UTV enthusiasts are always looking for a chance to get out and put their machine through its paces. With so many people spending their days working in offices, the weekend or vacation days offer a chance to get outdoors, enjoy the fresh air, and hit the trails.
Too often though, those opportunities can be ruined due to inclement weather. For some it may be too hot, it may be too cold, or perhaps it simply won’t stop raining. Winter can be a particularly rough season for UTV owners.
During the winter months, many people simply keep their machine stored away, unless they have a warm day. But who really wants to be separated from their beloved UTV for 3 or more months out of the year?
Fortunately, there’s a plethora of cold weather riding gear and accessories to keep you warm during those cold, harsh winters. From cold weather apparel to fully enclosed cabs with heaters, there are quite a few options for staying warm and dry during the winter. So what do you need to stay warm while riding in frigid temps?
What you need to stay warm during the winter will depend on your UTV and your location. In the southernmost parts of the US, from California to Georgia and Florida, you may only need a good jacket and pants to keep you warm, but if you’re located somewhere like Canada, you’re going to need a little more than that.
A lot more actually. So, that’s going to play a large part in what you’ll need for winter riding. The other thing to consider is your UTV. Some will have more options than other in regards to accessories and how well they work.
An enclosed cab is your best bet to stay warm while riding your UTV during the winter. Many, if not most, of the manufacturers have full cab enclosures available as accessories. Those that do not, often times have aftermarket options that work very well. Polaris and Can-Am both have models that come standard with a full cab and a heater, but they are a bit pricey.
There are two types of cab enclosures to consider. The first, and most expensive, option is a hard panel enclosure with a solid door. If you get the entire enclosure as a kit, they are likely to cost in excess of $2,500 and can easily surpass $4,000.
These usually include a roof, windshield, solid rear panel, and full doors. In some cases, you may to have purchase everything piece by piece to enclose the cab. When looking at full enclosures like this, it’s important to look at the fit, to get the best seal possible to keep out as much cold air and water as you can.
No UTV cab will be 100% sealed, but some will seal better than others. OEM options are usually a safe bet, but they are usually more expensive than aftermarket options.
There are quite a few options for aftermarket enclosures. SuperATV is one of the most well known companies to produce these and they have hard enclosures for many of the popular utility machines.
Though the aftermarket options are usually less expensive than OEM products, there’s a chance they may not seal up quite as well. Still, as long as you go with a reputable aftermarket company, the results should be pretty good.
As previously mentioned, hard panel enclosures are expensive, so what if those are more than your budget? That’s where soft canvas enclosures come into play. It may also be that you have a sport UTV and there aren’t any hard enclosures available.
There are more options for enclosures for utility side-by-sides than sport side-by-sides. The soft canvas enclosure is a great option for those who need a more budget friendly option or those that have sport UTVs that don’t have the option of the hard enclosure.
The design of the cab and roll cage are usually the limiting factor with sport UTVs, but the canvas material can be made to provide a pretty good fit. The soft canvas enclosures usually have a soft rear panel and canvas doors with zip-up windows.
Some may include a hard or soft top and a windshield, but there are a wide variety of options with these. They are much less expensive than a hard enclosure, but they aren’t going to seal up as well. One distinct advantage of the soft doors and enclosures is that they are much easier to remove and store away during the warmer months.
You can find soft canvas enclosures for sport or utility UTVs pretty easily. If you already have a roof, windshield, and rear panel, the canvas door kits can be found starting around $300. Full kits with metal framed canvas doors can surpass $1,000.
As with anything else, the higher quality materials and construction will cost more. Either type of enclosure will work well to keep you out of the elements, it will just depend on your needs and your budget as to which is right for you.
Regardless of whether someone opts for the hard enclosure or the less expensive soft canvas enclosure, they are most likely going to need a heater. Even if it’s not that cold outside, the windshield will fog up and you won’t be able to see well enough to navigate the trails.
A heater with defrost ducts will be a huge benefit in an enclosed cab. Not only will it keep the windshield clear, it’ll keep the cab nice and warm.
Even if you don’t have a full enclosure, a heater is a great way to keep warm during those winter rides. Most manufacturers have heaters as an accessory, but there are several aftermarket options as well.
You can get a simple one or two vent model that will fit right under the center of the dash or you can get larger units with more vents and ducts to place the vents where you want them. Some have the defrost ducts as a part of the package to keep the windshield clear.
They all work the same way, by tapping into the UTVs cooling system. Installation isn’t overly difficult, but if you aren’t comfortable with that, you can always have your local dealer install it.
Roof, Windshield, and Rear Panels
It may not seem like a drastic change, but adding a roof, windshield, and rear panel will significantly reduce the amount of air circulating in the cab. No cold wind hitting you in the face, and none coming from above or behind you.
