2010 Land Rover LR4 Off-Roading

In the realm of off-roading, obstacles can appear on the trail that can only be safely negotiated with the help of an external pair of eyes. Spotting, as it’s known by the four wheel drive community, can make the difference between finding the perfect line through a rock garden or finding the perfect repair facility for a freshly demolished rig. Okay, things aren’t quite that drastic, but spotting is a great way to save the day from being consumed by easily avoidable recovery efforts.

Essentially, the spotter is the person driving the vehicle through the obstacle. Solely by hand signals or verbal commands, the spotter maintains control of the scenario. While being spotted, the person in the driver’s seat is simply a robot carrying out orders. Those orders need to be as clear and concise as possible.

Directional Commands

When referring to the direction of steering, using the words ‘left’ and ‘right’ on the trail can result in a deluge of responses like “huh” and “my left or your left?” When the spotter needs to direct the rig a certain direction, only the words “driver” and “passenger” should refer to steering wheel turns. Using commands like these completely eliminate confusion as to which side is which. There is, after all, only one driver’s side to the vehicle.

Spotting Hand Signals

Without proper channels of communication while spotting, there are numerous flubs and flops that can happen to ruin a perfectly good day on the trail.

In regards to moving forward and backwards, hand signals work best. The spotter should be placed in a direct sight path with the driver at all times for safety’s sake anyhow. Hand signals also let the spotter simultaneously direct the vehicle forward while guiding it with voice commands. Using solely vocal commands would be chaotic for both parties.

In terms of hand signals, the flat open palm gesture like a high-five toward the driver clearly means to stop or pause. Using this pause signal gives the spotter chance to reposition vantage points and is easy to maintain while traversing rough terrain. When the spotter wants the robot to move the rig forward all that needs to be done is quickly turn the pause-hand inward and use the first four fingers in a beckoning motion similar to that used for a child or dog. The transfer between the pause-hand and the beckon-hand is extremely quick and simple, resulting in little time lost during the switch.

Another way for the spotter to maneuver the vehicle with nothing but hand signals is to use one hand for forward/reverse and the other for steering. A simple point of the index finger or thumb replaces the words “driver” or “passenger.” This works well when the spotter needs to guide the vehicle from a reasonable distance down the trail or when voice commands would be difficult to hear over environmental noise.

Without proper channels of communication while spotting, there are numerous flubs and flops that can happen to ruin a perfectly good day on the trail. Establishing a solid base of communication between the driver and the spotter is paramount before any obstacle conquering can be made.

2010 Land Rover LR4 Off-Roading with Spotter

A spotter guides a 2010 Land Rover LR4 along a trail.

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December 29, 2011

Brandon Jelson

Articles, Buying & Ownership, Off-Road

How To, Off-Road

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