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Episode 35 Principles of Overlanding Vehicle Recovery Part 2


Show Notes for Podcast Episode #35

Principles of Overlanding: Recovery Part 2

Principles of Overlanding: Vehicle Recover Part 2, where Scott Brady, Matt Scott, and Jim West continue their discussion about the critical equipment and techniques of recovery for the overland traveler.

This Episode is Supported By: Danner Boots

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


Principles of Overlanding – Recovery. Part Two

Scott: Alright so if the first goal is to not get stuck, let’s say we do want to get stuck. We want to have some equipment with us to help us get unstuck. These stories show that drapery doesn’t really work. Frogs don’t really work. And in Matts case…

Jim: Listen to your wife.

Scott: You driving doesn’t really work.. *laughs*

Matt: Honestly every rad picture i have a truck somewhere cool and somewhere very remote, ya she’s the one driving.

Scott: *laughs* That’s awesome. So we want to have the right equipment along ,and because we are trying to be responsible in our podcast, we’re going to talk a little bit about safety equipment. These are recommended items, there’s a counterpoint to them as well but it is a good idea to start with gloves, I do wear gloves and this is something that I’ve got an opinion on but I would love to know your thoughts. Loose gloves vs. tight gloves.

Jim: Loose gloves vs. tight gloves?

Scott: Some people really love this idea of really loose gloves..

Matt: Like someone coughs five feet away and the glove falls off?

Scott: Ya, it’s in case it gets caught .. I mean I have never seen this happen.. Do you wear loose gloves or do you wear tight gloves?

Matt: It’s never going to happen..

Jim: I have snagged a glove. On a wire rail. Umm, I wear .. I call them mule skinners. They’re just regular gloves that are reinforced a bit. They are not winching gloves. So they are kind of in the middle. A mechanics glove or a rope glove that velcros on I can see the problem but again if it becomes a problem, your winch operation practices are bad. You are too close to the winch. For the whole thing, for those folks who have never gotten into the loose glove vs. tight gloves debate is as you are putting the winch line on the spool. With wire rope it was a biggie. And here in AZ with Cholla cactus. If you don’t know what Cholla cactus is, they hurt, look it up. With synthetic rope you can get a cactus in there and you can get snagged almost the same as wire rope. You end up with a little burr, you snag your glove and you operate too close to the winch, and it sucks your hand into the fair lead and there is winch run in and all that, we can talk about that. But winches don’t stop immediately. They continue to roll a little bit until they kind of roll to a stop. And they are under full power and have all the gearing while they are still moving. So if you get hung up on the wire rope and you are 2” away and don’t let go of the button, your hand is going to get pulled through that fair lead. Again, my 9,000lb winch won’t bat an eye at pulling this hand through. And it will be nasty. So loose gloves you could get out of it when it snags. The problem with loose gloves and the problem that I’ve always had is it seems like Warn and not just picking on Warn, Superwinch, gave you a pair of gloves. And they were these massive loose gloves and you had zero dexterity. And your fighting with the shackles and the connection point and your taking them off.

Scott: Yes, you end up needing to take them off. So I think it is an interesting, ane we are not saying one way is right or wrong, but I think when it comes to loose gloves vs. tighter gloves you use the thing that allows you to be most proficient and successful in the recovery and then use good recovery practice so that way you don’t get your hands into scenarios that involve pinching or pulling..

Matt: Don’t stick your hand in the winch. It’s a really bad idea.

Jim: Ya. *laughs* It’s a bad idea.

Scott: So that’s the glove thing. I also like to recommend people have on glasses. Whether it be safety glasses with clear lenses at night, or a pair of sunnies during the day because I have encountered underload some of these components can kick out rocks, or metal shards..

Matt: Ya..it could throw dust and mini particles everywhere when it tensions.

Scott: I think it’s a good idea to have glasses on as well. I also think it’s a good idea to have on sturdy boots because you can drop a pulley block on your foot which people have done…

Matt: You only do that once……

Scott: Actually with significant injury so it’s a good idea to have boots on and a good idea to not have loose clothing. I certainly don’t have a problem with long hair but if you have longer hair you want to have it tied back. So that way your hair doesn’t fall into the winch while you are working on the rope.

Matt: Speaking from experience?

Scott: *laughs* Again the counterpoint to all of this safety stuff is be really careful around the whole virtue shaming concept of like you see an image and someone in flip flops and they don’t have a glove they are out there doing it. I see that most of the people that complain about this kind of stuff are typically people that are not doing it.

Matt: Listen the amount of times you get stuck and the amount of times you hop into your four wheel drive especially when you’re a traveler… I .. I don’t need to dress like Seal Team 6 to go drive around in my air conditioned car to go down a road that I am perfectly capable of doing. Occasionally you get stuck and I think that the key thing there is that you don’t put your hand in the winch. Just don’t be a moron. Use common sense.

Jim: If it were that simple..

Matt: If you are setting out to go recreational four wheel driving don’t go out in board shorts and flip flops. But when I’m driving down the beach for 200km in Cape York, I’m not wearing shoes. But that’s just me. THere is your counterpoint. Be smart. If you are in a situation where you clearly recognise like hey, I should not be wearing these clothes, well then reevaluate.

Scott: Make that part of your assessment. Should I change my clothing, should I add gloves, should I put on glasses, should I be mindful of the fact that I have long hair because I have been traveling for a long time and its gooten long. But whatever …

Matt: I wonder if Dan Greck has ever got his hair stuck in his winch because he’s got long hippy hair.

Scott: He’s got some locks. So those are some general ideas around safety equipment but also be really careful around the whole virtue shaming thing. It just makes you look silly. But after that what is the fundamental equipment? What would you say if someone was just getting started with travel and four wheel driving, what are the few pieces of equipment that you would recommend that everybody brings in their vehicle Jim and let’s assume that they don’t have a winch.

