See Spot Run - Trail Communication

Proper spotter hand signals

Harry WagnerPhotographer, Writer

If you have ever watched rollover videos on YouTube, you might have noticed some pretty spotty spotting. You know, where people outside the vehicle are waving their arms frantically and yelling at the driver. Have you ever found that to be helpful when you are wheeling? We haven’t, so we put together some suggestions for spotting on the trail. Here is knowledge we have acquired through our combined years.

Use a Spotter You Trust
If you are in a situation that is challenging enough that you need help, it is best to use someone you trust. It is only natural that the more you work together the better you will understand each other.

Have One Spotter
Too many “suggestions,” often differing, can make a tough situation worse instead of better. Designate one spotter and concentrate on only that person. If someone else can see something your spotter does not see, he should relay that information to the spotter, not to you.

Use Hand Signals
Visual commands are easier for the driver to process and follow than verbal commands. “Rights” and “lefts” can be confusing with the spotter and driver facing each other, but if verbal commands are required, then “driver” and “passenger” work better than “left” and “right.” Note that hand signals don’t betray when the spotter is excited or worried as verbal commands do (which can be a good thing or a bad thing!).

Who Controls the Winch?
There are two schools of thought regarding whether the driver of the vehicle being winched should control the winch, or it should be handled by someone outside the vehicle. Oftentimes this comes down to whether the winch being used is on the vehicle being recovered. If so, it is typically safer for the driver to also control the winch, but this can be overwhelming in technical situations. Using a winch from a dedicated recovery vehicle allows a second person to control the winch and frees up the driver to concentrate on steering the vehicle.