• Home
  • /
  • Podcast
  • /
  • Episode 34 Principles of Overlanding Vehicle Recovery Part 1

Episode 34 Principles of Overlanding Vehicle Recovery Part 1


Show Notes for Podcast Episode #34
Principles of Overlanding: Recovery Part 1

Principles of Overlanding: Vehicle Recover Part 1, where Scott Brady, Matt Scott, and Jim West discuss the critical terms and fundamentals of recovery for the overland traveler.


About Jim West:

Jim is a retired Fire Fighter/Paramedic based out of Phoenix, AZ. He represented the USA on the 1992 Camel Trophy team in Guyana, and then was hired back the following year to pre-scout and create a route book for the 1994 event in Paraguay, Argentina, and Chile. As a result, Jim was asked to assist with the selection and training of every US team from 1993-1998. Also, from that event he developed a working relationship with Land Rover North America in which he has provided driving instruction and emergency medical support while on their events.

Over the past 26 years, Jim has worked on Vehicle based events in 20 different countries on 5 continents. He has a passion for teaching, whether it’s emergency vehicle operations to Fire Fighters or off-road driving, recovery, vehicle selection/prep, or wilderness medicine to civilians. Along with Emergency Vehicle Operations Instructor, Paramedic, Wilderness Paramedic, Jim also is certified as a City & Guilds NPTC Off-Road Assessor. On Instagram @myquest38 and at https://myquestadventures.com/ and https://7p.io/

Host Bios:
Scott Brady
Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and includes three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar expeditions include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady

Matthew Scott
Matthew is a leading expert in automotive adventure. He has extensively explored the world’s most remote places by 4WD and is considered an industry authority on overland travel. He is the only American to ever become an editor of a major Australian 4WD publication and has over 15 years of competitive auto racing experience. @mattexplore

This Episode is Supported By: Danner Boots


Scott: Hello and welcome to the Overland Journal Podcast. I am your host Scott Brady and I am here with my co-host Matt Scott..

Matt: Ya, that’s me! I’m here.

Scott: And we have a special guest today.

Matt: Very special.

Scott: We have Jim West with us today and he is a notable character in our community. He’s also a very experienced overlander and traveler himself. He has participated in the Camel Trophy, and he also currently does a lot of instruction with 7P International. So we’re going to talk today about the Principles of Overlanding, and were going to talk specifically about recovery. So thanks for being with us today.

Jim: Absolutely, it’s my pleasure.

Scott: Appreciate it man. So when we talk about the principals of overlanding one of the things we want to focus on is getting as close as we can to those first principles which is what we are going to discuss today and were also going to introduce a little bit of a new concept which is we are going to try and introduce the counterpoint to all of these things which are more traditionally discussed…

Matt: Yeah…

Scott: So it’s this idea of falsifiability because we’re not talking about math and were not talking about physics. So when you are talking about opinion, we recognise that there are always other ways of doing it. So we want the listener and the viewer, in the case if you are watching us on YouTube, to know that there is not always one way to do this. There are other ways to do it and you have to be really careful when you use words like ‘always or never’ in my experience it just usually means they have very little experience. So we’re going to be really careful about hte always and nevers, but we are going to talk about the things like the terms used around recovery. We are going to talk about not getting stuck in the first place and talk about the right equipment. And we are going to go into some other points of conversation around all of that. Including vehicle mounted winches, soo… let’s start off with some of the disclosures we need to go through today.

Matt: There are some. I am the US importer for Max Tracks, we are talking about recovery equipment and were talking about recovery boards and I think that’s an important thing for the listeners and readers to know that I am going to have an inherent bias on that stuff and I guess you know, Jim with 7P you guys are also manufacturing recovery equipment and you’re also a service provider of four wheel drive training. We always just like to be very clear upfront about any kinds of bias that we have so we don’t have to dwell on them later.

Jim: Yep.

Scott: Yep and what that means as a listener you can choose to ignore anything we talk about around Max Tracks or about 7P because we are going to include it because these are things that we use and have experience around and you may form your own opinion about. And of course there are alternatives to these things as well. That we can include in the show notes. But let’s start with these critical terms. So one of the first things we need to determine when we are doing a recovery is it a dynamic recovery or is it a static recovery? Now, that is a term that I like to get into the mindset of am I moving a tree off the trail or am I in a very slow speed very precise recovery maneuver particularly in rocks if you think about expensive sheet metal. You normally don’t want to build in a whole bunch of energy into the system when you are trying to be very precise around a winching operation. So we call those static recoveries. When they are dynamic, that can be vehicle to vehicle which means we are using a kinetic energy recovery rope or if we are doing winching and driving, oftentimes we will introduce components into the rigging that allow for taking up some of that tension and allow for that to absorb. Differentiation in vehicle speed and winch speed which becomes more dynamic. So those are some of the terms around that. Why don’t you talk a little bit Jim, about working load limit?

