We’ve all been there, we’ve all done it. Anyone that has spent any considerable amount of time off road has overestimated their vehicle’s capabilities and misjudged a rut, slipped into a hole, or charged into a puddle, only to find out it’s more of a lake. Our Wranglers are formidable off road machines, but even they have limits. Often times, efforts to get unstuck only succeed in the opposite – digging you in deeper. Your 35-inch mud cleaving tires do little good when you’re high-centered on your differential, reducing them to 35-inch rubber mud fans. Times like these call for specialized tools and know-how. Using them the wrong way could damage your rig, as well as yourself, but when used correctly, these devices will free even the most hopeless trucks.
You may have heard it before – “off roading is 90% skill, 10% equipment”, and it’s true. Not driving into a muddy swamp is the most effective way to not get stuck in it. But that’s not why we’re here. We are here to ford the creek, climb the rock, and plow the slop until we can’t go any further. An expert off roader can likely go farther in a stock Jeep than a novice with a decked-out war machine. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle, and that’s when things get interesting. Let’s look at your options when the rubber literally does not meet the road.
Essential Recovery Tools Every Jeep Owner Needs
Keep It Simple
Fortunately for most, the single most important tool for vehicle retrieval is also one of the cheapest. A good tow strap has probably freed more vehicles that all other tools combined. The only caveat, is that there has to be something on the other end pulling you. A buddy’s rig usually, or sometimes an irritated farmer on a tractor. This still should be your first item to pack when building your recovery kit. Opt for a good Synthetic Recovery Strap with hardened hooks on both ends. Make sure it’s long enough to reach your buddies who are high-and-dry. 30 feet or more is good. Be wary of chains – they tend to break violently, and their in elasticity can damage vehicles if the slack is taken too quickly.
Get On Your Hi Horse
Another indispensable off road savior is the venerable Hi-Lift Jack. The Hi-Lift is a legend in the off road community, and has been a staple recovery tool for decades. These unique jacks are not like their hydraulic cousins, relegated to changing tires. The Hi-Lift is much more versatile and offers many ways of being utilized to save the day. The Hi-Lift uses a simple, but effective manual ratcheting system to extend or retract a hardened I-beam shaft. This means the Hi-Lift can be used traditionally to lift your rig allowing you to place rocks/sand/branches under your spinning wheels, or horizontally with a strap in a winching fashion. Imagine a floor jack and a come-along had a baby. The Hi-lift is also relatively affordable, with dozens of mounting options. Also, they look really cool mounted on your Jeep.
Winch Way To Go?
Most people are aware of winches. Their prominent, aggressive looks signal to the world “I go where you don’t.” While they are also a favorite accessory for pavement queens and mall-crawlers, they do have a place in the Hall of Awesome Tools. At its most basic level, a winch is a geared, electric motor and spool, filled normally with steel cable or sometimes synthetic. Once you’ve buried your rig in mud, simply hop out, unwind the cable and fasten it securely to the nearest immovable object or tree, and engage the electric winch, and stand in awe as your slowly freed from its muddy prison. Winches are great because not only can they help their host vehicle get out, they can help buddies who’ve strayed from the path and become disabled. A point to mention is that a winch usually requires an aftermarket off road bumper, or at least sturdy winch mount, which can add to the cost. Most Wrangler owners opt for a winch with a load rating of between 8,000 – 15,000 lbs. Prices can range from a few hundred to a few thousand depending on load, quality, and options such as wireless remotes and quick-detach pins, etc. As usual, you get what you pay for, and buying a cheap winch is generally discouraged – they are guaranteed to fail when you need them the most.
Don’t Forget The Anchor
I’m not talking nautical terms – if you need a boat anchor on your Jeep, my hat is off to you. I’m talking a strong, secure mounting point or points, rather, to attach the various recovery tools mentioned above. As anyone that’s ever hooked a tow strap to a factory bumper or used a hi-lift under a fender will tell you – you’re going to have a bad time. These powerful tools use thousands of pounds of force to free your rig and all that energy needs to be safely harnessed. When it comes to anchor points, it’s hard to have too many. Shackles, D-Rings, and Tow Hooks mounted securely to your Aftermarket Bumper or Frame Rails offer multiple options to gain optimum force to free your stuck truck. Avoid hardware and sporting goods stores for these components – many are cheap and made for lighter duty use. Opt for shackles, pins, and rings made by trusted off road equipment manufacturers. They may be slightly more expensive, but again, this is an area you don’t want to cut corners. A sheared shackle pin or broken D-ring can turn a bad day in to a worse one in the blink of an eye.
Get Your Recovery Kit Together
All too often, these crucial tools go overlooked or are the last things to be purchased by Jeep owners as they are not as flashy and aesthetically pleasing as lift kits, tires, etc. A 1.21 jiggawatt LED light bar may look cool perched on top of your roof and incinerate small woodland mammals, but will do little to help you get unstuck from a Wampus Cat-infested wilderness. Do your research and invest in these invaluable items early in your off roading journey. Most can be transferred to new vehicles and will last decades if not forever.