The topic for today, if the title didn’t give it away, is the recovery gear that I carry with me. Some of it I have from recommendations of other people and some of it I have from necessity and hard-earned experience.
There is no particular way to cover all of the gear in the picture so I will just talk about things in an order that I find makes sense.
1. Fiskars stuff
Fiskars is known for their scissors and when I saw they had lawn-care products, I jumped in and grabbed them. I have to say that I have not been disappointed in any way and have had no issues with any of their products. They are lightweight and reliable while staying affordable. What more could you ask for? I have a 14 inch hatchet mainly for trimming small limbs off trees that impede the trail. I travel around pines a lot and where a limb meets a tree is VERY brittle and a small hatched can clear a tree pretty quick. For the trees that have bendy limbs, I carry a 10 inch folding saw that makes quick work of those. These two things live under my front seat and have been invaluable. The other Fiskars thing I have is a 36 inch SPLITTING axe. This is not for cutting down trees but it could be used that way in a pinch. This thing is used to split logs for leveling the jeep or for building a fire. I normally throw this in my rear floorboard or underneath the back seat for safe keeping.
2. Hi-Lift Stuff
One of the first recovery items I bought was a hi-lift jack and it has been pretty useful. I did get caught up in buying all of the “winching” accessories for the Hi-Lift and I would have to say that I would not recommend it. If you cannot afford a winch, stay out of situations where you may need to winch. I carry these accessories still because I have them and I don’t want to admit that they are pretty useless. I won’t go into it here but I will make another post about why I don’t recommend it. This was one of those HARD lessons learned.
What the Hi-Lift is good for is a lot of the things it is meant to do, like lifting the vehicle to change a tire… This is NOT the way to change a tire if you have other means to do so because it is inherently more dangerous and while working with the jack, make sure you are not under the vehicle or in a position that the jack could injure you or someone else in the event it became unstable. It is not too dangerous to use, just be careful and think about what you are doing.
Part of the “winching” ability of the Hi-Lift requires a chain so I have 20′ of a high-grade chain used by tow trucks to tie things down. I have some experience tying tractors down with this stuff an I know how useful and versatile it can be so I still carry it.
I used to store the jack on the hood but after someone pointed out to me how I would feel getting in an accident and it coming free from the hood and through the windshield, I began looking for a way to carry it that would require less dental work should it ever come free. I landed on the Dominion OffRoad Jack mount that SECURELY stores it behind the rear roll bar and out of the way. In fact, I use it for a shelf and tuck soft items like blankest and towels around it to keep them secured. This thing is great.
Speaking of winching, I have a winch after “attempting” to “winch” with my Hi-Lift. I don’t have a lot of money and some companies like their winches too much for my pocketbook so I decided to go with an Amazon winch that seemed to have good reviews and a weight rating that I needed. This is more of an insurance piece of gear because, despite what SOME people think (DAD), I do try to avoid situations that could get me stuck. I travel alone a lot so having this could help in a pinch. It has a synthetic line for weight reduction and safety and it has worked great for me so far. I did upgrade the hook to a Factor 55 shackle mount for safety as well but the price on that is a little steep.
Anytime you have a winch or even a recovery strap, you need some shackles. I carried the metal kind attached to my bumper for a while but ended up taking them off and sticking them in my recovery bag. If I go to a place where I may need to keep hooking up to a strap to help recover other people, I’ll leave one on the bumper but most of the time I try to keep them put away. I have also recently gotten into the soft shackles made of rope but have not tried them yet. I like the idea of not risking a metal shackle breaking and flying through the air.
5. Hitch Receiver
So I may have lied a little. There is one shackle that I always have on the outside of the jeep and that is the one that is attached to the hitch receiver. I always worry about them unscrewing themselves and losing it so I learned a little trick about putting a small zip tie through the hole in the pin and through the middle of the shackle. This prevents it from unscrewing but can easily be broken if you need to unscrew it to remove the shackle from the mount. Holding in the shackle mount is a Master Lock pin which eliminates the need for those quick pin things that always get lost.
6. Misc Winching things
If you intend to winch, there are a few other things that you should have. First, you should find a good snatch block to either double you pulling power or recover yourself or someone else from an awkward angle.
Another thing you should have is a good tree strap and/or tow strap. In my unprofessional opinion, these two things are the same item. Do your research, I could be wrong and I do have both. I have a tow strap that I got from some big-box store a long time ago that has been well used and still holding up great. I also have a tree strap that I don’t remember ever using because I always just grab the tow strap and wrap it around a tree because it is longer. While I use these interchangeably, don’t get this mixed up with a “snatch strap”. Snatch straps have a good deal of give in them so that the vehicle gets gently “snatched” out of wherever it may be stuck rather than being yanked by a rope strap with no give. The kinetic energy in a snatch strap can also be better suited towards recovering in certain situations.
While I have a synthetic line winch and the line is not prone to fraying and potentially cutting your hands up like a steel line, gloves are nice to have to protect your hands. They are cheap and, weigh nothing, and take up very little space. I use Mechanix FastFit gloves with a leather palm because the leather protects a little better than the synthetic and I really hate the dangling velcro piece on the normal Mechanix gloves. The FastFit gloves slide on and off and never irritate my wrist so they are my Go-To glove in any situation.
All of this stuff has to be kept somewhere and I keep it in the ARB Large Recovery Bag. It is sturdy, good quality, and hols everything nicely. I keep it behind the passenger seat and it makes a great foot rest for my son in his car seat.
I have covered my on-board air compressor before but I don’t think I covered the accessories. Just to cover the basics, I moved to on-board air after I having to carry around a cheap 12v Air compressor that I was always wondering when it would finally give up and leave me stranded. I got the ARB single air compressor and put it under the hood but I needed some accessories to make it useful. I needed some air hose and I stuck with ARB here because their hose was small and just long enough for what I needed. I also needed a way to air up the tires and while the ARB kit came with an air chuck, I wanted a way to read the pressure quickly without having to have a chuck and a gauge separately. I bought the Rhino pressure gauge and chuck combo and I have found it to be very accurate and useful. It allows me to lock the chuck on the valve and air up and down to exact pressures very easily.
8. Recovery Boards
The newest addition to my recovery system was some recovery boards by ActionTrax. I think they are relatively new to the market but they seem to be very high quality and the form factor of Maxtrax with the addition of a few features while being produced in the USA. I hang them on the rear tire with some ROK straps and they hold great.
Well, I think that is the extent of my recovery gear and it is always evolving. I will probably take out the Hi-Lift winching gear but I always fear that as soon as I do, I will find a use for it on the trail. It does weigh a lot and that is a big factor in deciding to remove it. I also carry an assortment of tools and spare parts but that is for another day.
Thanks for reading and let me know if you have more questions or recommendations. I am no expert, just figuring this stuff out along the way like anyone else.