Off Road In A Wheelchair:

There are inherent risks in everything we do.  This is even more critical for a person confined to a wheelchair. Seemly simple considerations are compounded by our body's condition and vulnerability.


For clarity, I am writing this as a C6 quadriplegic who is always in a power chair and have been for over 15 years. No person with a disability has the exact same situation, even if they share the same level of injury. Andy, my friend from Utah, and I are both C6 yet he spends all his time in a manual chair and has issues that I don’t and vice versa.


For off road travel I use an Extreme 4x4, which was purchased in 2002, it is a 4 wheel drive wheelchair. Each wheel has its own motor.  It has been tipped over a few times, it was not the panacea I thought it would be. Any wheelchair has its limitations. Each time I have a problem, my wife and I, modify the event's protocol to make things safer. Mostly when I went over it was because of lack of attention to the terrain. This has not happened in a number of years.


Communication is the major concern for anyone traveling off road by themselves. We use to use walkie talkies, but that limits you to one contact and any number of factors cans interfere with the signal. Now I have a cell phone in a Sleeve which straps to my wrist. Turning it on requires only a button push and from the on its voice activated. A phone should a Weather App and GPS if possible.


Chances are if you spend much time in the outdoors, you have heard the expression “cotton kills.” Before I was hurt, I was a licensed New York State guide. I also taught a course on backpacking at a nearby college. The cotton fibers once they become wet stay wet and this can bring on hypothermia. The result is that the body loses heat and you start shivering. You should avoid cotton when spending any amount of time outdoors. There are many alternatives to cotton such as moisture-wicking fabric like polypropylene.

Heading up hill

Dress in layers, how many is determined by weather and environment. Layering allows one to better control body temperature by adding or removing layers. Remember to wear a hat and have sunscreen on. A space blanket, which takes up little room, should be added to your Emergency Wheelchair Kit. A plastic baggie or something similar should also be handy to cover your joystick if it starts to rain. Bugs and ticks should also be taken into consideration when dressing.


Make sure either, you leave a note telling where you are going and expected time you will return, or tell someone the information. If you're going to be gone a while you can call in at certain intervals to relieve anxiety.


Before heading off road be sure you know your chairs limitations and yours.

A Winter day

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Guide License

I the woods

Lake Ontario

Space Blanket

A field

Andy in a track chair

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