Jim: Oh, ok. Well it’s the one thing that is super important. Where you are getting your recovery gear, it should have a few numbers on it and should be rated. As we say it should be purpose built for your application. Working Load Limit is basically the maximum amount of load a particular piece of equipment has that it can continue to use day in and day out. It doesn’t damage it by that amount of working load, or stress that’s put on it.

Scott: Absolutely. And that came from the overhead rigging industry. Much of that so think of it every day, day in and day out these shackles are being used to haul loads in a factory or some kind of industrial setting so they are designed to work with that load day in and day out. So, typically on a metal shackle a D shackle or a C shackle, screw pin style shackle, we’ll see working load limit represented on those components. Oftentimes on pulleys we will see them also represented. What we will also see on consumer recovery gear is minimum breaking strength. We may also at times see maximum breaking strength too. Which I think is something we want to be careful with. Because ummm.. That’s telling us..

Matt: it’s encouraging people to test it. *laughs*

Scott: That’s right. We want to understand what the minimum breaking strength is which means that there is a degree of repeatability around that certification. And minimal breaking strength is very useful for us around vehicle recovery. You’ll typically see minimum breaking strength for ropes, and we’ll see it for winch line extensions and winch lines etc. We also want to make sure that the components that we are buying have minimum breaking strength listed on the item. I don’t like it when it just comes in the packaging.

Matt: ya, or rated strength. I think one of the things that you touch on was purpose built stuff. I remember when i was first getting into four wheel driving, I would go to the farm store and get the same looking shackle that everyone else was getting. But when you really start to drill down into what separates that from a (?)___ shackle (6:57) or something like that, I don’t know. I think purpose built is a huge thing.

Scott: Ya, totally agree and working load limit is not always the same. Most of the expensive shackles that we see will be a 4x rating. A Van be shackle is a 6x rating. So it really depends on what you are buying and why it’s so important to spend the time to do that research. And for those that are listening or even watching YouTube, we have an additional member of the cast today. .. *laughs*

Matt: *laughs*

Scott: (?) who is a greyhound, an amazing awesome greyhound, so make sure you adopt a greyhound if you are interested in …*laughs** hes currently licking the Overland International table *laughs* ya, so.. Minimum breaking strength is important. We typically want to have it on the rope. Or on the shackle or on the pulley block because it’s so easy to get the item separated from its packaging. Or separated from it’s tag for example. If it’s integrated in with it, sewn into it for example, then we have that as a reference when we are going to do a recovery. So it’s important to have that. We also want to talk about gross vehicle weight rating. Oftentimes people will say “I’m going to buy a recovery kit for what my curb weight of what my vehicle is.” That’s typically not a good idea.

Matt: *laughs* for multiple reasons, I mean.. I’ve seen a lot of Tacomas with a gross vehicle weight of let’s say 2lbs and they weigh 8,000lbs. *laughs* Curb weight is what it actually weighs. Gross vehicle weight rating is what the vehicle is supposed to weigh at its maximum. It is the curb weight of the vehicle, the dry weight or however you want to think of it, with its allotted and engineer cargo capacity factored in. Cargo capacity also includes passengers, it includes all the things, it’s all cargo. Things that are not bolted in and didnt come from the factory.

Scott: Ya so we want to make sure when we purchase recovery equipment we are buying it for the curb weight or the gross vehicle weight whichever one is greater. Because there are many people out there that own vehicles that are over gross vehicle weight rating. Why you want to do that is for a couple things. We could be overloaded for the recovery gear that we have and then we also need to be mindful of who we are traveling with. If we’ve got a 70 series Land Cruiser and a Earth Roamer, we have to be thinking about it’s not a one size fits all situation. So we may need to have different recovery gear.

Matt: Yes, and you don’t always want to use it.. I mean, more is not always better because you have to remember that the one million pound strap that you need for an Earth Roamer is just going to rip the bumper or the frame off of the Tacoma or the Samurai or whatever that may be. You also have to factor in rated recovery points. That’s not really a huge thing in the United States, that was one of my takeaways working in the magazine world in Australia was that you had rated recovery points. That is something that I would love to see happen in the United States. Because you buy an XYZ bumper and it’s got a D ring receptacle welded on the front. Well, what is it welded to? Is it actually engineered, did someone who actually knows what they were doing figure out that calculation? ARB is really good on that…

Scott: And they, ARB, are starting to sell rated recovery points now in the US.

Jim: And even just backing up a bit, before you put the expensive bumper on the front, people confuse recovery points with lash down points. Which can be very, very different. Some of the older Toyota stuff is synonymous. They have high rated factory points which is great. But just knowing to recognise this is for the tow truck to pull this to get strapped down onto car transport versus doing a kinetic recovery where it’s going to let go and basically be a missile.