Jim: I’ll just back that up, when I did Camel Trophy, Superwinch gave us a free winch. It’s the first winch I ever owned. Little known fact on my resume to get on the Camel trophy team I lied and said I had used winches left and right. What I mean was comealongs. Because they were inexpensive. So we talked about it and it’s a good list but a shovel. I am not bashing anyone that comes up with an overlanding shovel but I’m cheap. The shovel in my vehicle now is actually an old British military T handle shovel. It kind of proximates the Camel Trophy shovel.

Scott: The Cartel shovel.

Jim: It works good. It’s short and it works you to death but I don’t get the four and five hundred dollar shovel thing. Again I am sure they are brilliant shovels but have a shovel. It doesn’t matter if you go to Home Depot and buy a $12.00 shovel or have a $500.00 shovel but I like to carry stuff that I can do multiple things with. It’s not a single use piece of equipment.

Scott: So you can go poop just as easily as you can get unstuck with your shovel.

Matt: That is 90% of why I use my shovel.

Scott: Totally, use it to snuff out your fire, dig a hole to level your vehicle or whatever.

Matt: I think that my shovel came from the Korean War.

Jim: I bet it works!! *laughs*

Scott: *laughs* I like a T handed shovel, I like a D handed shovel. I like a shorter shovel. So you can get a little bit of force to it. You can also get under the vehicle fairly easily. I like for it to be a spade. If you are in the snow of course you want something that is flat nosed so you can displace more material. Sanf it can go either way. Don’t get too hung up on it but I think you should always have a shovel with ya and I think it’s a good idea to make it a spade that’s a little shorter so you can get up underneath the vehicle easily.

Matt: I really like those glock and trenching tools. You turned me on to those a while ago and I want to say they’re $30.00. They have a saw in one end and they do fold down so you can use it as a trowell to clear stuff from underneath the vehicle at a ninety degree angle. I’ve used expensive shovels like the demos shovel. And they’re cool and I recognize the irony that there are cheap versions of the product I sell. But for me on a shovel I perhaps don’t see the value of spending a huge amount of money on a shovel but you do want to have good quality equipment and you want to have it with you so spend what you want.

Scott: Use case if you want something that folds up if you want something that is light, if you need something that looks super cool to your buddies maybe you want a different shovel.

Matt: Need vs. want.

Scott: Ya but at the end of the day we do want to have a spade a little shorter in length and it’s a really good idea if its T handled or D handled as well. So that’s a really good idea. What else do we want to bring along Jim?

Jim: So most of my decisions on how I load my car is how far in the field I’m going and who I”m going with. If I’m going by myself I’m going very remote, then I typically take a little bit more gear. I have to be able to self rescue. In my box, I am a minimalist. I’ve got a kinetic strap, and I’ve got a static strap for my tree strap. I’ve got a few winch extensions, a few soft shackles got a few low shackles, a pulley block and you eliminate most of those things if you don’t have a winch. You see people love high lift jacks, I have a high lift jack. 95% of the time it sits in my shed. It never goes on my car. I’ve had it for probably 50 years.

Matt: It’s really hard to argue the utility and the use case of a high lift jack, I”m in the same thing. They’re 80lbs. And you’d rather have one than not have one.

Scott: And we will talk about the use of the high lift also for recovery, It’s a little bit more of a challenge to use but it can be suitable. So we want to have a kinetic strap or a kinetic energy recovery rope that is rated 1.5-2x gross vehicle weight. Or if you are over gross vehicle weight 1.5-2x what that vehicle weight is. You want to be closer to 2x if you are traveling with mixed vehicles. If you are traveling with like vehicle you can be closer to that 1.5x gross vehicle weight and then you want to have a couple 2-3 screw pin C or D shackles along with you as well.

So now that we’ve got a recovery strap or a ker we want to have two or three screw pin C or D shackles, C is the most common. They’re typically going to be rated at 4 ½ tons. If you get a VanB shackle, it’ll be rated around 6 metric tons.

Matt: Soft shackles are a thing too, I really like those. Again, I think the more metal you can remove from a recovery scenario, personally I think the better. They’re definitely more expensive than a screw pin shackle but I think there are a lot of benefits to them.

Scott: I like having both of them along. The concern I have with soft shackles is that they are vulnerable to sharp edges on the chassis. A lot of times when we are doing recoveries we may not notice that there’s that piece of flashing or we put it into the factory recovery point. We don’t notice there is something sharp that we need to put it around something that is non conventional. I like to have both. I think obviously the biggest advantage to soft shackles is it reduces mass from a connection point so soft shackles can be really great for that. What do you think about that?

Jim: I absolutely carry both. Learn how to tie them so that reduces the expense a little bit. We mentioned dyneema in general for winch lines but we didn’t really go over the weaknesses. One of the problems with dyneema like you said, is they don’t really like sharp objects, under load they can cut quite easily and they don’t like heat. They don’t like abrasion. So any of those areas I put a bow shackle in. Again, it’s the wire rope vs. synthetic. They both have their places.

Matt: I think like for utility I still like wire rope. If I had a brush truck, I’d probably have a wire rope on it.

Scott: If you are winching all the time, especially in mud where a lot of the materials are getting impregnated into the winch line, ya a synthetic line is just not a good solution. Alright, so I would also make the argument for a recovery board as a part of a basic recovery kit because it’s so common for someone that is new to driving will get themselves over stuck, they’ll get too stuck. Where you just can’t get out just using these basic recovery skills like airing down and shovel and all of that other stuff. So having a way to self recover because we don’t always have other vehicles with us. So I just permanently leave a set of max tracks, there are other brands as well. During the Camel Trophy days they used the PSP board. Which PSP in dry conditions is fantastic. They struggle a lot once things get wet. They just don’t have the surface traction of a modern recovery board.

