Often we see questions on recovery gear ranging from what do I need to carry, whats the difference between this and that, how do I use this, is this enough, etc. I decided to write this as an introduction to the types of gear, it uses, and its inherent dangers. This is not meant to be a bible of recovery gear, but rather just a primer to help introduce people to the gear and its uses.
Types of Gear
1. Straps, Chains, Etc Anchor/Lifting/Web Sling/Tree Saver – These straps are all generally the same thing. One major difference between them is that the “tree saver” is typically 6ft long. These straps have sewn loops on both ends, no metal hardware, are usually double layer and do not stretch. They will usually have tags sewn to them with the rated limits listed for the three types of uses.
These types of straps should be used for anchoring a winching vehicle, or at the end of a winch cable if needed. For instance, If you are the winching vehicle, and are recovering a stuck vehicle from a mud hole. You would use one of these straps to anchor yourself to a nearby tree/another vehicle/ other suitable anchor point. You would also use one of these at the working end of the winch line if needed such as around an anchor point. Hence the term tree saver. The tree saver strap is usually 4” wide, double layer and wraps around the tree so the winch cable doesn’t damage it. The main thing to remember about these types of straps is that they are not meant to stretch under load, making them suitable for constant loading encountered during a winching operation or smooth consistent pull. These straps should be rated to atleast twice that of winch capacity. Twice winch capacity could be easily obtained by using a tree saver to secure a snatch block while running the winch cable from the vehicle, around the snatch black and back to the winching vehicle, effectively doubling the pulling power. That total load will taken by the tree saver.
Here is an example of the tag you will find on this type of strap. Notice the load capacities with the different styles of use
Recovery Straps/Snatch Strap – These straps have sewn loops on the ends, no metal hardware, various widths and load ratings. These straps are designed to stretch up to 20% to provide enormous amounts of kinetic energy during a recovery. For instance, if your buddy is stuck in a mud pit and you need to “get a run at it” or snatch him to get him moving again, then would use this type of strap. Because it is designed to stretch, it and can build huge amounts of energy to unstuck vehicles without the bone jarring shock loads of a chain. However, because of the stretch, these should NEVER be used during a winching operation. Either as an anchor or on the working end of a winch line. If the mount or the strap itself was to fail under load, the energy stored in the stretched strap could suddenly release with enough energy to be deadly to those nearby including the drivers/winch operators. Great care should be used when using these types of straps because of the amount of stored energy that is created.
Towing Strap – This kind of strap has very limited uses but it is widely available. These are usually braided yellow nylon, with hooks on the ends. They are avail from Wal-Mart, Harbor Freight, and most auto parts stores. THESE ARE NOT DESIGNED FOR RECOVERY. They are used for simple towing, on flat smooth ground. They have almost no use in the 4x4/offroad world. They are banned by most if not all clubs.
Special Straps – There are other types of straps that have many uses. From endless loops, to length adjustable recovery straps. I will touch on these in the future.
Chains – Chains have their uses and used properly are a very good tool to have in your recovery bag. Chains used for recovery should be Grade 80 at least 5/16”. Chains should never be used for any type of snatching. They are only to be used under constant load such as winching, towing, load securing, etc. They are ideal for situations that may harm a strap such as righting a rolled vehicle where the chains may get pinched or contact a sharp edge or hot exhaust, etc.
Chain Bridle – These are not as common as they should be, especially if you find yourself being the good sameritain and pulling people out of snow drifts, ditches, etc. These are used by the towing and recovery industry with the proper cluster hooks to recover everyday street cars/trucks/vans at accident scenes. This is pretty much the only way to recover normal vehicles with the least chance of damage, if you know how and where to use the hooks.
Shackle, D-ring, Screw Pin Anchor Clevis – These go by many names but are mostly one in the same. The big things about these are size, quality and proper use. Get the largest ones you can fit on your recovery points. It would be wise to have your hardware rated to at least twice of winch capacity as it will be used to rig a snatch block if needed, as mentioned above. Quality is of most importance. Spend the money on top quality, rated, and tested rigging. Avoid anything that is made in China. Stick with Crosby or Campbell rigging. Don’t use any rigging that is not rated with the SWL (Safe Working Load) or WLL (Working Load Limit). Avoid side loading these as much as possible.
The sizing of these is done in standard fractional inches and their WLL or SWL. Typically for our uses you will find 3/4” and 7/8”. Anything smaller than 3/4” should not be used. The size markings are the diameter of main body, NOT the pin. The screw pin is going to be 1/8” larger than the size listed. i.e. a 7/8” D-ring will have a 1” pin.
Cluster Hooks – These are the lesser known best friend of the chain. They typically have 3 styles of working hooks, and one chain grab hook to connect to the chain that you also have. Some bridles have these permantly attached, others are separate so that you can use them in conjuction with any length of chain that you have.
Recovery Points – This should be the first item installed on any vehicle that is going to be on the trail. Proper recovery points are a must. They should be frame mounted or part of a properly attached bumper. For you guys with out frames, XJ, MJ, etc, there are solutions to safely attach points. If an improper point is used, and a recovery is attempted, it could cause damage at least, and death at most.
Wrangler recovery points
Example of reinforcements for recovery hooks on an XJ
What to carry
This topic comes up quite often. At a minimum you want to have proper recovery points, 2snatch/recovery straps of varying length, 2 D-Rings, 15ft length of chain, gloves and another vehicle. If you have a winch, more should be carried in addition to the previous list so as to get the full use out of the winch. Tree saver, anchor straps of varying length, 4 D-rings, snatch block (or two) and of course, the winch controller.
It’s a good idea to carry this stuff securely. In the event of a rollover, these items could become lethal. A clevis to the temple will at the very least cause one hell of a headache.
Tips and Tricks
Just a few tips and tricks to help make recovery a little easier, quicker and of course safer.
-If you need to attach two snatch straps together, don’t use a clevis. It could become lethal if one end of the strap releases from either vehicle under load. Use a stick, dowel, rolled up magazine, or newspaper to go between the loops of the two straps. This will make separating them possible, saving you lots of time trying to get them apart.
Words of Caution
More than anything, understand that the forces used in recovery are immense. Even in a “simple” recovery they are lethal. It is hard to see the amount of force used in recovery, so by nature many of us don’t consider the forces we are using, or simply do not respect them. One simple mistake could easily end a life.
-Don’t use frayed, cut or otherwise damaged straps. Many anchor/lifting/tree savers have a colored thread sewn into them. When the thread is visible the strap should be retired and discarded.
-When retiring or discarding a strap, cut the loops on both ends before throwing it away. This makes it unusable to anyone that may find it and be unaware of the dangers or signs of a strap that has been damaged.
-Keep straps and synthetic lines away from sharp objects, high heat, and abrasion.
The information provided here is to be used at your own risk. I take no responsibility for any damages of any kind.
Do you mind if i add a few things?..or should i PM you so you can add it?
By the way,,GREAT write up
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thank you for the write up, I dont have a winch, so I would probably get a "snatch" strap, and can your strap #1 be used to tow a vehicle safely or not? this is all new to me if you cant tell lol
The first type of strap listed, tree saver, lifting, web sling would be ideal for towing someone out of the woods, if you could securely and positively attatch the strap with D rings or other type of positive connection. You would not want to use a snatch strap for towing, as the strap would be under a constant load and be stretchesd the whole time. If one of the mounting points gives way, then it could be extremely dangerous for the people in the vehicle.