This is the first of many articles that will teach you about different types of Off-Road Recovery Kits. In this article, you will learn what equipment is included in a basic kit, and what each part is used for. We will be reviewing different brands so you can decide which products are right for you. Everyone has a different style when it comes to the off-road lifestyle. Some like to wander down forest roads, others like to test their skills on the toughest trails in Moab. The gear that you purchase has to fit your ambitions and we are here to help you make those decisions.
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Off-Road Recovery Kits
An Off-Road Recovery Kit is a tool kit that you keep onboard your trail rig. This kit contains straps, shackles, gloves and other accessories to use when winching out of a bad situation. There are many brands on the market that sell whole kits and individual tools. But what do you really need to look for in an Off-Road Recovery Kit?
Heavy Duty Bag
The first thing you need to look for in a good off-road recovery kit is a heavy-duty bag. Winch Straps, dampers, shackles & gloves are heavy and you need a bag that is durable enough to withstand heavy use. Even if you don’t use it all the time you will still be moving it in and out of your rigs. You don’t want handles or zippers breaking in the process and risk losing your gear.
Shackles D-Ring and Web
Most off-road recovery kits come with 2 shackles. The shackles are used extensively when you are winching. You can use them to attach your winch to tree saver straps, snatch blocks, line extenders and bumpers. They are one of the most essential items to have in your kit. We usually carry at least 4 or 5 of these in our vehicle at any one time.
D ring shackles are also known as a clevis shackle, hitch shackle, or tow shackle. They are mainly used for straight pulls, as any sideways tension can twist and bend the shackles.
Web shackles are also a great way to go. They are designed so the strap loops can lay flat inside the shackle. This will prevent the loops from getting scrunched up which can cause the strap to break down over time.
A snatch block is a pully with a side plate that opens. This makes it easy to install a snatch block on your winch rope without having to remove hooks and threading through the pully. Snatch blocks are used for changing the direction of your winch line if your anchor point is not straight on. It also helps to increase the pulling power of your winch. Warn has a great brochure explaining how to use a Snatch Block safely. We will be going over safety guidelines in a future article.
If you are running a synthetic winch line. You can purchase snatch blocks specifically made for them that reduce the wear and tear on the ropes.
Winch lines and recovery straps break. It is all part of the risk of off-road recovery. However, there are a few tools you can use to help minimize the risk and damage that it can cause. Whether you are using a regular winch line or synthetic, a recovery damper is essential.
A Recovery Damper is an item you should have in your off-road recovery kit. By placing it over the winch-line/strap you can reduce the amount of recoil that occurs if a winch-line/strap breaks. It helps to propel the energy from the rope to the ground. When a line snaps, it can be very dangerous. A broken line can recoil back and injure or kill a friend, family member, vehicle or beloved pet.
You can purchase different kinds of recovery dampers online. Some have pockets that can be packed with rocks or sand for extra weight. In a pinch, you can also use your floor mats as a damper.
Tree Saver Strap
Most tree straps are made of polyester and are designed to be wrapped around trees. Tree Saver Straps have loops on both ends. After you wrap the strap around a tree or boulder, you can use a shackle to hook the ends together and attach your winchline. Tree Saver Straps are a must if you plan to go offroad in a wooded area. Wrapping a winch line around a tree can easily kill the tree and damage your line. Not only do they work on trees but they can also be wrapped around large rocks and boulders as well.
Recovery Strap vs Tow Strap
Most off-road recovery kits have the same basic equipment that works for most recovery situations. But this is where it can get a little bit confusing. Almost all the kits you see either come with Recovery Straps, Snatch Straps or Tow Straps. But are all straps made the same?
Make sure you know what you are buying when you purchase a kit. It will vary depending on what your needs are. A RECOVERY STRAP, also referred to as a Kinetic Strap or Snatch Strap is made from Nylon. Nylon gives the straps more stretch, sort of like a rubber band and is used differently than a tow strap. The stretching action provides more kinetic energy which converts into more pull strength. It also provides degreased shock loads on vehicles and equipment. To use a Recovery Strap, you can start with a little amount of slack and move forward quickly up to 15MPH (NO FASTER FOR SAFETY REASONS). Manufacturers may use these terms interchangeably so always check the material it is made with.
A TOW STRAP is generally made out of Polyester and has little to no give when towing. To use a TOW STRAP, you need to make sure your line is somewhat tight with no slack before slowing pulling a vehicle.
Always match your ropes strength and weight capacities to the vehicles being towed and the equipment (shackles, pulleys, etc.)
Winch Extension Strap
You and your buddies are out in the high desert. You see a huge mud hole and think. Hell Yeah! You get stuck. Your winch line doesn’t quite reach the nearest tree to get you out. Now what?
That is when a Winch Extension strap comes in handy. These straps can be attached to your winch line for extra pulling power and length. They are great to have on hand for those times that anchors are just barely out of reach of your bogged down rig.
Over time, winch lines begin to wear down. Burs and splinters begin to form on your winch line. Handling the line without gloves is just calling for disaster. Make sure you always carry a heavy pair of gloves in your recovery kit. Gloves are also handy when having to move large branches or small trees that may be blocking trails, shoveling snow and repairing hot engines.
Winching Diagram from GearAmerica
So now we that we have covered all the basics of recovery gear, we thought we would share with you some ways to use it. Here is a detailed diagram from GearAmerica on how to safely winch out of bad situations . Their recovery kits have all the tools you need to perform most of these techniques. Make sure to subscribe to our posts and YouTube Channel for upcoming videos on recovery methods and gear usage.
Off-Road Recovery Kits Gear Review
We compared 3 Off-Road Recovery Kits that are offered on Amazon. Each looks similar but comes with vastly different equipment. You have to choose what is right for your needs. (Note: The tables below are best viewed on a tablet or computer) .
Heavy Duty Bag
Tree Saver Strap
Kinetic Recovery Strap