Matt: I think there is just little downside to a recovery board. Seldom are they going to make a scenario worse. That’s the way I kind of look at it and I’ll stay out of that one.

Jim: It kind of comes down to whether they are either going to work or not. It’s quite literally that simple. And if they work they will absolutely save you a whole bunch of work.

Matt: I always like to say, you know, when we crossed the Simpson Desert with our Land Cruiser that had like four horsepower, and we had like eighteen million pounds, we would lay them down proactively. On that sand dune that you know you are not going to make it up. I always liked doing that and I still do that with our kind of camper vehicles.

Scott: You can build a road with recovery boards and I have had to do that on occasion. Just recently with the new Defender we were in the Coral Pink Sand Dunes and we had a less experienced driver and they were struggling. And by using the max tracks in this case, they were literally wide eyed at how you know you turn it over and you use it as a shovel, move a bunch of material out of the way and then shove it up underneath the tire and give it a little press with your foot so that it gets planted, and then slowly apply throttle so that the lugs of the tire can begin to key with the teeth of the treadboard and then it just pops you out so quickly. They really have a lot of use and I think they are a fairly good idea to bring along as a fundamental piece of kit. You can move them from vehicle to vehicle and if you sell your truck it’s easy to just take it on with a new vehicle so I think they are actually a fairly good investment in that regard.

Matt: And I think too, not to dwell on it or trying to sound biased but travelers who don’t have a winch, or dont have the budget to obtain one or do not have the training, it’s just cheaper.

Jim: Ya. And with regards to the winch, people think ok you know I”m going to get a good quality winch that’s going to be $800.00-$1,000.00 that’s kind of just the start. Because now I have to have a way to attach it to my vehicle. A good quality bumper for my old Land Rover is $1200.00 bucks. And now the winch itself, I need a winch kit. A recovery kit that has all the pieces, the tree strap and the pulley block and all that so it’s not just the purchase of the winch. I mean it’s a wonderful tool..

Matt: I would never argue against the utility of one.

Jim: No absolutely not. But if it’s just not economically feasible for you then there are much less expensive ways to, more labor intensive but to get the same thing done.

Scott: And it can be more expedient, it can also help you go backward really easily. You can use a front mounted vehicle winch to winch reward as well. But it is more complicated around vehicles that are newer. Where they are less OK with running winch cables *laughs* You know they … when you think about all the sensors and air bags and anyway we don’t need to go into that kind of detail on it but there are times you just want to make it very simple and sometimes just going in reverse is the best way to get out of a scenario for sure. So now let’s move onto the basic equipment that we want. Now that we have introduced potentially a vehicle mounted winch or we want to take into consideration additional scenarios. That is where I would absolutely include the recovery boards. Two ideally four recovery boards. You also want to include a utility strap or a tree strap. This is something that you want with nul stretch. If it is dyneema, it needs to have some kind of padding around it. If you are going to use it as a tree strap so that way we do not disturb or break the tree, or do damage to the tree .We never want to do that. We never want to wrap a winch line around the tree. We always want to use a tree strap or something that can distribute that force on the bark. So we do want to have some kind of utility strap. We also want to consider bringing along a line dampener or knowing what we can use as a line dampener. So, a messenger bag works great for that with a few things put in it. Soft things are put in it with some weight. We can also use a duffel bag and we can put a strap around it.

Matt: A wet sweatshirt. Something is better than nothing. That is where the whole counterpoint thing comes in. Yes, it’s great to have the safety jacket..

Scott: This is what we are talking about here.

Matt: This is a recovery dampener. It’s great to have one of these but at its core, what is this.What like nylon with a little bit of weight into it. My sweatshirt probably doesn’t weigh much more than that.. Umm..

Jim: The whole idea is if it breaks it drops it to the ground. It doesnt let it fly up and so whatever works to dampen that. It’s fine.

Scott: The line damper has two functions. It functions as a sail. So that means when we have surface area, so if the line breaks it slows it down as it moves through the air. We want to add a sail area to it but we also want to add a little bit of weight that is safe if it impacts another vehicle or individual and that weight helps to bring the line down to the ground. We want to have some surface area and we want to have a little bit of weight. Again, we don’t want to hang a bunch of shackles on the line. That’s totally counter productive. A line dampener is a good idea or knowing how to do an improvised line dampener. We want to bring along additional shackles. That’s probably a good time to start looking at the soft shackles as well. Aso understanding how they work and getting some training on that. And once we introduce a winch into that, we want to start to be able to take advantage of the mechanical nature of a winch by introducing one or multiple pulley blocks to increase the capacity of the winch and we are doing that mechanically it’s a gearing effect. Now when we increase the mechanical advantage with the pulley block, we are reducing the line speed by approximately half. It’s actually a little bit more than that because we have introduced some parasitic drag into the system but in general we have to understand that things in general are going to be a little bit slower which is rarely a bad thing right…

Jim: Ya as you say it’s a slow methodical process. There’s some competitive winches out there. Let’s get this out there so it doesn’t confuse people. So my dad, god bless him. He had a couple says and he said he got them from an old guy, and my dad was an old guy then. And I’m an old guy now. Basically he said if you get a little stuck what is the first thing you do? You make lunch.

Scott: Ya, slow down.

