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You're axle-deep in mud and the wheels are spinning. There's not an ounce of grip to be had and it's going to be a cold night on the trail. Unless that is, you've got a buddy with a truck and a high-quality tow strap. And we're not talking about a cheapo strap that stretches and snaps before you're free of the sticky stuff. We're talking about a Rhino USA recovery tow strap. Here's what it is, what it does and why you need it.

Tow strap basics

Years ago, people used chains or rope for towing. Chains are really heavy to carry around and put to work. Rope isn't much lighter, it's hard to tie on and when it's wet it's a bear to work with. A tow strap is the twenty-first century equivalent.

A tow strap is long in length, with tough textile or fabric webbing with the ends folded back and stitched to make loops. Those loops are used to secure the strap to both the vehicle being pulled and the one doing the pulling. A good tow strap has a high safe working limit – the maximum load you should put on it – and won't stretch or break.

Incidentally, breakage is really dangerous. When the load comes off the ends will whip around, potentially causing a lot of damage or serious injury. That's why you really need to look at the safe working limit before using a tow strap.

Putting a tow strap to work

It's tempting to loop the tow strap over the ball hitch installed on many vehicles. Don't do this! Hitches weren't designed for those kinds of loads and there's a real risk of it snapping. Instead. Always use a tow strap with D-ring shackles.

To use the shackles, slide out the bolt, (the straight pin,) and thread the ‘D' through the loop in the tow strap. Then position the ‘D' around the towing loop or hook that most manufacturers fit to the front and rear of their vehicles. Put the bolt back, screwing it lightly into place. Then rotate the shackle so the tow strap loop is around the bolt and the back of the ‘D' against the towing hook.

Repeat at the other vehicle, then slowly take up the slack until the strap is taut. Make sure any bystanders are well out of harm's way and have the driver of the vehicle being towed put it into gear. Now start pulling, and have the other driver gently ease onto the gas. It's important to avoid any sudden pulls on the strap as that can damage it or the vehicles involved.

An alternative to D-ring shackles is a shackle hitch. This replaces the regular ball hitch used for trailer towing and makes it possible to secure a tow strap safely.

Choosing a reliable tow strap

The top two things to look for are the safe working load and the length. Some strap manufacturers quote maximum breaking load rather than the safe working load, (probably because it's a bigger and more impressive number.)

The rule of thumb is that safe working load is one third of the maximum breaking load. That provides a good safety margin and ensures you won't damage the tow strap. So, for example, if a manufacturer quotes a breaking load of 15,000 lbs the biggest load you should put on it is 5,000 lbs.

Tow strap length is important for two reasons. First, you don't want to risk your rescue vehicle getting stuck. (That would be really embarrassing.) A longer strap lets the rescuer stay further away.

The second reason for preferring a longer strap is safety. Once the stuck vehicle gains some traction it's likely to leap forward. The more space between it and the rescuer the less chance of a collision between the two!

Other points to look for are included D-ring shackles and a storage/carry bag. As noted previously, a tow strap should always be used with shackles, so if they're included it saves shopping for them separately. A storage bag is useful for keeping strap and shackles together and preventing the strap from getting tangled with anything else. Drop your towing accessories into the bag and then put the bag in the toolbox or trunk so it's available when you need it.

About the Rhino USA Recovery Tow Strap

The Rhino tow strap is 20′ of 3” wide black poly/silk webbing. At each end there are big sturdy loops encased in luminous green fabric and emblazoned with the Rhino USA logo. Sharp eyes will also spot the American flag stitched patriotically to one end.

Lab testing determined a breaking strength for the Rhino strap of 31,518 lbs. Following the rule that the safe working limit is about one third of the breaking strength, that means you could expect to safely pull 10,000 lbs.

Order the Rhino strap and you'll find it comes with a sturdy black drawstring bag for storage. This bag is actually big enough to take the strap. (How often have you struggled to pack something back into its bag?) better still, there's also room for the D-ring shackles or shackle hitch you should use with the strap. (But note that you need to buy those separately; they're not included.)

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 that they stand behind their products. Here's a few images of their Tow Strap and it's features:

About the manufacturer

Rhino USA is a company young enough that it probably still counts as a startup. Based in California, it's a father-and-son operation, (technically, father and two sons,) and was founded in 2015. Together, these guys share a love of motorcycles and offroading, which inevitably led them into various outdoor adventures.

Finding many of the offroad accessories then on the market seriously deficient, they decided they could do better. Today, the company they founded, Rhino USA, offers a range of high quality accessories for those serious about enjoying the great outdoors.

Product summary

A good tow strap is essential for anyone who likes to get adventurous outdoors. It's easy to misjudge the depth of a creek or a muddy trail and then find your wheels are spinning. If you've got a tow strap and shackles with you, you can almost certainly find someone to pull you free. Alternatively, they'll give you the chance to play Good Samaritan by rescuing someone who wasn't so prepared.

The Rhino USA recovery tow strap isn't the longest you'll find but it is one of the strongest. Most companies force you to buy these items separately, but Rhino offers exclusive combo’s on Amazon that include both (or all) of the items for a discounted price. All fit into the HD storage bag. Best of all, this tow strap carries a lifetime warranty, not that you'll need it! Check out their combo’s here:

If you’re in the market for a tow strap, you can find it directly on their website here: Or, buy directly on Amazon here: