Learn how to use a tow strap and a recovery strap without causing damage to your vehicle, or whatever you happen to be towing. Knowing how to use a tow strap is crucial to outdoor adventures. After all, you wouldn’t hike to Delicate Arch in July without plenty of water. You wouldn’t drive the Dalton Highway without a good full-size spare tire. You wouldn’t face class V rapids without wearing a personal floatation device.
A true outdoor enthusiast understands the importance of being prepared for the unexpected. That’s why if you are driving a vehicle in any rugged conditions, you need to have a quality recovery strap or tow strap with you always. Plus, know how to use a tow strap.
What are Recovery Straps and Tow Straps?
Recovery straps are used to recover a vehicle stuck in schmutz, sand, or snow. Recovery straps, also called snatch straps, are usually made of nylon or a high-quality webbing that has a little stretch to it. Recovery straps have loops on each end and should be paired with a heavy-duty D-ring and possibly a snatch block. More on those later.
Recovery straps come in a variety of lengths and widths. Generally speaking, each inch of width can pull about 10,000 pounds. Wide straps may be able to pull more than the narrower options, but they have less elasticity. This elasticity is vital in the physics of pulling. As the strap stretches, it pulls the stuck vehicle forward.
Know what you’re buying. Some tow straps are made of less-stretchy material and have hooks built in on each end. These types of tow straps are not designed to pull vehicles out of sticky situations, but instead, they are used to tow a disabled car. This article’s focus is on vehicle recovery, not towing disabled vehicles.
Now that you know the difference between the straps let’s learn how to use a recovery strap or a tow strap.
How to Use a Tow Strap
If the stuck vehicle has a tow hook, you should have no problem hooking your recovery strap to it. Thread the end of the recovery strap through the stuck vehicle’s tow hook. Take the other end of the recovery strap and feed it through the loop you already thread through. Pull the end tight.
If your stuck vehicle doesn’t have a visible tow hook, consult the all-knowing Google (or your owner’s manual) to find out where it is. Do NOT attach a recovery strap to the bumper, axel, steering rods, or trailer hitch ball. This could damage your vehicle and make you look like an idiot. All cars should be designed with a safe spot to hook up a tow strap, but it may be tricky to find, especially on some newer vehicles.
Once your recovery strap is attached to the stuck vehicle, you are now ready to connect the other end of it to the vehicle pulling you out of your sticky situation. This is where the D-ring comes into play. A D-ring looks like a letter D. A super smart guy with a marketing degree must have named this piece of equipment. Pull the pin out of your D-ring, and attach the semi-circle section around the pulling vehicle’s tow hook. Loop the other end of the recovery strap through the D-ring, and then reattach the pin.
Now that a recovery strap links the recovery vehicle and the stuck vehicle, the recovery vehicle can gently inch forward. Hopefully, the stuck vehicle will be pulled free.
How to Use a Tow Strap in Extra Sticky Situations
Is your vehicle stuck in a particularly sticky situation? Consider pairing your strap with a Snatch Block. I got a C in Physics, so I can’t explain how a Snatch Block works, but supposedly it increases the pulling capability of your winch.
Here’s how to use a Snatch Block. Let’s say your vehicle is really stuck. Pull out the winch cable from your vehicle. Run the winch’s cable through the Snatch Block. Connect the Snatch Block to the ends of the Recovery/Tow Strap (that is wrapped around a tree) with a D-ring.
Keep pulling your winch’s cable and attach it back to your vehicle’s tow ring. Operate the winch. Stand back and watch in amazement while science works.
Most outdoor activities involve risk. When you hike Angels Landing at Zion National Park, you could fall off the narrow paths. As you trek through Denali National Park, you might encounter a bear or moose. Even hiking above a tree line can be risky, especially if a lightning storm is imminent. Using recovery straps and towing straps involves risk too. Learn how to use tow straps and related equipment safely. This is important.
How to Safely Use Tow Straps
- Make sure your recovery or tow straps are in excellent condition. Inspect them before you use them. There should be no tears, frays, or unraveling threads.
- Make sure the tow hooks on the vehicles look stable and free from rust.
- Check to make sure your straps are not rubbing against anything sharp either on the vehicle or rubbing against any natural obstruction, which might cut through your strap.
- Even if you are an Eagle Scout and know how to make 48 types of knots, do not attach a recovery strap to another vehicle with a knot.
