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Trail Checklist: 40+ Vehicle Recovery Items

In the last post on winter wheeling rules recovery gear was briefly mentioned, and in an older article I included vehicle recovery items in my list of survival gear that I carry in my rig. But, I’ve added a couple things since then and I thought it would be handy to post a dedicated listing of items specific to vehicle recovery on trail runs.

First, if you’re new to off-roading you might be wondering what recovery gear is. In short, it’s the items and tools that allow you and other wheelers in your group to A. get yourselves unstuck, B. move safely through mud, deep snow, or steep rocky areas, C. complete necessary vehicle repairs to hopefully get off the trail without rescue, and D. remove obstacles from the trail if needed (such as a large fallen tree covering the trail).

Here’s what I have installed on my rig, and carry on trail runs, for recovery purposes. Veteran off-roaders – am I forgetting anything? Comment below if so!

  1. Winch – 10,000 lb WARN synthetic

  2. Winch controller

  3. D-ring shackles (2 count)

  4. Soft shackle (1 count)

  5. Leather gloves (for use during winching)

  6. Winch damper or a heavy blanket (if you have steel winch line instead of synthetic)

  7. Tree Saver strap

  8. Recovery/tow rope

  9. Snatch block

  10. Ground anchor (for use if there are no anchor points - trees or spots for another rig – I’ve never had to use this but I’d hate to need it and not have it)

  11. Recovery points front and rear (this means you need secure places to attach shackles for winching/towing on both your front and rear bumpers)

  12. Spill kit (here’s a DIY option) and extra rags

  13. Jumper cables

  14. ARB Air Compressor

  15. Air compressor hose and inflator

  16. High-lift jack

  17. Tire pressure gauge (I use the inflator gauge)

  18. 4-way tire iron

  19. Breaker bar

  20. Tire repair kit

  21. Spare tire!!! (I know some people wheel without a spare tire which I think is unwise – pay for the extra tire because you very well might need it!)

  22. ARB Air Lockers (not specifically for recovery but in my opinion lockers help with not getting stuck in the first place!)

  23. Silky Saw Katanaboy (large folding saw, instead of taking a chainsaw)

  24. KLAX ax (ax plus multitool)

  25. Shovel (I have a small foldable Army Surplus shovel with a pick on one side)

  26. Hammer

  27. Rubber mallet

  28. Tools specific to my rig, including wrenches, sockets, pliers, screwdriver, etc.

  29. Vehicle fluids as needed

  30. Ratchet straps

  31. Tie-downs / bungee cords

  32. Zip ties

  33. Duct tape

  34. Rope and paracord

  35. Knife

  36. Flashlights / headlamp

  37. Solar charger for phone/GPS

  38. Hand warmers

  39. Fire starting supplies

  40. Extra water, snacks, and dehydrated food

  41. Friends (having the assistance of fellow off-roaders is imperative in recovery situations. Never wheel alone!)

  42. Update Feb. 2017: Snow shovel - bungee a full-size shovel to your spare tire, or pack a small aluminum collapsible shovel.

  43. Update Feb. 2017: Consider bringing chains, tarp to lay on to put chains on, sleeping bag, change of clothes (just in case you get wet or sweaty), extra shoes too, backpacking camp stove and pot to cook dehydrated food.

There you have it! As I’ve done more trails I’ve tried to determine what I’ve needed, haven’t needed, or might use in the future so this list is always a work in progress. Also I realize this is a lot of stuff to carry so I try to minimize where possible or go with multi-use items (for example, the KLAX and tire inflator/pressure gauge are multi-use, and the Katanaboy is more portable than a chainsaw).

Lastly, as you can see from this list, winching requires a good deal of supplies – see my post on winching basics for more specific info on winches and how to use them safely. Update Nov. 2017: to learn first-hand how to winch safely and effectively, if you're in Colorado, consider attending one of Colorado 4x4 Rescue and Recovery's training sessions. Guaranteed you'll learn top-notch skills to help yourself or others out of a pinch!

Be safe out there, and Happy Trails!

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