There’s an old saying along the lines of there is a time and place for everything. In off-roading, that saying rings true in many ways-especially when it comes to vehicle recovery. Making sure you are using the right tools and methods to get the job done off-road will save you time and headaches, and it will be safer for everyone involved. In this issue we’ve covered many of the recovery tools and techniques to help you get out of a bind. In this article, we are focusing on when it’s best to use the two most common extraction implements—a winch and recovery strap.
While winching and strapping both pose vital roles in the wheeling world, they function very different. Sometimes the right tool for the job isn’t the most expensive, and when it comes to getting out of a tough situation, one can prove much safer and effective over the other. It’s impossible for us to predict every imaginable recovery scenario, but we can give you tips for examining which recovery tool is best used where.
As we said before, there is no perfect answer for every situation, but here is a good list of questions to ask before you break out the strap or spool out the winch line.
- Is the vehicle too heavy for the winch?
- Is the rig broken?
- Can it stop on its own or will the rope or cable be needed for control?
- Are there adequate tow points?
- Will moving the vehicle rapidly cause damage (oil pans, drivelines, and so on)?
- Is the vehicle accessible from one or both sides?
- Is the matter time-sensitive (hanging off of a cliff vs. high-centered on a rock)?
- Is more than one winch needed?
- Does the vehicle need to be pulled forward or backwards?
- Can the proposed tow vehicle gather enough traction or overcome obstacles enough to generate a controlled and effective pull?
Probably the most affordable piece of recovery equipment in your 4x4 is a recovery strap. While a basic recovery strap is a fundamental tool, not all are built alike. Nearly all straps have a certain amount of give, which allow them to expand and contract when in use. For dragging your 4x4 back to camp or just giving a gentle pull off of an obstacle, a recovery strap is great. Generally, we try to avoid snatching with a standard recovery strap as there is limited give, which could cause damage to the vehicle and strap.
A recovery rope, such as the ones offered from Bubba Rope (www.bubbarope.com), is actually designed with snatching in mind. The Bubba Rope uses kinetic energy to actually aid in yanking the stuck rig out. These are ideal for recovering rigs stuck in the mud.
Most vehicle-recovery winches are electric-powered units that have ratings as high as 16,500 pounds. To determine which winch is right for the job and your rig, we use the rule of 1½. This equation works by multiplying your vehicles weight by 1½. For example, a rig that weighs 5,000 pounds would be well suited with an 8,000-pound winch.
An average winch drum can hold around 90 to 100 feet of cable or rope. If the object or vehicle you are attempting to pull is at the max-rating of the winch, you can use snatch blocks to double and triple the winch rigging to provide additional leverage. Never use a winch cable or rope in place of a strap. Winching is meant to be a very controlled process. Using your winch as a snatch strap can cause damage and potentially result in equipment failure and/or injury.
In most bogging scenarios, a recovery rope or strap is all that is needed. Most of what you are fighting against is suction. Getting stuck in the mud can also be a very common and frequent occurrence. Using a winch would extend the recovery time, but is still a great option. We are fans of kinetic energy-style ropes as they allow more give and plenty of room to build momentum. This means they are easier on parts and still very effective. Companies like Bubba Rope offer special coatings that are designed to help the ropes withstand muddy conditions better than a conventional recovery rope.
Sand is another area that a quick pull from a recovery strap can handle everything you need. Generally, the exception to the rule is when the rig is buried off-camber. Another common thing we’ve seen on the coast is when rigs venture too far along the shoreline. When water and sand are involved, the control and power of a winch will be the way to go.
You can bury your rig quickly in snow. Depending on how deep and whether you’ve dug down to an icy bottom will determine which recovery tool you will need. We suggest equipping your rig with a winch and recovery strap if the white top wheeling is your cup of tea. Also, snow is one arena that we never wheel in alone.
Since recovery straps tend to stretch, they are not ideal for righting a rolled vehicle. Precision winching will almost always be the best technique for getting a vehicle on all fours. A tree saver is also a good item to keep handy and works great for attaching to spots that a traditional shackle cannot be affixed to.
It’s not uncommon to get high-centered in the rocks. In tight and technical boulder fields, there isn’t much room to use a strap, so the winch is the tool of choice. And since your rig is more vulnerable to damage in the rocks, the slow and controlled process is worth taking the time. The use of a tree saver is especially effective when a lead or anchor vehicle is not available.
Power to the People
The power of man is not to be underestimated. Attaching a recovery strap to your rig and having a group of guys keep tension on the other side can be extremely helpful in off-camber situations. These scenarios can be especially dangerous, so always rely on one spotter to communicate with the driver and strap holders. Common sense dictates to always wear gloves and if the rig does start to roll, let go of the rope, so you are not pulled into the mess!