If you wheel your jeep it’s a very good idea to make sure you, your passengers, and the people you wheel with are recovering vehicles in a safe manner. Result to do so could result in some very nasty injuries or death. This is a very vast subject, and if I’m honest, I really don’t have enough experience to talk about it in great length. I have been wheeling for only two years, so I will talk about this fairly lightly and only touch on some basic safety tips, recovery methods, and some tricks I’ve learned.
First: Here’s a list of the items I feel are essential to have on the trail. There is quite a few and it may not be necessary to carry all of them alone, but at least make sure your party has a good set of tools and safety items to get you out of whatever mess you might get into. I will place stars by each one as a rating of how important I think they are to have.
*** – Essential, ** – At least half the vehicles need this, * – At least one vehicle needs this.
- *** Proper recovery points on the front AND rear of each vehicle.
- *** 20,000 lb+ Looped end (no metal) Kinetic recovery straps (2″ wide is best)
- *** 3/4″ Clevis (D-Ring)
- *** Lots of water and some food
- *** Working CB radio
- *** First aid kit
- *** Fire Extinguisher
- *** Warm dry clothes
- *** Gloves
- *** Tire pressure gauge
- *** Breaker bar w/ proper socket for your lug nuts
- *** Tree saver (if you have a winch)
- *** 19,000 lb+ Snatch block (if you have a winch)
- *** Winch line weight (if you have a winch)
- ** Recovery and Repair tools
- ** Air compressor
- ** Knife
- ** Winch
- ** Garbage bags (Tread Lightly!)
- ** Waterproof matches
- ** Paper towel and toilet paper
- * Bottle jack
- * Shovel
- * Axe
- * Ratchet strap
- * 48″ farm fack (Hi-Lift)
- * Flashlight
- * Chainsaw
- * Fluids (oil, gear oil, antifreeze, etc)
This is not a “complete” list of things you should bring. A bit of experience and some common sense will show you what else you may need. Your trail tools will undoubtedly grow a bit each time you need tools on the trail. You might need a tool that someone else has, so you should add that to your list for next time. I didn’t bother adding spare parts to the list because that list changes with every vehicle, but it’s something you need to consider. With a Jeep TJ it’s a good idea to carry a few items that can be had for cheap like u-joints, axle shafts, and control arms. Control arms (stock ones) and axle shafts can be taken from the junkyard for next to nothing, and a couple good u-joints (one for your front axle shaft, one for your driveshafts) can be had for $30 or so.
A few notes on some particular items:
Recovery straps: I like the Silver Pro-Comp 2″ wide ones myself. They stretch well when used to get a good kinetic jerk going that makes recovery much easier. A real stiff strap that does not do this is much harder to use, and is a lot tougher on your recovery points and frame mounts. I have personally see a non-stretchy one almost rip grade eight bolts out of the stock front TJ frame. If the bolts weren’t grade eight, the tow hook may have become a flying hunk of metal.
Recovery points: Don’t even think of using a small 1″ class I receiver hitch for this. It is extremely dangerous! I don’t even like a large class III hitches because they are only rated to tow 5,000 lbs. when recovering a Jeep from the mud it’s very easy to get a pull of well over 5,000 lbs.
Chain Saw: On a well used trail it’s probably not going to be needed.. but out here in Alberta there are thousands of cutlines on Crown Land through the woods that not many people use. They are legal to wheel on, but there are often fallen trees crossing the trail. If we can climb over them we always do because that’s part of the fun. If you can leave that obstacle for the next person, all the better! If it’s too big and will block the trail for everyone it’s better to cut it and move it than to make a bypass.
CB Radios/Communication: This is a BIG one. If you’re the trail lead/guide I would recommend you make sure before the trip that those without a CB radio are not allowed to come. I know it sounds harsh, but when you are wheeling with people you cannot communicate with it can cause many issues. You simply need to be able to talk to people on the trail to discuss obstacles, routes, where to turn, when someone is stuck, etc, etc. I understand that it may not be realistic for you to deny someone a day on the trail for this, but in reality.. a good CB setup can be had for about $100 or less and there is simply no excuse for not having one.
Winch: This will really depend on the difficulty of trail you ad your group are running, but I placed it in the two-star category because simply put: The more the better. It’s not often you will run into a spot where one vehicle with a winch cannot turn around and winch everyone else though, but it does happen. Not only that, when there is a tough winch-through spot it’s nice to have everyone winch themselves through instead of working the snot out of one winch. You never know what sort of trouble you may get into, and having at LEAST one winch in the group is near essential, and having more than one is even better.
Air compressor: No, I’m not talking about something for running air tools. Airing down on the trail is essential! Just something small and cheap will do for airing up your tires after the trail. It doesn’t have to be fast, but reliability is always a good thing. I use the Superflow MV50 in my jeep and it has been working flawlessly for over a year now. It only cost me $130 and I bought it at 4 Wheel Parts.. You can likely find the same thing or something similar at your local 4×4 shop.
Ratchet strap: This one is not obvious, and please make sure you never use it for vehicle recovery. A ratchet strap is useful for re-seating a bead on a tire. Generally with a decent air compressor you can just pull the tire toward the bead to get it to seal well enough to hold air and re-seat the bead. But if it needs some extra “help”, wrap a ratchet strap around the circumference of the tire and tighten it up. Make sure you stop the air flow once it seats to take off the strap. You don’t want to be pumping the tire up to pressure with a tight ratchet strap on it!