Words & Images Angus Boswell
When you run out of traction in an area where there is nothing to attach a winch to, and no other vehicle in the vicinity, you have to get creative. You could bury a pole, or a spare tyre, or something heavy that will provide an anchor point.
The Pull Pal is that other, on-hand solution. For simplicity’s sake, we can describe it as a plough: one made with thick steel sections that are almost as hardy, and nigh-on as heavy, as you’d find on a piece of agricultural equipment.
So, how does it work? We tested the RW14 000, which weighs in at a workoutspec 20kg in its neat nylon carry case, but is rated to extricate vehicles with a GVM of 4.5 tons.
The frame consists of a number of articulating flat bar sections, a drag bar with a hole for a winch hook or D-shackle, and a central beam that works as the shovel mount. It’s all welded and bolted together with nyloc nuts; the steel frame folds flat, and the spade section disconnects and rests on top of the structure when you are ready to pack it away in the carry case.
Pull Pal Images
The shovel part of the Pull Pal is a generous arrowed slab of 5mm steel, 50cm x 36cm wide, which clips onto a frame at a negative angle. Then, when it’s placed on the ground and dragged by a winch, it digs itself deeper, increasing resistance. The Pull Pal works best in soft terrain like sand and mud, but will dig into and haul from pretty much any substrate that the shovel can be jammed into. On rocky ground or extremely hard soil, the Pull Pall has a tough time digging into the ground, but in softer ground like sand, clay or mud, it is able to provide enough resistance to anchor a large 4×4 and enable it to be winched out of trouble.
The Pull Pal design was patented in the United States in the Eighties, and has since been used by military and police forces around the world for self-recovery of all manner of vehicles. It has proved itself in many other markets and in a range of conditions.
We hooked up the Pull Pal to a Hilux with its handbrake on, and began winching through a pulley at approximately 60 degrees. Even in loose sand with a patchy cover of vegetation, the device quickly found purchase after being shoved into place with a firm foot. As it buried itself deeper into the sand, forced downwards by the angle of the spade, the Hilux began moving forward.
So, it works; but there are a few precautions you need to take. It needs to be held upright for the first ‘bite’, and may need some forceful pushing from the operator to get the spade to dig into the ground at the proper angle when the winch starts recovering line. Also, once it’s dug itself deep into the earth, getting it back out again can be a pain. This might be the trade-off for a recovery, and is certainly easier than digging a large hole, burying a spare tyre, and then having to clean it afterwards.
At 120cm long by 30cm wide (folded), the Pull Pal is bulky; and, at 20kg, it’s a heavy thing to include in your overlanding kit. However, if you tow heavy trailers over rough terrain where there are few trees, this may be your last resort. At R14 875, the Pull Pal is expensive, but that may be a fair price for not being marooned in the desert.
For more info, contact the supplier on 011 450 0575 or 082 811 1430, or go to www.pullpal.co.za