Experienced off-roaders know that proper preparation is vital to success for any off-road journey—and that carrying a recovery kit in your vehicle is an important part of that preparation.
No matter what you drive or how it’s equipped, off-road driving can be a risky endeavor. As such, you’ll want to ensure you’re adequately equipped to extract your vehicle from a variety of situations if it becomes stuck.
Hitting the trails without a proper assortment of rescue gear, perhaps via a recovery kit, is a bad idea—so below, we’ll highlight some handy recovery kits and recovery products that are easy to keep in your 4×4 at all times, just in case.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick: X-Bull 11-Piece Recovery Winch Kit
- 2. Motormic Tow Strap Recovery Kit
- 3. Hi-Lift XT485 X-Treme Jack
- 4. Hi-Lift Jack Off-Road Kit
- 5. Billet4x4 Mag-Lok 3-Piece Offroader’s Kit
- 6. Billet4x4 Mag-Lok 6-Piece Offroader’s Kit
- 7. EAGems Rechargeable 10-Watt LED Folding Work Lamp
- 9. Trac-Grabber Straps
- 10. SOG Folding Survival Shovel
- Good To Know: Expert Tips for First-Time Off-Roaders
- Bring a Pal
- Avoid Water Crossing
- What Angle to Take
- Save Your Traction
- Understand Your Machine
- Maintain It
1. Editor's Pick: X-Bull 11-Piece Recovery Winch Kit
If you or a friend has a winch-equipped vehicle, the X-Bull 11-Piece Recovery Winch Kit is a foolproof must-have to toss into your bed or cargo hold before you head out. With everything you might need to winch a stuck or disabled vehicle out of a sticky situation, this well-reviewed kit includes D-Shackles, a shovel, a winch dampener, three tow straps, leather work gloves, a snatch block and pulleys, and a handy, high-quality carry bag that keeps all included items secure and organized. Weighing in at 33 pounds, the X-Bull 11-Piece Recovery Winch Kit is easy to take on any trip, or to leave in your vehicle. Compatible with both electric and hand winches, this product is big on peace of mind, well-rated, affordable, and handy.
Just note that some customers have complained of poor quality from the carry bag, with several mentions of easily broken zippers and broken stitching. Further, the included leather work-gloves only come in one size—so try them on, and if needed, add your own set for further comfort.
2. Motormic Tow Strap Recovery Kit
Sometimes you get stuck—and all you need is a little tug to free your vehicle so you can keep on keepin’ on. That’s why the Motormic Tow Strap Recovery Kit is so handy: with specially designed shackles, heavy tow straps, a hitch-receiver shackle mount and more, this kit includes everything you might need to free yourself or someone else. It’s all contained within a stylish and handy carry bag.
The Motormic Tow Strap Recovery Kit includes tow straps rated for a 10,000-pound working load and a 30,000-pound breaking point. Padded and reinforced end loops add extra confidence and durability, and the multi-mount hitch receiver turns any trailer hitch into a tow-strap mounting point in seconds. The included D-ring shackles include plastic isolators to prevent rattling, and drop-forged steel and a special coating help add strength and corrosion resistance.
The Motormic Tow Strap Recovery Kit has everything you need to help recover (or be recovered) if you get stuck or disabled on the road less traveled. Quality parts, stellar owner reviews, and quick and easy setup mean this high-quality kit will help get you moving again in no time.
3. Hi-Lift XT485 X-Treme Jack
With excellent owner reviews, top-quality construction and durable materials, the Hi-Lift XT485 X-Treme Jack is a popular and capable jack that’s ideal for any off-road enthusiast. The brand’s flagship product features an all-cast metal construction, powder-coating and zinc coating for corrosion resistance. A two-piece handle and socket are employed for durable, confident winching, clamping and spreading. Safety instructions are clearly printed on the product to help prevent improper use, and a long lever provides plenty of leverage to lift or pull with ease. Whether you’re hitting the trails alone, with a buddy, or in a group, this indispensable jack provides fantastic peace of mind.
One-person operation is easy and straightforward, and many owners report that the Hi-Lift XT485 X-Treme Jack is easy to use and maintain. Owner reviews are largely positive, though shoppers will need to buy appropriate straps, chains, shackles and other provisions separately. Use this product in conjunction with an existing recovery kit for speedier extraction and added peace of mind.
4. Hi-Lift Jack Off-Road Kit
Designed to the same quality standards as the Hi-Lift XT485 X-Treme Jack (above) and intended to turn any Hi-Lift jack into the most valuable recovery tool in your off-road toolkit, the Hi-Lift Jack Off-Road Kit contains must-have accessories and a handy carry bag to keep everything close at hand. The Hi-Lift Jack Off-Road Kit includes a winch tensioner, an 8-foot tree-saver strap, work gloves, shackles, and other assorted hardware to provide a speedy off-road recovery when the need arises.
The Hi-Lift Off-Road Jack is a versatile tool, and the Hi-Lift Jack Off-Road Kit turns it quickly and effectively into a vehicle recovery winch that can be operated with ease by just one person. As long as there’s an appropriate tree or other winch-point nearby, you’ll be able to hook up and winch your 4×4 out in a jiff.