Combining these three accessories may be all that you need if you’re in a warmer climate with mild winters. They are also easy to remove for the warmer months, or you can leave the roof and remove the windshield and rear panel to keep air circulating but have some shade from the sun.
There are also a few options for vented windshields or flip-out windshields if you want to leave it on the UTV year round.
Rear panels are pretty simple, but you do have the option to get a less expensive soft panel that’s just as easy to remove. They are pretty durable, but they can be susceptible to tears.
Rear visibility is also a bit better with a sold rear panel. Either option will keep air from circulating in from the back of the UTV. Rear panels can also help reduce dust from coming into the vehicle as air circulates around the vehicle.
There may not be a lot of dust in the winter, but many people leave these panels on during the summer keep the dust down. These three accessories alone won’t be enough for those that live in really cold climates, but in warmer areas, they can mean the difference between hitting the trails and hitting the couch!
What about the people who live in an area that gets several feet of snow every winter? Even with a great 4wd system, deep snow can be difficult to traverse, if not impossible in some cases.
For these conditions, there’s no better solution than a set of tracks for your UTV. These kits basically replace the standard wheel and tire setup with 4 tracks that will make your UTV nearly unstoppable.
UTV track kits are based on snowmobile technology and in recent years, the quality and durability of these kits has improved significantly.
Manufacturers are using lighter and stronger materials to keep the weight down, without sacrificing quality and durability. They perform exceptionally well, keeping the UTV on top of the snow and providing copious amounts of traction, whether you’re in the snow or not.
The large flat bottom of each track provides much more surface contact than a tire and the tread is designed to provide traction in all conditions to keep you moving.
There are some disadvantages to track kits, though. First and foremost is the cost. These are going to set you back at least $2,000 for the most basic kit and many kits exceed $4,000 or more.
They also put a significant amount of strain on the drivetrain and suspension components of your UTV. Even with new models that are lighter, there’s still an increased wear and tear on the vehicle.
If you add tracks to your UTV, you will most likely need to shorten your service intervals and regularly check your suspension and drivetrain components for excessive wear. It’s important to take this into consideration before purchasing a set of tracks for your UTV.
However, if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, there really is no better option to keep you out riding your UTV in these conditions.
Cold Weather Clothing
Heaters, enclosed cabs, and track kits all make it possible to enjoy the outdoors in the middle of a harsh winter, but you can’t overlook warm clothing to stay comfortable in these conditions.
Even with an enclosed cab, you may find yourself venturing out into the cold if you get stuck or need to clear a path on a trail. You never know what will happen while out on the trails.
A good cold weather helmet can go a long way in keeping you warm. Most have a full face visor to keep the wind off of your face, but it’s the added insulation that makes the most difference. They also have breath deflectors to prevent the face shield from fogging up.
You may also consider a snowmobile helmet if you do a significant amount of cold weather riding. Those can be had with heated face shields and built in breath boxes to maintain perfect visibility in the worst conditions.
If you don’t want to drop the coin on a new helmet, a good balaclava will also work wonders in frigid temps. These are easy to come by and are relatively inexpensive. Whatever you decide, it’s important to keep your head warm.
There’s a plethora of cold weather riding gear available today. Jackets and pants that are weather resistant, so that it keeps you warm and dry. You can even get electric heated jackets, pants, and vests that will provide extra warmth. These connect directly to your UTV’s battery for power, so as long as your vehicle is running, they will continue to provide heat.
Waterproof boots are a must if you’re in snowy conditions. You don’t want the snow melting on your boots and soaking your feet. Cold, wet feet are a sure-fire way to have a miserable day. It’s also very important to keep your hands warm, so a good pair of gloves are a definite necessity. Like the pants and jackets, you can also get heated gloves.
Base layers are yet another good option to consider. They do a great job of keeping heat close to your body and they are lightweight and comfortable. There are so many options available, there’s no need to store your UTV away when you can get out and enjoy it, regardless of the cold temps.
For some people, winter weather isn’t a problem and they are able to enjoy the outdoors year round. Others have to contend with less than ideal conditions for several months out of the year and they want to get out and ride as much as the rest of us. With more and more accessories and cold weather gear being introduced each year, it’s possible to do just that.
Whether you simply need some warmer clothing or need everything discussed in this article, the thought of getting out and hitting the trails at anytime is something every UTV enthusiast can get excited about.
Just make sure to stay safe in adverse conditions and always carry recovery gear. If you’re going to be out in the wilderness, far from civilization, you should carry what you need to survive, should you end up stranded. That way you can enjoy the scenery knowing you’re prepared.
Stay warm and stay safe!