How to use Recovery Gear

How to use Recovery Gear

When off-roading or overlanding it is common occurrence to get stuck. Having recovery gear is only the first step; you need to know how to use it out in the field.

Getting stuck is a part of wheeling and getting unstuck is an essential skill that every off-roader and overlander needs to have.

See below how to use different types of recovery gear:

Traction Boards

Traction boards are one of the most straight forward recovery tools. They are used to get you unstuck from snow, sand, or mud. They are a must to bring when wheeling at the dunes. They are great for the solo adventurer as you do not need a second vehicle to get unstuck.

When you get stuck in any type of deep terrain such as snow, sand, or mud, you should stop giving gas as soon as you lose traction. Once as you are stuck every bit your wheels spin is only digging you deeper into a hole. Instead of gassing it in hopes of getting out, get out of your rig and assess the situation.

If your tires are dug deep into the terrain you will want to dig out in front of or behind your tires, whichever way you plan on driving out. Sometimes you cannot continue forward, and the only way out is backwards, so make sure you consider whether it is a good idea to continue through the snowy, sandy, or muddy terrain.

Once as you dig enough space in front of or behind your tires slip your traction boards or mats under you tires, tightly against the ground. Make sure your tires are in contact with the traction aid devices before you begin your recovery. Slowly drive over the traction boards and you are home free.

Jeep recovered from snow using traction boards.

Pro tip: make sure that your tires do not spin as that can wear out the traction boards and make them less effective in the future. Slowly gas your vehicle for a smooth recovery.

Recovery Straps

Recovery straps are another essential piece of gear. They are used to extract a vehicle that is stuck by pulling it with another vehicle. They can also be used to pull a vehicle up a steep hill or over rocky terrain. Very light and easy to carry, this piece of recovery gear is something every off roader should have in their vehicle.

First off, make sure you have a recovery strap that can support the weight of your vehicle. Generally, you should get a strap this is rated at least 3-4 times the weight of your vehicle. Make sure that purchase a recovery strap not a tow strap as these are meant to tow vehicles not extract them in a recovery situation. Recovery straps are more elastics opposed to the inelastic tow straps since they use the elastic force to aid in the recovery.

When you get stuck first identify a sturdy part of you vehicle directly attached to the frame of the car to attach the strap to. Do not tie the strap, but instead secure the loop at the end to the vehicle. I recommend getting a D ring adapter for you hitch so that you can securely attach a recovery strap. Some cars also have tow hooks attached to them, or you can install various recovery points to your vehicle if you know what you are doing. Do not attach the strap to a bumper, axles, suspension parts, or tow hitch balls as that can cause serious damage to your vehicle or injury to yourself.

Once as the you have the strap secured to both vehicles, slowly pull out the vehicle. Make sure to carefully drive with a 5 to 10 ft head start, using the kinetic forces to yank out the vehicle while being careful to not yank too aggressively. The driver of the vehicle being recovered should be giving it gas as well to aid in recovery.

Make sure to take your time to recover the stuck vehicle. Attempting recovery too fast and aggressively can cause the strap to snap and go flying or can cause damage to either vehicle. Once as the vehicle is unstuck make sure both vehicles carefully slow down in sync and make sure not to accidently crash into each other.


Winches are a great piece of gear to have. This mechanical cable system can help you pull your vehicle out of tough situations. A winch is great since all you need is one vehicle to use it, but it can be useful in a variety of recovery situations as well as clearing downed trees from trails.

Down trees cleared from an off road trail using a winch.

To use a winch in a recovery situation you first need to find an anchor to attach the winch to. This can be a sturdy tree or bolder, but you want to be certain that the anchor is secure and will not break under pressure

You will need to release the cable so that you can pull the cable out. Usually there is a lever you can pull to disengage the winch and allow it to be unspooled. After that, you will want to slowly pull out the cable all the way to the anchor.

For anchoring to trees you should use a tree saver, which is a nylon strap that you can wrap around the trunk of a tree and attach your winch so you do not damage the tree. You will want to hook a D ring on each of the two hoops at each end of the tree saver and then attach your winch to the D ring with the winch opening facing up. Next you want to reengage the winch, grab your winch controller, and pull the winch cable taut.

Now get in your vehicle and slowly pull the winch with your controller while giving your car some gas to aid in the process. Make sure you slowly winch yourself occasionally releasing the controller button to make sure you do not pull to fast. Once as you are on solid ground and mobile again, you can get out of your car and detach the winch.

For recovering another vehicle it is a similar process. Hook up your winch to a secure part of the other vehicle. Make sure that your brakes are engaged and that your vehicle is in a stable position. Slowly engage your winch as the other vehicle drives in the direction you are pulling until they are out.

Safety tips: make sure all cars and people are clear of the winch cable to avoid getting hit by the winch cable or vehicle being recovered. In rare situations the winch could snap and you do not want to be anywhere near it if that happens.


If there is other recovery gear you would like us to talk about, let us know in the comments.


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