Five Items for Your Off-Road Recovery Kit

We know you all love an off-road, 4×4, mud slingin’, good ole time. But, before you head out for a full day of wheelin’, we’re here to make sure you’ve got a few essential tools and off-road recovery gear handy and ready to go. After all, it’s all fun until someone is stuck and can’t get out. In this list we will go over five items you ought to have before hitting the muddy trails. This is a basic start to your own off-road recovery kit, but please remember that Rule #1 is always NEVER WHEEL ALONE.

Tow Strap & Shackle

For obvious reasons, a tow strap or two is always a good idea to keep in the back, just in case. It’s among the cheapest and most useful pieces of recovery gear that you can purchase, and thus should be the among the first you add to your kit. When you’re picking out your tow strap, always check the weight rating of the strap you choose. The rating should at least be 2-3 times the weight of the vehicle being pulled, to ensure it can hold the load of whatever you’re needing to pull. For safety reasons, we highly recommend you purchase some soft shackles, and avoid the old style metal tow hooks and shackles. For next-level recovery, consider upgrading to a winch.

Tire Inflator

These handy little machines are great to have around even when you’re not running the trails. Reducing your tire pressure should be a common occurrence when you’re out there climbing over rocks and sliding through the mud. So when you’re all done for the day, it’s always convenient and smart to go ahead and air-up your tires before hitting pavement again. Most of these compressors are powered by your vehicle’s battery and come with a gauge so you know just how much air you’re putting in. When shopping for an inflator, make your you shop smart, get one powerful enough to air up your personal tires, especially if you’ve got over sized mudders.


When your wheels are spinning and slinging mud all over your buddies who are trying to help you, they’ll probably wish you had a shovel handy to help clear out some debris. Sometimes you need to move around some dirt and rocks, so you can lay your traction mat down where it needs to be to get you rolling again. Other times, your tires can’t get any traction because you’ve bottomed out someplace else on your vehicle. Either way, we’d generally recommend a folding shovel, simply because it fits anywhere and is easy to store. But if you are looking for a bit more strength, stability and leverage, then a short D shovel should work just as well.

First-Aid Kit

An off-road excursion wouldn’t be much fun if it didn’t take you far away from civilization. But what if a medical emergency happens miles off of a paved road? You probably want to have some basic first-aid on board, just in case. A generic first-aid kit should be considered the bare minimum any off-roader would have with them at all times. It should have band-aids, gauze, antibiotic wipes and medical tape. Or, even better, have a full medical kit handy. These contain way more than your basic kit, several types and sizes of gauze, wound cleaning solutions, splints, tapes, burn wound care and so much more. Why? Because sometimes you have to do a little more than rub some dirt on it.

Traction Mats

When you spend enough time playing on the roads less traveled, you will eventually get stuck. While there are several ways to cause enough forward momentum to get you unstuck (Tip : Try airing down!), one of the least complicated and stressful ways would be the use of recovery boards or traction mats. These simple little things can save you and all those involved one hell of a headache. They are simple to use, easy to store and incredibly helpful in the right situations. Just place one under each tire and roll on out, shouldn’t be too complicated right? If are going to ignore Rule #1 and go off-roading by yourself, at least make sure you pack a quality set of traction mats. MaxTrax is the original and most well-known brand, but there are plenty of competitors on the market now.

Philip Van der Vossen

Philip Van der Vossen founded and hosts the Trail Trek Tour, a traveling series of off-road events for automotive media. In 2020 he launched the off-road travel site,, as the content focused side of TrailTrekTour LLC. Philip has been an online publisher since 2008, and has covered the automotive industry since 2010. Prior to founding Trail Trek Tour, he served for three years as the Rally Director for the Washington Automotive Press Association.

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