4Runner Recovery Gear Setup
Snatch Gear, Winch Gear, Hi-lift Jack and Accessories, Maxtrax, Treds, and other recovery boards – an overview on the essentials
Recovery Gear is off road insurance as far as I’m concerned. You don’t need it all, you may never use it all, but when you need some extra help, these tools can get you out of a bad place.
Right up front, I want to let you know that I have bought all this stuff on my own and none of this gear was received as free stuff to test or review. I’ve used several sources to buy them – mostly Amazon, but there are plenty of online vendors out there. I have been particularly happy with AutoAnything and OK4WD for good pricing, a wide selection of merchandise and great customer service. I have no connection to any of these retailers, but I did want to share a good customer experience I’ve had with them all. Your experience may vary.
In this article, I’ll go over the off-road tools and accessories I have and describe how and where I’ve used them. I’ll also share how I haul them around. I don’t have them in my 4Runner all the time and take different gear depending on where I’m going. Truth be told, even though I have them all for a while, some of this gear has never seen active duty.
Detailed Product List
- Tow Strap – Check Price
- Snatch Strap – Check Price
- Hard Shackles – Check Price
- Soft Shackles – Check Price
- Hitch mount recovery point – Check Price
- Hitch mount pin/clip – Price
What I do carry in the truck every day is set of Snatch Straps, hard and soft Shackles and a hitch mount recovery point. This gear helps when recovering another vehicle and fairly easy to accumulate and set up without breaking the bank.
The basic set up requires good recovery points to connect on to both vehicles. I have an SSO Slimline Hybrid Front bumper with recovery points on both sides and I use the hitch mount recovery point in the back. If you want a second hitch mount in the back, you can grab something like the Factor 55 Hitchlink.
With the addition of a hitch receiver, you will also need a hitch pin and clip. There are many versions of the hitch pin set-up. You can get hitch pins with standard clips, locking clips or locking heads. Alternatively, you can use just the hitch pin as a recovery point. Slide your snatch strap into the receiver, then slide the pin through one end of your strap and then secure the pin with the clip on the other side. This is a great option if you are looking to add a recovery point for under $10.
It’s important to know where suitable recovery points are so I usually let the other owner tell me where to attach to on their vehicle. However, I will verify the points and only attach after I’m confident they will work.
One other point to keep in mind is the load rating for the snatch gear. Most will have their specific load rating on a tag or in the product literature. You can see in the photo on one strap I wrote down the load rating since they didn’t provide it on the strap itself. I always buy from known sources and will typically buy a product with a higher load rating (2-3x or more the weight of the truck). I found that the price difference between a slightly higher load rating is not significant.
Detailed Product List
- Warn Winch (10k lb) – Check Price
- Warn Winch Damper – Check Price
- Splicer XTV – Check Price
- Deadman Land Anchor – Check Price
- Snatch Blocks – Check Price
- Tree Saver Strap – Check Price
The most expensive single piece of recovery gear I have is the Warn Winch with a synthetic line and 10,000-pound capacity. At the end of the day, I’ve seen various articles on what size winch to buy and the general recommendation is 150%+ of the weight of the vehicle. That should be enough pulling power to get out of deep mud.
There is also a lot of articles comparing synthetic and steel winch lines. The synthetic line is more expensive but it’s much lighter than steel, will not store potential energy under load and not snap like a rubber band if it breaks. It is much easier to work with than steel since it won’t develop sharp burs that can do some real damage to your hands. Steel is much more resistant to abrasion, more durable and not affected by ultraviolet light. All things you need to consider when using a synthetic line.
At the end of the winch line, I’ve attached a Factor 55 product (The Splicer XTV) that acts as a shackle with a closed loop instead of the supplied hook from Warn. The theory behind this product is that it’s safer than a hook (no gap to slip through, solid construction with a higher breaking strength) and provides full cover for the winch line protecting it from UV light.
There are 2 ways to use a winch. The Vehicle with the winch can be stationary and pull another vehicle (or other items that need to be moved), or the winch line can be attached to a stationary object to pull the vehicle itself. If the winch vehicle is stationary pulling another vehicle, you will need to use shackles and consider recovery points as described above. The winch line takes the place of snatch straps.
If the winch vehicle needs pulling you will need to attach to a stationary object. If that’s another vehicle, you will again need to use shackles as noted above. You can also attach to a tree, a large rock or to the ground itself with different gear:
To attach to a tree, it’s best to use a tree saver. The one I have (shown in the picture) is a 3inch wide, 8-foot-long blue strap that goes around the tree. Using the winch line can damage the tree or the line itself. I prefer to use a soft shackle to link the tree saver to the winch line but any shackle will work.
If there are no trees close enough, you can attach to a large rock or the ground itself using a Deadman Land Anchor (Deadmanoffroad.com). That’s a fairly new product with plenty of YouTube videos to show you how it works. It’s basically a heavy canvas tarp with a thick protective coating and heavy straps that you can bury in dirt, sand or snow to act as a lightweight ground anchor. You can also use it as a Tree saver and it’s big enough to wrap around a large rock. I haven’t used it yet, but the online videos are convincing.
Snatch Blocks are large pulleys that can be attached to a line. They are split so you can attach them to the middle of the winch line without running the entire cable through it. The snatch blocks act like a pulley to double the pulling capacity of the winch by doubling the length of the pull itself. With enough snatch blocks (3 or more) you can even winch your vehicle backwards. Search “winching backwards” for several how-to documents and videos.
A Warn Winch Damper is a mandatory piece of gear when using steel cable. The damper (any heavy rubber mat, coat, coat or blanket) is placed on the steel line in case it snaps. The damper would help hold down the line close to the ground and minimize the effect of the snapped steel cable acting as a whip. There is much less risk when using a synthetic rope, but a damper can come in handy to act as a knee pad or a line marker to keep others from crossing your winch line.
