Over the decades, the Overland Expo team and trainers have used every imaginable piece of recovery gear in training situations and in real-world conditions, including mud, snow, sand, rain and heat — all around the globe.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned it is this: Some recovery gear works as intended and some of it just doesn’t. So, how does a novice overlander know how to choose the correct pieces to build their recovery kit?
Stick around and find out.
The perfect recovery kit isn’t something that you can usually buy right off the shelf. A recovery kit is built up over many years of testing and use. You can try new pieces as your budget allows and sometimes they are a good fit for you and sometimes they aren’t.
The good pieces end up in your kit and you can sell off the rest (or shove them on a shelf in your garage to collect dust for eternity.) Your gear gets used again and again and eventually wears out. It is imperative to know the life cycle of your gear and repair or replace it as necessary to make sure you avoid gear failure on the trail.
READ MORE: GEAR COLLECTIONS: OVERLAND WINCHES
The key is to work on your essentials first, so you have the necessary gear to help you when you do get stuck (and you will get stuck.) Here are some essentials, and some great products to help get you started.
Gloves and Glasses:
There’s almost nothing more important in your recovery kit than a good set of work gloves and safety glasses that will protect your hands from jagged winch lines, sharp rocks, splintered branches, and other trail perils.
WARN Winch Gloves – MSRP $26.50
WARN winch gloves provide superior fit and protection. These gloves are designed to help protect your hands from the sharp barbs and abrasion that may occur when handling winch rope. Made from durable synthetic leather with Kevlar reinforcement with extra knuckle and fingertip protection. It includes a terry cloth sweat wipe and a neoprene wrist for comfort.
A popular first purchase for any overland traveler is a set of traction boards. A heavy-duty, durable set of boards can help you get out of a surprising amount of badness. From mud, snow, and sand extraction to bridging gaps in rocks, my traction boards have proven their worth over the years and I wouldn’t leave home without them.
MAXTRAX Traction Boards: MSRP: $299.00/ pair
These lightweight and tough Maxtrax recovery devices use integrated teeth that grip into a tire’s tread to provide traction in sand, mud or snow. Made from UV-stabilized, flexible and tough engineering-grade reinforced nylon, these traction boards are built to last.
Lots of folks like the look of a trail jack, so they strap a shiny one on their rig as a show piece – never to be maintained or used again. This obviously isn’t the way to be prepared so if you do go the trail jack route, I’d recommend learning the proper use of it and maintaining it yearly so it is in working order when you need it. Sometimes the best jack is a simple bottle jack, so I linked our favorite below.
Hi-Lift X-Treme 60” Jack: MSRP: $145.00
The Hi-Lift X-Treme is Hi-Lift’s top-of-the-line all-cast version with special features that include, Charcoal metallic powder coat finish and gold zinc-coat hardware-and handle to ensure the greatest rust resistance from extreme use. Unique winch clamp spreader attachment replaces clamp clevis of the standard Hi-lift Jack.
Safe Jack 6-Ton Bottle Jack Recovery Kit : MSRP $269.00
The Safe Jack kit includes the following; 6-ton bottle jack (Omega industrial quality), Bottle jack extension screw collar, 3-inch bottle jack extension, 6-inch bottle jack extension, 8.5-12-inch adjustable bottle jack extension, Flat bottle jack pad, Universal 3-inch round tube bottle jack pad (Axle tube, leaf spring, etc.) and a heavy duty canvas Safe Jack bag.
The age-old question for safe vehicle recovery, do you use metal bow shackles (d-rings) or synthetic line soft shackles? A good kit will have both. Both are used in the same way and both are a great way to connect your vehicle to a recovery strap. Make absolutely sure your bow shackles and soft shackles are marked with a Load Rating or Working Load Limit – the maximum allowed weight that a particular piece of rigging can handle under normal conditions. Never use your recovery equipment for an object that weighs more than the WLL. If the shackle you want to buy doesn’t have this marked — don’t buy it.
Bow Shackle: ARB Recovery Bow Shackle: MSRP $23.99
A simple metal D-Ring printed with a working load limit of 8.5 tons and a steal at just $23.99. Buy two and you have the beginnings of a great recovery kit.
Soft Shackle: Bubba Rope Gator-Jaw PRO Synthetic Shackle: MSRP: $49.99
Stronger than steel, but it floats in water and is infinitely flexible. The Gator-Jaw PRO shackle by Bubba Rope can be washed off with water and air dried. While Gator-Jaw PRO fibers are stronger than steel they are susceptible to wear and cutting. Always inspect the shackle before use for excess wear, cutting, or worn and frayed areas.
Ropes / Straps:
A tow rope or strap is a necessary piece of recovery gear that creates a non-kinetic link between two vehicles for the purpose of pulling a vehicle free from sand, mud, or snow. The pull must be slow and methodical, meaning that you want to take the slack out of the rope slowly until you begin pulling the recovered vehicle free.
A snatch rope or strap is also known as a kinetic rope. They have more elasticity to them meaning they can flex and snap back to original length – like a rubber band. If you have a recovery that requires more kinetic energy to release the recovered vehicle, you’ll want to have a snatch strap or rope in your kit. Never use a snatch strap or rope in conjunction with a winch.
Tow Rope / Strap: Bubba Rope Black Op Tow Strap: MSRP: $91.99
The Black OP Tow Strap is made from bonded nylon thread with Cordura® eye covers giving you a strong, more than capable strap to help you out in recovery situations. This strap has been thoroughly tested and marked with load limits.
Snatch Rope / Strap: ARB Snatch Strap 29 ft. x 4.3 in.: MSRP: $117.60
Specifically designed to stretch under load for maximum performance, an ARB snatch strap is a very effective method of extracting a bogged or immobilized vehicle when a second vehicle is present. How it works: the elasticity in a snatch strap is what makes it such an essential piece of recovery gear. The kinetic energy generated by the elasticity aids with the recovery itself, while at the same time reducing the likelihood of vehicle damage.
Pulley / Snatch Block
A snatch block is a heavy-duty pulley inside a metal casing that protects the rope or line inside it. It works as a pulley point that can redirect the course of a winch line if your pull isn’t straight. Using a snatch block can effectively double the pulling capacity of a winch.
WARN Epic Snatch Block: MSRP: 139.99
Upgrade the pulling strength of your winch with a Warn Epic Block. This snatch block lets you change your pulling direction without causing harm to the wire or synthetic rope. 18,000 lb. limit
Winch Extension Rope
A winch extension rope fits its description and extends your winch rope by a set length. This is critical when the point you’re pulling from is just out of reach of your winch line. Trust me, it happens more often than not and it is always a good idea to have an extension just in case.
WARN Spydura Nightline Synthetic Rope Extension: MSRP: $168.99
A 3/8 inch x 50 feet rope extension made from durable ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene with UV-stability coating with dual-color weave with 3M light-activated reflective strand improves visibility of recovery rope. Compatible for use with winches up to 12,000 lb (5443 kg) capacity
There you have it, while it isn’t an exhaustive list, it is a very good starting point for building out your own recovery kit. It contains all of the gear you’ll need to successfully recover your vehicle or a friend’s vehicle when out on the trails.
I can’t stress this enough – get trained on the proper use of winches and recovery gear before you try to do this on your own. Winches can be extremely dangerous (and even lethal) under load without proper safety precautions.
Now get out there and explore!
Header Photo: WARN Industries