Is this a decent recovery setup?


If you've got opinions on the matter, would you please let me know if I'm on the right track?

I have a stock 2012 Tacoma with a FWC (OK, I have airbags so not quite stock), so I don’t go many places that a stock Tacoma can’t go.

That said, I’d like to be somewhat self-sufficient for:
- Bad judgment (I’ll just go a little farther, I’m sure I’ll be able to turn around…)
- Bad weather (snows while I’m out and getting down the road is sketchy, I slide off)
- Bad driving (I get a little too close to the edge and passenger side wheels are off the edge)
- Clearing downed trees that block my exit (I also have a pulley chainsaw)
- Other vehicles that may need assistance (If it’s safe and feasible for me to help)
- The occasional getting stuck in sand or mud

Here’s what I have in mind:
-Hi Lift (possibly Extreme model with Off Road Kit, although I might use a Jack Mate and make my own offroad kit pieces)
-10 ft Tree saver
-10-15 feet of 3/8 inch grade 70 chain (I’d like to keep it shorter to stay lightweight and add extra length with extra tree savers or tow strap). The chain is so that, in combination with the offroad kit, I can keep winching without resetting too often

Does that seem like a reasonable kit for the basics? Again, I’m not an extreme overlander, I just like to go camping in quiet areas and that sometimes means bad roads and not many other people.

Any suggestions on how to add length if an anchor point is not nearby? I like the idea of keeping the chain somewhat short to reduce weight, but I also like that chain supposedly doesn’t store energy and fly at your head when it breaks (“they” say it just drops to the ground…). Can I just use a long tow strap and wrap it around the tree a bunch of times to shorten it if needed?

FYI getting and mounting a winch is not an option for me at the present time. My hope is to rarely if ever use this stuff, but I'd like to have the horsepower to get out (slowly but surely) if something ever happens.

Thank you and happy travels.


Forgot to ask: what weight ratings do I want on the tow/tree straps and any shackles? The Tacoma GWVR is around 5500 lbs and the camper (dry) is around 700 lbs.

Thanks again.

Jonathan Hanson

Supporting Sponsor

Winching with a Hi-Lift is an agonizingly slow and inefficient process, not to mention hazardous. Since the Hi-Lift is rated to lift 4,600 pounds, you're well beyond its factory capacity if your truck and camper get properly stuck. And with stock bumpers, your 30-pound Hi-Lift will be useless for anything but agonizingly slow winching.

You'd be far better off with a good set of traction mats such as MaxTrax, plus a shovel. And, of course, a proper air compressor so you can air down your tires. That alone will get you out of a lot of situations.

Whatever you do, do not winch with a tow strap!


Thank you both, definitely need to put shovel at the top of the list.

That's why I come here to ask these questions, because sometimes I miss the obvious (like 5,500+ is more than 4,600...).

So now I'm wondering: I see other folks who carry a Hi-Lift with their FWC/truck, so are they only using it for winching out? I think that winching out is what I had in mind as the most likely use of this, but maybe others have made modifications (bumpers?) so that things move a little faster.

Since I'm just learning all this, is there an easy explanation for why you don't want to use a tow strap? I got that idea from this article - 2nd to last picture at the bottom (I'm not saying I necessarily understood the article correctly, but that's where I got the idea). I also realize there might be differing views on what to do and not do, but I figure it's always wise to hear what can go wrong.

Thanks again.

Edited to add: MaxTrax seems interesting, I will take a closer look.
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Jonathan Hanson

Supporting Sponsor
The problem is the name. Most "tow straps" are designed to be elastic, and you do not want anything elastic in any winching system. "Winch extension line," yes. That's a non-dynamic line intended for winching. And you need proper shackles such as these. And, ideally, proper instruction in person.

If you intend to use a Hi-Lift jack for its primary purpose—jacking—you must have points on the vehicle designed to accept the tongue of the jack and the weight of the truck. Stock Tacoma bumpers definitely do not have any such point; you need an aftermarket steel or aluminum bumper designed for the purpose. Look at the ARB winch bumper as an example. Many rock sliders—the steel bars that protect the body of some trucks under the doors—are designed to withstand jacking as well.

A Hi-Lift is a versatile tool, but it can be dangerous if not used correctly. Most important is properly chocking the vehicle to prevent it shifting on the jack, and keeping your head the hell out of the arc made by the operating handle.

