Sometimes the best riding you can find is a little off the beaten path. Riding on well known trails can be fun, but there’s nothing quite like getting away from your comfort zone (and other riders). If you have permission, blazing your own trail can add a whole new level to the fun as well.

One of the dangers of riding in the backwoods, whether it be on an ATV or snowmobile, is the ever present risk of getting lost. Especially when it’s cold, being lost can not only be a pain, but it can be downright dangerous. There’s a reason it makes the news when someone gets lost in the backcountry.

The easiest solution is to always stay in familiar territory. True, it’s possible to get lost even then, but far less likely if you have been there before. The only problem with that is that you’re giving up the adventure of exploring. Playing it safe has its merits, but sometimes it just doesn’t cut it.

This leaves us with two more alternatives: GPS and orienteering. Adding these to your ride will make things a whole lot more interesting, because not only do you have to focus on the ride itself, but you have to keep track so you don’t get lost. Since there are entire sports dedicated to these skills, you are taking on a real challenge when you set off on this kind of ride.

GPS (or Global Positioning System) devices are becoming more and more common. They come built into our phones; we can get them in our cars to give us directions; or we can get a heavy duty model to take on hikes, bike rides, or ATV excursions. These work by connecting with satellites that provide the exact latitude and longitude of your current location, and can provide other information as well, such as elevation or maps of your area.

One popular activity with a GPS is called geocaching. This is essentially a modern day treasure hunt. There are websites with lists of GPS coordinates for participants to travel to. When they arrive there is an item hidden. It is assumed that you will leave something in its place for the next person to find. There are also companies that set these hunts up as team building exercises or other activities. If you have a GPS you could even do your own for your friends.

Before the advent of the GPS, people used maps and compasses to keep their bearings as they traveled. This is a skill called orienteering. There are still many groups that do geocaching-like activities based solely on a set of coordinates, and the old map and compass. In order to survive in the wilderness, it’s necessary to have some familiarity with this skill. When you ride on new trails, you should know at least the basics in case you forget which way takes you back to camp.

Anytime you venture out into “uncharted” territory, make sure you are prepared for anything. Double check your ATV shocks, and bring tools and emergency gear. You may get in to rougher terrain than you expected, so be ready for a workout, both for you and your ATV shocks. Never let yourself get caught in a situation you can’t control, and your riding days will be a lot more enjoyable.