Updated: Sep 14, 2022
Jena's Words: Don't get me wrong, we want the calls for business but I thought I would make a list of items that could have saved some of our customers a call. Not all of these items need to be in your kit but I have listed them starting with what I think is the most important.
1. 1x Shovel - We love our Krazy Beaver murder spork shovel but any ol' shovel will do in a pinch. If you skip the rest of this post, just bring a shovel. We are blown away at the number of locals and tourists that visit high snow impact areas and they don't travel with a shovel. If you get high centered on a snow plow berm (it happens to all of us) you can either shovel your way free in a couple minutes, or you can use your finely tuned ski to chip away at the cement like snow. A shovel can also get you unstuck in the summer too, you can shovel your way out of almost anything but we try not to. You can pick up a Krazy Beaver from our online shop, we have had our for about 6 years and it has been great through all seasons. We never leave home without it.
2. At least 2x Traction boards - We pull up to most customers and they have instinctually shoved sticks, pinecones, baby blankets, floor mats or anything else they have around under the tires to get traction. This tells me that most people understand they need traction where they don't have any but they don't understand they are also usually high centered and no amount of blankets or sticks will help that until you shovel your belly free or get out of the holes you dug with traction boards. We love our orange traction boards, because you can see them when they get sucked under the snow, sand or mud. I used to hate these because I see them bolted onto everyone’s overland Tacoma or Jeep, unused, but the more we pulled ours out the more I came to appreciate them. We carry 4x boards and they are worn but expected to last another several hundred recoveries. We sell them in our shop, we like the quality and price point of these RotoTrax boards but honestly if you do a little research you’ll find some that work for you no matter the brand.
3. 4x4 and locking rear differential (for solid axles) - Most 4x4 passenger vehicles are just 3x wheel drive (at best) without a locking differential and some people don’t even know their truck has a selectable locking differential when it does (Raptors and Rubicons, I am looking at you). The differential is usually unlocked or open on street vehicles, to allow smooth turns on the road. A locking differential locks the axels to always rotate together. This is what gives you true 4x wheel drive and the tire that is stuck or without traction now has power when locked. You should really invest in a locker before you invest in a light bar as our friends always say.
4. Jack of some kind and tools - On many occasions we have pulled up to change a tire and there is a proprietary lug nut or hidden key hole that drops the spare tire (Raptors, looking at you again), try and make sure you know as much about your vehicle as possible.
There is usually also a bottle jack or scissor jack that comes with every stock vehicle but those stink in sand and snow (ask us how we know). We recommend having a nice jack and tools on you when you go out for an adventure, it will save you time and frustration. We bring at least one impact, two floor jacks (that we modified for off-road use), a high lift (that we hate), and every tool and bit Alex thinks he needs when we go wheeling by ourselves. When people get flat tires it’s usually somewhere very inconvenient for a bottle jack and those scissor jacks won’t stay standing in mud. We modified our floor jack and heavy duty scissor jack with 911 Motorsport’s jack kits. He sells the kits directly on his site here: https://www.911motorsports.net/Pittsburgh--Offroad-Jack-Conversion--Combo-Kit_p_87.html
5. Air Compressor - Everyone should carry an air compressor especially if you are snow wheeling or wheeling in mud. Alex always asks the customers in 4x4 vehicles if they have aired down, surprisingly most people haven’t aired down enough because they don’t have a compressor or they are afraid of blowing a bead. If you have an air compressor you can air up after airing down and you can fix a de-beaded tire with a ratchet strap and air compressor. We love our Smittybilt air compressor because it has the highest CFM and HP on the market. It doesn’t get as hot as the others and it is fast for our huge tires. We sell these in our shop for a really competitive price, or you can buy them anywhere online.
6. 3x soft shackles - I think these are the most underrated piece of equipment we carry. We use them on every single tow job and we always make sure we have ours when we wheel alone. A shackle is needed at every connection point, to hook up your Super Yanker recovery rope to your recovery point, to hook up your winch to a tree saver, to hook up your rope retention pulley to the winch extension, and much more. I say you should have 3x because you need one on your end, one of the rescue end, and one to connect extensions, use on a bridle or have as a spare. These are much better than metal shackles or D-rings because they have the same load ratings but are much safer if they fail. We sell them in our shop if you want to grab a couple now.
7. Kinetic recovery rope - Our faithful rescue noodles, we especially like the Master Pull ropes because they are uncoated, have extra stretch and they dry out faster in between wet weather pulls. Master Pull has been around since the 90's, they were one of the first to make a kinetic vehicle recovery rope. If you wheel alone, you might not need one because you need a buddy to help do the pulling, but if you wheel with friends or groups frequently you should really have one in your kit. We recommend the 20 foot or 30 foot 7/8" rope for the average Jeep, Toyota or average camper van. We sell these in our shop if you're interested, make sure you grab a couple shackles to go along with your rope too.
8. Winch, tree saver, rope retention pulley - About 15% of the people we recover have winches on their front bumpers, they either don't know how to use them properly or they don't have the rest of the equipment needed for a self recovery. We recommend learning how your winch works and know the limits if you plan to use it. Watch some of our videos from Instagram on 2:1 re-directed pulls, we rarely pull straight from our winch because you get more power when you double up the line back to the pulling vehicle (see the photo included below).
A tree saver is a must because if you are lucky enough to have trees around, you don't want to cut into their bark and you get a much safer, more powerful pull when you use the tree saver combined with a rope retention pully, doubling it back to your vehicle for a 2:1 pull ratio. You can pick up a winch line, rope retention pulley, snatch block and tree saver from our online shop, we sell only what we use and recommend.
9. Flashlight or headlamp - It sucks to get stuck at sunset without a headlamp or flashlight. Your phone's little LED won't do anything when you need to see under your skid to check where you are high centered, or to check for a nail in your flat tire. We like to use Thrunite brand headlamps, you can find them on Amazon.com We like these headlamps best because they are USB rechargeable and they are the brightest headlamps we have ever seen with up to 3350 lumens. You can adjust the brightness per application, from bright scene lighting to a soft white light for up close interactions. I have also dropped a headlamp at a jobsite, if you found it while hiking; good for you because I went back and looked for it and it was gone.
10. Knowledge of the area & coordinates - Do not trust Google Maps or any map application fully. I lost count of the number of customers that get stuck just because of Google Maps. If a road is closed on the main road, please do your research and call around to find out the best way to your destination or back track. Google Maps is not an off-road worthy app, it will try and connect little eroded dirt roads and it will turn you around into a dead end faster than you can say "found it". This is true even on well traveled roads, Google Maps is not always up to date and doesn't see closed dirt roads so you might end up down a narrow sketchy road without planning on it. Google Maps is good for one thing: coordinates. We do need coordinates when trying to find you, this is done by pressing and holding the screen for a second to drop a pin, then you pull up on the bottom of the screen to view the coordinates. You can also find your coordinates by opening your compass application (iPhone) or by calling 911 in an emergency, dispatch will obtain your coordinates from the call. The map here shows where most of our customers call from, you will notice the Mono Lake area has been covered by markers and that is where Google Maps strikes the most because people want to see the tufas and wild horses.