Scott: Ya, and some of what looks like a recovery point, even on a Land Rover is just a lashing point. So it’s really important to know what that is. And another reason why we don’t want to use straps that are too thick, is that if we have a light vehicle we don’t get the rated stretch out of the strap. So you lose a lot of the dynamic effectiveness of a kinetic strap or a kinetic energy recovery rope. Alright so the next thing we want to talk about is the Marshal. When we are doing a recovery someone is going to be the Marshal. It may just be you because you’ve gotten stuck all by yourself but you want one person that is responsible, that is in charge, they are going to typically be doing a lot of the communication. Typically going to be doing the spotting and the hand signals. They’re also going to be keeping nonessential personal out of the recovery zone. There is a triangle that forms in a recovery that is kind of a zone of danger. And we want to keep as many people as possible outside of that. And at certain times everyone outside of that. That you can possibly adjust for. So we want to have a marshal in place that is going to be enforcing safety and being good about communicating, they are typically someone with some experience. But we want to be clear about who’s the marshal, who’s in charge, and then let everybody else just record it with their cell phones from a distance… right *laughs* So we want to know who the marshal is. Alright, now we are going to talk a little bit about some of the material that these ropes and straps are made out of. Some of them will be made out of nylon, some out of polyester, some of them will be made out of dyneema. Now, they have very important roles to play. A nylon strap will have stretch. Now, the amount of stretch will depend on how it’s woven, how thick it is and other factors. But if you have a nylon strap it will stretch. I’ve actually seen tree straps made out of nylon. They got it wrong. They actually, the manufacturer got it wrong. You don’t want a tree strap to stretch. We want that made out of polyester so that we end up with the effect of nul stretch. When we say nul it means limited or the minimal amount possible. Even with dyneema, that fancy wichline will still stretch a little bit but we want to achieve nul stretch. And the last thing is dyneema. Jim, why don’t you talk to us a little bit about dyneema.

Jim: It came into the off-road world about 10-15 years ago. Might get that wrong. Primarily like you said earlier, from the lifting industry. But a lot of hte other things we have incorporated into offroading has come from the sailing industry actually. Which seems odd. But dyneema was really popular in sail boats. It’s light and incredibly strong and it actually stretches thickness for thickness less than wire rope. Wire rope tends to unwind and you get stretch in it. So it turned out to be quite good material and the replacement of winch ropes. And extensions for those kinds of things. There is always the debate what is better wire or synthetic.

Scott: Ya, let’s talk about that.. *laughs*

Jim: They both have their places..

Matt: Ohhhh were getting into it now. *laughs*

Jim: To be fair I have my two vehicles. I have my Land Rover and I have my Jeep. The Jeep has wire rope that it’s always had and it works great. We have used wire rope in this industry, the lifting industry for 100 years. It’s very good material for this. Its weaknesses are it does stretch. It has mass so when something fails, it’s a lot more hazardous if you are standing around. So dyneema came into the world and it doesn’t stretch as much. That inherently makes it less dynamic so less dangerous. It does absolutely have a recoil.

Scott: yeah..

Jim: The whole thought process that you put 10,000lbs in it and it breaks and drops to the ground, it does but it’s dropping to the ground while moving..

Matt: Still a lot of energy..

Scott: It’s amazing how much. We had, during one of our winch tests we had dyneema fail right at the fairlead. And it took the fancy ARB sail that we had on it and it took all of the other components not only back to the tree it was connected to, it went past the tree about 40 yards so.. The key to it is that, since it has less stretch it has energy that is being absorbed in it. Or retained into it. So that way when it breaks it doesn’t have that much energy to move. However, the key to it is it has less mass. So a cable, the cables that we use in winching are also used in the logging industry, people don’t know this but they are used in the logging industry to cut logs in half. It actually makes for a really great saw.

Matt: *laughs*

Scott: So the reason that people lose legs and everything else is because it’s got mass to it and its high speed. It’s a very sharp instrument that could cut through muscle and bone. So if you get hit with dyneema when it breaks, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to go to hospital, but you’re probably not going to lose a limb. It just means you’re going to have a really bad welt or bruise for example. So it is much safer by reducing the mass and removing the component that would be a cutting surface. So that is one of the really big things about dyneema.

Matt: And I think one of the things that while we’re on this that is worthwhile to bring up is, there are catastrophic effects from a recovery that can go wrong. We talked a little bit about the marshal, the main spotter, but what I always like to say is; if you don’t need to be there, don’t be there. You may think that you are helping but you are often just planting the seeds of confusion. You know, kids.

Scott: Yeah..

Matt: You can kind of tell where, I’m not saying it going to break.. Just remove them from that area. I think that is something you can always error on the side of caution. Just something that I always like to throw in.

