Getting stuck; it’s as much a part of 4x4ing as a good braai and a camp fire. At some point, no matter how big your tyres, how expensive your bull bar, or even how many skull stickers you have to your Jeep’s door, you’re going to fluff a line on an obstacle, lose traction and get thoroughly bogged. Getting stuck is all part of the fun, though, and as vehicles get more capable, they find themselves stuck in progressively more precarious situations.
Getting yourself unstuck safely is an art all of its own, which requires that you invest in some essential equipment and get familiar with a bunch of techniques for using it.
We’ve outlined a few of the essential items for any self-recovery situation, and one of the all-in-a-bag kits put together by the various suppliers is a good place to start. You will need a few more items, usually not included in such a bag, so we’ve also listed a few of those. Remember that self-recovery will be difficult unless you’ve got a winch; so, when 4x4ing, always have a friend with you in another vehicle.
*We’ve excluded a winch from this guide, which is a key self-recovery tool; so see our winching article in the December 2016 issue, or find it on www.sa4x4.co.za
One of the key parts of a recovery kit is a snatch strap or kinetic rope. Depending on the weight of your vehicle, you’ll require a different kinetic strap/rope to give you optimum stretch. A kinetic line that’s too weak may snap, but one rated for a vehicle much heavier than yours may not stretch sufficiently when used. Kinetic straps or ropes can be expensive, but for sand or mud driving, are extremely useful when a simple tug won’t do.
Kinetic straps and ropes must be used with great caution and NEVER hooked to the tow ball or rusty recovery point of either the recovery vehicle or the stuck vehicle. A snatch strap/rope works like a giant elastic band, and if a weak recovery point or tow ball breaks, it will turn into a deadly missile.
Both the webbing snatch strap and snatch rope have their advantages. The rope is much bulkier, yet generally more durable, whereas a kinetic strap can be used only three or four times (depending on conditions) before it is weakened. Wild Dog 4×4 (who write our recovery column each month) have tested their ropes up to 50 times in a day without failure.
Stretch is a key factor. A tow rope will stretch perhaps 2%, a kinetic webbing strap will stretch 20-25%, and a kinetic rope will stretch up to 30-35% – making a recovery smoother and safer. A kinetic rope of the same rating as a kinetic strap will be double the price and almost double the weight.
OUR TOP 5 ESSENTIALS
Even if you’re travelling light, there are a few things you definitely can’t do without: a compressor, a puncture repair kit, a snatch strap/ rope, recovery tracks, and shackles. With these items, you’ll be able to escape or avoid most situations. Remember that a snatch strap is only useful if you’re travelling with another vehicle, so a few mates in their own 4x4s will not only make your trip more fun, but add to the safety factor, too.