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Recovery Gear for Your Overlanding Vehicle

In this article, as part of our ongoing series on “Building an Overlanding Vehicle”, we look at the essential recovery equipment that you should carry, along with some other items of equipment that you may find useful.

Whether your Overlanding consists of day trips to the beach, the occasional weekend away or longer prolonged travel, there are certain items of recovery equipment which are essential.

Initially, you may not think that you’ll be getting into tricky situations, but the reality of it is that, sooner or later, either you, or a friend is going to get stuck. In the first part of this article, we deal with what is absolutely ESSENTIAL.

Photo 1 of Recovery Gear for Your Overlanding Vehicle

If you’re going to be recovered, or help recovering someone else, you need to be able to securely attach your vehicle to another. The only way to do this is to have rated recovery points fitted. As a minimum you will need to have one fixed at both the front and rear of the vehicle. The 4x4Explorer vehicle has two recovery points fitted at the front and rear. This gives you more options if one recovery point is not accessible and allows you to use a tree protector to balance the force between the two points, if the load is high.

A few things to note here….. A factory tie down point, whether welded to the chassis, or not, will not be sufficient to sustain a snatch recovery. If you have a tow ball, this should NEVER be used as a recovery point. These are designed for the downward pressure of a trailer and will not sustain the lateral forces involved in a recovery situation. Have a look at the many videos available online where tow balls have failed. If your tow hitch is removable, there are options to remove the tow ball and insert a bar with the possibility of attaching a shackle.

You should also carry a snatch strap. A snatch strap is similar to a tow rope except that a snatch strap has stretch in it. Think of it as a large elastic band that gives you more power due to the kinetic energy released during a recovery. Depending on the type of recovery points that you have fitted, you may require shackles to fasten the strap to your vehicle. Traditionally, steel “D” shackles have been used, however the use of soft shackles is becoming more prevalent. The advantages of soft shackles are that they weigh less and if they fail will not cause significant injury or death. They are also as strong, if not stronger, than steel shackles.

Whether or not you need shackles for this purpose, it is good practise to carry at least two as they can be used for connecting ropes, straps and snatch blocks together.

Recovery points, snatch straps and shackles are only good if you are with another vehicle. For self-recovery, the two essential items that you should carry are a shovel and a set of recovery boards, such as Maxtrax. Four boards are better than two, but how many you carry will depend on your budget and anticipated level of use. (See our previous article on how to correctly use Recovery Boards). There are not many situations that cannot be overcome by a bit of digging and some recovery boards!

Photo 2 of Recovery Gear for Your Overlanding Vehicle
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So those are really the essentials that you need to have in you vehicle. What are the other items of recovery equipment that are available to you?


Obviously, there are winches. A winch is a very useful piece of equipment but comes at a price. In order to fit a winch to most vehicles, you will also need to fit a bull bar. There are many types of winches on the market to suit all budgets and usage. When you’re starting out, it’s difficult to know how often you are going to use your winch and how much you should spend. As with anything, it’s better to invest in something which is probably more powerful than what you think you will need initially, so that your investment is “future proof”. Make sure that your winch is serviced regularly so that when you need it, you know it’s going to operate correctly. This is particularly important if you do regular river crossings.


We’re not going to go into how to use a winch safely and there are many videos online which will give you tips on how to keep yourself safe.


It’s worth pointing out that a winch is only useful if you have something to winch off. This maybe another vehicle or a tree or a large rock. You’d be surprised how many times you get stuck and there’s nothing to winch off. Here at 4x4Explorer, we are out on the tracks all the time and I would estimate that the usage of winch to Maxtrax is probably five to one, meaning that use our recovery boards far more than the winch.


If you fit a winch, you will also need a tree protector. A tree protector is a short strap which you put around a tree  or other fixed object to use as an anchor. As previously mentioned, they can also be used to equalise the load between two recovery points to divide the load and stress.


Another useful piece of equipment to carry is a snatch block. In the event where it is not possible to use a direct pull off a winch, a snatch block can be used to change the direction of pull. We carry a snatch block but it has never been used in anger. Again there are many videos available which demonstrate advanced winching techniques and it is a good idea to practice some of these in a situation of safety and before you actually need them.

Photo 3 of Recovery Gear for Your Overlanding Vehicle
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The other items that we carry are a “deadman” and a ground anchor. These can be useful in the situation where you are alone and there is no natural anchor available. Whilst these are useful “get out of jail free cards”, we rarely use them.


Another useful item to have is a “gear bag”. We have a bag which is attached to our spare wheel. It serves two purposes. If we are away for a period of time, we use to store our rubbish. Nothing worse than having the truck smell of onions and the left overs of last night’s dinner! We also store all of our recovery gear there. It means that it’s easily accessible and ready to use and, if it’s been used and is muddy, we don’t have to have it in the truck.


As always, we hope that you have found this article enjoyable to read and informative. There are now many videos available on YouTube where you can watch these pieces of equipment being used, so go and get the essentials and hopefully see you out there fully equipped.

This article is part of the Building an Overlanding Vehicle Series.

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