Scott: Yes, so true. Another thing that is nice about dyneema, because it’s used in the marine industry, is it’s UV stability.

Matt: A lot of people think it degrades and stuff.. The dye will fade

Jim: Ya, it fades but it’s not the affected strength.

Scott: Correct.

Matt: But the high density polyethylene is what dyneema is. Dyneema is the brand name for HDE, it’s UV inert.

Scott: It’s very UV stable..

Matt: It’s not inert, it’s stable.

Scott: Ya. You will have some reduction in coloring but it will last a very long time on the front of your vehicle. So those are the terms surrounding it. So let’s talk about step one around overlanding and recovery. Which is don’t get stuck in the first place. *laughs*

Jim: *laughs* Just don’t do it.

Matt: Just don’t get stuck guys. That’s it, we’re done with recovery. Don’t get stuck.

Scott: So Jim, what are some tips that you would give the listener about.. What are some things that they can do preemptively to not get stuck in the first place?

Jim: Whenever I teach recovery classes and one of the things that typically, it gets a couple of responses. One if it’s a coed type class, the female partner typically gives a dirty look to the male partner or a knowing look. But what I always say is that the automotive industry puts a mechanism in cars pretty much since cars have been cars that can get you out of the situation and it’s called reverse. *laughs*

Scott: *laughs*

Jim: Which again, you know, I’m going to live to fight a different day. *laughs* I see something, and ok I’m going to get stuck. Sometimes I am that guy, sometimes I am going to get stuck. And that’s ok. But if you are looking for just a nice day out and you don’t want to get muddy or sweaty, it’s just not the plan today. Could I reverse and try a different way? It’s not a failure or a chink in your manhood. *laughs*

Matt: Separating your ego from four wheel driving is so huge. Most of the catastrophic issues I see people get into is 100% ego caused.

Jim: Absolutely.

Scott: Ya and a lot of times if we remember the goal of overlanding is to travel. There may be an easier way around. We are constantly mindful of mechanical sympathy. So areas that get a vehicle stuck also put a vehicle under a great deal of stress. So by backing up and taking another route around.. So now if we are out just having fun and we are recreating then I’ll go for it.

Scott: So one of the things that I want to touch on early in this don’t get stuck process is not only driver training but recovery training. Matt and I talk about this frequently in the podcast that the best investment we can make is educating ourselves. I look at my travels and I know that only 5% of what I aspire to now and the more training the more training and education that I can get from people like Jim and 7P or other organizations that are high quality training organizations that have a lot of travel experience, we can gain so much from that. By getting driver training we can build in a set of skills, those toolboxes in our mind and in our muscle memory that allow us to do a better job of driving. Which reduces the likelihood of us getting stuck. So we want to focus on driver training but more importantly we want to get training when it comes to vehicle recovery. And that’s because it’s such a dangerous operation..

Matt: It can be….

Scott: It can be very complex. Rigging can be very complex depending on the scenario. It’s not as simple as unspooling the winch, wrapping a rope around the tree and pushing the button. Because that kills the tree, it damages the rope, and it has a very high likelihood of a failure point at the hook of the dyneema. All of those things just happened and the uninitiated didn’t know that. That’s why that training is so critical. When we think about vehicle recovery let’s make the first priority about looking at maybe a local club. Maybe go on to one of the forums and find an experienced member that is willing to do some pro bono training, maybe go to an overland expo or some kind of other event. But if you really want to get the highest quality training, the most proficiency out of it you want to look for an organization that has a lot of experience not only with recovery but with overland travel as well. You want to be very careful with the trainer that only focuses on recreational four wheeling because they will typically focus on the idea of recreational four wheeling which is maximizing the vehicle in technical terrain as opposed to maybe being consertive you need to be as a traveler, so find trainers that also have a couple passports.

Matt: And I know you work for 7P and I think that is one of the cool things with 7P is like all of the guys I know, they are incredibly well traveled. You are an international organization too, earlier you were talking about guys in Scotland, guys in Wales, kind of all over the place. There is I4WDTA, this is not to say anything negative about them. I4WDTA is a certification body but in that you are going to find a plethora of different personalities and types. Just to kind of reiterate what Scott said, make sure you find someone that is not trying to teach you how to drive an Ultra 4 course. Someone who is teaching you like; ok, you’re traveling around the world, but that they understand actually what you are doing.

Scott: And being a traveler is key because it gives them the insights of regulations in other countries, it helps them understand the things that you encounter as a traveler, the things you encounter as you come through a port or a border crossing, or the other kinds of vehicles that you will interact with. Maybe the other cultures that you will interact with and maybe that helps you be more successful. Overland Experts is another good overland organization we like to recommend for training as well.

Matt: Ya.