Jim: If you get really stuck, you make camp. And the whole point there is, and again we kind of hit on it earlier, especially with a winch or even a kinetic recovery is, if you do it wrong bad things can happen. At the very least it won’t be successful at thievery most someone will get hurt or equipment gets broke. So it’s really good to slow down and come up with a good plan. One of the things especially when you introduce a pulley into the process is it’s more critical to think of where is my weak link. The point there is if I have a winch extension going to a tree anchor or wherever, to the pulley and it’s double lined back understanding that if the winch is full, at full power and mine is a 9k lb winch so it’s 18k lbs its pulling. What’s the rate on the extension? Whereas the winch line is only taking 9 on each side, it’s splitting that but where that goes to the tree, so you have to always build to the programs weakest link.

Scott: That single point of failure. On the table we actually put down, this is actually sold by 7P and there’s other ones out there and amx tracks sell ones as well but we have a synthetic line into a synthetic shackle …

Matt: A beefy one…

Scott: Ya a very beefy one. It’s a monster. And then we have a machined aluminum ring that goes inside it. Jim gives us an incentive towards using a product like this. There are people that have some concerns with them and I think that they are valid and I think there’s definitely some usability behind these things. What brought this to people’s mind and why is it becoming more popular?

Jim: Again, this absolutely came out of the sailing industry. These kinds of pulley blocks are used quite a bit.

Matt: They even have carbon fiber ones that are used.. Like in the America’s Cup.

Jim: Ya, I don’t have one of those. So again, what we used before that whether you call it a shive or a pulley block, do they work? Absolutely they work. Synthetic rope is the strongest based on the radius. And there is a whole formula for it. There is a whole formula for radius and I don’t know what that formula is. Sharp edges we already said, it doesnt like that. So the radius inside of a recovery ring and pretty much all of them have kind of the same radius as far as the inside goes, Is more conducive to synthetic rope. It likes that bend better than the radius for a regular pulley block. Depending on the cheeks of the pulley block or how it’s designed, it can actually abraid if the synthetic rope is sticking up above, so you can get some failure there. Again pluses and minuses I beat that horse to death. One of the minuses to this and why most people don’t like it is if you put your program together and it’s not tensioned up you have to keep and eye on this. Once you tension it up, once you’ve built your programming right you’re fine. But let’s say you are doing a winch..

Scott: Ya that doesn’t work.

Jim: you can but you have to be amazingly disciplined and you can not completely unload. If you unload the system the rope can fall right out of this. And that’s a problem.

Scott: It’s very difficult and you have to keep an eye on it which means that it can fall out of the ring which means you have to shut down the driving operations, you’re not shock loading it and you’re not putting rope on rope which would very quickly cut through it. And certainly there is not only the radius for the winch line but there is also the diameter of the ring which will help distribute heat and it will also give some additional mechanical advantages, mostly around heat and that radius but if it gets too big you’ve got this piece of material you’ve got to carry along with ya and it adds a lot of weight to your kit. So there’s a reason why these things are the diameter that they are and they have the radius that they do is to manage heat and also minimize the damage of the dyneema.

Matt: I think for overland travelers at the end of the day you can not carry everything with you. You have a certain amount of weight and you have a certain amount of stuff that you can fit in spaces, right. When I look at the way that I go off road etc.. I am less inclined to bring a traditional pulley block. They are pretty heavy, they kind of move around and they rattle. They’re very useful. I am not arguing against the utility of them. But when I look at how I travel this is a lot more approachable. You can carry one of these, for most people in most situations in overlanding they probably should never need a pulley block, let’s be realistic. But when you do have to do more advanced rigging, something more advanced like this as you know 2lbs right now, becomes worth it’s weight in gold. Right, so this is really easy to just throw in. Personally and I don’t know how you feel about this but I look at this recovery ring as more of a casual user. I look at the pulley block as more of a professional or commercial use case. That is just how I tend to recommend them, you know full disclosure we do sell these things too. But you know …

Jim: They’re just not quite as good right? *laughs*

Matt: You know we will fight about that one later *laughs* but that is just the way I break it down. If someone is coming to me and they’re saying: “hey I want to use this thing day in and day out.” I’m a tow truck driver, go with the pulley block. But again for overland travelers you can’t have everything. This is a good way to have something and you can shove that in the back of a drawer system.

Scott: it’s a fraction of the weight and that’s a huge advantage.

Matt: Those fractions of weight do add up, people might say: “oh well it’s only 30 lbs less.” and I’m like Ya..

Jim: again this is the biggest one we build and coming back to loading. If you buy a pulley block and you buy a recovery ring, I think there are five manufacturers that are doing it now..

Matt: I think there are five million because what has happened is they have ended up on Alibaba. So there’s like the Alibaba overland companies.. Like umm..

Scott: Like all of them…

Matt: They have one overland-vehicles-something and it’s like $20.00 and it’s that big. I would love to do some destructive testing on it.

Scott: There is a lot of heat that generates in a very small diameter. So from my perspective they do have their use. They need to be used with some additional training. They are more complex than a typical pulley block. THe rope can fall off of the ring and come in contact with the soft shackle which can lead to almost immediate failure. So the advantage of a traditional pulley block is they have these wings that open and you put the line in there and the wings close..

Matt: It’s a closed system..

Scott: It’s a closed system so it does much better in dynamic recoveries between driving and winching. It doesn’t mean you can’t use a ring for driving and winching but it requires that marshal to be very mindful of the recovery ring. Again for those that are listening then can be an advantage. I do bring one along but I bring it along as my second pulley block. And that is the reason why I bring it because I want the second one to be lighter and take up less space.

Jim: You use that one less often. It becomes a much more complex system. The biggie here and regardless I have a pulley block at home and I don’t use it. It looks like an ARB pulley block and it says 9,000 on it. It doesn’t say 9,000 anything it just says 9,000 so again back to that make sure your equipment is good quality equipment and not the Alibaba stuff and make sure it’s rated appropriately for your vehicle. And the ratings should be on there.

