If you’re even slightly curious about off-road trail challenges, you would have come across various sites and articles containing reviews on each trail explored and what their 4×4 trail ratings are. Many don’t know how trails get rated and others just don’t care, taking 1 as easiest and 5 as the most difficult. But there is some method to this madness, so we’ve decided to help you understand what each number rating means and how it could impact your trip.
Trail Rating 1
Besides being the easiest, a trail rating of 1 is basically dirt roads and farm roads that are maintained year round and are often referred to as the paths between obstacles on trails. A 1 rating is generally included with other numbers, for example, 1-3, meaning that while there are some obstacles to look out for, there are also parts that are simply driven and are easily navigated.
Trail Rating 2
These trails follow closely behind the 1 rating, in that it is still easily manoeuvrable in 2WD. Most of these trails can be completed from beginning to end in 2WD, yet you may need to use 4WD at times to complete certain obstacles. Trails like the one in Groenkloof, Gauteng, offer the ideal solution for beginners or those simply wanting to have a little fun.
Trail Rating 3
A rating of 3 is a standard 4WD trail. We suggest that you take these trails on with a traction device on rear deferential, aggressive thread, low air pressure on the tires, and a higher stock ground clearance. Some skill is required for these 4×4 trails, so come prepared. A trail like the Bergwoning trail in the Free State is a great 4×4 track that offers rocky sections, river crossings and mossy boulders.
Trail Rating 4
These trails require quite a bit of off-road driving experience and skill. They are considered to be tough on both the driver and the vehicle and you’ll need to navigate some seriously rugged terrain. Having winches and high-lifts jacks at hand is a good idea and you might expect some paint and mechanical damage to occur. Test your mettle at one of the Ferndale trails in the Eastern Cape and enjoy the splendid views on the way!
Trail Rating 5
Danger ahead! Only for heavily modified vehicles and impeccable driving skills. Extra large tires are required here and do not even consider going on these trails without a winch or high-lift. You are nearly guaranteed of body, paint and mechanical damage and may even have a roll-over at some point. If you want to see what you are truly made of, we suggest you visit the Bergkraal 4×4 trail in the Western Cape.
Your South African 4×4 Guide
No matter what your driving skill is, it is worth considering that these ratings are not set in stone. There are factors that can impact or change the rating, such as rainy weather that could change a rating 2 trail to a 3. Or driver competency and vehicle set up that could make a rating 4 trail feel like a 3.
Whatever your skill level is, find out more about each 4×4 trail before jumping on it. Visit an authority on the subject and see what they have to say or see our articles on some of our favourite picks in Gauteng, Western Cape or the best 4×4 trails in South Africa! If you’ve been about, we’d like to hear from you. Please let us know in the comments below what your favourite trails are and why.