How far can you get with a 2WD and a shovel?


Looking at buying a relatively new light SUV/crossover for general use and some adventures. I'm not looking to do heavy wheeling for a while. 2WD is for price, mileage and wear and tear.

I've been looking at Jeep Patriots in the range of a few years old. Some of them come in 4x4 without costing too much, but I'd almost opt to go for the gas mileage. I'm not looking to rock crawl or do crazy trails, just go onto some forest roads that might be a bit rougher than usual.

4WD is all about traction in the right location, and I think if I need a 4WD it's probably more than I'd like to do. Then again, I've been on a road with some washed out dried up mud that other vehicles have made relatively impassable, but I'd be fine just digging down the ruts so that I could drive anything over it.

Saving on wear and tear, squeezing every maintenance/gas mile is my main concern. I'd also be okay with ghetto rigging some recovery boards.


I wouldn't worry about fuel mileage or wear/tear on a "4x4" vehicle like a Jeep Patriot. Almost all crossovers like that, the CRVs, RAV4s, and other small SUVs are not true 4wd vehicles. They are primarily FWD vehicles that can send (typically) only 40-60% power to the rear only when loss of traction warrants it.


The Jeep Patriot just seemed a lot better than the rest with the off road package.

I'm not planning on doing any serious wheeling for a while. I just want to get to places, mainly.


It will take to the point you where you will get stuck! :)

I have seen some folks force the issue with 2 Wheel drive and drive at light speed to get up terrain. They risked creating way more damage than if they just had 4WD. Conditions change all the time. I would want a 4WD for even the forest roads in AZ. Especially up north. When they get wet the clay base gets super slick.


Forking Icehole
2wd's are fine as long as you use a little common sense, avoid the mud, sand and rocks and you can go alot of places, my first truck was 2wd and I covered more of nevada than most of these lifted chromed big tired bro trucks will ever see!!
carry a cheap comealong and some chain just in case and have fun!! and if you can't get exactly where you want to go then walk or find an alternative route!


If you're dead set on a Patriot, just get one with Freedom Drive II. That's as close as you'll get to a real 4wd system on that platform and it'll probably go much further than it sounds like you're willing. The minor increases in fuel and maintenance costs will be negligible compare to getting stuck or missing adventures.


New member
I drove lots of jeep roads and fire roads in my old Astro van. With a locking rear differential and good tires you'll get most places in a smaller vehicle as long as you avoid lots of mud or lots of snow. I got a lot of surprised looks when I told people it was "just 2wd." My new van has an open diff and is very obviously less capable. If you are the type to push your luck, investing in some recovery equipment will go a long way.

I've only ever gotten stuck in 4wd Jeeps. Go figure.


All the digging in the world would not help on muddy / slick clay type roads. I agree with the post that a lot of 2WD guys think the skinny pedal is the only answer. We call them RutDiggers ;)


High-Tech Redneck
The good thing about a 2WD or AWD crossover (soft roader) is their inability off road also means they generally don't get stuck very tight unless you use too much skinny pedal or take chances.

I'll second the comment on changing conditions. Your doing good when it's dry. With clever wheel placement you can go lots of places. Splash some water on it and you are going nowhere.

A good number of years ago, I got into this mess trying to straddle some muddy ruts. I was fine until I seen I didn't need to go any further and tried to back out, one slip in and it was done. Fortunately I got out using natures traction mats (dead sticks from the surrounding woods) and a lot of throttle. It wasn't ideal and my Xterra would have gone through that same puddle in 2WD because of it's ground clearance alone.



Yep, that sort of **** is far more than I'd attempt with anything.

I was honestly thinking of just getting a station wagon until I saw that I could get a little bit more in my price range. I'm more interested in being able to go a few thousand miles away than being able to dig in deep since the former nets me a lot more cost savings on a day to day basis and I do a lot of highway driving.

On the flip side, the shooting spot I go to with my buddies is accessible with a car but it scrapes it up. I was able to go over it with my old ****ty minivan without scraping the bottom, and to be honest, that road is as much as I'd ever do.


Expedition Leader
You can off-road quite a bit with a one-legger. You'll learn a great deal about picking a careful line, conservation of energy and momentum, some finesse with the throttle etc etc. And about getting unstuck. I think it's a great way to learn how to drive off-road. You'll be more cautious and do less damage that way, too.

Good Times.

p nut

You may want to look at a Subaru Forester or Outback. Pretty nice AWD that will get better MPG than a 2WD Jeep. Or at least be on par.

Dan Grec

Expedition Leader
I drove a bone-stock TJ Wrangler from Alaska to Argentina. (with 4x4)

Every time I used 4x4 locals would come past me in a honda civic with 8 people in it.

Same story on the West Coast of Africa.

You can travel the world in 2WD if you want to.