Recovery
Equipment

If you head off-road, whether it's just for a quick weekend trip, or for a 6-month drive around Australia, don't leave without a full kit of quality recovery gear.

This short article will cover what's in my recovery gear kit, how to identify safe, quality gear, plus equipping the 200 with rated recovery points at the front and rear of the vehicle.

Recovery gear for a touring setup

There's an old saying:

"It's better to have something and not need it, than to need it and not have it."

A lot of 4WD owners tour Australia without recovery gear, because they don't plan on going anywhere it may be needed. Unfortunately -based on personal experience- trips often don't go entirely to plan.

It's important, therefore, to make sure you're ready in case something goes wrong. At the very least, you need to ensure your vehicle has appropriate recovery points at the front and rear and that you're carrying a basic, quality recovery kit. If you plan on travelling alone or to highly remote destinations, then a more comprehensive kit which includes equipment for self-recovery (such as an electric of hand winch) is highly recommended.

Read on for some tips on installing rated recovery points on the 200, and some ideas on what makes up a good kit of recovery equipment, depending on your needs.

Strength ratings

Every piece of recovery equipment should be rated for strength. However, just to be confusing, there are two different terms used, and there's quite a lot of difference between the two:

Breaking Strength

Pretty self-explanatory. This the the rating (in kg or tonnes) that the item will fail at. This term is generally used for 'soft' items, such as soft shackles, snatch straps, winch straps and tree trunk protectors.

Working Load Limit (WLL)

A WLL is generally found on 'hard' items, such as bow shackles and vehicle recovery points, although it's also used with industrial items such as slings and chains and may appear in some other 4WD recovery equipment. The WLL of an item incorporates a safety factor of 5:1 - 6:1. This means the breaking strength is 5-6 times the WLL stamped on the item, assuming the item is not suffering damage or fatigue. For example, a bow shackle stamped with WLL 3.25T will actually fail at between 16 and 19 tonnes, depending on the safety factor.

Working Load Limit used to be called the 'Safe Working Load' (SWL).

If the tag or stamping on an item doesn't specify that its rating is a WLL, then assume it's a breaking strength.

Independent testing of recovery equipment

Several 4WD magazines and organisations have commissioned testing of various pieces of recovery equipment over the years. I'll provide a link here to any such testing, and update the list as more tests are published. If you're aware of any others, please feel free to contact me and I'll add it to the list.

IMPORTANT

Vehicle recovery operations can be extremely dangerous. There have been numerous fatalities and injuries due to poor techniques and/or equipment failure. There are huge loads and forces involved, particularly when snatching. Do not underestimate the potential danger.

  • Do not undertake vehicle recovery unless you are properly trained and following all the safety directions of the equipment.
  • Use passive options first whenever possible (eg Maxtrax before snatching).
  • Ensure all equipment is in good condition and well maintained.
  • Always have bystanders at least 1.5x the distance of the strap/cable away.
  • Always use cable dampeners when winching, towing and snatching. Ideally, three per strap/cable (one at each end, and one in the centre third of the length).
  • Never use a towball as a recovery attachment point.
  • Never join two straps with a steel shackle.
  • Keep synthetic straps, ropes and cables out of the sunlight and away from chemicals and fuels.
  • Always use protective gloves when handling cables.

You undertake any recovery operations entirely at your own risk.

Recovery Equipment for Touring

Vehicle recovery points

Most vehicles, including the LandCruiser 200, do not come equipped with rated recovery points. The points located on the front chassis rails of the 200 are really only designed as tie down points for transport, or basic static tow points. They are not rated for the substantial extra forces that are imposed during snatching in particular.

Front: At the front of the vehicle, I've gone with are made by Roadsafe (but also sold by many others), and rated with a Working Load Limit (WLL) of 5 tonnes. ARB also make replacement recovery points of a slightly different design. I prefer the Roadsafe design, but it comes down to personal preference. It may appear that the ARB ones offer a better approach angle, but that's not really the case. Although they don't hang down as far, they extend well in front of the chassis rails so the actual approach angle is almost identical, although the Roadside versions to hang down lower.

Rear: At the rear of the vehicle, I have the Outback Accessories rear bar/wheel carrier, which incorporates recovery points. If you don't have a rear bar, then I'd suggest a rated recovery point that can be inserted into the tow hitch receiver. These typically have a WLL of 5 tonnes.

WARNING: Never use a towball as a vehicle recovery point. To do so is extremely dangerous, with potentially lethal consequences.

Complete Recovery Kits

A good starting point if you don't already have a recovery kit, is to buy a complete one which contains most of the items you'll want, usually for much less money than buying the components individually. Don't skimp on a cheap no-name kit, as a component failure during a recovery can easily cause injury or even death, not to mention expensive vehicle damage. Good kits include:

Shackles (Steel bow shackles, or 'Soft Shackles')

Steel "Bow" and "D" shackles have long been an essential mainstay of recovery equipment, particularly for connecting straps and cables to vehicles. They are strong and durable. If you go with steel, ensure you purchase properly rated shackles, not unmarked no-name versions. They should be clearly stamped/embossed with a Working Load Limit (WLL).

The downside of steel shackles is that they can (and sometimes do) become lethal objects if something they are attached to breaks during the recovery process. This is particularly true when they are used in combination with snatch straps.

Because of this, a new type of shackle called a 'soft shackle' is gaining popularity. Soft Shackles are made from synthetic rope (AKA Dyneema), pre-formed with a knot and a loop. I have recently added a couple to my kit, and use them in place of steel shackles in most situations.  You simply put the loop over the knot to form a circle, and use them in place of a regular bow shackle. Soft shackles are rated using a braking strength, not a WLL. I have chosen an 11mm version, rated at 14 tonnes.

