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Last Update: November 20, 2006
One of the most important things for a 4x4 vehicle, much less a vehicle dependent expedition 4x4, is having some type of recovery gear.
Recovery gear is defined as equipment that  helps recover the vehicle once it is already stuck.  Of course, no one wants to get stuck and often a
properly equipped 4x4, including good tires, lockers, ground clearance and an experienced driver can avoid getting stuck.  But most everyone
who's ever been off road has experienced a point when the vehicle was entraped by rocks, mud, snow or all of the above.  The only thing worse
than getting stuck, is getting stuck alone..in a remote area.    That's why it's important to have recovery gear with you and know how to use it.

There are many different types of recovery gear, including winches, hi-lifts, sand ladders, straps, etc.    This article will outline some of what I carry
and why.

I typically traverse mountain and desert roads.  I experience dry weather, wet weather and ice and snow.  About the only type of terrain I avoid when
possible is serious rock crawling, unless necessary to get somewhere and deep mud bogging...again..unless necessary.  However, the most
times I've gotten stuck involved snow and that's where most of my recovery experience has occured.    As a result, during the summer months, I
tend be less equipped for emergency recovery, than during the winter or spring months when I'm more likely to get stuck in snow.

However, that's not always the wisest decision.  Because anything can happen...anywhere...at anytime.   For example it may become necessarily
to winch over flat dry ground, when a major suspension or drivetrain component breaks.    The best motto when it comes to recovery is
always be prepared.
Current Gear
The front of the truck is where the most significant and heaviest of my recovery gear lives.   While this set up of concentrating so much weight up front may not be the
best solution for many rigs, it works good for mine, because it helps to offset the extra weight carried in the back of the truck.

