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The 7 Most Important Articles of Clothing for Safe ATV Riding

Sometimes I get so excited to get my ATV wheels spinning up the trail that I forget to put on the proper clothing. It's funny, because I always remember to stuff my backpack full of sunscreen, water, food, maps, and all the other important items I'll need to have with me.

For as many years as I have been riding, you'd think I'd learn to dress the part of an experienced rider. Most of the time I don't really go that far, just a few miles up into the mountains, but the length of the trip shouldn't matter; I need to dress properly every time I go.

Last Saturday's Off-Highway Vehicle Ride

A few friends and I took off for a couple of hours on a spontaneous ride last Saturday. The day was so sunny and clear it just gave us the itch to get those 4 wheeler tires clawing their way up the trail. We weren't the only ones, because we passed quite a few other riders going the other direction.

I was surprised at how many people wear tank tops, flip-flop sorts. I even noticed some without head or hand protection. This prompted me to compile the following list of the minimum clothing standards for safe riding.


Here in Utah, as in most states, adults don't have to wear a helmet, but it's just smart. When wearing a helmet, make sure it fits properly and always fasten the chin strap. It won't do you any good it if gets knocked off in a crash.

I always like to bring along a baseball cap to put on during stops. I mean, can you imagine my embarrassment if someone sees my helmet head?

Glasses or Goggles

There's a lot of dust and debris flying at your face when you ride, so find a nice dark pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes. Better yet, wear riding goggles that are designed to create a seal around your eyes that keeps the dust out.

If you are worried about getting “raccoon face” or lines from the goggles, bring along a paper bag with eye holes cut out of it. Some of you may already have a couple of these that you use for other occasions. You know who you are.

Dust Mask or Bandana

Once, while tearing along the trail, I saw a large beetle flying through the air, coming straight at me. By the time it was too close to dodge, it went right into my mouth. I pulled off my helmet and tried desperately to clear it out. I never did find the thing.

In addition to filtering out bugs, a good bandana will keep a lot of dust out of your mouth, nose, and lungs. It will be the best $1 you ever spent.


I like to wear ATV gloves that have a little stretch in them so they fit my hands perfectly. They will prevent you from getting blisters due to gripping the handles for hours at a time, but unfortunately, they won't stop that thumb cramp most ATVers get.

Gloves are also really handy if you have to do any work on your machine. You can touch hot parts or handle greasy items without getting dirty. I just helped a friend install a couple of ATV tires and it was nice to not get my hands all black from the rubber.

Long Sleeve Shirt

Your arms are going to remain stretched out during the entire ride. If you wear short sleeves, plan on them getting a nasty sunburn. You should also plan on having tree branches or other trail impediments scratch up your arms if you aren't careful. A long sleeve shirt will take care of all those worries.

Long Pants

For the same reasons you need to wear long sleeves, you should put on pants. There are some hot engine parts that your legs are close to when you ride and you don't want your bare skin exposed to them. Most people hike around a bit or answer calls of nature, creating more reasons to protect your legs.

Shorts may make you look sexy to all the people who don't mind you having helmet head and raccoon eyes, but they won't protect you very well.


Wearing sturdy, protective footwear is important. If you ever have a crash there's a high likelihood that your feet are going to scrape the ground or even get run over by your ATV tires. Can you imagine wearing sandals when the clutching tread of a Kenda Executioner tears across your nearly barefoot? What if you have to walk for several miles?

Hiking boots work great. They are both lightweight and durable. Get a pair. Use them.

Dress for Safe Riding

Remember that this list is the minimum you should wear to protect yourself. You should also consider rain gear, jacket, or earplugs. If you bruise easily or have other health issues, think about picking up some body armor, the kind motorcycle riders wear.

Ryan Richards

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