• Spade. • Gloves.
• High-lift jack and jacking plate. • Air-jack with repair kit.
• Five-metre chain + grab hook. • Q20 or similar.
• Tuggum (kinetic) strap.
• Safety straps of a length of ski rope .
• Two large bow shackles for attaching straps.
• Two large D-shackles for attaching chains and straps to vehicles.
• Two small D-shackles for linking chain.
• Tree protector/ winching strap to attach to an anchor.
• Snatch-block to increase winch pulling power or change the
direction of a pull.
• Sand ladders/PSP to assist self recovery.
• Winch (vehicle-mounted or portable, electric, hydraulic or manual).
When a link needs to be made between elements in the recovery operation, in most cases a shackle is the most suitable and reliable way to do it. Using the incorrect type of shackle can result in damage to the strap or a failure under stress. When selecting shackles for your recovery tackle don’t be tempted to go the cheap route.
Working load markings
Quality shackles are marked with indelible information such as the safe working load, the maker’s name and sometimes 45° marks. If there are no markings on the shackle it is probably inferior and cannot be trusted. The safe working load is the important bit of information. Decent sized bow-shackles are 4-3/4 tons. This means that the shackle’s breaking load is 5,4 times that much. In the case of a 4-3/4 ton shackle the breaking load is 25,65 tons.
Important rules when using shackles:
• When using a shackle for recovery operations, tighten the bolt and then loosen it by a quarter of a turn. This prevents damage to the thread and makes releasing the bolt easier.
• When using a shackle for a long-distance tow, hand-tighten the shackle bolt firmly.
• Good quality shackles rarely fail – they simply distort so that they are difficult to undo.
• Clip-shackles designed to snap closed are unsuitable for vehicle recovery and can fail even in light duty operations.
• NEVER use two shackles to join two tuggum straps together. If one strap should break the attached shackles become a deadly missile.
D-shackles are used in the following ways:
• Joining sections of chain or attaching a chain to a vehicle.
• Attaching a snatch block to a vehicle.
• Attaching a chain to anchor/tree strap to the recovery tackle.
Bow-shackles are used whenever straps need to be connected. The extra width of a bow-shackle prevents the strap from being crushed during maximum stress.
Bow-shackles are used in the following ways:
• Attaching kinetic straps to chains and anchor straps.
• Attaching snatch-blocks to tree straps.
• Attaching kinetic straps to vehicles.
• Always place the strap over the bow section and the chain or snatch block over the bolt.
Snatch blocks (winch pulleys)
A snatch block is a hook or eye attached to a large pulley wheel through which the winch cable runs. A snatch block effectively gears down the pulling power – it doubles the pulling force at half the speed and is used in conditions where the winch power is insufficient for the task.
Using a snatch block has the following advantages:
• Doubles the pulling power.
• Winching from difficult angles.
• Overheating of electric winches reduced.
• Current draw is reduced and therefore kinder to batteries.
Rings, eyes and tow bars
All off-road vehicles should be fitted with numerous easily accessible towing eyes for vehicle recovery and winching. Factory fitted towing eyes are suitable for light and medium duty towing operations. They are not designed for use with kinetic straps. Therefore when a kinetic strap is used, both towing eyes must be used. The correct alternative is to fit heavy-duty towing attachments. Familiarise yourself with the location of your vehicle’s towing eyes before venturing off-road. When a vehicle is stuck in deep mud, it can be difficult to reach towing eyes that are located far beneath the vehicle or low to the ground.
Tow bars should not be used for vehicle recovery. Original vehicle manufacturer tow bars are generally stronger than those fitted by tow bar fitment centres, but as a tow bar should never be used for anything but light-weight towing and recovery operations a tow bar must not be considered as a primary recovery attachment.
Do not attach towing lines to a bush bar or to any part of the vehicle body or steering mechanism. If there are no towing eyes, attach lines to suspension components such as spring shackles, but beware of sharp edges damaging the rope.
Apart from the shovel being the most important recovery tool, it must be designed right – garden spades work, but not nearly as well as those designed for the job.
When selecting a spade consider the following:
• Feel the weight. It must not be unnecessarily heavy.
• The length should be sufficient to dig under a vehicle.
• Fold-away type camp shovels are far too short and make removing material from under a vehicle almost impossible.
• The blade should be shovel-shaped. A flat blade is far less effective. The blade must not be too big – this adds weight and makes clearing under a vehicle more difficult.
• Fancy materials such as stainless steel are pointless – and, they get lost.
• It should also be painted a bright colour because spades are often left lying in the bush after a recovery operation. Some have luminous strips on the shaft which is an excellent idea. Many spades are lost at night.