Most owner reviews are positive, though some report lower-than-expected quality, and wish for longer or more durable straps. Still, this one’s the perfect accessory to go along with your Hi-Lift Jack, and a useful kit to keep on board your truck or 4×4 at all times.
5. Billet4x4 Mag-Lok 3-Piece Offroader’s Kit
Simple, portable and highly effective, the Billet4x4 Mag-Lok 3-Piece Offroader’s Kit is a handy general-purpose off-road recovery kit that’s built to last. Included are an axe, a 3-pound sledgehammer, a mud shovel with handle, and heavy-duty storage bag. The patented Mag-Lok grip connector makes for easy assembly and disassembly on the move and keeps the handle and tool tightly secured.
The Billet4x4 Mag-Lok 3-Piece Offroader’s Kit is American-made of quality parts and materials. Each tool is designed to work with the same interchangeable handle, reducing complexity, weight and cost. Whether you need to dig, chop or smash through a challenging situation, you’re well covered here.
Though the Billet4x4 Mag-Lok 3-Piece Offroader’s Kit is designed primarily for off-road recovery, it’s also handy to have nearby on camping trips, and will come in handy during numerous recovery or survival situations.
6. Billet4x4 Mag-Lok 6-Piece Offroader’s Kit
For more serious off-road trekking or use in extreme situations, the Billet4x4 Mag-Lok 6-Piece Offroader’s Kit is a must-have. This is the big brother to the Billet4x4 Mag-Lok 3-Piece Offroader’s Kit, highlighted above. Here, you’ve got the same interchangeable handle assembly with patented Mag-Lok handle for quick assembly and maximum portability, with additional handy tools for tackling a wider range of situations.
If you tend to go big or go home when getting stuck, the Billet4x4 Mag-Lok 6-Piece Offroader’s Kit is an ideal upgrade: it includes an axe, crescent tree saw, bush hook, mattock, sledgehammer, mud shovel and striking handle, all packaged neatly into a heavy-duty storage bag. For maximum leverage and digging power, the shovel is over 50 inches long when assembled! Shoppers after a full-function recovery and survival kit, or those who tend to muck things up badly when they get stuck, should consider keeping this kit handy at all times.
7. EAGems Rechargeable 10-Watt LED Folding Work Lamp
Here’s one of those handy items you don’t know you need, until you need it. The EAGems Rechargeable 10-Watt LED Folding Work Lamp is cheap, effective, bright, and folds down into a 1-inch thick flat panel that can be stored easily in any truck or SUV. The rechargeable LED light is bright and powerful, and the folding base extends to provide 360-degree adjustability.
With 600 lumens of brightness, you’re well covered with extra illumination for after-dark recovery jobs—whether you’re winching out a stuck vehicle, digging around a buried tire, or cutting down a fallen tree that’s blocking your path. A full charge takes about 5 hours, and provides up to 4 hours of lighting. A car charger is included, and the long-life battery can be recharged about 1,000 times. EAGems Rechargeable 10-Watt LED Folding Work Lamp comes in several colors to match your tastes, too.
9. Trac-Grabber Straps
Here’s another affordable, portable and effective item to consider keeping in your 4×4 at all time, either on its own, or as part of a larger recovery kit. These simple Trac-Grabber Straps amount to a ribbed rubber block that’s strapped over the wheel and tire of your truck or SUV, providing a single, aggressive biting edge that can help free a vehicle that’s become stuck in deep snow, sand or mud.
Just attach a Trac-Grabber Strap to each of the wheel(s) that are stuck by fishing the heavy-duty fabric strap through the spokes of the wheels and aligning the rubber block to sit square over the tire. Tighten the strap through the loop and snug to fit. Now, your tire has a built-in shovel that’ll help break up and clear away the snow or and beneath it, giving you a better chance of escaping without need to call a buddy—or a tow-truck.
The Trac-Grabber Straps install in seconds, store in a football-sized pouch, and are ideal when travelling alone—whether in an off-road setting or while driving around town on a snow-day.
Just be sure to select the appropriate size for your vehicle, and be sure your wheel design includes an opening large enough to have a fabric strap passed through it. We’d also recommend keeping a folding shovel handy to supplement the Track-Grabber straps, but you’ll have to buy that separately.
10. SOG Folding Survival Shovel
Extremely affordable, the SOG Folding Survival Shovel is one of the most useful and effective recovery tools you can keep in (or on) your 4×4 or SUV. Though it folds down to an extremely compact size, this small shovel is designed for big jobs. Ideal for digging through mud, sand, snow, rocks, or any other terrain that’s got your vehicle trapped, this clever tool also includes a rotating spade blade with a built-in saw edge, so it can be used as a shovel, pick, hoe, or even saw, when required.
Highly durable and built to last, this U.S.-designed and well-backed shovel will come in handy over and over again, though the SOG Folding Survival Shovel is fairly short—so prepare to bend down low or kneel when using it. That’s the price to pay for so much toughness in such a compact package.
