Off Road Tips for The Beginner – The Spotter

When driving your 4wd vehicle off road, there will be times where the driver will need someone to guide him through certain tough parts where he cannot see the placement of his tires. This task falls upon the spotter, whom the driver will have to trust to get him through safely. The spotter is usually an experienced person, as any mistake he makes will have an effect on the driver and his vehicle. But if all of you are new to off roading, then here are some tips you should learn.

First of all, a spotter has to be a person with confidence so that he can command the trust of the driver. If the person guiding sounds unsure or insecure, the drive may not want to listen to his instructions. This may lead to the vehicle ending up in bad situations. And even if the spotter is good, there may be situations beyond his control that causes things to go wrong. There should be a good understanding between the spotter and the driver that anything can happen and there should be no blame put on the spotter.


It is very common to have more than one person shouting out instructions to the driver. This usually happens when there are newbies around, but once in a while, you see this in experienced groups as well. There can only be one spotter, giving instructions so as not to confuse the driver. If you see the spotter making a bad call, approach him and quietly speak to him about it.

Walkie Talkies are important pieces of equipment when going off road in the jungle. They allow clear communication between the spotter and the driver at critical moments and over distance. Messages should be precise, e.g., “Winch In”, or “Winch Out” instead of just “Winch”. Verbal instructions should also be accompanied by hand signals. Just remember that your left is the driver’s right.

The spotter should be visible at all times. You should be in front of the vehicle while keeping a safe distance.

These are some basic hand signals that you will use often.

Come Forward
With an open palm facing you, move your hand towards you to signal the driver to advance forward.

With the back of your palm facing you, move your hand towards the driver to indicate you want him to reverse.

With a clenched fist, hold your hand up with the palm towards the driver to let him know you want him to stop.

With your index finger pointing up, move your hand clockwise as a signal to Winch-In.

With your index finger pointing down, move your hand in a clockwise motion to indicate Winch-Out.

Waving your hands with speed tells the driver how fast or slow you want him to go.

When guiding a vehicle through uneven ground, the spotter’s job is to guide the driver so that the vehicle is kept as even as possible to prevent a roll-over. You may want to place rocks or wood in the ruts to help you achieve that.

In the event that winching is required, the spotter has to find the best position to secure the winch cable or synthetic rope so that the recovery is made as easy as possible. The anchor points could be a sturdy tree trunk or large rock that can take the pressure of pulling a vehicle. Or it could be another 4wd vehicle that is in the right position to get the stuck vehicle out. The spotter should be familiar with engaging and disengaging the winch’s free spool, as well as know how to use bow-shackles, soft shackles. snatch blocks, winch rings, tree trunk protectors, tow straps and snatch straps. This may sound daunting, but is easy when you know how.


When the winch is working, the spotter must make sure that everyone else is at a safe distance. Nobody should be between the vehicle and the anchor point of the winch cable or rope to prevent serious injuries from happening.

It is preferable that the spotter is familiar with driving an off-road vehicle. This is because he has to access the best possible route the driver has to take to overcome a problem area. Being familiar with how a 4wd vehicle handles will help him achieve this task.