• Find a way of attaching your spade in a convenient place, like on the sides of a roof-rack. Place the shovel on the side near the front of the rack so that the curve of the blade bends around the front corner. In this way it will not be caught by bushes that pass close to the vehicle.
Gloves are a major asset to the off-roader and when a recovery operation begins, put on a pair of loose-fitting leather gloves. They help prevent possible injury when handling winch cable, can prevent
Serious injury when working at the winch and when sand ladders and jacks get hot under the desert sun they are a big help. They are also very useful in preventing blisters when digging and oily hands when jacking.
Anchor straps/tree protection
When using a tree as an anchor; cable or chain will cut into the bark and this can kill the tree. Also, attaching the hook back onto the cable weakens the cable and will damage it. To protect the tree and cable an anchor strap must be used and with a pair of shackles forms one of the most important components of the recovery kit. They also can be used in a multitude of other ways in all kinds of recovery situations.
Anchor straps are best made from polyester and must have no stretch, so a worn-out kinetic strap should not be used. Purpose-made anchor straps are available from 4×4 equipment outlets.
I suggest you carry a length of chain in your recovery kit. Chains are an excellent addition to the complete recovery kit and a length of three metres is sufficient for most jobs. They are particularly useful for attaching straps onto vehicles not well equipped for off-road recovery. An ideal chain is one with an 8000kg breaking strain, electroplated with grab hooks attached to both ends. The chain can be folded back on itself, and the grab hook hooked to any link, thereby shortening the chain to the desired length.
Use and care of chains:
• Do not shock-load a chain as this weakens the links. Normally a weak link goes undetected until it fails.
• Keep away from sharp edges when under load.
• Do not let a chain kink. A knot in a chain weakens it dramatically.
• To prevent rust, clean the chain in soapy water, allow to dry in the sun and then apply a light coat of Q-20 or similar before storing in a canvas (breathable) bag.
The purpose of a safety cord is to prevent a missile being created should anything in the recovery setup break and must be considered whenever a recovery operation is set up. Laying a blanket or towel, or rolling a strap around the cable is quick and easy but not foolproof. I suggest purpose made safety loops. They should last a lifetime because they are only stressed in the event of a breakage. Developed by John Rich of Stoney Ridge and Secure-Tech, many good 4×4 equipment stores sell them.
Chains linked to form a ladder and wound around each tyre are particularly useful when driving in snow or clay mud. The diamond style of chains are the best. Drive onto the chains attaching the inside chain first. Drive the vehicle five car lengths and then re-tension them if necessary.
It is a good idea to practice fitting tyre chains before departing because fitting them in ice and snow conditions is messy and awkward without practice. You will need a pair of gloves to fit chains. Do not fit chains to the front tyres alone – driving like this can be very dangerous because the inferior traction on the rear wheels tends to make the vehicle spin at the slightest provocation.
Kinetic, snatch or tuggum straps are elasticized towing straps used to extract a vehicle by another vehicle. The tow vehicle moves under power and jerks the vehicle from its bogged predicament. The kinetic strap is the single most innovative invention for the off-roader in the past twenty years.
Selecting a kinetic strap:
• Don’t go the cheap route.
• Protective sleeves on the end loops are a good idea especially if
they slip, or better, if they can be removed easily for cleaning
• Breaking strain rating is important but know the weight of your vehicle. When fully loaded, a vehicle may weigh 3000kgs. A breaking load factor of four should be estimated. Therefore: 3000×4=12000 kgs minimum breaking strain is required.
• A stretch of 20% is sufficient, 30% is better.
• Kinetic straps should be more than six metres long. The longer the strap the longer the stretch and the working life. Nine metres is ideal for most applications.
• Buy all the attachment accessories you need to avoid having to jury-rig equipment not designed for the job. When breakages occur it is more often attachments that break. Buy the best quality gear.
Tuggum kinetic are unpredictable:
• The actual stretch is determined by many factors: moisture content of the air, previous pulls and their loads, the time the strap has had to rest, how well the strap was cleaned.
• An average strap doing one hard pull stretching to its full capacity needs between 6 and 24 hours to recover (to contract to its original length) Time needed depends on previous work load. A newer strap recovers faster.
• When a strap stops recovering fully, to within 90% of its original length it is ‘tugged out’. Using it as a kinetic strap and relying on its stretch, which at this point may be as low as 5%, is dangerous. The strap is now good as a pull strap. It can also be used as a winch strap but with the small amount of stretch left in it may not be ideal.
More facts about kinetic straps:
• Genuine kinetic straps, those made for the job, are polyamide,
• The more moisture, the longer the stretch but the breaking strain