Attempt the Rubicon or Moab Rim and you'll likely get stuck, no matter how capable your 4×4. These trails should only be tackled by experienced off-road drivers in highly-modified vehicles equipped with the best rescue and recovery gear. Winches, snatch straps, tree protectors and snatch blocks: you'll need them all.
But you don't have to be out in the wilds to find your wheels spinning. Fording a deep stream, driving a muddy trail or crossing a waterlogged field can all leave you stuck. Or consider a winter morning and a slippery road. Before you know it, you're in a ditch and need pulling out. This is why you should always keep a recovery strap in your vehicle.
Investing In a Strap You Can Rely On
A recovery strap could stay unused in your vehicle for months or even years, but when you need it, it has to work. This article explains what a recovery strap is for and how to find one that's right for your needs. You will need other accessories to put your recovery strap to work, so those are also mentioned here. Finally, we'll review of some of the best recovery straps on the market today.
Table of Contents
- When you need a recovery strap
- Related rescue equipment
- Choosing a recovery strap
- Products and features
Related Rescue Equipment
A closely related item you might want to stash with your recovery strap is the tree protector strap. A long length of fabric webbing with loops at both ends, this looks very similar to the recovery strap, but has a different purpose.
If you have a winch on your vehicle you can probably pull yourself free without a rescuer, providing you have a tree protector strap. The tree protector goes around a sturdy trunk, with the two ends being shackled to the winch cable. The tree protector prevents the damage that the cable would cause if wrapped around the trunk, and has very little stretch.
A point to note when using a tree protector is cable alignment. You want the winch cable to be in line with your vehicle, otherwise you'll be pulling at an angle and the cable will bunch at one end of the drum. Sometimes the only answer here is to use a pulley, better known in off-roading circles as a snatch block.
The key feature to note with a snatch block is that one of the side panels swivels out the way so the cable can be easily looped over the wheel. (This is much easier than threading the whole cable through a pulley block!)
Once hooked-up, start the winch and you'll pull yourself free!
A subset of recovery straps is the “kinetic recovery strap,” sometimes also called a “snatch strap.” This is a strap with far more elasticity than a regular recovery strap. Typically a kinetic recovery strap will stretch up to 30% versus 7% for a regular recovery strap, (and close to zero for a tree protector.) The idea is to store up more energy for pulling a stuck vehicle free.
A kinetic recovery needs a different technique to that used for a conventional recovery. We won't go into the details here because our focus is on choosing the best recovery strap for your needs.
Choosing a Recovery Strap
Recovery straps come in a range of lengths, strengths and colors. Some are sold with all the associated items you need to effect a rescue but with most you need to buy those separately. Recovery straps are usually manufactured from a polyester material woven into a form of webbing. This makes them very strong but still allows a degree of stretch, typically no more than 7% of the length.
The two main aspects to consider are length and strength. Most straps are 20′ long although some manufacturers do produce longer. Extra length is useful because it lets you keep the rescue vehicle further away from where the first vehicle got stuck. Alternatively, with a longer strap it's easier to pull yourself free if your vehicle is equipped with a winch. However, the downsides of a longer strap are more weight, more storage space required, and of course a higher price.
The strength you need depends on what you expect to be pulling. A forklift truck or Ford F-350 is going to need a much stronger recovery strap than your ATV. Be careful though when looking at quoted recovery strap strengths. These are almost always the maximum or breaking strength, which is very different to the maximum safe working load.
A good rule of thumb is that the maximum load you should put on a recovery strap is one third of the breaking strength. So for example, if you see a strap advertised with a maximum strength of 21,000 lbs, the biggest load you should place on it is 7,000 lbs.
Best Recovery Tow Straps for Offroading
You can spend a little or a lot on a recovery strap, and as is true elsewhere, you'll generally get what you pay for. Here we'll provide details of what are considered some of the best straps on the market and highlight particular features to look for or points to note.