Jim: It’s one of those things if someone is new into this world and they have bought a vehicle or haven’t even bought a vehicle but they are wanting too. A lot of people have, if you say off roading specifically they think of Baja 1000. So back to the trainer, if your trainer shows up with a rock buggy on the trailer and you want some overlanding aspect, you might have picked the wrong person. And conversely if you want to go fast and they show up in a Land Rover or a sprinter van… it’s probably the wrong person.

Matt: Your Land Rover can do anything it wants.

Jim: *laughs* Until it doesn’t. Right, so it’s a very broad recreation.

Scott: It is.

Jim: Overlanding like you say Scott, it’s more about and it doesn’t have to be world travel, that what the three of us absolutely aspire to. But it can be just as simple as I am going to be going out for a week. And go from point to point. But it is about vehicle sympathy, you don’t have a pit crew. When you roll into camp you don’t have a lot of people putting your car back together because you’ve abused it all day. It is vehicle sympathy.

Scott: And it really is a mindset that comes with that and why you really want to have that good fit between the trainer and the traveler. And that is just what we are recommending, just make sure that the trainer is also a traveler themselves. Not only will it help have them be more relatable but have some insight to your travels to help you where you are going. So training is really important. Another thing that helps us with not getting stuck is using the right vehicle for the conditions. I think about if I were to ride my 110 in Antarctica, I don’t think I would make it off the runway..*laughs*

Matt: You would freeze…

Jim: You would freeze to death.

Scott: Ya, i would freeze to death, exactly *laughs* it probably wouldn’t start..

Jim: Wouldn’t be able to see out of the windshield..*laughs*

Scott: *laughs* Ya, it’d be all fogged up. So use the right vehicle for the conditions. SO if you are going to be crossing large swaths of sand dunes you want a certain kind of vehicle that is going to help you get stuck a little less. So pair your vehicle well to the terrain, think about the terrain you’re going to be crossing and by having the right vehicle..

Matt: And while we are talking about it, pair the vehicle to the modifications you are going to make. Again, I use the example of the ubiquitous Tacoma, that weighs what a Super Duty should but a Tacoma with 3,000lbs of stuff on it is going to get stuck really easily. That vehicle and tire, there are a lot of things that go into that gearing that the vehicle has.. Make sure if you are going to put a four wheel camper or some kind of expedition conversion make sure the vehicle is actually designed to carry that kind of weight because that greatly affects your off road capability.

Jim: But so understanding that you buyt, and we’ll pick on Tacoma, it’s a magnificent vehicle, it’s a Toyota.

Matt: We are picking on it because they’re great.

Scott: It’s amazing.

Jim: Because they never break down. Unlinke…. So anyway. You buy this car and I get this all the time, and people are like I want it lifted, I want to put bigger tires, I want a rear rack and the roof top tent. I always try.. Anything you do has a plus and a minus. So yes, I go drive it and I need a little bit more ground clearance. So I’m going to lift it up a little bit. Cool, you’ve changed the center of gravity, you’ve done this and it’s better here but it’s less capable here. So just going into it with the mindset that everything I do is going to have a plus and a minus. So as long as you understand that you are a lot more eyes open when you make your purchase.

Scott: Ya, that is so true and then talking about purchases, making sure that the tires are appropriate for the conditions. It’s amazing to me how many people buy mud tires and they live in the desert. It’s not the best tire for the desert. Making sure that you have the right tire which will really help around when you are getting stuck. Especially when you are talking about mud. But you are more likely to get stuck in the sand with a low horsepower vehicle with a mud tire than you would be with the all terrain. That’s simple because of the flotation effect and the way that the sand keys with the lugs. Now the more that those lugs dig, the more that they become a paddle with low horse power the more likely you are going to go down instead of forward. So you want to pair the right tire for that as well. And then you also want to start by airing down. *laughs*

Matt: Can we just end this now? Like.. How to not get stuck. AIR DOWN your tires. *laughs*

Jim: I am always amazed, people get out and sand is probably the biggest place where you see somebody stuck and not horrible stuck but just kind of stuck and you go out and the first question I ask is have you aired down your tires? They look at you like…

Scott: What magic do you speak of?? *laughs*

Jim: “Why would I want flat tires?” *laughs* and quite literally taking 20lbs out of the tires and they drive right out. Like, you’re not stuck anymore. It’s not magic.

Matt: The best way I can articulate this to someone is take like a grapefruit or a balloon or something soft and squishy and put it down on what you will notice is the more pressure you put on it, the wider that footprint gets. Specifically for a vehicle your surface area grows in length. Which is what I call the tank track effect or however you want to do it. Tim Huber is another 7P guy and I remember a while ago I wanted to say it was for an overland expo training course he actually jacked his vehicle up..

Jim: The Rojshck stuff..

Matt: Painted a tire and put it down and was like here is what 60psi looks like. For the people watching on YouTube is about like that.

Jim: Pretty small contact patch..

