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The Gearzette


- February 07, 2023

If you’re new to off-roading, then these tips are a great foundation to equip you with the skills to tackle tough trails with confidence - knowing that if you do get bogged down (and even the most experienced do) you’ll be able to get yourself out. If you’re an experienced overland adventurer then the principles and latest gear are always worth a refresher. Read on to find out what you need on your recovery gear list:​


1. Get Proper Training​

There are countless YouTube tutorials and books on the subject and many experienced overlanders are self-taught and have learned what they know through experience. However, an advanced off-road driving and recovery course through a reputed training center will go a long way to giving you the confidence to successfully work your way through a range of recovery situations. And, perhaps more importantly, teach you how to safely use some of the more advanced recovery devices, such as a Hi-Lift Jack. The hi-lifting jack has been around for decades and can be a highly versatile recovery device, even allowing you to hand winch your way out of a fix. To learn more about the Hi-Lift Jack and how to transport it and other recovery devices, click here.

© Craig Kolesky

2. Safety First​

It may seem like the biggest cliche, but a recovery situation can be potentially dangerous if the wrong gear is used, or the correct gear is incorrectly utilized. Volumes have been written about the safety aspects of various recovery situations. You need to know how to correctly use a winch (with a steel cable or synthetic rope), snatch strap and recovery rope. You don’t want any of them to snap or detach. Or worse, your recovery point to fail… The proper straps and connectors are crucial for safety (as well as smooth, successful recoveries) as is the knowledge of the correct recovery points. For example, tow bars and strap-down points are not safe recovery points when using a snatch strap or recovery rope. The ball on a traditional tow bar was designed to tow a trailer with a specific fixed connection, attaching a winch, rope, or strap to it for recovery purposes can have catastrophic consequences. Make sure you know where the rated recovery points on your vehicle are, and then, always drape a bridle or damper over the strap, cable or rope.​

© Craig Rhodes-Harrison

3. Start digging early​

Trying to free up a bogged-down vehicle out of sand, rocks, mud or snow by spinning the wheels, will most likely just get you stuck even deeper. As soon as you feel your vehicle bogging down, get out and assess the situation. Often, just a bit of digging and ‘landscaping’ will provide the ‘ramp’ your tires need to drive out (without the aid of towing or winching). Using your hands to dig is not only time-consuming and ineffective but can also be dangerous, so a good spade that is easily accessible is a must-have. Front Runner’s Spade Axe Edge is a popular option. Mount it to your roof rack with Front Runner’s Ratcheting Spade/Shovel & Paddle Mount and you’re ready. *Once on firm ground, stop and go back to refill the holes you left behind.​

© Craig Rhodes-Harrison

​4. Create Traction​

Recovery begins and ends with traction. A loss of traction on your tires would’ve caused them to spin which in turn would’ve dug your vehicle into the mud, rocks, snow or sand. To get out you need to get something under them onto which they can grip. If you’re stuck in sand or mud, you could dig away as much as possible (using a spade as suggested above) and then try wedging rocks or branches underneath the tires to create traction. This method is tedious, tiresome, and not always that effective. We suggest digging and then using a recovery device such as Front Runner’s MAXTRAX MKII system. A MAXTRAX plate has integrated teeth that grip into a tire's tread and provide the traction you need to be able to drive out. They feature a convenient mounting system and a nesting design which ensures they can be stacked and stored in such a way that you can maximize packing space on your rack while still having easy access.​

© Craig Rhodes-Harrison

5. Lower Your Tire Pressure​

Deflating your tires will broaden their tread surface which can offer better traction. In snow, sand, rocks or mud this could help you out of a recovery situation if you’re not too heavily bogged down. However, it is always best to assess the terrain before tackling a trail and then decide on the correct pressure. As a rule, lower tire pressures improve traction in sandy, rocky and muddy conditions. For a trail with a range of terrain types, having the freedom to accurately inflate and deflate your tires is a game changer. A mobile Air Compressor that works off your 12V plug is a great piece of kit for this. It is also invaluable for re-inflating a plugged flat tire after you’ve suffered a puncture.