Hi-lift Jack and Accessories
Detailed Product List
- Hi-Lift Jack – Check Price
- Hi-Lift Jack ORB – Check Price
- HK-R Red Handle-Keeper – Check Price
- Hi-Lift Jack LM-100 Lift-Mate – Check Price
- Winch Tensioner Attachment Bracket
- Hi-Lift Off-Road Kit – Check Price
- G40 Chain (26-link)
- G40 Chain (15-link)
The prime use of a hi-lift jack is to lift your vehicle when a regular jack just won’t work. With a proper base (Hi-Lift Jack ORB Off-Road Base), a hi-lift jack can be used on loose sand, hard rock, dirt or your driveway. There are also many ways to attach the jack to your vehicle.
With the right accessories, you can lift using your bumper, rock rails (sliders) ( Hi-Lift Jack BL-250 Bumper Lift) or your wheels ( Hi-Lift Jack LM-100 Lift-Mate). You will need to determine if you bumper or side rails can support the weight of your vehicle as well as take care not to damage parts when you have metal on metal. Although you can change a tire with hi-lift jack, I have found it much more useful to get a rock or anything else under a tire to get out of a hole or get more traction.
I have also used the hi-lift jack as a pretty effective winch. Before I had a winch, my son and I got stuck in a mud hole but were able to use the jack with chains to pull the 4Runner out. It took hours to get out but without the jack, we would have needed to find a tow in the middle of no-where.
A photo above with the hi-lift and accessories that includes a Hi-Lift Jack HK-R Red Handle Keeper and Jackmate. Check the net for product specifics.
Maxtrax, Treds, ramps and other recovery boards
Detailed Product List
- MAXTRAX Boards (4) – Check Price
- MAXTRAX Mounts – Depends on your preferred mounting method
- MAXTRAX Telltale Leashes
Recovery boards are very popular as an easy way to add traction on many different surfaces. They are effective on sand, snow, loose dirt and can be used as bridges over rocks and small gaps. They are very easy to use – just get them as close to and as far under your tires as you can (they can be used as a shovel) to let them grab onto to the ground and your tires.
They come in sets of 2 and in most cases that’s all you need to get out of a jam. With 2 sets or 4 boards, you can get out of just about anything. There are a couple of ways to set them up: in parallel and in series. In other words with 2 or 4 boards, you can line them up one under each wheel – in parallel – or line them up in a row so that 2 or more boards cover more ground in a straight line serially.
I have seen them used to bridge small gaps but be aware not all boards are created with the same strength and some have cracked over a gap. 2 or more layered would be the best way to bridge a small gap. One more use for them is at camp to level a vehicle or trailer. Just stack them to the desired height.
The downside to the boards is that they take up a lot of space and you shouldn’t store them in your 4Runner especially after going through some mud or worse. They will retain dirt until they are washed off with enough water pressure behind a hose. I use a set Maxtrax Recovery Board Mounting Pins attached to a crossbar on my roof rack to secure them to the top of my 4Runner. You can also use a set of TREDs. It all depends on your personal preference, but you should carry one of the two.
Shovels, axe, branch trimmer and don’t forget your gloves
Detailed Product List
- Krazy Beaver Shovel – Check Price
- Fiskars Saw – Check Price
- Axe – Check Price
- Compact Shovel – Check Price
There is some extra gear I have to help in specific situations. I sometimes carry a Krazy Beaver shovel because it just looks good and does the job. It picks up the dirt and can cut through roots. However, I always have a smaller folding shovel in the truck because it can work in a pinch and it takes up very little space.
An axe and some sort of branch trimmer or saw can help in thick brush. The Fiskars Saw in the photo above was an excellent find at Home Depot – very sharp and has been durable so far.
Gloves are a must and I have an extra pair for anyone willing to help. I also include a flashlight, jumper cables and a small compressor even though I have onboard air.
Detailed Product List
- Jumper Cables – Check Price
- Heavy Duty Gloves
- Small Compressor
Where to put it all
I use 2 Bags to hold most of the gear that I’ve discussed above. They hold most of the gear not directly attached to the truck or stored in a drawer. See photo above.
I’ve separated the tools into 2 bags with all the Hi-Lift accessories in one bag and the rest in the other. I had two large tool bags heavy enough to hold the gear already, so I didn’t have to buy anything for that. Another reason to use two bags was weight: a large part of the gear is made of heavy metal and all that gear was just too heavy to store, never mind carry in one bag.
When loading them in the back of the 4Runner, you should take care in tying them down properly. Remember this gear is very heavy. Flying parts can be a problem.
In the back of the 4Runner, I have installed a drawer system with one draw used to keep some of the recovery gear I always take along. I have ratchet straps, tie downs, and a siphon ready to go on each trip.
Includes gas siphon and ratchet straps.
The hi-lift jack was a struggle in terms of trying to figure out how to store it. I could have attached it to the roof rack but with a Rooftop tent and the Maxtraxs, there is not a lot of room up there. I was also concerned with keeping the Jack mechanism free from dirt.
I have seen reports that claim when left outside on a vehicle without some cover the lifting mechanism can fail. I was lucky to have a perfect spot on top of my drawers in the back of the 4Runner. The hi-lift fits across with accessories installed. I use a couple of wing nuts to secure the jack.
Last but not least was where to mount the shovel. Unlike the hi-lift Jack, I didn’t want to store the shovel in the truck. I’m not happy with the current set up but it works. I use a couple of Quick Fist fasteners to attach the shovel to the guard on my bumper. I will have to find a better place at some point but that’s where it sits right now but only when I think I need it.
That’s recovery gear. Please feel free to add any comments or ask questions.
Happy trails – Sensei Dad a.k.a Gus