The Nissan Xterra is an affordable, powerful and reliable compact SUV that has been conquering unimproved roads for over a decade. With good ground clearance and an overall light weight, it is an excellent off-road vehicle for beginning off-roaders, although it does not have the size and power necessary for rock crawling or traveling over roadless surfaces.
It is nonetheless very powerful and capable, and when driven safely it can get you places that ordinary cars would be unable to even approach, much less attempt.
The most important part of driving your Xterra off road is to not drive too quickly. Most off road accidents occur due to excess speed.
Because the road surface is uneven and unimproved, you will find it very difficult to maintain proper contact with the road surface and thus you can suddenly lose traction very easily. This loss of traction will result in you slamming into a tree, rolling over, or just getting stuck in the mud – all unpleasant options.
As such, never go faster than you can handle, and always go a bit slower than you think you can get away with.
Second, it is important to practice and train in your vehicle so that you can learn to quickly evaluate road surfaces and respond accordingly.
Learn exactly how much ground clearance you have, and also what sort of bumps and rocks may cause you to bottom out, “high center” (become stuck on a rock, log or other obstacle) or otherwise become entrapped.
Do not drive on steep, narrow roads with small drops. Learn your route ahead of time and make sure people know where you are going and when you are excepted to be back.
Lastly, never drive alone, because your vehicle may become trapped or disabled, so you’ll need a ride home. Having an “escape plan” is essential, and you should bring food and water so you can overnight should your escape plan fail.
Riding with a group of vehicles also ensures that you have more fun, since everyone gets to see what a great driver you are. Additional vehicles can also help you extract your vehicle if it gets stuck, ensuring you won’t have to leave your Xterra where it is.