Matt: And I’ll get on my high horse on quality recovery equipment here. When I ran Unsealed 4X4 editor of that magazine in Australia we did a huge comparison test where we went to the store and we bought three of every major snatch straps sold on the market. Quite predictably the cheaper brands were a 3 out of 3. I want to say we did a wet test and two dry tests at a certified rigging facility. It was a night and day between the quality stuff and the cheap stuff. ARB was the most consistent which I think consistency we awarded them the best because it was the most consistent. You want things to be consistent and predictable. You don’t want to buy a 9,000lb rated item and it breaks at 1800. Breaking strength.. There’s… recovery stuff can be very, ahh, very tedious with its terminology so I caught myself there but you don’t want something that is advertising one being actually a two. That’s all I’m saying. So if there is any place that you are going to spend money, and again I have basis with the whole max tracks and that kind of stuff but it’s even more appropriate I think with anything involving a winch or kind of vehicle recovery buy the best that you can afford.

Scott: Because these are safety devices that we have to understand.

Matt: They are safely devices that can turn into the opposite very, very, very quickly. You know those cheap.. Those.. I was going to say a name that ends in Built but I stopped myself, those chinese pot metal shackles .. they can have inclusions …

Scott: They can be really dangerous. They can have a high inclusion rate, exactly. So we talked about pulley blocks, let’s talk about some other consideration things we can just kind of run through. There’s a tool called a transit cluster, they’re used typically by towing companies you can go on Expedition Exchange, John Lee there sells them all day long. But it allows you if you gotta pull a Subaru off the trail, or a vehicle that doesn’t have a recovery point, it allows you to key into those various holes on the frame. Again, these are not rated recoveries this is if everything has gone bad.

Matt: This is something a tow truck driver would be carrying to get the Toyota Corolla out.

Scott: So you may want to consider a transit cluster. We will include that in the show notes. A winch line extension is a good idea. If you are traveling in areas that are not heavily forested. If you are traveling to less heavily forested areas they are less important.

Matt: There may be a point that you can recover from but there also may be a safer point just a little bit further. Always carry a winch line extension. I’ve been in so many scenarios where I have to use one.

Jim: five feet short.

Matt: Exactly. And you get more winch line power the more wraps you have around that drum too.

Scott: Additional things to consider is having rated recovery points. ARB is one of the few that sells rated recovery points. Know what the vehicle gross weight rating is of your vehicle and know if the recovery points on your vehicle are rated for that gross vehicle weight. If not consider having that upgraded. Make sure that you do that. We also want to look at the idea of bringing along round anchors like a pull pall. Improvised solutions for that which we could go into great lengths about..

Matt: There is that new deadman thing and I think that there’s almost a similarity between the discussion of the recovery ring and a more formal pulley block. I think that the dead man, they work well. They are very functional but maybe more of an emergency tool then lets say a pull pall. Ones going to set itself and ones going to have to require you to dig a hole. Both are better than not having it.

Scott: They can be very labor intensive for sure. I liked to use the pull pal on Expedition 7. Because we were so remote so much of the time. We had a pull pal along in one of the vehicles and we used it a lot more than expected that we would. There’s always the option of airing tires and all kinds of other ideas. But again I find pairing max tracks with a winch or vehicle to vehicle recovery tends to solve most of those problems. But when you need a pull pal you really need it. They are one of the few things that actually solves a problem. They are great. Alright, and then the last thing around advanced considerations is a rear mounted winch, in most cases a winch is used for recreational purposes which is why it is on the front. If you are driving a very large vehicle like an Earthroamer or a man vehicle and you can only put it one side or the other you may actually be better off putting it at the rear of the vehicle. Having a front and rear winch if the gross weight allows for it that can be another tool in the tool box. But I think if you are doing vehicle recreation, I think you always want to have the winch on the front of the vehicle. What are your thoughts on that Jim?

Jim: Land Rover came out with the SVX Discovery years ago and it ended up being just more of a show car and because of all the front impact stuff with modern cars and aftermarket winches, they mounted one on the rear. We kind of looked at it and played with it a bit. I grew up in a front winch world so to have it in the back you have to completely rethink your thought process. It absolutely works if you are going in.. It’s basically a defeatist winch. Because you are going to go in and I’ve got to keep going forward, I’m not going back. There’s all manner of receiver hitch portable winches, again pluses and minuses they give you a versatility which is nice. But side poles..

Scott: Incredible amount of leverage.

Jim: They don’t lakeside poles at all. It just bends them up like a cheap lawn chair.

Scott: It does. *laughs* exactly.

Jim: Again, it just kind of keeps coming back to what works for you. Whatever you have, learn how to use it.

Scott: And keeping it simple.

Jim: They did an expo years ago at Mormon Lake still. A Volkswagon Jetta got stuck, it was the mudfest. A couple of us walked over and they already had the truck lit up. THe loop for the trunk, they had hooked. And I was like *claps hands* I’m out. I’m going to watch this from afar. Again stepping outside the bounds, it worked. It was super gentle, he was barely stuck and they just pulled him back on the road.

Scott: Sometimes you gotta improvise right>

Jim: And it worked.

Matt: And we touched on the rated recovery points. The thing I’m super passionate about is I’ve had to write these stories when people die. Do not use a tow ball as a recovery point. Because you’re basically using thousands of pounds of energy with a kinetic strap behind a cannonball.

Jim: Yes! Oh yeah.

Matt: And it will go through people.

Jim: Do not do it.

Matt: Like, if there is anything you take from this and you see someone doing that, make sure you are not within cannonball range..

