Breaking down in remote Australia is no picnic. If you’re tackling raw, unadulterated Australia – somewhere standard vehicles dare not tread – you could go a very long time without encountering another soul.
Before any off-road trek, your first consideration should be the condition of your vehicle – be sure to get a major service before setting out. But if your vehicle fails you, or the terrain waylays you, you should have recovery gear on board that you’re familiar with and know how to use.
A shovel should be the first thing on your list. If you get bogged, a shovel and a little effort to create a ramp is often all that’s required to get you out of a pinch. A snatch strap should be next on your list, used for recovery via a tow vehicle. A snatch strap is a strengthened, seatbelt-like strap that is around 15 metres long with a reinforced loop at each end that hooks onto a vehicle’s rated recovery points.
When using snatch straps, it’s vital to make sure you have a solid understanding of your vehicle’s recovery points and where they are; it’s not a given that a standard four-wheel drive will have rated recovery points strong enough for this type of activity, but a properly designed and fitted bull bar usually comes with strong recovery points built in. Another possibility is that hooks are bolted to one of the chassis rails.
Once connected, put the bogged vehicle in low range, and as the tow vehicle inches forward and the strap becomes taut, the driver of the vehicle being recovered should release the clutch and give a slight rev of the engine, which usually pulls it free. Any bystanders or passengers should always stand well clear of the vehicle in case the snatch strap or a recovery point breaks and whips around violently.
A professionally fitted tow bar can double as a rear recovery point – but don’t tie onto the tow ball because they will snap and slingshot, causing damage to vehicles and, worse, to bystanders.