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Recovery Series: Part 1


Having bought your dream 4×4, it is time to head out into the deep blue yonder. No doubt you have bought everything that looks ‘cool’, from the rooftop tent and awning, to the roof rack on which you have bolted the obligatory axe and high-lift jack.

Hopefully you have also completed a 4×4 training course, at least to Level 1, with a reputable training institution. That will ensure you understand the basic principles of off-roading.

Let’s face it, the biggest fear most newbie off-roaders have is getting stuck. As many of the older hands will admit, if you have never been stuck you either haven’t been properly off-road or you are simply not trying hard enough!


  • A proper garden spade to dig with and clear a path.
  • Rated and tested kinetic rope/strap. Minimum 8 000kg.
  • Rated bow shackles, not D shackles.
  • A proper pair of leather gloves for protection.

It seems to be a fact of life that the 4×4 industry is ego-driven. Many guys see themselves as the ultimate Camel Trophy contenders. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it shouldn’t get in the way of things when it comes to getting unstuck, or listening to a more experienced driver who is there to help.

Related to that ego factor is that there has always been healthy rivalry amongst drivers of different brands, and probably always will be. Nothing at all wrong with that either.

Trouble is that 99% of the time a recovery just needs some logic, and unfortunately that doesn’t grow in everyone’s garden these days.

Your number one concern is and always should be SAFETY – that of your passengers and all the other members in your group.

Yes, we want to be the hero on the day that recovered a mate who was stuck, but let us just take a little time out here. Unless someone’s life is in danger or there is some form of an emergency (such as when a vehicle is being washed downstream), the best approach is to just STAND BACK and assess the situation. If you look carefully, you might well realise that you aren’t really that stuck. Sand driving comes to mind here. It is important to always know which way your wheels are facing. They always need to be in a straight line so you eliminate unnecessary resistance.

It is extremely important that only ONE person takes control of the whole recovery process. It does not work to have 10 ‘instructors’ shouting orders. The obvious person, in this situation, should be the one that has the most off-roading experience. They should decide on a course of action and instruct all others on how best to execute that. If they realise that this is not working, they must stand back and decide on a new approach.

It is extremely important that all spectators stand well clear of the recovery. It is human nature to want to see what is happening, but you can still do that from a safe distance. A kinetic strap is 9m long; fully stretched it is 13m long. At least double that distance is the perimeter for spectators.

A recovery point that fails is a lethal projectile, so sometimes double the distance is not even enough. Safety cannot be emphasised enough in these conditions. Do not allow your recoveries to go wrong.


  • Decide beforehand who is going to take charge of the recovery.
  • Make sure you are trained to use the equipment you need to use in a safe manner.
  • Use the right gear for the situation.
  • Make sure your gear is in a good condition and working.
  • Always make use of rated straps and shackles.