What basic recovery gear to have when off-roading:
We get asked all the time what someone should carry for recovery gear when going off-roading. Well, that is going to depend upon where you are wheeling but there are a few "minimum" things that should pretty much always be in your kit. Let's start with those.
1. You Need A Good Shovel. When wheeling in snow, mud, or sand, this is a must-have item. I don't think I really need to explain. More often than not, a few minutes of shovel work will make any other recovery efforts easier or unnecessary.
2. A Good Snatch (recovery) Strap or Kinetic Rope. First, No hooks! If it has hooks it is a tow-strap, not a snatch strap. Second, it should be rated at a minimum of 20,000lbs. The straps I carry are all 30,000lbs. I prefer 30ft straps but 20ft is OK. Shorter than that will severely limit their usability, IMHO. If the strap has hooks, a Minimum Breaking Strength less than 20,000 pounds or is shorter than 20 feet, it is probably a "Tow-Strap" and is NOT designed for snatch-recoveries and are a safety issue. We don't use chain for snatch-recovery either.
2a. Kinetic Rope. If you wheel in mud, snow, or sand, consider a kinetic rope. If you can only afford one or the other, get a snatch strap. There are simply times a 38% stretch of 30ft rope can cause issues. For more info on how kinetic ropes can make some recoveries much better, see my write-up called "super yanked". Of course, a couple properly rated Bow-Shackles or Soft-Shackles are required too.
3. A Quality Air-down tool. Yeah, yeah...you can reduce air with the tip of a pen, in a pinch, but good equipment will make things easier and faster and that will make you more likely to air down properly.
4. A Quality Reinflation Tool (Air up) if you air down (and you probably should) you need be able to air back up to pavement-safe tire pressures. This can be a good compressor or a CO2 tank, but have something of quality. Note: If you buy the cheapest compressor you can find, you will end up with a CHEAP compressor. Add in a good "low-pressure" capable air-gauge too. (Your old stick gauge won't do.)
5. A Spare Tire. Just having a patch kit will not do. Flats when off-roading is all too commonly a sidewall tear and your kit won't do much for that. Not that having a patch kit is bad...I would consider one of those too. But the spare is just not optional for off-roading safely. It should be within 2" of the size of the other tires. Of course, throw in a jack and tire lug wrench in with the spare.
6. A Fire Extinguisher. While not necessarily a vehicle recover item...if you do not have a fire extinguisher, you are wrong.
7. A Buddy. For the most part...don't wheel alone. A wheeling fired is probably the most important safety item in this list.
8. A Saw (for forest trails). In the area of Montana I am in, we have a great deal of beatle killed trees. It is not uncommon for trees to fall after we traveled up the trail and block our way out. Chain saw, bow saw, Silky Saw...whatever can get you safely back home.
Those are the absolute minimum items you should have for an off-roading trip, IMHO. It is not meant to be a comprehensive list of what you should have. If I listed what I and most of my wheeling buddies carry, this list would be A LOT LONGER. Winch, Hi-lift Jack, snatch block, Tree Saver, winch extension, mechanics tools, recovery bumpers, first aid kit, some emergency rations....the list goes on and on. Keep in mind that the more remote the trail and/or the more technical it is, the more you should have to help make sure you can safely deal it if/when things go wrong.