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Soft shackles are great for getting out of emergency situations

By Dean Mellor, 28 Jul 2019 Opinion

4x4 preparation tip good 4x4 recovery gear opinion feature

Broken down in croc-infested waters? You’re gonna need a quick and safe recovery technique.

I LOVE four-wheel driving. Whether it’s a day in the scrub or a couple of weeks in the desert, I always enjoy the journey as much as the destination – especially when that journey is off the blacktop. And while I love it when everything goes to plan, I also try to make the most of it when shit hits the fan. After all, what’s better than crawling around on your hands and knees in the mud with a shovel trying to dig out your rig before it’s swamped by a rising tide?

Admittedly, serious problems can arise when shit does hit the fan, no matter how well-prepared you are, especially if there are time constraints on getting a vehicle unstuck. There are many scenarios in which you might be forced to rush a 4x4 vehicle recovery: the aforementioned rising tide; a nasty storm on the horizon; or because you’re waist-deep in a croc-infested creek, fumbling with a snatch strap and shackle.

Things can go wrong at the best of times when recovering a vehicle, but with time pressure comes greater risk; so I’m pleased when someone comes up with a better, safer way of doing things.

About 10 years ago I spotted a then-new recovery strap at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas that promised greater safety for snatch recoveries. It was the SpeedStrap and essentially did away with the need to use metal shackles.

After feeding the SpeedStrap through each vehicles’ rated recovery points, you could create a loop at each end by simply weaving the strap back through itself three or four times. By eliminating metal shackles in a snatch recovery there was far less chance of causing damage or injury if a component failed.

Available in one-inch (10,000lb) and two-inch (20,000lb) widths, the SpeedStrap was marketed and sold in Australia for several years as the Staun Superstrap; but Staun no longer imports this product so you’ll have to go direct to the USA manufacturer if you want to buy one.

4x4 gear buyers' guide: Recovery straps

Those after the extra elasticity of the SpeedStrap now have another option in the form of kinetic recovery ropes, which are quickly gaining favour with many 4x4 enthusiasts. These ropes are claimed to offer 50 per cent more stretch than traditional woven nylon snatch straps, reducing the shock loads on vehicles during a snatch recovery.

Unlike the SpeedStrap, however, you still need to use shackles to attach kinetic ropes to recovery points; but soft shackles are now a viable alternative to metal shackles, further improving safety. Soft shackles are strong and light, they float, and you can hang them off your belt so they’re always at hand. More importantly, they won’t maim or kill like a flying metal shackle can in a major equipment failure.

On the downside, not all soft shackles are compatible with all recovery points; some soft shackles are too big to fit through recovery points designed to accept the pin of a metal shackle. So, despite their mass, metal shackles are far from redundant.

4x4 gear: Rated recovery points explained

The good news is (knock on wood), I’ve never seen or experienced a failure of a rated vehicle recovery point or a rated shackle when performing a snatch recovery. Sure, I’ve seen a couple of snatch straps fail, and in one case cause some panel damage to the back of a Land Cruiser, but the rated shackle has always remained firmly attached to the rated recovery point.

The moral to this story: No matter what’s in your kit, always use rated recovery points and shackles and take the time to ensure all are properly attached, even if there are time constraints … unless, of course, there’s a big saltie bearing down on you.

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