The winch mount is a custom stainless steel unit made by my Dad and I out of scrap stainless a few years ago.  It's quite heavy on it's own, but also unbreakable or
bendable.   The winch is a Warn X8000i, 8000lb electric winch.   The 60" long hi-lift jack is bolted to the front of the winch mount.  The pull-pal is bolted behind winch
mount.  Both are solidly secure and don't impeed vision at all.  The hi-lift and pull-pal have a combined weight of about 70lbs.  The winch is about 85lbs and the
bumper is around 75-90lbs.  Total front weight is in the neighborhood of 245lbs.  This may seem excessive, but the truck and suspension handle it all just fine.  And the
extra weight up is welcome compared to the hundreds of pounds of gear and equipment stored in the back.
My roof rack is the primary storage for some of my recovery gear and large tools.  They include a shovel, axe, bow saw, pick axe, blade for the pull-pal, spare winch
cable, and dry storage box for mini-pick axes, air hose, straps, hi-lift base, snatch block, etc.  Some of these tools are also used for historical site excavation, so they need
to be kept handy.   During snowy weather or extreme conditions, I sometimes carry a spare shovel, spare axe and even have a spare bow saw.   Not necessarily because
I'm worried I'll break one of these tools, but because two people using the same type of tool can make a job go faster.
Another picture of some of the stuff that normally live on top of the roof rack.  Here you can see the pull-pal blade, a tarp (which really comes in handy if you have to sit
or lay down on dirty, wet or cold ground to work on a vehicle, air hose for the ARB compressor for airing up tires, a 30 foot long tow strap, spare 15 foot long light duty tow
strap, custom high-lift base and snatch block.
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The winch is a Warn X8000i that I purchase new a number of years ago.   It's served faithfully and gotten me unstuck a number of times, mostly out of the snow.
After replacing the original steel cable with new steel cable a few years ago, because the old cable was frayed and worn, I recently replaced the cable again with
synthetic line for numerous reasons.  Not the least of which, synthetic is stronger, it's easier to work with, lighter and safer.   I went with MasterPull 5/16 line rated at
16,500lb.   The line came with a handy self locking hook and a winch line protector that can be removed via it's velcro.   Note how I clocked the winch engage handle
downward to allow it to work behind my winch mount.
The winch is operable two ways.  First I have a custom mounted switch in the cab.   But I can also plug in the standard hand held winch switch via a custom outside
plug.  This set up has turned out to be very handy and convenient.   
Shackles are a necessarily item for safely winching as they are used to connect the winch hook to straps, tree savers, pull-pals or extension cable, plus used for things like
snatch blocks.  I carry at least three.  One stored up front and two in the rear, which are primarily used as rear recovery points, but can be removed and used for winching
as needed.
A hi-lift jack is the jack of all trades.   A tool dating back to 1905, it has literally a hundred uses, but in off roading, it's two primarily applications are as a jack and as a
short distance hand winch.   They're made in two sizes, 48" and 60".  I recommend the larger size as that makes the jack for better as a winch.  I current store my jack on
the front of the bumper via two bolts and heavy duty wing nuts.   For my truck with it's suspension lift and height, a hi-lift is the only way I can jack it up high enough in
the field to change the tires.  Frankly, using a hi-lift as a jack can be very dangerous and I recommend using something to stabilize the truck, like a big rock, or the spare
tire, when working anywhere near a truck jacked up by a hi-lift.  I've had them tip over on me that's definitely no fun.
The Pull-Pal is one of the best winch anchor systems ever made.   (or so I hear)  I've never actually had an opportunity to use it, but in the past, I've come very close to
desperately needing to winch with nothing available to hook on too.  That's why I purchased one of these a few years ago.  However, it's size and weight made it difficult
to store and I usually just left it home.  But recently I figured out a way to store on the front bumper out of the way, so now I'll be carrying it with me all the time.  Weight
is about 45lbs with the folding pull-pal and blade combined.   The places I would anticipate this to really come in handy is in the snow and sand, where trees could be
far away.  It's not often used, but one of those "better safe than sorry" items. Especially for anyone traveling alone in remote areas like we sometimes do.
This may not seem like recovery gear, but an air pump and air hose are most definitely related to recovery.   One of the quickest and easily way to get unstuck from some
situations, like sand, mud, and snow is airing down the tires.  But you need a way to air tires back up.    This ARB compressor's primary duty is to run the front air locker,
but can serve double duty as a tire refiller with this air hose and quick disconnect.
Some of my Recovery Experiences
Future Gear
Most of my recovery experience dates back to my early days of 4 wheeling when my truck was newer to me and was less capable, i.e. one or no lockers, smaller tires, etc.
My biggest obsticle tended to be snow.   My first recovery with my truck was made using a very old "come along" winch that dated back to the early 1970s belonging to
my Dad.  (Far left upper picture). This was before I had a locker or winch, but it worked getting me back on the road.   Since then, I've used the winch for self recovery in
snow and mud as well as rescuing a number of people from everything from sand, mud to even the rising tide of an ocean surf.  I've even used the winch a few times to
clear trees and logs from trails (in an environmentally safe manner of course).   These are all older pictures.  The SAS and twin lockers have dramatically improved the
capability of the truck, lessening the need for recovery situations.
One of my most scary situations was back in early 2002 before the SAS, when I was up on a relatively remote trail with just my wife and I when front long A-arm IFS
suspension snapped in two.   This made the truck nearly inmovable.  I wasn't sure how I was going to get down off the mountain.  But luckily the remaining part of the
suspension, which was resting on the bumpstops and just barely hanging on for dear life was able to get me back to a paved road, where I had to have the truck towed
the rest of the way home.   The lesson here is that anything can happen, anywhere.   Just a few weeks earlier I was on a trip in the remotest regions of Eastern Oregon,
hundreds of miles from the nearly town.  A breakage like this out there would have been catastrophic.
A few years ago, I had augmented my front Warn 8000 with a used Warn M5000 rear winch that mounted on a custom multi-mount disconnect.   I did use it a few times,
but the winch was weak and painfully slow.  It had only 5000lbs capacity and a motor half the power of my X8000i.   Because of its excess weight and size, I rarely
carried it and later sold it.   While I rarely winch these days, I do worry that I may once again find myself in a situation in deep snow or mud where I need to winch
backwards.   The hi-lift will work for short distances in some situations, but nothing replaces a winch.   I've considered purchases a smaller
WARN SDP6000, which is
more compact and lighter than the M5000 I had, and more powerful.  If money were not an issue, I wouldn't mind having a new
WARN 9.0Rc on a multi-mount.

However, I've also considered the more economic possibility of purchasing a
Black Rat hand winch.   Scott Brady has a great write up on this hand winch on his
Expeditions West website.