We have a Tacoma and Four Wheel Camper too; it's a great combination. Go to Overland Tech and Travel here, and search for "JATAC." Lots of stuff on it.


Expedition Leader
If you like maxtrax, but are afraid of the cost, look at using 2x4s with bolts through them. Custom length, width! You could then apply the savings towards other toys. A good shovel, and a small hatchet have done me wonders in the past.


I used a highlift for winching several times before buying a winch. It is slow, tiring but it does work, to a point. You will want a longer chain. If you are planning on using tow straps to extend your reach to your anchor, you will find they still stretch too much and you will have to cycle the jack several times to tension everything before the truck even moves. 10-15ft chain wont get you far with 40-50ft of tow straps to pukl the stretch out. (And I am talking tow straps, not recovery straps)

Sent from my SM-N900W8 using Tapatalk


Crew Chief
I would say the best advice, other than getting a winch, is to not get stuck. However, boards, shovel and a recovery strap would be a good start. Chain wouldn't be a bad idea either, even without the jack. If you get so stuck that the shovel and boards won't get you out, then you'll need another vehicle, which is where the recovery strap comes into play. Do some looking around for some advice on safe recovery practices.

I should also point out that any recovery, regardless of equipment, is inherently dangerous. There really is no such thing as a safe recovery. There's less-deadly-recovery and not-quite-so-dangerous recovery, but never a safe recovery.

I want to tack on that years ago, my dad and I found an old chain type come-along on my great aunts farm that we would use to stretch fence. I wonder if anybody still makes something like that for vehicle recoveries? Sounds like it would be much safer than using a hi-lift jack.


I never found the hi-lift to be terribly useful in my travels. In fact, I am meeting a guy in an hour to sell the jack and my collection of hi-lift gear. In a similar move, I sold my winch last week; in fifteen years of Jeep ownership and backcountry travel, the winch only ever got used for landscaping tasks around the house.

For my usual terrain of dirt and sand, and for the times of year I am likely to be exploring, I have found a good shovel (or two) to be invaluable. Ditto to a first rate bottle jack (LR factory one, for example), a good jack base or two, a good machete, and some traction mats/boards/strips of carpet. A couple different recovery straps, a tow strap, tree saver, and a towing/recovery cluster have also proved useful for myself or others in my group.

Thinking back to all the years of carrying hundreds of pounds of spares, tools, and gear, and never once truly needing any of it, I wonder if I would have been better off taking less gear and going a bit lighter, both on the vehicle and on the wallet.


This is good info, thanks all. I'd spent hours over the past weak reading up and trying to figure out how to stay relatively safe (while missing some details I'm sure), but now I'm starting to wonder if it's worth the hassle/cost/risk. Again the goal is to never use it, and I don't really push my luck too much off road.

If you guys have never (or rarely) used yours I'm thinking maybe conservative driving and a little good luck can go a long way. And when those don't pan out... hard work - with the shovel/etc - and some kind of traction thingy. Wouldn't hurt to carry a snatch or tow strap just in case there happens to be a kind soul nearby. If my wife and I ever do the BIG trips we talk about I'd be more inclined to get (and practice with) a Hi-Lift and maybe install a winch.

I don't really know what a bottle jack is but I'll take a look at those next week. I've been wondering about in-person instruction and not sure where to find that. I might start with a Bill Burke Getting Unstuck DVD unless you've seen it and think I should keep looking for better in-person help (watched several of his videos and related ones and have learned quite a bit, but I've got more to go).

Thanks again for your ideas and experiences. Catch up with you next week.


Expedition Leader
Camper, never be afraid to step outside of your rig, and walk a while up and down the path you are going. Make a plan of attack. Hell, take a tape measure, and know the dimensions of your rig even! One is never a fool for pulling to the side, or stopping, to know your path. You are only a fool to throttle through, and off of a cliff.

Jonathan Hanson

Supporting Sponsor
Camper, never be afraid to step outside of your rig, and walk a while up and down the path you are going. Make a plan of attack. Hell, take a tape measure, and know the dimensions of your rig even! One is never a fool for pulling to the side, or stopping, to know your path. You are only a fool to throttle through, and off of a cliff.

Very well said!

And if you'd like personal instruction, may I direct you to the Overland Expo link below?

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