Best off-roading tools and recovery gear in 2020
It's not a question of if you get stuck. It's a question of when. Hit the trail prepared with our favorite recovery gear. Imagine when car battery dead on the road, jump starter is a lifesaver!
If you're new to off-roading, you probably have a billion questions. What four-wheel-drive truck should I buy? How do I find a good trail for my Jeep Wrangler? What the heck is so hard about the Rubicon Trail? Those are all great queries, but I'm here to answer one of the most important questions: What recovery gear do I need?
The point is, how to get yourself out of some sketchy situations? You can do your best as you have some key gear in your recovery kit. It's also always smart to wheel with a pal, tell someone at home where you're going and when you'll be back and bring extra food and water. And now, on to the recovery equipment!
Best off-road recovery jump starter
How many times do you find a drained jump starter when you need it? Unlike lithium-ion jump starters that require regular pre-charging at home, SuperCap 2 is a supercapacitor jump starter that only requires a quick charge from your weak battery to get your car started. Get rid of the Li-ion battery jump starter which needs to be fully charged in advance for the emergency situation! No need for pre-charging at home before your trip! SuperCap 2 jump start your dead battery in no time whenever you get stranded on the road. There is an excellent point that SuperCap 2 can work in extremely cold weather (-40℃/40℉) during snowstorms or blizzards and resist high temperature (70℃/158℉), e.g. desert dry-heat environment. It’s ideal for road warriors who seek adventure in extreme weather conditions.
Best off-road recovery boards
Maxtrax Xtreme recovery boards
There are plenty of recovery boards you can buy, but Emme like to go with the original Maxtrax. She used them to get a Defender unstuck from Moroccan sand dunes, for vehicle recovery of a stock bug out of silt in Baja, Mexico.
The premise is easy. Just dig out under the tires as much as possible and shove the Maxtrax as far under the tire as you can. Slowly roll on to the throttle and your rig will pop up out of the mess you've gotten yourself into.
Best off-road recovery shovel
DMOS Delta Shovel
Emme used Delta folding shovel was in the dunes at Glamis. The spade can be configured to a 90-degree angle, making it super-useful as a sand rake. It's much easier to just pull the soft sand out from under the tires than dig it out. A few pulls with the Delta and I had enough room for my Maxtrax to free the stuck vehicle. After you're all done, the Delta folds up to 24 inches by 11 inches by 2.75 for easy storage.
The Delta is an expensive folding shovel, but it's virtually indestructible thanks to its quality materials. Buy it once and never buy another off-road shovel again.
Best off-road recovery rope-midsize
So what if you're stuck badly enough that a shovel and Maxtrax just won't do it? Kinetic rope to the rescue! Unlike a traditional tow rope or tow strap, which can snap under heavy loads, a kinetic snatch strap allows the rescuer to get a running start. The rope then stretches and acts kind of like a sling shot to pull you, the rescuee, out of your predicament.
Bubba Ropes are UV-resistant and come in a variety of break strengths and lengths. It's best to multiply the weight of your vehicle by four and choose a rope that has a break strength equal or greater to that number. Using this formula, this 19,000-pound rope is best suited for midsize vehicles like Jeep Wranglers.
Bubba Rope comes with a closed loop end. If your tow points are also closed you'll need a shackle. It's stronger than a metal shackle, floats in water and won't rust.
Best off-road recovery rope-full-size
This kinetic rope from Bubba Rope is also UV-resistant, but with a break strength of 28,600 pounds. It has all the same slingshot properties as the Renegade rope above, but it's more suited for heavier vehicles like full-size trucks and SUVs.
Best large off-road recovery air compressor
ARB Twin Motor Portable Air Compressor
If you've plugged a tire, then you probably need to add air and there are plenty of air compressors out there. Since I am always in different rigs, I love this portable air compressor from ARB. It's heavy, but it can fill a 35-inch tire from 15 psi to street pressure in 3 to 4 minutes. At 19 feet, the hose is long enough to fill all four tires without having to move the box and the power cord is long enough that I can leave the compressor on the ground and still reach the battery with the alligator clips. I've never had it overheat, even after filling up all four tires and loaning it to air to other rigs on the trail. The only bummer is that it does not come with an integrated gauge, so be prepared with a standalone gauge.
Best small off-road recovery air compressor
However, the ARB compressor is a bit of overkill for Emme's little lifted Miata with 27-inch tires, so I'm planning on pulling the trigger on this smaller air compressor from Slime, dubbed the 2X. It has an integrated gauge, connects directly to the battery and has a long power cord and hose so I won't have to move it around to get to all four tires.
Best off-road recovery bottle jack
Big Red Bottle Jack
If you find yourself high-centered on some soft sand, it's gonna take an awful lot of digging to get you out. If you've high-centered on a rock, forget it. You need to get your rig up in the air so you can move that obstacle. Further, if you've got a hole in the sidewall of your tire, you're going to have to change it. You need a jack.
A lot of people go mad for the Hi-Lift jack. You know, those complicated-looking tall jacks, usually red, that Jeepers have proudly strapped to their rig. They have their problems, however. They can be really dangerous if you don't know what you're doing and they are useless for many applications if your truck doesn't have steel bumpers or rock rails.
The truth is, unless you've got to jack up your truck to the stratosphere, a bottle jack can suffice. It's easier to deal with, it's smaller and it's safer. I like this 12-ton capacity jack from Big Red, as it has a lifting range of 9-⅛ inch to 18-¼ inches. There are models that can handle more or less weight, but the lifting range isn't as much. Remember to bring along a flat piece of wood to use as a jack base.
Best off-road recovery gloves
Ironclad Work Gloves
So with all this digging and Maxtraxing and such, you'll want to protect your hands. These Ironclad all-purpose gloves are great with padding on the knuckles and a reinforced palm. They are machine-washable and come in XS-XXL, so little lady hands like Emme or big man-hands like my dad's are covered.
Best midsize off-road recovery winch
Warn VR EVO 10-S Electric Winch
If you know you're really going to get out there in the rocks, you're going to want a winch.
Wagner likes Warn recovery winches for their durability and full product line. While the premium Zeon model is full of bells and whistles, it's also well over $1,000. Most people will do just fine winching with a standard duty winch. You'll need 1.5x your vehicle's gross weight capacity so if you're rocking a two-door Jeep Wrangler or other midsize SUV, an 8,000-pound winch should be fine. Go for the synthetic winch cable, as it's lighter than steel and you don't necessarily need gloves to work with it.
Again, like Hi-Lift jacks, winches can be dangerous if you don't know how to use them. Ask a trusted pal for a lesson or get thee to an off-road training class for professional instruction.
The final dig
This may all seem pretty expensive. However, you can spend money now and be self-sufficient, or you can spend money later and pay someone to come tug you out of a dangerous situation. It happened to some once to the tune of $875. Learn from his mistake, folks.
And while you're at it, take some time to learn from the professionals. Barlow Jeep School is recommend for you, they offering training in the southwest United States, or check out the International 4WD Trainers Association to find an instructor near you.
With this list as a starting point, you should be able to have some pretty good adventures. Just remember, wheel with friends, stay on the trail and above all, tread lightly and leave the outdoors better than you found it.
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