- Remove any obstacles from your intended path. Look for rocks, logs, small children…
- Place a blanket, tarp, or article of clothing over the recovery strap. To err is human, and those blankets or tarps will slow down the strap if you didn’t attach it to the vehicles correctly. This is important. People have lost their lives when straps have become unattached or snapped.
And speaking of straps detaching, everyone should stand back from the recovery straps as they are being used. Take a video of your experiences from a safe distance, so you can post your adventure on social media as soon as you are back in coverage.
- Make sure the straps are attached securely. The rope will not remain taut through the entire process of extraction. If the strap inches its way up, any sudden force could send the strap flying.
Seriously, people lose their lives by misusing recovery equipment. Make sure you know what you are doing when trying to extract any vehicle. Stay far away from the straps and wenches.
Taking Good Care of Tow Strap Maintenance
Even though recovery straps and tow straps have to be super-rugged to complete their assigned tasks, they do require some amount of care when storing. Keep the straps away from direct sunlight. If they get dirty while you use them, (and they will), hose the straps off and let them dry before storing. Debris in the fibers of your straps will break down the material and compromise the integrity of the product.
And like your mama always said, “grease your snatch block.” It extends the life of your gear, and that’s a good thing. Make sure your D-Rings are stored in a dry place.
You have read about recovery or tow straps and the additional accessories, how to use the equipment safely, and how to store the stuff. Now you are ready to make your purchase.
Vault Cargo Tow Straps + Accessories
Vault Cargo Management is passionate about providing safe, reliable equipment so your time in the outdoors can be spent doing the things you love.
Vault Cargo Management offers a 20-foot Tow Strap that has a fantastic 30,000-pound capacity. It’s tough enough to pull your vehicle out of the mud, but it’s gentle enough to wrap around a tree and not cause damage. It comes with a Velcro strap so it can be stored compactly. It’s only 4.19 pounds. That’s a lot of power for less than 5 pounds!
Vault also sells an eight-foot Tree Saver Tow Strap. Both this version and the 20-foot version are three inches wide. This shorter strap also boasts a 30,000-pound capacity, and it’s only 1.8 pounds! Both straps feature reinforced loops.
Those reinforced loops can be paired with Vault Cargo Management’s D-ring ¾ inch shackles. The shackles come two in a pack and have a 4.75-ton capacity. That’s 9,500 pounds. The pin is an industry-standard 7/8 inch. The black shackles are made with deep forged steel and covered with a powder-coated finish, which prevents rust.
They also offer a Shackle Hitch Receiver. This product attaches to your vehicle’s hitch but has a D-ring built into it. This D-ring provides an incredible 10,000 pounds of towing capacity. This hitch simplifies the process. You may not be sure about the integrity of your vehicle’s built-in tow ring that has been exposed to the elements, but with this hitch, you should be good to go. It’s made by the dropforging method, while other brands are machining their D-rings. Besides simplifying the process, using a Shackle Hitch Receiver is safer than looping a tow strap over the ball of the hitch. We don’t care if your dear old Papa told you this is a good idea. It’s not.
Vault Cargo is a Midwestern company that dedicates itself to providing a safe and easy way to haul outdoor equipment. They sell quality-made ratchet straps, cargo carriers, kayak racks, and much more. They guarantee satisfaction with their products and offer a lifetime warranty. Their products have been featured on national channels, including the Outdoor Channel and Sportsman Channel.
Complete Your Recovery Kit with a Snatch Block
Finally, your recovery kit will be complete when you purchase an 8 Ton Snatch Block. This 5.91-pound piece of equipment doubles the pulling capacity of your wench. It also makes it easier to get around those natural obstacles that get in your way. Grease your snatch block with ease because it was designed with an easily accessed grease zerk.
Did I mention that this Snatch Block can handle 8 tons? For those of you who got a C in math that means this one piece of equipment can handle 16,000 pounds of pulling capacity. How much does your vehicle weigh? It’s probably not 16,000 pounds. Did I mention this piece of equipment retails for less than thirty bucks?
Hopefully, your time in the great outdoors will be smooth sailing, but it’s good to be prepared for rough seas. Having a recovery strap or tow strap, D-rings, Snatch Blocks, and Shackle Hitch Receivers could save you from having to walk through extreme weather to find help. Having this equipment could save you hundreds of dollars in towing bills. Plus, once you know how to use a tow strap safely, it is fun to use. Whether you are stuck in some muck or in the middle of a snowdrift, having a recovery strap with you will enable you to transform a dangerous situation into your next grand adventure story.