Matt: And here’s what 8psi looked like and it’s about that big. I mean it’s the biggest. Also ride quality and tire durability …

Jim: Again. One of my mantras, there’s a downside. Which is well first of all if you air down you better have a way to air back up.

Matt: Yes.

Jim: or you are just being silly. But as you air down you are exposing the sidewall to more damage potentially, especially in rocks or such like that. You are reducing your overall ground clearance. If you take a big side wall and you air it down you might lose, I mean on mine going from 35 to 15 I lose about 1.5-2” of ground clearance.

Matt: Which is significant.

Jim: It can be. It can be.

Scott: In the sand dunes it’s not but in the rocks it certainly is.

Jim: Exactly

Matt: Think about how much money people spend on larger tires and suspension or whatever to gain that amount of ground clearance and they don’t if you’re doing it right you’re just losing it right back again.

Jim: Yep starting right back to zero. Again everything has a plus and a minus as long as you have your eyes open. It’s ok.

Scott: It really does and tire pressure is key, for those who are listening this is a principles series for us. A good rule of thumb if you are in soft conditions is by matching the tire pressure to the wheel diameter. If you have a 17’ wheel go down to 17psi. You have a 20” wheel go down to 20psi. Use that as a starting point in soft conditions. You may find that you need to go lower than that if you are in a lot of sharp rocks you want to be a little higher than that. But that is a general rule of thumb if you have a 17” wheel you want to go down to about 17psi. Now, a lot of that it’s variable right? It’s a general rule of thumb that someone can remember as a starting point. If you have a very heavy vehicle …

Matt: Ya, you’re on a four wheel camper, super duty ram 3500 kinda thing.

Scott: Corect.

Matt: DON’T GO to 17psi!!!! *laughs*

Jim: *laughs*

Scott: Well and you may need to in the sand dunes. And there are ways to do that by example using a chalk line test or for painting the carcass of the tire. Then putting is down onto an imprint test so you can see how much of an increased surface area you get. But there are things that you can monitor like if you have bead locks you can go lower but what we are really looking at are what are the temperature of the tire. SO going out and doing some testing. Bring out a temperature gauge, in the days of COVID I think a lot more people have..

Matt: *laughs* everyone has one..

Jim: *laughs* They’re like $3.00 bucks now.

Scott: You can point the little temperature laser at the carcass of the side wall and you can determine what the temperature of the tire is but that’s a good starting point is around the diameter of the wheel, start around that point and adjust from there. That helps us with a starting point. We definitely want to be looking at airing down as a solution to keep us from getting stuck as well. Because we want to talk about counter points, the whole goal around this is to falsifiability this idea of don’t get stuck. The alternate to that is do get stuck. Go out and get stuck with your friends…

Matt: Be sixteen year old me..*laughs*

Scott: Exactly..

Matt: Which was like two years ago.

Scott: For some reason there has become this stigma about getting stuck. It’s ok to get stuck, it’s fun to get stuck. We learn and we grow and we can try out all this cool new gear that we bought. We can work with our friends to come up with solutions and we can become more proficient at getting unstuck which means when we are on the Skeleton Coast and the tide is coming in and we are about to lose our vehicle, we have that muscle memory and that effectiveness those tools of the trade and those skills in our mind that allow us to get unstuck more efficiently.

Jim: Ya, the better you get at it. It’s absolutely that. The more you do it the better you become. And to get stuck in a controlled environment is a lot better to build those skills. Recoveries, I think for people who have never done them they are amazed at the length of time it takes to do it right. You can rush into a winch recovery and get it wrong and have to reset and do it again. Inevitably take a moment and think through the process, get it right the first time. Do it safely and do it efficiently, it still takes a fair chunk of time. People really underestimate that. The more you do it the more you build up muscle memory like you were saying, the more efficient you are the faster it is. But, it’s never fast.

Scott: So I’ve got a fun question for ya Jim. What is your best stuck story.. When a Camel Trophy guy gets stuck, insanely stuck.. Like what was the one story..

Matt: Have you ever had to swim out of a car??

Scott: *laughs*

Jim: Yeah.

Matt: Oh …

Jim: Like what.. Everybody hasn’t?? *laughs*

Scott: *Laughs*

Matt: I was just messing with you like.. “Hey go ahead and be Jim West” *laughs*

Jim: *laughs* well what I will say it wasn’t a stuck but it was an oops. Umm, I think we were one of the first teams to ever roll over a Camel car during training at Eastnor Castle. And our instructor saw it coming a mile away. It was in this winch 4, I think is what it was called it was this mud bog. He said Alright you’re going to go in and you’re going to get stuck here Jim, because Dan was driving. Jim you can jump out and you can pick a wince. Basically set up a wince. I was like Ok, cool. Well us being arrogant Americans, as we are..