Jim: Just leave. *laughs*

Matt: Honk or whatever you can do but umm…

Jim: I’ve got a great picture of a CJ and it was cool because I got the story behind it. So they were doing a kinetic recovery, two straps with a D shackle in the middle. Hooking the T straps together. So the CJ5 is launching, pulling this guy out. And so it doesn’t work and doesn’t work and he keeps backing up giving it more wheelie. So the last time, and the best part is when he’s driving he’s doing this.. So one of the stuck vehicle straps breaks. The loop snaps. It launches the D shackle right through the middle of the tire. That steel that was mounted on the back of the jeep, through the back tailgate, through the headrest of the seat and through the windshield. SO basically with that recovery strap it threaded the jeep like a needle. If he would have been sitting like this driving, it would have gone right through his head. The force is amazing. People underestimate that energy. They really do.

Scott: Those straps are capturing energy and are stretching and absorbing and ready to catapult energy for sure.

Jim: I’m going to release it somehow. Hopefully it’s the car getting out.

Scott: Exactly.

Matt: I guess that kind of brings us into our next step which is admitting defeat.

Scott: So I think that one of the keys around recovery is saying it’s not going to work. I’m going to admit defeat early and I”m not going to keep digging and spinning. Once you feel like you are not making progress back off the throttle …

Matt: You can make things worse in multiple ways.

Scott: You can make it so much more difficult. So, admit defeat early. Use recovery gear actively. Put down max tracks ahead of the time, get your equipment ready. Unspool the winch and battle wrap it around the bumper. All of those things that can get you prepared in advance if you really think that you are going to get stuck. Now, of course the counterpoint to that is you could just send it, right? *laughs* And I have been amazed at what some people can get through by using a whole lot of momentum, but the risk goes up significantly with that. You have introduced all of this speed and you end up with a lot of vehicle damage in those kinds of scenarios but I’ve also seen some incredible feats of driving skill, vehicle durability and it’s usually Land Cruisers getting through something by just sending it.

Jim: When it works it’s beautiful. When it goes wrong it’s a great video.

Matt: As slow as possible. As fast as necessary.

Scott: Sometimes for people fast is really fast..

Jim: They go right to the second half of that.

Scott: So since we’ve gotten stuck now to your point earlier Jim, let’s make a cup of tea. Let’s formulate a plan. I’ve heard it called a stuck assessment. Essentially make a plan and take some time. When you first get stuck. People’s adrenaline is high, people are amped up and maybe feel embarrassed. Give it some time and relax. Go have a drink of water and take a short little walk. Then come back with a fresh mind and that’s the point in time that you want to have that conversation with the group. People may have ideas, ask others how they would get it undone. Once you have decided on a plan we want to keep the peanut gallery to a minimum. We don’t want people yelling while the stuck recovery is happening. We want to make a cup of tea and chill out.

Matt: I am not ashamed of telling people to shut up. If that person is annoying you from the peanut gallery tell them to stop. It’s your vehicle or whomever is in charge of that recovery.I don’t think it’s unfair to just ask people to remove themselves.

Jim: The only exception to that rule that we teach is, specifically if you are doing a winch operation and you have your person out marshalling that winch. We are the only two people that exist with one exception. If anybody, anywhere, yells stop.

Scott: Safety.

Jim: The only thing is to stop and they might be completely full of it, they might be talking to their dog who is running away. But that’s fine.

Scott: Everybody agrees that stop means stop no matter what.

Matt: Ya, because you’re already stuck.*laughs* you are already in the situation.

Scott: Ya, that is good advice, that is important for people to remember that they can be empowered to say stop. But pretty much nothing else because it really can be disruptive and unsafe for the people who are trying to get unstuck to get a whole bunch of chatter from the peanut gallery. Alright so now we are going to move on to some of the fundamentals of recovery technique. Now we can’t do a lot around this in a podcast but we’re going to talk about it in the types of recovery techniques. Self recovery which can start by airing down more, even going to very low pressures in the sand to get you unstuck and then air up again to an operating pressure. Of course using a shovel and again using recovery boards and using sand ladders. There’s a difference between a board and ladder. A ladder can also be used for bridging as well for certain scenarios. There’s improvised solutions like even using your floor mat or like I tried to use with the drapes *laughs* you can have a bunch of people helping to push. Sometimes just that little bit of effort and human ingenuity can get you out of that stuck situation.

Matt: In some parts of the world asking for help might be your best scenario. Like if you are in southeast Asia..

Jim: Eight thousand people will show up …

Matt: Can you come push??

Scott: *laughs* exactly. How many times have we seen somebody getting pulled out with a line of oxen or whatever. How cool is that…*laughs*

Matt: Greg Highland has just some amazing stories of being in Indonesia or Malaysia in the rainforest and being stuck and being like.. “Ok, well, just wait five minutes nd someone will come by.”

Jim: People come out of nowhere.

Scott: So those are self recovery solutions. We’ve got vehicle mounted electric winches, we can also use what’s called a tearfor style winch. Which is basically a hand over hand passing, essentially. THe mechanism is inside the winch which pulls the winch line and captures it, relocates the pulling component and pulls it again. They are very slow, they do work and tend to be very lightly rated. If they are rated for real work then it’s massive and it kind of defeats the purpose. If you are doing a lot of crazy driving or in really muddy situations or I use it in the snow for side slopes and stuff like that because you can connect it to the rear of the vehicle to create a pendulum effect and take up slack and keep the rear of the vehicle from sliding. Works great for that. High lift does the same thing. These are improvised tools that are not ideal for most scenarios. Anything else that you have used like that Jim?

