Even in the best prepared car with the most skilled driver, there are times when your vehicle will get stuck.

Recovering the vehicle should first and foremost be viewed as a hazardous operation. Tonnes of dead weight are about to be moved using equipment that will be under considerable strain, and the potential for injury is greatly increased if those involved lack the appropriate skills, experience and equipment. At the very least make sure you read the manuals!

While there are specialist who can teach you the art of vehicle recovery, and resources are widely available if you want to teach yourself, we recommend that invest in quality equipment that will minimise the risk of injury to yourself as well as to bystanders.

If you aren’t experienced we recommend that you join a local 4×4 club who will happily include you on the weekend excursions, where you can learn the necessary skills in the company of real enthusiasts.

Equipment Checklist

  • Vehicle Winch
  • Snatch Plate
  • Hi-Lift Jack
  • Hi-Lift Base
  • Tree strop
  • Towing strop
  • Kinetic rope
  • 2 x heavy duty shackles
  • Shovel
  • Sand Ladders
  • Saw


The first piece of recovery equipment that most people think of when they are preparing a vehicle for expedition or off-road use is a winch. Winches are quick easy to use once you’ve mastered the important safety rules. To counter that they are expensive and heavy, and they rely upon a suitable anchor point, which means that in a desert they are far less useful than on a green lane. The tow wire itself can present a hazard if incorrectly used – trying to drive out of a hole at the same time a you are winching is a common beginners mistake – if you slide back the jerk on the cable could break it and cause catastrophic injury, or even worse, damage to the vehicle. Warn produce an excellent guide which you can view here.

Hi-Lift Jack

A cheaper alternative is the flexible Hi-Lift jack, which allow you to winch short distances, as well as assisting you in other types of recovery; you can lift the vehicle out of ruts or sand and then infill. As with a winch, the Hi-Lift is a potentially dangerous piece of equipment – be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions, and don’t forget to include a base for use in sand or mud conditions.

Various other portable and manual winches are available, but are not popular with experienced overlanders because of their weight and the fact that they are generally tedious to set up and use.

Vehicle Assisted Recovery

The easiest recovery aid is of course another vehicle – either using a winch, tow ropes or kinetic rope. Make sure your shackles, strops and tow ropes are in good condition, and are of suitable lengths. If a straight line tow isn’t possible you can employ a snatch plate to change the direction of pull.


Terrain is of course a determining factor when you choose your recovery equipment. In sand you are less likely to find winch points, and will rely upon another vehicle or your own sand ladders for recovery. Aluminium sand ladders are expensive, but you will appreciate their lightweight characteristics as you haul them down under the blazing sun for the tenth time that morning. And don’t forget to include a good shovel.

In forests you will need to include a saw – and spare a thought for the tree that you are winching off – a tree strop can save its bark from serious damage.

Other types of terrain might mean you need bridging ladders, or other types of specialist equipment – remember that we helped Land Rover equip their vehicle for the Camel Trophy competition – ask us for advice and we’ll be happy to help.