Matt: Were the best…

Jim: Exactly, just ask us. So we kind of looked at it and I think I asked Colin how about we just drive through it and not get stuck? Do we have to get stuck? He was like no, what are you thinking? Well, if we go down this right side, keep a little bit of side tread on that mud wall .. a very vertical mud wall that becomes important in a moment. Dan goes “I think I’d go in here in second gear and I’d bang third gear get it on the …” I say we go right across this bog and we don’t get muddy. We don’t get our wellies muddy. Colin said: “I think that’s an interesting plan boys.” And he did something he hadn’t done all day, he said to one of our journalists Peter McGilray who I think still runs SEMA now, he was a photographer for Four Wheelers way back then he said: “Pete, how about you and I get out of the car and we will go stand over there.” Which should have been our first clue that probably something was going to go … a miss. To keep the story short, we bailed in. Dang banged third gear beautifully, on the turbo. I’m hanging out, keep saying a little bit right, a little bit right, and he was just enough right that when it grabbed traction it flipped the car right onto its side. So definitely not stuck but forward progress impaired. So we got out and he got on the radio and we were laying on our belts thinking we were not going on to CAmel Trophy because we just laid a car on its side. He looked down through my window and said “Hey boys are you ok in there?” He goes “I’ll get on the radio and have someone recoverl you.” at which point we said “can we just do it ourselves?” He said “what’s your plan?” And so basically we did a version of a kind of pendulum winch. We came off to a tree, back to the back to a tree, and back to the car. Winched the car back on its wheels and moved it forward. And we managed to get it out. So that was.. He let us do it.. Do the fail so we could have the victory. Not my best stuck but definitely one where we learned the most lesson from. Especially what a winch can do if you have some imagination.

Scott: sure.

Matt: What’s yours? There I was in Zanzibar…

Scott: *laughs* I think.. My funniest one was, my first off road vehicle which was a two wheel drive Isuzu Amigo. I was growing up in southern California and I decided I was going to go out wheeling after work. WHich means I had nothing in the vehicle and I had no idea how to operate it. I had no idea what airing down meant, I just thought everything was solved with as much speed as possible. So I was going back and forth through this..

Matt: Wait? It isn’t?

Scott: So, I was back and forth in the mud hole, again two wheel drive, and of course it’s always the last.. “I’m going to do it one more time.”

Jim: One more time…

Scott: So, now I am stuck. I can actually hear highway 101 in the distance. I was probably some place I shouldn’t have been. Then the only thing I had in the vehicle was the drapes from the business that I was working for. *laughs* My boss asked me to go get the drapes laundered.. Soo.. that’s all I had. *laughs* I shoved the drapes under the wheels.

Jim: You really needed it then..

Scott: *laughs* and that of course did nothing to get me out…

Matt: That’s the most southern californian thing I’ve ever heard. Make sure you launder the drapes…

Jim: *laughs* and then use them as max tracks.

Scott: *laughs* So I had to walk up to the freeway and find the emergency call box. SO that was probably my most hilarious stuck. But I’ve been, I mean Canning Stock route in the wet was the most difficult. We had at one count 12 max tracks, we we’re building a road it took us 14 hours to get out. And it was probably my most enjoyable travel experience I’ve ever had. It was probably that epierence that reminded me how much enjoyment comes out of getting stuck. How much fun it is to make fun of ourselves and how much it is important it is to learn the hard way and to get stuck and to stay proficient at it.

Jim: It’s a process.

Scott: So Matt, you got to tell us your favorite stuck story.. And were you wearing flip flops?

Matt: 100% I was wearing Queensland boots and boardshorts. I guess mine, I had just left my job as editor of Unsealed. We were living in Sydney and spent a few days in Brisbane and hanging out with some friends and then set out on this, you know, I think it was just under a six month trip all around Australia off road in our Land Cruiser. FIrst day we were outside of this town called 1770 just north of Bundaberg. And (?) wanted to go to, tide was too high, we couldn’t get through to the camping spot we wanted so we were driving up this kind of access track. And there’s always water crossing right.. And ‘m walking all of them. Laura was walking most of them, I was the one driving like the cowboy to the gate. Well I decided I don’t need to do that I am just going to drive through the grass on this one. And of course Laura, who I have learned is generally right..

Scott: Wise man..

