Basic Hummer Recovery

May. 01, 2007 By Manny MacMillan
Since AM General started making civilian Hummers back in 1992, they have been among the heaviest vehicles on the trails.  The Hummer H2 isn’t much lighter than its older brother and the Hummer H3 isn’t exactly a lightweight trail rig, either.  These vehicles can get through some amazingly difficult terrain when they are properly equipped and driven, but like any other 4x4 they are bound to get stuck once in a while.  Before you take your Hummer out and try it on the trails for the first time, you will want to arm yourself with some basic recovery gear and some knowledge about how to use them.  Remember that the guy who goes out and gets stuck in his shiny Hummer without the tools to get out and has to call for help looks like an idiot.  The guy who goes out and gets his Hummer stuck, digs through a bag and pulls out some recovery equipment, hooks it up, and gets himself unstuck – well, that guy gets a pat on the back for being a true wheeler. 

Getting stuck – and getting back out again – is a big part of operating any vehicle off-road.  Keep in mind that the better equipped your truck is for off-road terrain, the deeper the trouble you can get yourself into.  Street tires can get you partway into the entrance of a nasty mud pit before you get stuck, but good aggressive mud terrain tires can get you in much deeper.  Not everyone needs to carry thousands of dollars of recovery gear, but there are some basic levels of recovery gear that anyone who plans to leave the pavement should consider bringing along.


Even if you only attend one off-road event in your life, you should carry a tow strap and a pair of D-shackles as a bare minimum.  If you get a flat yellow tow strap, select one that is 3 inches wide by 30 feet long with loops (not hooks) on each end, and rated for about 30,000 lbs.  If you prefer, you can substitute a kinetic rope instead of the flat yellow tow straps, as long as it is rated for a minimum of about 30,000 lbs.  A good D-shackle, which is also sometimes called a “clevis” or “bow shackle,” should have a minimum working load limit (WLL) of at least 4 and ¾ tons, with a ¾” pin; for larger trucks like H2 and H1 vehicles, larger shackles with even higher ratings are not a bad idea.  Every model of Hummer comes equipped with some nice heavy D-rings as attachment points on the rear bumper, so take advantage of them – these are ideal attachment points for performing a recovery.  If you must use some other attachment point, make sure it is a properly rated attachment point that is tied in to the frame of the vehicle.  Attach the tow strap properly at each end of the tow strap with D-shackles.  If your D-shackles are equipped with screw-in type pins, unscrew the pin and slide the loop of the tow strap onto the round end of the shackle.  Reinstall the pin and turn it until it is hand-tight, and then unscrew the pin a little less than a half of one turn.  This will keep the pin from over-tightening during the recovery, which can make removing the pin difficult after you are done.  Once the strap is attached at both ends, take up the slack in the tow rope by driving the recovery vehicle forward slowly.


Next, clear the area; get anyone who is not part of the recovery operation away from both vehicles.  The forces involved during a snatch recovery are tremendous, and if anything goes wrong and an attachment point comes loose or a strap breaks, the parts can become deadly projectiles, so keep spectators away from the area to eliminate unnecessary risks.  Now, try a gentle static pull.   Pull forward at a steady but slow pace, and see if you can get the vehicle rolling again.  If that does not work, then a “yank” recovery will be necessary.  Back up the recovery vehicle a couple of feet to create a small amount of slack in the strap.  Make sure the driver of the vehicle to be recovered is paying attention, and has his thumbs outside of the spoke area of the steering wheel (to avoid broken or sprained thumbs if the steering wheel whips during the yank.)  When everyone is ready, accelerate the recovery vehicle away from the stuck vehicle.  The strap will stretch to temporarily absorb the impact of the pull before “snatching” the vehicle from its stuck position.  A chain or wire rope would not absorb this force, which is why they should never be used for a yank recovery; they are more likely to break suddenly, and broken chain links tend to launch like stray bullets.  In case that didn’t sink in the first time: DO NOT USE CHAINS for this kind of recovery.   

For someone who wheels his or her truck more than a few times a year, it is a good idea to add a shovel and a Hi-lift jack to the list of recovery items.  The jack can be used to tip a high-centered truck so that tires are back on the ground, or to lift a truck enough to stack logs or rocks under a tire.  With additional rigging equipment like chains, wire ropes, tree straps and shackles, a Hi-Lift can even be used to hand-winch a vehicle out of trouble. 

If you have a winch – great!  This is an extremely valuable piece of equipment when it is well-maintained and used properly.  Electric winches are the most popular out there, but some wheelers swear by hydraulic winches.  Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.  An electric winch is simpler, but it can overheat if it is used for long sustained pulls, and cannot be used underwater.  A hydraulic winch will not run when the engine is stopped, and the winch relies on the same pump that operates your power steering and brakes so steering or using BTM while winching will rob the winch of power.  Regardless of which kind of winch you have, the accessories and techniques for using the winch are essentially the same.  As a general rule, an 8000lb rated winch can probably get you by in a Hummer H3, and a 9000lb winch might pass for an H2.  For an H1, a 10,500lb winch really should be your bare minimum, with a 12,000lb winch being preferred. 

There are a few items every winch-equipped vehicle should carry.  First, you should always keep a pair of heavy work gloves in the truck.  The wire cables on a winch are prone to developing hooks and barbs over time, so you should never handle the cable with bare hands.  Your gloves should preferably have a wide opening at the wrist, so you can slide your hand out of the glove if it gets snagged.  Second, you will want to get a good tree saver strap; usually around 10 feet long, this strap looks a lot like a short tow strap, but it does not stretch as much.  It is designed to wrap around a tree trunk or other solid anchor point.  You can then use a D-shackle to connect your winch hook to the two looped ends of the tree saver strap and winch yourself out. 

A simple single line pull is the most common winching recovery technique.  For self-recovery this usually involves a tree strap, a D-shackle, and a winch.  Loop the tree saver around a tree trunk, attach a D-shackle through the two loops on the strap, and attach the hook of the winch line to the D-shackle.  Make sure everyone is clear, and winch yourself out. 

To learn proper use of a winch, it is a good idea to attend an in-person training class to learn how to safely perform various vehicle recoveries.  This will also give you the opportunity to learn first-hand how to use a snatch block properly (also called a pulley block.)  A snatch block will allow you to double the effective pull of your winch, and it can also be used to pull at different angles or even to pull the vehicle in the opposite direction from where the winch is mounted. 

Other items to consider carrying along for vehicle recovery include:  Extra D-shackles, winch rope extensions, transport chains with grab hooks, an extra tree saver strap, an extra shovel, bow saw, axe , tire chains and a Pull-Pal winch anchor device.  Sand ladders are nice to have but they can be very bulky, so consider stowing away some scraps of plywood, carpet or old blankets as an alternative; these items can each come in very handy to provide traction in sand, mud or snow, and plywood can also double as a base for a jack in soft ground or to provide a small bridge over sand or mud holes. 


When the time comes to employ any of the equipment or techniques above, keep in mind that vehicle recovery is always a serious situation.  The forces involved in recovering any vehicle can be dangerous, even lethal, when something goes wrong – so think about safety first and don’t rush.  Double check connections and equipment, take the time to communicate with others who are involved in the recovery to go over hand signals and b plans, and execute every step deliberately and carefully.    Taking an extra moment each step of the way will help ensure that everyone gets off the trail safely. Newsletter
Join our Weekly Newsletter to get the latest off-road news, reviews, events, and alerts!