Putting Together A Bulletproof Winching Kit
Few tools are as versatile or necessary as the winch. Whether your vehicle is equipped with a separate electric winch or an integrated hydraulic model, this piece of gear is essential for any offroad recovery effort. While the winch itself is the cornerstone of your recovery toolkit, it is usually not enough on its own. Supplementing your winch with a well-stocked winching kit is the best way to ensure that you can self-recover when necessary and help others to recover when called. If you are an experienced offroader then it's likely that you already have some strong opinions about the gear that should be in your winching kit, but if you're just getting started, then this guide will help to point you in the right direction.
Tree Saver Straps
One of the items most commonly overlooked by novice offroaders, a tree saver is a necessary piece of gear. Trees are often the most convenient recovery anchor available, but merely tying your winch to a tree trunk is both unsafe and incredibly unhealthy for the tree. In fact, using a winch directly on a tree is almost sure to cause damage that will eventually kill the tree. A tree saver strap provides a more solid anchor while also protecting the bark. If you intend to do any offroading at all, a tree saver strap should be the first piece of equipment in your kit.
Shackles provide an upgrade to your winch's hook and having one or more shackles in your kit is a good idea for any adventure. This piece of gear is especially important when working with tree savers or other recovery straps. D-ring shackles can also serve as a useful mounting point on a vehicle to attach a winch end, either on your rig or on another vehicle that you are helping to recover. Because they are so versatile and relatively inexpensive, having a handful of shackles in your winching kit is a sound idea.
Heavy Duty Blanket
A good blanket can keep you warm an emergency, but that's not why you should stuff one into your recovery kit. A correctly used winch is one of the safest ways to recover a vehicle, but that doesn't mean that it's without risk. Your winch will be under a tremendous amount of stress during any recovery effort, and if something goes wrong that force will need to go somewhere. Placing a heavy blanket over the top of your winch will help to absorb some of the energy, reducing the chance that a failed winch line will injure you or severely damage your vehicle.
There are a variety of other items that you will want to consider, such as snatch blocks or upgraded recovery straps, but these essentials will ensure that your kit can get the job done. As you build more experience with offroading, you will learn which items work best for you so that you can hit the trail with the confidence to get yourself out of any jam.