Matt: “why are you doing this? Don’t do this.” I’m like It’ll be fine.. So our Land Cruiser probably weighed 8 squillion pounds. And I remember it had 68 killawots in the rear wheels which is not many horse powers. It was slow and it was heavy. And it was sunk to the frame and then some. And I had like one small bush to winch from *laughs* luckily I had 8 max tracks with me. 4 on the roof, 4 on the back. This is before I worked with max tracks. I had to basically use the winch to position myself forward, there was nothing I could attach to to go backwards. So then I had to winch straight forward and I had to go onto the max tracks and I had to put max tracks behind it. So I could kind of leapfrog myself backwards. Going forward just wasn’t an option. Because I knew I had a viable path had I just listened to Laura. So ya, there you go. Step one, don’t get stuck. Listen to other people and your significant other. But it took us hours, and this was the first day of our trip and we had these, you now I think traveling becomes a bit romantic. We thought ok, our first big day out, we’re going to spend it by this beach by 1770, it’s going to be really cool and hanging out there. I ended up scarfing down McDonalds and staying in a hotel. We didn’t talk for about 2 hours because I knew.. I knew. I knew. Ta, thats me.

Scott: *laughs*

Jim: That’s a great story. You get to learn that one young. *laughs*

Matt: I had the bug bites on my legs for some time.

Scott: Ya, I love the stuck stories, they are really fun. Now Jim you said you had one that was even better? That involved you stealing a bike?

Jim: Ya I hate one upping but your story reminded me again it’s the ones that you learn early. So I’m .. it’s a 16 year old version of me so it’s terrifying. And a girl, not even a girlfriend, she had a I want to say a 75’ Ford short bed four wheel drive. Back in those days I didn’t have anything with 4 wheel drive. Kind of like your Isuzu. When I was raised, my dad said: “Four wheel drive means four wheel stuck.” He knew me well before he knew me. We were out quite literally in downtown Phoenix at Shaw Butte. Which is now all houses, I love driving by there still. We’re out four wheeling between the mountains, and it had rained, so we were out splashing through washes and stuff. The rare times it rained in Phoenix, and we go through this wash and I get stuck. Because she always loved four wheeling but she never liked to drive. It was her truck. So I of course, perfect time to put it in four wheel drive. Again you learn these lessons now, so the back was already buried so the four wheel drive managed to accomplish the front going down as equally far as the back. So now we’re on the frame rails or lower, so we dig a bit. All I had was a shovel, no winch no ….

Matt: At least you had a shovel. Back then even thinking..

Jim: No. It was hers.

Scott: Laughs*

Jim: So I dig, and dig and dig and I realize fairly quickly that this is .. basically we’re going to have to wait a couple months for this to dry up and then we can drive out. Or call my dad ..

Matt: Which is Phoenix and a couple of hours..

Jim: Which was a bad idea. So I said “Listen, I’m going to go call a buddy of mine, Kenny.” Who we are like minded and the world survived, two of us, so he’s getting off work. I’m going to call him. So cell phones obviously didn’t exist in 1976. SO I hike for about 2 miles and get into a housing community and there’s a bike laying there in the front yard. So I thought.. Ok, cool. No lights on anywhere. SO I stole the bike. I temporarily appropriated the bike. I ride to the first house that has lights on. Which is about a mile away. Again, this stuff would never happen these days, thank god. The gal answers the door, she’s babysitting and probably 16. I use the phone, I call Kenny and he says he’ll be off in an hour. Cool. I ride back. My biggest fear of the whole evening was getting caught putting the bike back. Because nobody is going to believe I’m putting it back. I do that and hike back and he shows up an hour later with his 2 wheel drive truck. Promptly gets it stuck. He has a strap, which didn’t help. So we start digging and ahh..again just one of the silliest things you remember, there were a lot of frogs out. They were making a lot of noise and apparently they were annoying Kenny. So, I’m under the truck digging and he says: “I’ve had about enough of these frogs.” And I say: “What are you going to do? Kill them all?” He proceeds to pull out his .22 rifle from his truck and proceeds to fire. I don’t know how many rounds but he kills all the frogs. I don’t know if he killed all the frogs but he absolutely silenced them all. Then he came back, we looked at each other and dig for about another four hours and we had the trucks out.

Scott: laughs* amazing.

Matt: I must learn from Kenny and not kill frogs.

Jim: Yes, yes, yes. It’s definitely not ecologically sound. That’s a bad practice.

Scott: I love it, I love stories.

Matt: I like stealing the bicycle.

Jim: Ya, it just seemed like the thing to do at the moment. But I really was terrified of getting caught putting it back.

Scott: But it’s so good though. You were trying to do the right thing, I think they would have understood.

Jim: Ya, just borrowing it…

-End of part one.



Lisa Williams is an Arizona native that spent much of her childhood exploring backroads with her family in whatever project vehicle her father was wrenching on at the time. She has traveled the continental United States by foot, by Ford Econoline, and, most recently, by Jeep Cherokee. All her passions center around driving, connecting with nature, and a deep love for adventure. Though a practicing weekend warrioress, she aspires to write, photograph, and eventually rally race around the globe and share her journeys through photojournalism. Upcoming goals include competing in the Rebelle Rally, the Baja 1000, and an immersion into the less-traveled roads of New Zealand in her 2019 Toyota Tacoma.