Recovery Gear Must-Haves – Outfitting your rig and where to spend big
Wheeling is expensive, there’s no other way to put it.
When I say wheeling, I’m not talking about loading up every single piece of unnecessary gear you own and go out to the local dirt road to pose for some Instagram pictures, I’m talking about getting off-camber and twisted up in some remote location alone.
- What basic gear should you bring?
- Why does this stuff cost so much?
Experienced off-road enthusiasts know the gear I’m talking about and it’s highly likely that the guy you follow on the forum, (the one with all the high dollar brand name gear and lots of decals) that claims he’s sponsored, doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground because it’s all for Instagram.
These “brand ambassadors” or “brand whores” tend to push the big name stuff to their social media followers because these brands are all they know.
They will talk shit about other brands and make up stories about how brand X failed them while they were driving the ice roads in northern Alaska when in all actuality they ran into to a guy at a parking lot event and got introduced to other brand whores who welcomed him into their gear brothel with open arms and told him how all other brands were inferior.
My Tacoma on 35’s
Personally, I always carry the following with me when I hit the trails as these items are considered my “must-haves”:
- Bubba-rope and shackles
- Snatch Block and tree saver
- Off-Road Shovel
- Hi-lift jack
Anything else I choose to bring along is based on where I’m going and how far out I’ll be and for how long.
We have all seen the guy that is fully loaded with every possible accessory and recovery device (remember the brand whore guy?) and in my 26 years of off-roading experience have never seen “that guy” use anything more than the items I listed earlier a winch and some recovery boards. You’ll notice in the pic below that I’m only carrying a high-lift and base.
Recovery Boards – Big-name Brand Vs. Cheaper Brands
Since we are on the topic of gear, let’s discuss recovery boards for a minute.
I have been using Maxxsa recovery boards for years and have had the Maxxsa boards and a set of Maxtrax boards that I won in a raffle I put them both to the test with my Tacoma on 35’s in the rain-soaked red clay up in North Georgia. Both boards work as advertised and I can’t say that one is better than the other.
I prefer the Maxxsa simply based on price. $125 for a pair. The Maxtrax and the new ARB TRED Pro have gotten so overpriced due to the popularity of off-roading and Overlanding. The brand-whoring that occurs on forums and other social media sites doesn’t help with that at all.
Remember when you were the FNG (f*cking new guy) and all this seemed to be stuff you had to have because the guy with all decals and cool mounts said so?
Experience Goes A Long Way
Being an experienced off-roader and having wheeled my rigs since 1993, I can say that just because something is $400 doesn’t mean it’s better than something that is $100. The same can be said with RTTs. Tepui and CVT are the main brands that are whored out all over the internet.
Me, being cost-conscious, not because I have to be, but because I choose to be, have used the Smittybilt RTT’s for years now and have never had a problem. $700 vs $1500 is much more appealing to me and with some research, you can learn that most of these products are produced in the same factories and then branded differently.
Ask Questions and Do your Research!
If you are new to off-roading, wheeling, Overlanding, mall crawling, or whatever else people are calling it these days, I strongly encourage you to research products through live demonstration by going on trips to watch and learn.
Ask questions, help out, and if you can learn how to spot for drivers on the trail. Doing this is the only way to learn the ways of the non-brand whore trail Jedi. It doesn’t have to be expensive and you don’t “need” a ton of gear. The basics will do just fine. One thing I can say about spending top dollar on equipment is to spend big on suspension and tires. Those are the components you don’t cheap out on!
Spend Big on Your Suspension
As far as suspension goes, many people recommend and run the Bilstein 5100’s. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this setup, it’s actually quite good. However, it’s not designed for high-speed travel over rough terrain if that’s what you are in to.
I have run Icon, King, Bilstein, Fox, and ADS on my rigs over the years and my recommendation to anyone willing to spend the money for the best suspension available is to go with ADS (Arizona Desert Shocks).
I replaced a set of “Blue Coilovers” on my Tacoma with the ADS and was blown away at the quality difference. I thought the “blue ones” rode great, but the ADS have outperformed them in every way and I now have them on my 4Runner as well.
I’m going to leave you with this little bit of wisdom:
You don’t have to spend a ton to be effective when and where it counts. Maintain your gear and store it away when you’re not on the trails. Most important, tread lightly, leave the trail cleaner than you found it.
Great advice. Definitely taking alot of that to heart and I’ve been choosey in my search for good beginners gear. Just got stuck yesterday and came to the harsh reality of just how ill prepared we were for starting to adventure.
Great write up, its like anything else, no gear can outperform experience. on a different note, what roof rack is that on the 4runner ? thanks
It’s the Victory full length. Love it. So much better than the Prinsu I had.
Bravo! Well stated… We all know the top 5-10 “influencers” in the field that started very appealingly as quite regular, adventure/outdoor-driven folk and ended up nowadays pimping ever more expensive products at Expo and on their YTube channels, while playing it all-so-safe when actually out overlanding/exploring.
I guess it is inevitable if you become a content production company and your mortgage gets paid by the brands you’re incessantly pimping.
One sees this transformation in the nomad/van life community as well, where with few exceptions, the influencers are becoming infomercial creators to support their lifestyle.
Far more interesting and authentic is meeting and talking to people on the ground, folk that barely if at all touch social media but are actually adventuring and carving their own path without glossy fanfare and plastic, at their own pace, breathing the air, touching the ground, seeing the sights, tasting the adventure, living a good story…