My absolute favourite video from my Keitora YouTube playlist is this one, where a little Suzuki Carry scrabbles its way up a forest track to a car park full of bigger, meaner machinery that presumably has just done the same…

I love everything about that video – the tenaciousness of the little truck, the fact we’re watching it from the windscreen of a JA Jimny, that “天下無敵四駆軽トラですね!” in the description translates as “‎Invincible 4WD truck, isn’t it?!‎” – but I also feel a pang of jealousy for the freedom the Japanese seem to have when it comes to taking their 4WD vehicles into the countryside. Snow-laden single track roads, forestry tracks, scraps of land turned into miniature off-road parks – we’re certainly not as lucky in this country.

I’d been hoping for some serious snow over winter as one way to test out the Carry’s 4WD system – those types of adventure are always fun(!) – but unfortunately we got very little. I’d also thought about taking on the tamest possible tracks at a local “pay and play” site but ultimately those places are a bit too extreme for a vehicle like the Carry and would’ve probably required me to leave my mechanical sympathy at the entrance gate… no thanks!

Scoping around for other opportunities I came across the 4×4 in the Forest events at Cannock Chase – less than an hour away from me – which sounded like the perfect way to re-enact my Japanese forestry track dreams here in the UK. I booked online for the March event, then realised that it might be best to check if the Carry would actually be suitable. I needn’t have worried – in a quick e-mail exchange before the big day the Forestry Commission ranger said he was more than happy to see what the little truck could do, his one recommendation being to add a bit of ballast in the bed to aid traction.

On the day the 16-strong convoy – made up of various Land & Range Rovers, two Hiluxes, an Isuzu Trooper, a Mahindra, and the Carry – motored 15 miles around the Chase over 3 1/2 hours, tackling steep climbs and descents, technical twisting paths, and muddy water holes, with just enough forestry track in between to give us all a breather before the next tricky section (and allow us to admire some beautiful countryside along the way).

GPS trace of March 2019’s 4×4 in the Forest route (Zipped GPX file)

It was immense fun and the Carry held its own throughout, going everywhere the more serious machinery went including a particularly steep climb that was causing grief for some of the bigger trucks. Tiny ground clearance, limited rear traction and a relative novice at the wheel also made every bit of the route feel massively tricky and thus hugely rewarding to get through, so much so that my wife and I have secretly crowned it Champion of the Chase, an equal to the Legend of Longnor in every respect.

It wasn’t the only surprise of the day either – my aunty thought the event sounded so cool she booked up to test the off-road chops of her 11-month old Evoque. It raised a few eyebrows in the convoy line-up beforehand but raised even more when it took the route in its stride. I’d put money on it being a more luxurious way to see the Chase than travelling in the Carry too 😀

I’d thoroughly recommend the day to anyone interested in taking their 4×4 off-road, either for the first time or if they’re looking to get a better understanding of what their vehicle is capable of. Don’t shy away if it’s standard either – the Carry (and my aunty’s Evoque) proved that you can have bags of fun in a totally stock 4WD. The atmosphere was very relaxed, everyone involved was super-friendly, and photographs of the event were shared afterwards via a dedicated Facebook group – what a neat bonus!