You can have all the MaxTrax, winches, shovels and snatch straps in the world, but you need to have your head screwed on the right way before you even embark on a recovery.

What do you do in a heavy situation? And how do you prepare beforehand so these heavy situations hopefully never happen?


Evaluate the level of danger to your rig and its occupants. Is everyone OK? Is there any impending danger such as an incoming tide? Your first priority is always the safety of yourself and passengers and removing them from any further threats. This includes people in other vehicles.

Your next priority is safely getting your vehicle to a position where it’s out of harm’s way…away from traffic, waves, falling rocks, etc.

Another danger, especially when it comes to the recovery process, is a crowd. Whenever there’s something going on, annoying stickybeaks and meerkats will come out of the woodwork. You must remove them immediately.


OK, so this should have happened before you loaded your rig. Accurate self-assessment is a wonderful thing – it’s the ability to check yaself before ya wreck yaself. Moments of crisis are going to be a lot of easier if you’re not already on the verge of breakdown and ready to snap when the wind changes or petrol is 2c more expensive than it was yesterday.

You’re already at a huge disadvantage if you haven’t learnt to manage your expectations and reactions to external stimulus. To some people these traits come naturally, for most of us these are skills that are learnt and then applied until they become second nature.


This does wonders for your judgment, and eliminates the major element of compounded danger. Avoid slipping into panic mode during a stressful situation, when you react emotionally you can recall previous disasters and lose track of the job at hand.

Emotions have a time and a place. Being a balling mess while sitting on the couch watching the editor’s favourite movie ‘Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants’ might be a fine place for emotions. Having a still-kicking kangaroo stuck in your windscreen somewhere in Arnhem Land, maybe not so much.



The better prepared you are, the less chance you’ll panic. Your brain will present you with options, resources to tap into, and your decision in the heat of the moment will more likely be the right one. Hmm, should I use the winch, some snatch straps?

‘Be here now’ is the perfect attitude to have when in an offroad crisis, it’s not just a term used by hippy dregs who’ve given it all away and sit around in a crystal pyramid in ill-fitting Aladdin pants.

If you’re a bit of a panicker, then be a friend to yourself – while you’re assessing the situation, inhale for six seconds, and exhale for six seconds. Even within a minute this will compose you enough to make a keen decision on what needs to be done.

If you’re not getting anywhere with your mode of recovery. Stop. Don’t spin your wheels, don’t dig an even deeper hole. Be in the moment and adjust your strategy accordingly.


Where you are going will define the type of dangerous situations your vehicle might get into.

When we asked Birdsville rescue mechanic “Barnsey” what people can do if they are caught in a worst case scenario in the desert and out of communications range, he replied: “Stay in the shade of the car!”

“If you need to dig the vehicle out extensively, then don’t do it in the daytime, you’ll need about one litre of water for every minute worked and you’ll get nowhere. Wait until nightfall when it cools down.


People in the car are looking to you for guidance. After all, it’s your 4WD they got into, you’re running the show. Your missus, your kids and your mates will react to your actions. A good old-fashioned family freak-out over a flat tyre is not what we’re going for here.

Being the captain also involves sound judgment, if your mate knows a little more about snatch blocks than you do, ask for his opinion on the matter. You’ll definitely go down with the ship if you refuse to acknowledge sound advice.


Once you’re out of the situation don’t forget what you learned from the experience. What did you do right? What could have been improved upon? This will increase your confidence next time ‘round. If you did good, by all means snake your hand down the back of your shirt and give yourself a pat on the back.

Everything is experience, there is nothing like a real life situation to help you hone your skills.


When you get wise, you get confident. When you’re prepared, you’re ready.

GET SAFETY TRAINING: Do you know CPR? Do you have a fully functioning medical kit? Do you have top-notch communications gear? Do you have a reliable comms backup? If you don’t, then don’t even consider any exciting trips to remote areas. It’s that simple.

GET DRIVER TRAINING: If you’re unsure about the correct technique for recoveries, about how to use a snatch block, etc, then the greatest thing you can do for your peace of mind and the protection of your rig and those in it, is to enroll in some 4WD training.

GET A GOOD MECHANIC: With training and weekend field knowledge you will have a good idea as to your skills and limitations as a driver. But a good driver also knows the limitations of his vehicle. Having a great mechanic in your corner before you take off is the ultimate confidence booster.

GET THE MODS YOU NEED: This also involves being somewhat of an automotive Nostradamus and working out what you envision to be the issues that will come up most. Say, if you’re driving over a lot of coffee rock or creek washouts, then lifting your rig will be pretty high on the agenda. Discuss these issues and discuss your budget with your mechanic.

GET ROADSIDE ASSIST: We cannot advise strongly enough that anyone embarking on an outback trip should also invest in the highest available NRMA cover or your state’s equivalent (RACQ, RCVA, RAA, RACWA, etc).

GET A RECOVERY KIT: OK, so you’ve done the training and you know what you’re doing, but that all means nothing if you can’t find your recovery gear. Store it in a dedicated area of the vehicle. Check it before you go anywhere. Buy best quality, this is one area you should never scrimp on.


Comments are closed.