, make a distress call if the need arises.

General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) enabled radios are how you get connected. GMRS is a land-mobile FM UHF radio service designed for short-distance communication. To operate the radios, you need a free license from the Federal Communications Commission. GMRS models are available with up to a powerful 15 watts of transmitting power for mobile units and about half as much power for hand-held models.    

UTVs are designed for all-day chore duty with large beds capable of hauling gas-powered tools and more. Leave dedicated space for a go-to gear bag when you get in a bind. A hand saw, folding spade shovel, basic toolkit and whatever else you might need for emergency repairs is a good idea to keep in the bag.

You can be geared up with all the latest and greatest safety protection gear and gadgets, but safe operation of an ATV or UTV is even more important. The ATV Safety Institute offers the ATV RiderCourse, a hands-on training course taught by qualified experts who will cover all the basics and more for newcomers. There are also courses for qualified riders, from youth to adults, and even families. 


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