RhinoUSA Recovery Tow Strap Quick Review
Rhino USA is a fairly new company in the offroad accessories arena, and they pride themselves on making some of the toughest equipment. Their recovery straps are recognizable by the luminous green fabric used at each end.
Made from a special black poly/silk material, the Rhino USA recovery strap is 20′ long and 3” wide. Lab testing determined a breaking strength of 31,518 lbs. Following the one third rule for safe working limit, you could expect to safely pull 10,000 lbs.
The Rhino USA recovery strap comes with a sturdy black drawstring bag for storage. This bag is actually big enough to take the strap along with the D-ring shackles or shackle hitch you should also be using. Note though that those are not included; you'll need to buy them separately.
One other point to note is the warranty. Rhino USA put a lifetime warranty on this recovery strap. You're unlikely to ever need it, but it shows how they stand behind their products.
2. ARB Essentials Recovery Kit (RK11)
ARB Essentials Recovery Tow Strap Kit Quick Review
This kit contains everything you need to set out on an off-road adventure. In addition to a snatch strap, you get two shackles, a 10′ tree protector and a snatch block. The whole ensemble comes in a useful storage/carrying bag along with gloves and a winch line dampener, (a safety device that stops the winch cable flailing around if it breaks.).
The snatch strap is rated at 17,500 lbs (so the maximum load is around 5,500 lbs) and the 10′ long tree protector strap is rated at 26,500 lbs. For anyone starting out in off-roading this is a great way to get all you need in one go.
If you're unfamiliar with the ARB name, they are in fact an Australian company. (Australia may well be ground zero for off-roading!) Since being founded in the mid-1970's they've grown to become Australia’s largest manufacturer and distributor of 4×4 accessories. Everything they make or have sole distribution rights over carries a two year worldwide warranty.
3. GearAmerica Recovery Tow Strap
GearAmerica Recovery Tow Strap Quick Review
This bright orange strap is 20′ long, 3” wide polyester fabric webbing with reinforced loops at each end. Elongation at max load is less than 7%. The manufacturer notes that the strap was tested to 31,541 lbs and the label gives a safe working limit of 10,000 lbs. You also get a practical black storage bag and a velcro tie for keeping the strap rolled, but there are no shackles. (Buy those separately.) Lifetime replacement is offered should the strap ever let you down.
4. Smittybilt CC220 Recovery Strap
Smittybilt CC220 Recovery Strap Quick Review
Smittybilt is well known as a manufacturer of accessories for Jeep owners who want to go off-road. Since the company was founded in the 1950's they've steadily expanded the range of products offered. Today they sell everything from winches to seats, and that included recovery straps.
This particular strap is a lighter-duty item rated to 20,000 lbs. That means a safe working limit would be around 6,500 lbs. (More than enough for an ATV or small car.) Bright yellow in color, the strap measures 20′ long and 2” wide. There are sturdy loops at each end, covered with black fabric protective sleeving.
5. Titan Auto Heavy Duty Recovery Strap
Titan Auto Heavy Duty Strap Quick Review
Measuring 3.5” wide and 30′ long, this bright orange polyester recovery strap is rated to 35,000 lbs. Using the one third rule that makes the safe working load about 17,000 lbs. Elongation at maximum load is around 7%.
Padding and black sleeving around the end loops helps protect the webbing and whatever you're attaching to from damage. The warranty is 1 year and shackles are sold separately.
Stay safe with a quality recovery strap and accessories
A good recovery strap is one of those things you should always keep in your SUV or 4×4. It's not just about getting yourself out of a sticky situation, it's invaluable for helping anyone else who's got stuck somewhere.
The key criteria to consider when choosing the best recovery strap for your needs are strength and length. Generally speaking, stronger and longer are better, but inevitably there's a price to pay for those, so consider your needs carefully. Also remember you will need shackles to safely attach the strap to both stuck and rescue vehicles. With the exception of the ARB kit, none of the other straps reviewed above come with shackles. That's good if you already own a pair, but it's what makes the ARB kit a good buy for someone just starting out in the off-roading pastime.