Bayou driving can be one of the most fun and rewarding experiences you'll ever have in your Jeep. It can also be one of the most treacherous landscapes you'll ever have to navigate through.
1. Know your terrain:
A GPS won't be much help to you out in the swamp. You have to know your terrain, or have someone who does alongside you for your first couple of ventures into uncharted territory. A good map of the area you're driving is always a good second choice, but don't rely solely on electronics like the GPS on your iPhone or Android device to keep you out of deep water (i.e., driving your Jeep into sinkhole in the middle of nowhere is a recipe for disaster.) A Clinometer can help you gauge the terrain from inside the vehicle, especially in the dark.
2. Keep an eye out:
You can never take your eyes off the terrain when you're driving. It's much less likely that you'll be distracted if you don't have any passengers, but what's the fun in that right. If you're by yourself, turn off your cellphone until (and unless) you need it. Leave the radio alone! If you're traveling with friends or family, make sure they understand that your eyesight is all that's keeping each of you from being trapped in a swamp full of dangerous snakes, alligators, and other creepy crawlies!
3. Gauges, gauges, gauges!
If you're really hardcore about off-road mud bogging and swamp crossing, your Jeep has to have the bare essentials to let you know what's going on with your baby and her powertrain at all times.
- A working gas gauge will make sure you don't drive too far from civilization, giving you a choice between being stranded in the middle of the water, or on dry land somewhere!
- An oil pressure gauge is often neglected by newbie four-wheel enthusiasts, but it'll let you know when your engine is starved for lubrication (such as when driving extreme obstacles or when water creeps into the crankcase.)
- Get a modern digital volt gauge. If your alternator goes wet or the battery arcs while driving through a water-passage, you'll know there's a problem right away instead of driving along unsuspecting, and having the engine cut out on you with a massive, smelly Skunk Ape standing right in front of your disabled vehicle!
4. Low gear it
Even with the best gauges and a well-tuned machine, an over-aggressive newbie can still blow a transfer case or tranny because you're spinning your wheels in the slop, or driving too fast and plowing into an underwater rock or tree stump and completely severing the front suspension. As with the other precautions mentioned, you don't want to be in the middle of a sinkhole or in alligator/croc territory with a handicapped Jeep!
5. Hands at 10 and 2 with palms facing the wheel
Ask me how many guys I know who've broken thumbs, fingers, wrists pulled shoulders out of their sockets, etc. Just because they didn't follow this one driving rule. A rule that we're all taught our first day at driving school! This is really important when you're driving in soggy, bumpy, unpredictable terrain like a swampy bayou! The wheel could jerk unpredictably at anytime, even if you're watching what's going on. Don't stick your fingers or thumb inside the wheel either, or steer with one hand from the bottom definitely don't use a spinner while driving in the swamp please!