Heading off-road? Here’s the affordable off-road self-recovery gear you need.
Who Needs Vehicle Self-Recovery Gear?
If you’re heading off the grid for a weekend getaway or a full-time new adventure, one this is certain, you’re going to need the ability to self recover your vehicle.
I’m not talking about self-recovery for the $70,000 Custom Built rock crawlers in Moab, I’m talking about you, the average guy/gal in their factory truck, Jeep, or another four-wheel-drive vehicle. Most of us don’t have built out rigs with $6,000 suspension upgrades and 40” Tires.
Your average vehicle that heads off-road has factory or close to factory suspension and maybe some all-terrain tires. In most cases, that’s all you need! However, in some rare situations, you may find yourself stuck. Fear not, in this quick list review, we have the top 5 self-recovery options that can be snagged for under $500.
Why Keep Self-recovery Gear in the First Place?
Let’s start with this and then I’ll shut up about why: Next time you’re out hiking and get hungry, just whip out your phone and have Doordash or UberEats bring you a great meal. Oh wait, you don’t have cell service? They won’t deliver to places outside the city? See, that’s why.
When you head off the pavement in search of new adventures, you immediately take on a more self-sufficient role. If you’re new to this, check out this guide on locating public land to recreate. It’s now up to you to fix yourself when things get tough. Sorry, that’s just how it is.
When a vehicle gets stuck, there’s likely some common issues: Traction, Mud, Sand or Snow. When a vehicle can’t get traction, it will be unable to dig in and climb over what’s in front of it, whether that be any of the above.
A Shovel for Self-Recovery.
Did you think this was gonna be all products at $499.00? Not here, bucko, we are regular folks with regular tools. The first tool you should keep on board is a shovel. It works in any condition, it’s cheap and you likely know how to use it.
Simply shovel away the dirt/snow in front of your vehicle’s tires and create a mini “path” for each tire so that the next time you press the gas, there is no obstacle in the way of your tire preventing it from moving forward and reducing any necessary grip or traction your tires may need to continue the mission.
I recommend going with a collapsable version or a fixed shorter version as seen below as these won’t take up much room in your vehicle and also don’t cost much at all. Generally, these can be picked up for less than $30. Matter of fact, get two so your co-pilot can help. This one here is a good option.
Heavy Duty Ratchet Straps (Poor Man’s Winch) for Vehicle Self-Recovery
If you’ve cleared a path and the tires are still slipping, it’s time to get creative. Ratchet Straps are one of the world’s best inventions. Whether you’re trying to secure a new couch in the back of your truck so it doesn’t fly off on the highway (ask me how I know) or if you’re securing a 4,000lb vehicle to a trailer for transport, these little devices make sure your able to move more and secure more than your own muscles will allow. Science!
For off-road recovery, using the ratchet straps will act as a manual winch and allow you to move an entire vehicle by simply cranking the ratchet.
I recommend grabbing your shovel first and clearing a path as mentioned above to reduce the stress already placed on your ratchet. Ratchet Straps rated for at least 10,000lbs are recommended and can be had on Amazon here. See the video below, it’s a great option!
Vehicle Recovery Traction Boards
Whoever Mr. Maxtrax is, he had a genius idea. These boards act as a portable traction-able surface for your tires to grip and move on. When the tires can’t get traction, grab your Maxtrax and simply place it up against the tire. This will give your tire the ability to gain traction on the once slippery surface and move your vehicle out of the stuck position.
There are several knock-offs of Maxtrax available online but if you watch the comparison videos on Youtube, they don’t quite have the quality needed and I would recommend going cheap on these. You don’t want to find out the hard way when the traction board snaps in half when you need it most. A Maxtrax brand name pair will run you about $300, or a lesser-known brand with good reviews and half the costs can be had here.
Powered Winch For Vehicle Self-Recovery
A winch can be invaluable. It’s essentially a powered, heavy-duty mini motor that will pull your vehicle from a bumper-mounted position to whatever fixed object you have secured the winch cable to. Winches come in varying load capacities for varying purposes.
From farm use and ATV’s to full vehicle recovery, get the rating you will need for your vehicle’s weight, and then add more to factor in things like the depth of how stuck you are and how much extra strength it will need to pull you out.
For example, if you have a 4,000lb vehicle, at a minimum, I would not go less than a winch rated for 5,000lbs, even then, it feels like not enough just typing this, I’m changing that to at least 7,000lbs.
Most winches will run you about $300-500 and come rated in that price range for about 9,000 – 13,000lbs. One factor to consider before purchasing a winch is the mounting location. Your vehicle’s factory bumper cannot have a winch mounted as the bumper is generally held on by a couple of bolts.
If you slapped a winch to your factory bumper and started pulling, you will only succeed in pulling your bumper right off, and you are still stuck…..and out $500.
So, look into a winch mounting plate or a Winch bumper that will be welded or properly secured to the frame of the vehicle, allowing for the max pulling efforts without ripping off a bumper. This is a quality winch used by many in the Jeeping world, see it here.
A Tow Strap and Shackle For Vehicle Self-Recovery
Now this is a bit of a cheater item on the list as its not completely “self” recovery. A tow strap is invaluable, however, it will need another source of pulling power for it to work and generally that comes in the form of another vehicle.
You can go wrong by having a tow strap. They also roll up and tuck away nicely, not taking up too much room and can be a lifesaver for both your vehicle or some lucky vehicle you pass that’s stuck.
A quality tow strap is definitely recommended as the cheap ones will snap pretty quick, regardless of their “rating capacity”.
I’ve seen many cheap ones snap as soon as the pulling started. Get a Shackle to go with it so you have a moveable mounting point to attach the tow strap. A quality Tow strap and shackle combo can be had for around $75-100, even cheaper in some cases, but again, don’t go too cheap. Check this combo out here.
Whatever you choose, if you decide to head off the beaten path, whether, for a quick day out or a long excursion, you need to have a couple of options to fix yourself up in a sticky situation. Any of the options above will greatly increase your chances of being back on the road in no time rather than walking around looking for a cell signal to call for help.
Mike is a Colorado resident, a combat veteran, and a former Police Officer, and an avid outdoorsman. Mike has camped, hiked, and Overlanded all over the United States. From backpack Elk Hunts on Public Land, solo truck camping to Multi-week Overlanding adventures with his family, Mike is very familiar with these outdoor topics.
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