Complete Guide to Off-Road Recovery Straps and Ropes

Off-road recovery straps will save your butt. Chances are, if you head off the pavement enough times, you’re going to get stuck – it’s part of the fun, right?. Maybe in mud. Maybe in sand. Maybe on a big rock. Whatever the predicament, recovery straps and ropes are essential pieces of off-road and overlanding gear that can help get you out of a sticky situation. (For simplicity sake, for the most part, unless there is an important distinction to make, we will use “straps” to refer to both recovery ropes and straps in this article.)

Recovery straps are used in pulling a vehicle out of a position in which it’s gotten stuck or over an obstacle it can’t surmount on its own. The recovery strap transmits the energy from a winch or another vehicle to the truck or SUV in need of assistance. This could mean connecting two vehicles together so one can pull the other out. Or it could mean that the stuck vehicle uses its own winch to pull itself free using a tree as an anchor. A variety of off-road recovery scenarios are possible, depending on the circumstances and equipment available.

Please, please note that proper training on recovery techniques is critical, as the use of straps and winches can be very dangerous if not done correctly. Even seemingly simple decisions, such as where to connect a strap to a vehicle can result in serious vehicle damage or bodily injury.

Types of Recovery Straps

Types of Off-road Recovery Straps

A quick note on terminology: People use the term “recovery strap” to mean different things. Generally, it means any strap or rope used to recover a stuck vehicle. The most common usage refers to either “snatch” straps (also known as “kinetic energy” straps) or classic low-stretch straps, which are often called “tow” straps. The distinction is explained in detail below. Recently, with snatch strap technology advancing and their use becoming more common, many people mean snatch straps and ropes (not tow straps) when they say “recovery strap.”

Snatch straps (a.k.a., kinetic energy straps or Recovery Straps)

Snatch straps, also known as kinetic energy straps or simply as recovery straps, are used when one vehicle rescues another that is stuck. Unlike stiff tow straps, kinetic energy straps are able to stretch, storing energy as the rescue vehicle drives away from the stuck vehicle. Once fully stretched, the snatch strap quickly contracts, jerking, or “snatching,” the stuck vehicle free. This recovery technique can be dangerous if not done properly and takes training and practice to perfect, but it can work wonders.

The key factors to consider when purchasing a recovery strap for towing are the strap’s length and breaking strength. Standard lengths for straps are typically 20 feet and 30 feet. While the best length may depend upon your circumstances (a shorter strap might be best suited to tight forests, for instance), getting a longer strap is probably best if you’re only going to carry one. Having a strap that’s longer than you need is typically less of a problem than having one that’s too short.

The breaking strength is just what it sounds like, the force required to break the strap. Something with a breaking strength around 20,000 – 30,000 pounds should be fine for most off-roading situations.

In recent years, off-road recovery ropes have become popular, and you’ll see in our picks below, that they are our preference. These are typically made of braided nylon.

Our Picks

Bubba Rope

Based on braided ropes used to airlift military equipment, Bubba Ropes are American-made nylon recovery rope made by Certified Slings and Supply.

  • Length: 30 feet (also comes in 20-foot version)
  • Thickness: 7/8 inch
  • Breaking Strength: 28,600 lbs

Voodoo Recovery Rope

Voodoo is another American company, based in Arizona, that makes excellent kinetic recovery ropes.

  • Length: 30 feet (also comes in 20-foot version)
  • Thickness: 3/4 inch
  • Breaking Strength: 25,500 lbs

Tree saver Straps

Tree-saver straps are used to anchor to a tree, boulder, or another sturdy object during recovery. As the name suggests, an important function of the straps is to prevent damage to trees when using them as an anchor. The most common used for a tree-saver strap is in combination with a winch and possibly a winch extension strap. By attaching its winch to a tree or other anchor via the tree-saver strap, the stuck vehicle can pull itself free. A snatch block (not to be confused with a snatch strap) can be used to amplify a winch’s pulling strength or redirect the force in difficult situations.

Tree saver straps tend to be just that, straps, flat and wide to distribute the pressure around the outside of the tree. Unlike snatch straps, tree-saver straps stretch very little, which helps to protect the tree. A strap that stretches would damage the bark of the tree when weighted. One thing to consider when choosing a tree-saver is the size of the trees in your area. A 10-foot tree-saver strap is probably fine for most people, but you might want to go larger if you are headed to an area with redwoods or other large trees.

Our Picks

ARB Tree-Saver Strap

The Australian company ARB, makes top-of-the-line off-road recovery gear, and these tree savers are no exception.

  • Length: 9.8 feet
  • Width: 3 inch
  • Breaking Strength: 26,000 lbs

If you live in an area with large trees (say 4-foot in diameter), consider a longer 16-foot strap.

Bubba Rope Tree Hugger Strap

In addition to its kinetic recovery ropes, Certified Slings and Supply makes a high quality tree-saver strap.

  • Length: 10 feet
  • Width: 3 inch
  • Breaking Strength: 58,000 lbs

If you live in an area with large trees (say 4-foot in diameter), consider a longer 16-foot strap.

Tow Straps & Winch Extention Straps

Generally referred to as a tow strap, this is the classic style of recovery strap used to rescue off-road vehicles. Originally, these were simply ropes tied between the stuck vehicle and the rescue vehicle, so that the rescuer could pull the other free.

The distinguishing characteristic of these recovery straps is that they stretch very little in comparison to snatch straps. With the advent of stretching kinetic energy straps/ropes, these static straps have fallen out of vogue for rescuing stuck vehicles. However, they do have their uses. The straps can be used to pull (non-stuck) vehicles for long distances or, for some models, can be used to extend the length of a winch. And in many cases, a simple tow is all you need to free a stuck vehicle.

Recovery Strap Accessories

Recovery Shackles

Recovery shackles connect your recovery straps, vehicles, snatch blocks and winches. Traditional shackles are shaped like horseshoes with a pin that locks them shut. Recently, recovery shackles made with freakishly strong synthetic rope have also become popular.

Off-road Recovery Shackle

Snatch Blocks

Sometimes when using a winch, you want to need to pass your cable through a pulley called a snatch block. Snatch blocks can help you exert more force while pulling and can help when you need to pull around a corner because the stuck vehicle and the rescuing vehicle can’t be lined up directly.

Off-Road Recovery Snatch Block

Winch Dampers

A winch cable damper is a safety device used during winching to prevent the cable from flying through the air and injuring someone, in case it snaps during use. The damper is draped over the winch cable so that gravity will pull the cable to the ground in the case of a snap.

Gloves

When working with recovery straps and winches, you should wear a tough pair of gloves to protect your hands. Thick leather work gloves are preferred.

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