Q&A: What’s my favorite off-roading recovery gear?

Q&A: What’s my favorite off-roading recovery gear?

So, a question I get a lot is “What’s your favorite recovery gear?”

First, and most importantly, doing vehicle recovery takes a knowledge of what you’re doing, and always being aware of your surroundings. So, learn first, then do only if you have to, and never be ashamed to ask for professional help for a difficult or dangerous recovery – asking for help may save a life.

When you’re trying to recover a vehicle, you should always use the method which has the least risk of injury, loss of life or damage to the vehicle. The order I choose in my head starts at the least risky method for the situation:

  • Shovel
  • Recovery Boards
  • Tow
  • Winch
  • Snatch

With lighter cars and my Ascent, I may jump past winch to snatch (recoil/kinetic rope) in various situations, but, I also inspect my ropes for any signs of damage, before each trip, and clean & dry them after each trip.


Your first attempt at recovery should always be your safest. I like starting with a shovel as it’s usually the safest way to try to get un-stuck. You can use a shovel to fill in a hole, or to dig yourself out, depending on the situation.

Good shovels can be cheap, like this one. I used this shovel for many years, then gave it to my brother for his adventures.

SE Emergency Tri-Fold Survival Shovel – 8791FSP

My current shovel is a pretty amazing thing, but that comes with a cost. It’s a legitimate 16 in 1 multifunction tool, that comes with a great carrying pouch that will belt mount. It’s got a built in heavy duty knife (serrated and smooth blade), an ice pick, screwdriver, and fire starter, and it converts/locks into a backhoe mode, ass well as can be used as a hammer. It comes with numerous extensions to change length to suit the recovery needs (and more can be bought separately).

Tyger Auto Shovel TG-SV8U3217 Military Heavyduty Folding Compact Tool with 16-in-1 Multifunction for Off-Roading, Camping, Outdoor, Survivalist and Emergency

Either way, you can’t go wrong with either shovel

Recovery Boards

If the shovel doesn’t cut it, you’d be surprised at how useful a pair of recovery boards can be. The pair I use has a leash on it for sand recoveries, for the event it gets buried (you can usually see the leash sticking out and pull it out of the sand). Most also double as a makeshift shovel. They come in a variety of colors. I got orange to keep with my rooftop theme of blue & black cases, orange tent and recovery boards.

BUNKER INDUST Offroad Traction Boards with Jack Base,Pair Multifunctional Recovery Tracks Tire Traction Mat Snow Mud Sand Ramp-Orange 4X4 ATV UTV Car Traction Pads with Carry Bag

Tow Strap (NON-Kinetic)

I am very fond of the Motormic tow strap, shackes and hitch receiver mount. Also, it came with the absolute best locking shackle pin I’ve bought to date (I literally own 8 of them). This is a great strap for a flat tow. Unlike a kinetic rope, there’s no danger in getting a really high rated one like this one.

motormic Tow Strap Recovery Kit – 3″ x 30ft (30,000 lbs.) Rope + 2″ Shackle Hitch Receiver + 5/8″ Locking Pin + 3/4″ D Ring Shackles with Safety Ring + Heavy Duty Bag – Off Road Pick Up Towing


As far as winches go, I bought a 9,500 pound winch, because, well, the Ascent is HEAVY. Get something properly sized for your Subie. I strongly suggest against using this on anything smaller than the Ascent. And, I have very low gauge wire, along with a ridiculously powerful (for a Subie) Northstar Commercial battery in my Ascent to power it. But, this is what I use to mount my winch, along with a 300amp waterproof circuit breaker switch, Anderson quick connects on both ends of the line, and a hitch mounted platform.

I cheated and used a set of 1 gauge Engergizer jumper cables for the run from battery to hitch mount.

Kinetic Rope

DON’T over-rate these. No less than 2.5x max vehicle weight, no more than 3 times max vehicle weight. Mine came in a much nicer bag.
Toss if they become frayed, cut, nicked, etc.

For the Ascent, I use the 7/8″ Yankum Python series.

Shackes – Hard Shackle

Always be careful when you use a hard shackle. These are rated at 41,850 pound breaking strength. So, if you want a hard shackle, they’re a good choice.

Rhino USA D Ring Shackles 41,850lb Break Strength – 3/4” Shackle with 7/8 Pin for use with Tow Strap, Winch, Off-Road Jeep Truck Vehicle Recovery, Best Offroad Towing Accessories (Gloss Black 2-Pack.)

Shackles – Soft Shackle

It’s always a good idea to make the car connection with a soft shackle. Good ones have a crazy high breaking strength (for instance, mine is rated at 52,300 pounds), and they wrap around difficult pulling points.

Bubba Rope Gator-Jaw PRO Synthetic Shackle, 7/16” – Heavy-Duty Vehicle Tow Shackle: 52,300 lbs. Capacity – Red

Anyway, that’s the recovery gear I carry with me on my adventures. Of course, there’s a lot more I carry, like water, emergency blankets, electronic LED “flares”, safety vests, first aid kits, trauma kit and more.

Oh, and here’s me using my Motormic tow rope for a simple extraction where we couldn’t dig far enough under the stuck VW. Not all AWD systems are created equal, and all seasons are not the right choice for this type of off-roading in the soft sugar-sand, so, it got stuck. The Ascent literally barely noticed it was there.

#SubaruAmbassador #RecoveryGear

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