All four-wheel drivers should carry their own recovery kit when driving off-road. Exactly what that kit will consist of will depend on several factors, including the type of terrain that will be tackled and whether driving solo or in a group.
The best way to decide what you’ll need is to role-play. Imagine possible scenarios where your vehicle is stuck, then think about the best ways to recover it, and what gear you’ll need to achieve that.
Shovels and recovery boards. A shovel is a very important tool in your recovery arsenal. The best type of recovery shovel will have a round nose and a long handle, which will make it easier to clear debris and obstructions from under the vehicle and from around the tyres.
Of course, long-handle shovels take up a fair bit of space so if you don’t have the facility to carry one, such as up on a roof rack, then you could opt for a shovel with a split handle, of which there are several on the market.
Possibly even more versatile than a shovel is a pair of recovery boards. Recovery boards can also be used to shovel away debris under your vehicle, but can then also be laid down so you can drive over them. The idea is that the rotation of your vehicle’s tyres drives the recovery boards into the ground until the weight of the vehicle is able to drive along the length of the boards to escape its sticky predicament.
These things work… really well. And four recovery boards will work even better than two. In our experience the best recovery boards are manufactured by known brands such as MAXTRAX and TRED, as they have been designed through years of in-the-field testing and are manufactured from high-quality materials.
- Snatch strap
- Rated shackles
- Rated recovery points
- Cable damper
The best thing about off-road driving with a group of mates is the camaraderie… and the fact that they can drag you out of the muck if you get stuck. Yep, another vehicle is without a doubt one of the most effective recovery tools, so long as you have the right gear to utilise it.
The most obvious recovery method with two vehicles is a simple snatch, and for this you will need several bits of gear including a snatch strap, a couple of rated D-shackles or bow-shackles, rated recovery points on each vehicle, a cable damper and a pair of gloves.
The snatch strap should have a minimum breaking strength between two to three times the lightest vehicle’s GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass). That means that every vehicle in the convoy should have its own snatch strap, as a strap suited to a Suzuki Jimny will be much lighter than a strap suited to a Toyota LandCruiser. Straps usually have a Minimum Breaking Strength (MBS) in the range of 8000-15,000kg, and should be clearly marked.
Snatch straps are generally manufactured from webbed nylon and are designed to stretch. They do not have an infinite life, so look after them by washing after use and storing in the shade, and always check their condition before use. Snatch straps can fail, so once you have everything in place you should throw a cable damper over the strap before commencing the recovery operation.
- Winch cable (or rope)
- Tree trunk protector
- Winch extension strap
- Snatch block
- Rated shackles
- Rated recovery points
- Cable damper
- Ground anchor
- Spare shear pin
If you can’t dig yourself out of strife, drive yourself out of strife or snatch yourself out of strife, it’s time to drag out the winch. If you don’t want to (or can’t) fit a power winch to your vehicle, never fear. A hand winch is a very effective recovery tool. In addition to the winch itself you’ll also need a winch cable, tree trunk protector, winch extension strap, snatch block (or two), rated shackles, rated vehicle recovery points, a cable damper, a ground anchor and a spare shear pin.
A hand winch is a simple tool to operate albeit an exhaustive and slow one. You really need to be quite fit to drag a three-tonne 4x4 up a rock step or out of a muddy bog with a hand winch. As with a snatch recovery, your vehicle will need to be equipped with rated recovery points, and you’ll also need somewhere solid to anchor the winch.
Always use rated shackles when attaching the winch cable to the vehicle, a winch extension strap or the anchor point. If that anchor is a tree, you’ll need to use a tree trunk protector so you won’t ringbark it.
If the recovery effort exceeds your ability to operate the winch handle, you’ll need to use a snatch block, which will theoretically halve the winching effort as well as the winching speed.
Always carry one or two spare shear pins when using a hand winch. These are designed to fail to prevent winch damage if maximum winch capacity is exceeded.
When using a power winch fitted to your vehicle, you’ll need much the same equipment as when using a hand winch. The winch itself should be rated to around one-and-a-half to two times the GVM of the vehicle. For example, if GVM is 3000kg, you’ll need a 4500kg (10,000lb) winch or greater.
It should be noted that electric winches draw a lot of power, so if you’re likely to be using one regularly you should also look at equipping your vehicle with a dual-battery set-up.
- Mechanical farm (Hi-Lift) jack
- UHF radios
A mechanical farm jack, often referred to by the brand name Hi-Lift jack, is a very handy recovery device. It can be used to lift a vehicle so you can build up the ground beneath its wheels, or it can be used to reposition a vehicle that might be in a tricky situation. It can also be used to winch a vehicle out of strife, albeit an inch at a time. As with a winch, always carry a spare shear pin when relying on a Hi-Lift jack to get you out of strife.
A pair of work gloves is essential when handling recovery equipment such as winch cables and the like. Make sure they’re good quality items and you wear them.
Two-way UHF radios will make any recovery operation easier, allowing drivers to communicate with each other when performing a snatch recovery, or allowing a driver to communicate with a spotter when winching. Most of us have a UHF radio installed in our vehicles, but the addition of a handheld UHF radio to your kit can be hugely beneficial when performing vehicle recovery operations.
Words Dean Mellor