Jim: I have used everything. Mainly because I went so many years without a winch. There’s a great Youtube where the guy uses two logs and he creates a winch..

Scott: I saw that. Fascinating.

Jim: I was just like I had never thought of that and that will work. I like to always tell people it’s basically limited to the equipment you have and what’s around you and your imagination. As simple as a straight line, using a winch extension. The force in the middle is four to seven times each side. So sometimes just having that rigid line and being stuck you can get a couple people to push and pull and get enough.

Scott: There’s a lot of leverage. That is fascinating.

Jim: We did a jeep job in Turkey a couple years ago and we were creating a really difficult route and people kept showing up and fixing the road. Quite literally they were making a freeway for us but people show up and it’s got to be a worldwide thing. Most of the time people want to help. If you say hey can you help out? I’ve never had someone go no. They just all want to help. Just using what’s around you.

Scott: The locals can really add a lot. They can add a lot of drama and problems as well. *laughs*

Jim *laughs*

Scott: Because usually they are excited but they may not have the same training you do so make sure that you are always kind in your communications and you want to be specific in your communications. But also don’t be afraid to be assertive because at the end of the day it’s your vehicle and your safety. On the vehicle mounted winches, the winch rating again we want to be looking at about 1.5x gross vehicle weight. If you get the winch closer and closer to the gross vehicle weight, like let’s say it’s a 6,000lb gross vehicle weight and you have a 6,000lb winch then you are going to be taxing that winch and you are going to have to be very specific about the number of wraps you are using to get that maximum pull and you are going to need to introduce pulley blocks. So you typically want to have a winch that is rated about 1.5-2x the gross vehicle weight. Has that been your experience as well Jim?

Jim: Winches are rated with an empty spool. Basically that first wrap on that spool is where you get the 9,000. Each wrap after that you lose about 15%. If you have a normal amount of rope you have about 5 wraps. So you’ve really lost that, the pulley block you pull off twice as much that helps that because you get down to those lower wraps. People underestimate it. Again, my car is a pretty heavy car. It weighs about 5,000, well I have a 9,000lb winch. I can lift it vertically. But people underestimate if there’s a little slope, if it’s buried to the frame rails how much actual force it takes to move that vehicle. That’s where the 1.5x comes in.

Scott: And we don’t want to go with too much winch either because we’ve added unnecessary expense and unnecessary weight, we’ve reduced the line speed as well which is slower. Although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are consequences of going too heavy with a winch.

Matt: Sure, you don’t want to put a 16 five Warn on a Samurai. Unless you want to pull the frame apart.

Scott: Exactly. You want to use the appropriate tools for the job. So that is around vehicle mounted winches. We also want to make sure that we have a way to connect up the line, we want to have connection points, we want to have tree straps. We want to have appropriate anchors as well which means it could be on another vehicle, winching to another vehicle, or if we are coming back to our own vehicle that any of those connection points are rated for the load that we are asking of the system. Now we talked a little bit about synthetic vs. steel cable there is no hard and fast rule on it. The dyneema will always be safer and the cable will oftentimes be more durable and that is the reason why people use it over steel cable.

Matt: I think the main benefit these days of synthetic lines is the cargo capacity of vehicles. I don’t want to say it is dwindling but vehicles are getting heavier and they can’t carry as much. You know you can lose a lot of weight very quickly by going synthetic. That also plays a factor in my opinion not having to have an extra 50, 60, 70lbs at the furthest most point of your vehicle from that axle, there is a benefit there.

Scott: Absolutely. And the counterpoint to the winch is winches are expensive and what you talked about earlier Jim is you’ve got all these other components you’ve got to buy and even upgrading batteries and everything else. You can pay for a whole trip with just the cost of a winch. If you travel mostly in the desert southwest and you don’t really travel in muddy conditions or you’ve got …

Matt: Ya, htat cholla cactus isn’t gonna pull ya. *laughs*

Scott: So there are times when you don’t want to have a winch. Or you might say that it’s less of a priority. Also vehicles can really pack up against their gross vehicle weighting so a winch is a heavy item. So we need to be mindful of how much weight a winch adds as well. Alright so now we’re getting to the last little component of our discussion which is vehicle to vehicle recovery. What are some things Jim that you have seen around vehicle to vehicle recovery, what are some good basic techniques or things to be mindful around vehicle to vehicle recovery?

Jim: Two things, again are you using the second vehicle just as an anchor then it becomes basically your standard winch. Which then it’s your basic winch line vs. kinetic. Kinetic is probably the fastest way. People, when they have a brand new winch they always want to pull out that winch rope. But again.. Slow and methodical. It takes time. Versus a kinetic rope or strap on something and we’re down the road in two minutes. My rule of thumb for just doing a kinetic recovery is I’ll hook the vehicles together and I’ll back up so basically the line is on the ground. And that’s it. And that gives me about a car length before, and the whole thought process is I want the front car to have momentum, the rope stretches and it transfers all the momentum and energy back to the back car and hopefully pops them out. I’ve seen people for their first pull backup almost bumper to bumper and again it’s like the winch where you are creating a massive amount of energy depending on how much you’re putting out and you will discover the weak link. Hopefully it’s the vehicle stuck now moving but again with that kinetic energy it’s going to transfer somewhere. I start very consertive and do that little boomp and see what happens. Did the car move a little bit? Cool. A little bit more and we are down the road. It didn’t move at all? When I find myself backing up to where the rope is about half way under my car.. I’ll give that ashot and I’m giving it a bit more wellie each time. But I’m easing into the increasing energy. If I get to that point and nothing has moved I’m probably going to get out and we’re going to have a conversation and come up with a plan B.

Matt: Maybe the vehicle is high centered or there’s a rock differential. Something right..