Good To Know: Expert Tips for First-Time Off-Roaders
Keeping a recovery kit and an assortment of recovery tools on board your 4×4 is a great idea if you’ll venture out into the wilderness—but avoiding getting stuck or stranded in the first place is even better.
Add confidence to your off-road adventures by keeping a selection of recovery tools at your disposal, and by considering the following tips for safer and more confident off-roading.
Bring a Pal
For most folks, off-roading is an activity that should be tackled with a friend, or two, or 10. If you wind up hurt, stuck, lost or stranded, it’s ideal to have one or more additional friends (and vehicles) along for the trip. Sometimes, a little tug from another vehicle is all you’ll need to get a stuck vehicle free, and if you have a breakdown or puncture a tire, having a friend with another vehicle along for the ride ensures you’ve got a safe ride back to civilization. Avoid off-roading at night, especially while you’re new to the activity, and especially in unfamiliar terrain.
Avoid Water Crossing
Crossing a stream or river looks cool in YouTube videos, but this is a part of off-roading best left for the professionals. Water can conceal serious obstacles, ruts, and other hazards that may sink your ride, leave you stuck in neck-deep water, or even destroy your engine. Damage your vehicle by crossing a river, and your insurance company isn’t likely to cover you, either. Muck things up badly, and you could even total your machine. Avoid traveling through water if you aren’t sure of its depth, or what’s beneath it.
Measure with a stick if needed, or ask someone familiar with the trail and water crossing in question. Remember that flowing water is stronger than you think, and even a mild-looking stream can turn your vehicle onto its side, lickety-split.
If crossing some water is unavoidable, be sure to understand the water-fording depth of your vehicle, as well as the advised water-fording speed, if applicable. Cross water slowly and maintain a steady speed to avoid making waves that can flood into your engine, stopping it dead. If you feel you’ll exceed a safe depth in the process, back straight out and find another way around.
What Angle to Take
Remember to tackle steep inclines in a straight line, to minimize your chances of tipping over, and to maximize your control over your vehicle. Travelling straight up or straight down a steep hill maximizes your vehicle’s stability and reduces the effects of instability if you need to brake or accelerate in the process. If your vehicle has a hill-start assist or hill descent control system, now’s the time to use it. Use low-range, if possible, for extra crawling power, and control the throttle and brakes in a smooth and steady fashion until you’re over the apex, or back on flat ground.
Mud ruts, conversely, are best handled diagonally. Hit them at an angle, ensuring that only one of your vehicle’s wheels at a time is down in said ruts. This maximizes the traction available in the process, and can help prevent your wheels from getting blocked or trapped by the ruts. If you’re moving in the same direction as the ruts, try and keep two wheels out of them at all times, to help maintain traction and your vehicle’s ability to steer.
Save Your Traction
Unsure when to select two or four wheel drive, or when to engage your vehicle’s low-range gearing? Mark Nelson, FCA’s senior manager of Jeep Vehicle Synthesis, offers some advice.
“In general, low-range should be used when tackling steep grades so the gearing advantage can be utilized. A good rule of thumb is to not engage four-wheel drive, either high or low, until you need it. Once in need of 4WD, use ‘Hi’ until the terrain dictates”.
In summation, if you drive something with multiple selectable 4×4 modes, you’re likely best to engage additional traction in response to a need, not pre-emptively. Start in two-wheel drive, and engage 4×4 when that proves insufficient. If traction runs out here, consider engaging differential lock (if equipped). Once you’re through the obstacle, switch back to two-wheel drive. For most drivers in most off-road situations, use of extra traction on an as-needed basis, and keeping your options open, whenever possible, is best.
Understand Your Machine
Selec Terrain. Crawl Control. Downhill Assist. Terrain Response. Modern 4×4 and AWD vehicles have numerous electronic assist systems designed to help you out when the going gets challenging—and it’s important for you to understand what these systems are, how they work, what they do, and what they don’t do. The scoop is in your owner’s manual, and you’re best to get up to speed before setting off. Learn how to engage each system and when to do it, and then sit back and let the machine do as much of the work for you as possible. Slow and steady is almost always best in an off-road situation, and drivers that get impatient or rush tend to make mistakes and wind up stuck.
Use of a vehicle in an off-road setting can be tough on its parts and systems, but less so when drivers maintain those parts and systems properly. If you’ll frequently drive your vehicle in mud, sand, dirt, gravel or water, consider changing its filters, fluids and other serviceable parts more often.
Your cabin air filter, engine air filter, engine oil and differential fluid are all prime candidates for early servicing when the vehicle has been used frequently in an off-road setting—and even moreso when that off-road setting is full of dust and dirt, or requires driving through deep water.
If you’ll spend a day driving down a dusty road with a group of friends, your vehicle’s air filters will clog up with particles far more quickly than on your commute to work. Driving across a stream or river can allow water into your differential, which can contaminate its fluid supply and accelerate wear.
If in doubt, change it out! This logic applies to all fluids and filters. Frequent and early changes after off-road use can go a long way to keeping your 4×4 ticking in trouble-free fashion for the long-haul.
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