Saturday, 5 January 2013
4WD Recovery Kit for Sand - list
I love love love four wheel driving. Unfortunately we haven't been as often as I would like. We used to be very regular visitors; going to Fraser Island once or twice a year, although our recent trip was the first time in three years. I wasn't confortable going while I was pregnant - I felt so awful, although even if I hadn't I wouldn't have gone due to the isolation. We didn't want to, or had the opportunity, to take a tiny baby. When the opportunity arose to take Chubs over we jumped at the chance. Unfortunately this will have been our last trip for the forseeable future.
A really, really good way to have an awful trip to Fraser Island or any other sand driving is to get bogged and to not be able to get yourselves out. Here's a list of things to have in your recovery kit.
1. A capable vehicle. You will never know your vehicle's limits until you try to go beyond them, but baby steps are a really good idea. Don't go to Fraser for your first trip - try Bribie Island first. Consider how much gear you have as well - don't overload the roof racks. Towing off road is a whole new ball park, so unless you car has the grunt to do it then don't even bother, or hire a tractor.
2. Knowledge and experience. Make sure you know where you are going and that you know how to use your recovery gear. You need to be able to engage 4WD on your vehicle and also all of whizz bang features. If you aren't an experienced 4WDer, then go away with someone who is who can help you. While helping other people get unstuck is part of the 4WD fun, it's poor form (and potentially dangerous) to rely on someone else outside your party. Read up on blogs, fora or magazines, or join a 4WD club if you need more help and confidence.
3. A shovel. Especially for sand driving, a shovel will be essential to getting you out of soft spots. Even if you can't get yourself out wth digging alone (which isn't uncommon), digging out is an important step before snatching or winching and makes both much more effective and safer.
4. A snatch strap. A snatch strap is a long strap which is elastic (about 10%). The elasticity helps to pull (or 'snatch') the second car out. Make sure that it is cared for well. Don't try to use a tow rope or anything else as a snatch strap as they could fail and don't have the elasticity. ALWAYS make sure you snatch safely using a dampener of some kind.
5. Shackles. These need to be rated, large enough for the mass of your vehicle but still small enough to fit through your recovery points (and the recovery points of your recovery vehicle).
6. Recovery points on your vehicle. These should be rated. Remember that tow points are not recovery points.
7. Towel, blanket, recovery dampener or similar. You need something with a little bit of weight which can be placed over the snatch strap to cushion the force if needed if something fails or snaps while snatching.
8. Regular travel gear. When 4WDing it's impossible to know how long a trip will take. What takes 90 minutes one time may quite easily take four hours another time. You need to allow time to get bogged, to turn around and go back, to wait for other traffic to pass on a one lane track or bypass, to get your car unbogged, to get someone else in your party or ahead of you in the track unbogged. All the normal things you would take for a long trip are essential - plenty of water, substantial snacks (eg muesli bars), sunscreen, insect repellent, first aid kit, wide brimmed hat and shoes. If you are digging someone out and pushing cars in the hot sun, these are all crucial.
Nice to have
9. Traction tracks. The best best best ones are the rigid plastic ones, but they have an associated price tag. These big orange pieces of plastic will make short work of any soft sand though, so for a frequent tripper they are worth the investment. I've never been keen on the folding ones - they are better than nothing but in my experience not by much.
10. Winch - electric or hand. By the time you're installing a winch bar, I'm guessing that you're getting your 4WD info from places other than this blog! An electric winch is the ultimate in self recovery (and in my experience not needed in frequently populated places such as Fraser Island) but by that stage you're talking about dual batteries and other complications, so these aren't for your first trip!
11. High lift jack. Again, you're getting into hard core gear here. Useful when needed, but that's not often if you're just sticking to Fraser.
12. Compressor. The excitement starts to build when you drop the pressure in your tyres, just before you hit the sand. It's a long way back to the servo to pump them up again when you're finished though. Driving on tyres at 18 or 20 psi on bitumen is going to wear them out pretty quickly. You may find yourself bogged and needing to drop your tyres to as low as 15 psi or perhaps lower. If you have a compressor then you can boost them up again before you get to the servo, reducing your chance of rolling off the rim. If you do purchase a compressor make sure it's a good one - cheap flimsy ones will take ages and won't stand the distance. In an emergency you can use a bike pump with the right attachment - it is hard, hard going but much cheaper than a decent compressor. You certainly wouldn't want to inflate from 18psi to 32 or 40psi, but it might get you from 16psi back up to 18 - if you're desperate.
13. Spare spare tyre. If you get a puncture or roll a tyre off the rim when the pressure is low, then that's a mighty big risk to be taking to return home with no working spare. If you have the space at all, then a second spare is a great investment, especially if you need to drop your pressures below 18psi.
Perhaps most importantly, make sure that your recovery gear is all easily accessed. A snatch strap is not very useful if it's under the seat, blocked by the esky, four bags and a pack of nappies. Shovels can be strapped to the outside of roof racks easily - don't put any recovery gear under a straped up tarp. When it's needed no one is going to feel like unpacking all of your roof racks to get to it, then securing it all before you're unbogged, and then putting it all back again. If it's not accessible, then you won't use it.
What's youre favourite 4WD adventure destination?