Scott: What is the minimum of effective dose right? Sometimes it doesn’t require backing up at all. Sometimes just getting it under tension, builds up some energy in the rope itself then it easily extracts the vehicle particularly if the vehicle is highly capable. You take a Jeep Rubicon on 40’s and it’s going to pull a lot of things out without even having to back up or even any wellie at all. Put it into slow gear and pull it out. You really want to do just that minimum effectiveness dose because we don’t want to introduce a lot of energy into the system that we don’t need to and now there are certainly times that you have to. Another thing around that key to that is communication. It’s good to have radios. So you can communicate “I’m going.” The vehicle doing the recovery can see that but the person doing the recovery may not know that you are unstuck or maynot know that you’ve hung up on something or something has failed so having a way to communicate is something that is really important.

Matt: And if you don’t have radios find a simple system of communication. That can be..

Jim: Like a horn..

Matt: Most cars have them.. One horn means go. Two horns means stop.

Jim: We did a recovery back at the Mormon Lake mud fest, and I remember it was this German couple that were overlanding around the world and they had this giant man truck. They augered in and man I mean they went down. He kept saying ‘I’m just going to air down..’ and ahh..

Matt: You’ve passed that one bud…

Jim: You can’t beat physics. So quite literally they said hey Jim go get your car, which was my Discovery. We hooked up a strap to it and one of my fellow instructors Lee mcGee whom I trust implicitly, he was that link of communication. So I now know what’s in my mind and he knew what’s in his mind and we got out of jive. He said: “Back up, back up, back up, cool your good.” I leaned out and said: “So I just have the ropes on the ground right?” And he said; “Yep.” Which meant something different apparently to both of us. So I took off knowing that I am going to have about a car length. I gave it quite a bit knowing that the man truck is massively heavy compared to my car. I am not creating that much energy. And you have that point where ‘I should have hit the end of the rope by now..’

Scott: Yeah…

Jim: And I hadn’t. I literally went another full car length. My car was accelerating, well, diesel..

Scott: as fast as you can …

Matt: Your cars up to three mile an hour..

Jim: Ya, it was massive acceleration.. *laughs*

Matt: Oh 95 horsepower..

Jim: Yes. *laughs*it’s 111 thank you. *laughs*

Matt: I was trying to be insulting and that was actually even worse..

Jim: It’s sad on so many levels. But you reach that point when something should have happened and it hadn’t so I was about to come out of the throttle and a big transfer of energy and it yanked the truck right out. And it was this whole David and Goliath thing because you see this little bitty Discovery and the giant man truck, but it worked well. But we were not in sync where we should have been and again that conversation you have to be on the same page because if things go wrong they can go horribly wrong.

Scott: Slowing down and making sure you are on the same page.. And I guess to summarize some of the most important things is to really focus on safety, focus on communication, focus on training before you make any significant purchases around recovery. Employ the minimum effective dose on vehicle to vehicle recovery and then don’t buy the whole catalog right off the bat. Start by learning more about recovery and driving and you may find that you really don’t need..

Matt: I mean how many high lift jacks do we see? On vehicles that have no way of using them. You’re not lifting it with it right? I mean maybe you can use the tire attachment and use it as a come along kind of thing but make sure you have the supporting modifications.

Jim: Know what it does before you buy it.

Matt: But the cool thing is all of this stuff if you want to dive in deeper. There’s four wheel drive trainers almost everywhere. There’s four wheel drive clubs, the ubiquitous knowledgeable guy that’s down the street that maybe you can glean some information from but .. ya, 7P is a great place to look. You guys do a lot of the overland rallies, overland expos, I4WDTA is something that I always recommend. Again, make sure you are finding the right instructor for what you are doing. You don’t need the ultra 4 guy if you are in a synchro that wants to drive the pan american highway. You might end up with conflicting personalities. I just think you know slow down. Generally in most recovery scenarios you already, I don’t want to call it a mistake, the mistake has already been made. You are already in the situation. Unless you are on the beach with the tide coming in, it’s likely not going to get worse. Evaluate your situation. Is it going to get worse or is it not going to get worse and calm down. That’s the number one thing I have realized from myself maybe 15 years ago, my heart would be racing when I got stuck. Or the same thing for the first time you pick up a wheel in your car. Your heart is racing. You learn to just calm down and learn to be a little bit more methodical and precise with what you are doing.

Scott: Ok so then we’ve also got Overland Experts as a great resource and Seven P obviously fantastic and

Matt: Overlanding B.C, that’s Chris Walker he’s up outside of Vancouver. Super experienced and works with Land Rover guys< there is also this thing… Google just check it out.

Scott: And get recommendations. And Jim, where can people find out more about you. Do you have a social media that you maintain on Instagram or..

Jim: Oh geez, it’d be great if i knew that wouldn’t it? Haha. myquestofinterest.com is probably the best thing it has all the links to everything.

Scott: Ok, perfect.

Jim: That’s basically my own personal company so the stuff that happens in the Phoenix valley, that’s what I run through. I’m part owner in 7P so through that 7P.io that website there. Again on facebook and all the social media for pretty much any kind of training pretty much all around the world.

Scott: I can’t recommend Seven P enough. Each one of those individuals has impressed me significantly in my time working with them, great organization. Matt, what is your current social thing on Instagram?

Matt: I hate social media. I guess as of today I guess I am back on Instagram which is @mattexplre. I occasionally go on it.

Jim: So make sure you troll @mattexplore..

Scott: There ya go. And I am @scott.a.brady on Instagram and we appreciate all of you for listening. Please reach out via those social media channels if you have any questions, comments or concerns around the podcast so we can address them and we thank you all for listening and we will talk to you next time.


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.