The Benefits of Soft Shackles

If you are serious about utilising your 4WD, the chances are that you are going to get stuck somewhere and will need recovery. Even with Club 4X4’s Off-Road Recovery Cover, it’s still a great idea …

Club 4X4 Insurance
Nov 10 2022

If you are serious about utilising your 4WD, the chances are that you are going to get stuck somewhere and will need recovery. Even with Club 4X4’s Off-Road Recovery Cover, it’s still a great idea to carry the right recovery gear, and know how to use it.

Now there are a bunch of things to be aware of when setting up for a recovery to ensure that everyone is looked after during the process. I could go over so many different pieces of equipment and how they are used, how they should be maintained etc, but in this article, I’d like to talk about an item which I believe makes recoveries of vehicles safer than ever before. It’s the Soft Shackle.

These Soft Shackles have been brought onto the market to work much like the rated steel D Shackle and Bow Shackles and they have many advantages.

Probably the least important benefit is the reduction in weight. But so many of us are considering the weights of our vehicles and everything that goes into them. Soft Shackles will reduce the weight of your recovery bag that is for certain.

But for me, this is a big consideration as in the past, I carried three Bow Shackles and now have replaced them with three Soft Shackles with a considerable weight reduction.

However, in my opinion, the most important aspect of the Soft Shackle over the traditional Bow Shackle is that its use will reduce heavy metal items from potentially becoming missiles during a recovery failure. Whilst this is obvious, the benefits of reducing the number of heavy metal elements in the middle of the line of a recovery will definitely assist in reducing damage to vehicles or people during a recovery failure.

It could be said that a correctly rated Bow Shackle should never fail if used correctly, but usually, it’s the gear around it which might be more likely to fail and cause you the problem.

The above image shows a safe set-up of a traditional Bow Shackle with all gear rated for a safe recovery. It’s my belief that if you can reduce the heavy metal objects out of the middle of a recovery equation, surely things will be safer.

People get it wrong and unfortunately sometimes, this will be half the problem, so it’s important to learn the correct procedures to create a safe recovery environment.

If the site of a 4WD recovery was in a workplace in Australia, you would need all sorts of training and certification to ensure you understand each item of recovery equipment before using it. But we are able to buy many forms of recovery gear and use it freely on the weekend, without a proper understanding of how to use it. There is some really good recovery gear available in Australia.

I have an extremely important first hand experience to tell you about. An experience which could have cost me my life. This is really how easy you can get things wrong and an example of what not to do.

During a night recovery, while everything was frantic as my brother’s Landcruiser Troupe Carrier was filling with muddy water. We were both completely overwhelmed thinking we would wreck his pride and joy and I made a huge mistake. We were both extremely inexperienced with little to no knowledge of vehicle recoveries. The mistake we made was deciding to join two snatch straps together with a steel Shackle. I was seriously giving my Hilux everything it had during the snatch recoveries and after four heavy attempts, the strap broke at his end, sending the full force of the Shackle and two straps hurtling towards my 4WD, striking the back of it with such force that it severed the folded top lip of the old school constructed tailgate. The Shackle imbedded itself into the top of the tailgate and the webbing of one of the snatch straps left a permanent imprint in the paint. If the Shackle had of travelled 5 cm higher, it would have most likely travelled through the cabin of my 4WD and may have struck me in the back of my head. This would most likely have been my last 4WDing experience… its that simple to get things wrong in a huge way.

After realising my terrible mistake, I stated to myself that I would never let something like this ever happen again. It was this night recovery which made me realise how dangerous things can be… so I read a lot and I joined a 4WD club to learn about what goes on. Search for a 4WD Club near you.

At the time, which was many years ago, I learnt that there were so many different opinions for an extended recovery like the one I have just talked about.

The general practice would be to loop two straps together and to avoid them from permanently becoming one long strap, we would add a rolled up magazine or the like into the hoop, which when pulled tight, it would crush the magazine but it could be easily removed, allowing for the straps to be separated.

Some people would use a piece of timber, but after my experience, I didn’t like this concept.

Today, we have the Soft Shackle…

The Soft Shackle is a rated link which is designed to connect and combine other elements of recovery gear.

It is another version of the Bow Shackle or the D Shackle and can be used for both winching and snatch recoveries. A Soft Shackle can be added to the ends of two straps as a joiner creating a much safer connection and one which will reduce damaging your expensive straps during a normal recovery. When winching with synthetic rope, a Soft Shackle can also be used with a winch ring allowing for a double line pull.

It can connect a recovery to a tree trunk protector.

It can be connected to the rated recovery points on the vehicles involved in the recovery.

There are so many uses to these items to assist in vehicle recoveries.

But it gets better… some businesses have seen the benefits of creating different versions of the Soft Shackle which can be added into a recovery situation to assist in nominating a point of failure. Maxtrax have created the fuse. This is a Soft Shackle which has a rating lower than what you would usually use. It seems strange right. Why would you create an item to fail? The idea is that if the forces in say a winching recovery get that high, you can specify exactly where the link will break ensuring that all efforts are made to have this section dampened so that the items near the failure will be pulled to the ground.

An example of this is a double line pull utilising a tree. It would make sense that with all this gear, it would be best that the failure took place at the your vehicle, sending the failed recovery gear towards the tree rather than your vehicle. So the weak link, or Maxtrax fuse would be at the end of the line. I actually thought this to be a strange idea at first; why would you create an item to break? But after looking at it, it’s an amazing idea. So if you are thinking of switching to Soft Shackles, or maybe adding them to your kit, do your research as there are many versions and rated sizes on the market. And most importantly, make sure you speak with the staff selling you the gear about what you are wanting to use it for and what vehicle you are using it with. Essentially, make sure it has the correct rating for your situation. Furthermore, like any other recovery gear item, it’s important to look after it. Keep it clean and in a safe location preferably in a bag to reduce damage.


Michael Ellem

Offroad Images

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