Recovery is the act of getting a stuck vehicle unstuck. As such, the associated gear is an essential for anyone driving solo through remote areas, or venturing off-road. Recovery can also prove exceptionally dangerous. Which is why carrying quality gear, and items chosen to reduce risk as much as possible, is so important.
The original and still the best recovery board is made from a proprietary blend of fibrous nylon, which, unlike knockoffs, makes real Maxtrax virtually indestructible. And that’s important because these things are the multitool of vehicle recovery.
The principal here is simple: Get stuck, shove Maxtrax under your tires, drive out. If that out doesn’t get you far enough, just repeat as many times as necessary. If that out isn’t out, then combine the Maxtrax with some other gear; continuing to use them will help reduce forces and make things safer. You can also use Maxtrax to fill or bridge holes, form ramps, dig out loose materials like sand, mud, or snow, and even level your truck in camp for a perfect night’s sleep.
Absolutely everyone venturing off-road, or tackling winter conditions, should carry a pair of Maxtrax.
An ARB twin-piston compressor installed under your hood is durable, convenient way to add air to any vehicle.
If you get stuck on a soft surface like sand, mud, or snow, one of the first things you should try is airing down your tires. While a general rule of thumb for off-road travel might be to reduce PSI to the same number as the diameter of your wheel in inches (17 PSI on a 17-inch wheel, for instance), you may want to take that number even lower for a short period of time, just to climb out of that sand pit or whatever else you might be stuck in. To do that, you’ll need to air back up once you’re back on firm ground. And, you’ll also want to air back up to street pressures once you return to pavement. Enter air compressors and compressed air tanks.
Air compressors create pressurized air in the field. So long as you have electrical power, you can make air. Small, affordable compressors of the kind sold in gas stations make good emergency options for drivers sticking to pavement. If you’re regularly adjusting pressures on large tires, a high quality, high performance compressor will save you hours of time. ARB, ViAir, and other brands sell portable compressors you can carry in a box or bag. But digging around your cargo for that box or bag, unpacking it, opening your hood, and connecting to your battery add time and hassle. Permanently installing a compressor on your vehicle adds an immeasurable amount of convenience.
Compressed air tanks will air up your tires exponentially faster than a compressor, but mean you’ll need to buy that air. Power Tank makes high quality CO2 tanks complete with all the fittings you’ll need. Find a place on your vehicle to securely mount that tank. Large and heavy, you don’t want one bouncing around off-road, or catapulting forwards in a crash.
A rated recovery point will mount strongly to a vehicle’s frame, ensuring you don’t damage your truck, or create a lethal projectile (Photo: ARB)
In order to safely attach a kinetic recovery strap, tow rope, or winch line to a disabled vehicle, that vehicle will need to be fitted with appropriate recovery points. Some vehicles include these from the factory, many do not. Attempting to pull on stuff not designed to withstand tens of thousands of pounds of force can and does kill people.
One of the easiest, safest, and most affordable ways to add a recovery point to any vehicle is with a two-inch tow receiver. With one of those, you can easily insert a shackle mount into that receiver, and create a very strong point from which to pull another vehicle, or to pull your truck backwards. It’s common to see people simply attempt to insert a hitch pin through one end of a strap inside the receiver. While this may work in a pinch, that pin won’t be adequately supported inside the receiver, and may bend, making it impossible to remove.
Purpose built front recovery points can also be installed underneath your front frame rails. If your truck does not include these from the factory (as is the case with the new Toyota Tundra and Sequoia), you’ll need to make purchasing a set a priority.
A typical 3/4-inch D-ring shackle like those made by Crosby (pictured above) are rated to a minimum breaking strength of 70,000 pounds and will last forever. They’ll be capable of attaching to any recovery strap, winch, or appropriate recovery point on a vehicle. You’ll need at least two.
Half inch or 3/4 inch soft shackles will not hurl deadly projectiles at your face in the event something breaks during a vehicle recovery. But, they’re only rated to around 30,000 or 40,000 pounds minimum breaking strength, and they require purpose-built shackle mounts designed to protect the soft shackles from abrasion or cutting. Soft shackles will wear out with use.
(Photo: Bubba Rope)
Kinetic Straps and Ropes
The purpose of a kinetic strap or rope (also called snatch straps or ropes) is to reduce forces on vehicles using them, and to assist in pulling a vehicle out of an obstacle. They do that by stretching, which reduces shock loads on shackles, recovery points, and vehicles. Then, once stretched, they contract, which is what pulls a vehicle forward.
To use one, safely and appropriately connect the strap between two vehicles, then drive away slowly until you can feel the strap stretch to its limit. Once that occurs, you should begin to feel the strap contracting as the stuck vehicle is pulled free. Easy does it.
Ropes may be more expensive than straps, but they can be used multiple times in a quick succession. Straps are more affordable, but may loose their ability to contract after a handful of hard pulls. If this happens, you’ll need to give the strap 24 hours to rest before expecting full performance from it again.
Winches are expensive, heavy, challenging to install, and dangerous. Winches are also the most powerful tool in your recovery arsenal.
Anyone hoping to use a winch should first take a professional course in winching skills. The shop where you had your GFC installed will be able to help you find the winch appropriate for your vehicle, install it, and refer you to a course in your area.