Being adventurous is easy. Getting stuck is also easy. It's when those two things have combined, and you find yourself deep in the backwoods, with no reception, no other vehicles on their way, and a gloriously stuck vehicle, that things get interesting. Obviously being alone isn't the ideal situation, but despite being against traditional wisdom, many of us find ourselves exploring with one vehicle. I certainly can't say I haven't found myself stuck with no help on more than several occasions.
We all know to turn back if we find ourselves in doubt, but sometimes it's simply too late, and we're already in deep. ("I really thought I could make it! I swear!") The only way to have a chance of getting out of a sticky situation is to be prepared. That includes having the knowledge and skills to figure out a safe and effective solution. The other important part to being prepared is having the right tools. Having the tool for the job, and the knowledge of how to use it is a powerful combo.
Here's our top 10 list of tools to have in case you find yourself stuck:
There's a reason you see one of these on every off-road vehicle. It is the single most useful tool you can have. I wouldn't recommend one of those little fold up "military" shovels either. If you're seriously stuck, you need a serious shovel. Full size, and I prefer with a D handle. Or if you want to get extra serious, go for the Krazy Beaver "Super Shovel".
Despite being extraordinarily dangerous if used improperly, the Hi-Lift is one of the most effective and legendary recovery tools around. From jacking up your vehicle to throw rocks under the tires, to moving your vehicle up and out of ruts, to winching (very very slowly), the Hi-Lift has a variety of uses. Just make sure you know how to use one properly before you have to depend on it.
Saws are very handy for recovery. Cutting branches and roots out of the way, making logs to put under your tires, building bridges, the uses for a saw are limited to your imagination. The thing about a saw, is nothing else can double as one. Whether it's a chainsaw, or a hand saw, I believe these are high on the priority list.
No matter how much digging and jacking you do, sometimes, if you're really stuck, there's nothing to do but get a pull. When you're by yourself, the only way to get that extra tug is a winch.
If you have your winch set up, nothing is worse than finding yourself just a few feet short of the nearest anchor, whether that's a big rock or tree. A winch extension strap can save you when combined with your winch. Just note, that a kinetic recovery winch, meant for being pulled on by another vehicle, is not meant to be pulled on by a winch, and can cause damage. If this was a general "recovery" list, not focussed on being solo, kinetic recovery ropes/straps would be high on it.
Maybe this one is up for debate. Going old school and using rocks, sticks, floor mats, or whatever else you have definitely has its merit, without any additional costs. However, the ease that traction boards can be used, and how effective they are in sand, mud and snow is pretty hard to beat. Even the haters will have trouble denying how quick and easy they are.
Maybe this isn't considered a "recovery tool" but try using anything on this list in the dark with just your cell phone light, and get back to me on how that went.
The effectiveness of airing down is severely under-rated by the inexperienced. The extra traction, tire flexibility and footprint can be all that was needed to get out of a lot of different situations. Airing down means you have to air back up. And that's not even bringing up the unintentional "air-down" aka flat.
9. Plug Kit
A tire plug kit can make a really miserable situation somewhat harmless when combined with a compressor to air back up. You can plug a surprisingly big hole with one of these kits!
Sometimes, no matter how prepared you are, you just can't get out on your own. Even if you have everything on this list, the unexpected can happen. Break downs, irreparable damage, or simply getting very very VERY stuck, the only way to get out is with somebody's help. When you're out in the bush, away from reception, using something like an InReach can literally save your life.
I think it's safe to say that not everybody will agree with my list, or the order it's in, and that's fine. The biggest take away is that having the right tools for the circumstances you find yourself in can be the only chance you have of getting out of a hairy situation. I would love to hear what you think of this Self-Recovery tool list, or what you would change, add, or remove!