If you end up going with soft shackles, it is vital that they be used with a sheath if you're attaching them to a recovery point with a square-cut hole. This is because the sharp edges of such holes can weaken the shackle and cause it to break at well below its rated strength. See the Unsealed 4x4 testing article for more information.




Electric Winch

An electric winch is an extremely useful recovery tool, particularly when travelling alone or at the front of a touring group. The penalty is a full-time weight gain of around 30-50kg depending on the winch.

If you choose to install a winch, make sure it has sufficient capacity for your vehicle and trailer. 9,000lb would be the minimum, but 10,000lb is a better choice. 12,000lb versions are worth considering if you tow a large offroad van, but keep in mind the additional weight penalty of the larger capacity. Stick to a well-known brand to ensure safety and reliability. I've personally got a Warn, which is detailed here.

Hand Winch

If you don't want to install an electric winch, then an alternative to consider is the venerable hand winch, often known as 'Tirfors' after one of the common brands. They take a lot of effort to use, but are cheaper than an electric winch, more versatile (you can winch forwards, backwards or even sideways), lighter, and you don't have to carry them all the time.

Hand winches generally come in two capacities: 1600kg or 3200kg. They are best used in combination with a snatch block to increase their capacity.

Snatch Block (pulley)

If you have an electric or hand winch, then an essential accessory is a snatch block.

These provide mechanical advantage, essentially doubling the capacity of your winch (and halving its line speed). The snatch block you choose should be rated to a minimum of double your winch rating.

Winch Extension Strap/Cable

If you've got a winch, then a long winch extension strap or cable is a very useful addition to your kit, for those occasions when the standard winch cable isn't long enough. Choose one that is rated at least as high as your winch, and avoid no-name brands. There are two types:

Winch extension straps: These resemble snatch straps, but are static (not elastic), and should never be used to snatch out a vehicle. Likewise, don't use a snatch strap for a winch extension. You'll waste length and cable as the strap stretches. I've used one of these straps for years. They are bulkier and more expensive than extension cables, but also more durable. Quality options include:

Winch Extension Cables: These are made of Dyneema winch rope, but have an eye formed at each end. Due to space, these are often a better option than a strap, although they are easier to damage.  Another advantage is that they can be used with a snatch block. Quality options include:

Tree Trunk Protector

Another must-have accessory if you have a winch is a tree-trunk protector. They are a thick, static strap which is wrapped around a tree or other anchor to prevent poor loading of the winch cable, and protect the tree from damage.

A winch strap should be rated to at least double that of your winch. Why? Because if you use a snatch block when winching, you will potentially load the anchor to double the winch rating.

Snatch Strap

A snatch strap is one of the most basic pieces of recovery equipment. There should be one in every 4WD's recovery kit. However, because of their elastic design, they are also one of the most potentially dangerous pieces of recovery equipment, and should be used with caution, particularly with vehicles heavily stuck in mud or sand.

Even when stamped with similar ratings, snatch straps are most definitely not created equal. Various independent tests have shown just how much variation there is between brands that are labelled with similar ratings.

A snatch strap that breaks during a recovery can cause serious injury and vehicle damage. Don't risk it to save a few dollars. I personally have used ARB and Bushranger straps with no issues. Independent tests have shown the following brands met or exceeded their rated capacity:

Bushranger Snatch Strap 8000kg

AU $69.00
End Date: Sunday Dec-1-2019 12:14:03 EST
Buy It Now for only: AU $69.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Oztrail Offroad Recovery 11 Tonne Snatch Strap

AU $79.00
End Date: Monday Dec-9-2019 12:11:39 EST
Buy It Now for only: AU $79.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Bushranger Snatch Strap 6000kg

AU $69.00
End Date: Sunday Dec-1-2019 0:52:05 EST
Buy It Now for only: AU $69.00
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Recovery Treads (Maxtrax / TRED)

These plastic tracks are a fantastic aid for recovering yourself, particularly when stuck in sand or mud. They are a much safer and more passive option than a snatch recovery.

They can also be used to prevent yourself becoming stuck by 'bridging' an area of soft ground. I carry a single pair of Maxtrax, but they can also be used in combination to form a longer bridge. Stick to high quality brands, such as Maxtrax or TRED. I personally prefer the Maxtrax or Tred Pro designs, but they cost a little more than standard TREDs. TREDs also come in a smaller size, which may be handy if space is limited, but they aren't as useful as the Maxtrax or standard TREDs.

Avoid the cheap knockoffs, as they are prone to bending or breaking under the weight of the vehicle, making them next to useless. The 'roll up' design versions may look appealing due to their compact storage size, but they perform very poorly as they get pulled under the vehicle and bunch up.

Safety

Vehicle recovery operations can be extremely dangerous. There have been numerous fatalities and injuries due to poor techniques and/or equipment failure. There are huge loads and forces involved, particularly when snatching. Do not underestimate the potential danger.

  • Do not undertake vehicle recovery unless you are properly trained and following all the safety directions of the equipment.
  • Use passive options first whenever possible (eg Maxtrax before snatching).
  • Ensure all equipment is in good condition and well maintained.
  • Always have bystanders at least 1.5x the distance of the strap away.
  • Always use cable dampeners when winching, towing and snatching. Ideally, three per strap/cable (one at each end, and one in the centre third of the length).
  • Never use a towball as a recovery attachment point.
  • Never join two straps with a steel shackle.
  • Keep synthetic straps, ropes and cables out of the sunlight and away from chemicals and fuels.
  • Always use protective gloves when handling cables.

Comments / Q&A