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I have no idea what items are good to have on hand when winching, should the need ever arise. What kind of accessories for winching does everyone carry?
More important than what to carry is the knowledge about how to safely use that equipment. I strongly recommend some library research. There are many excellent books on off-road recovery techniques.
Regarding chain, crow bars, blankets, straps, etc....
Chains stretch much less than cable or straps, so are much less likely to whip around when they break.
When you put something over a strap, chain, or cable in order to protect yourself, vehicles, etc., it is very important that it have one (or more) of the following properties:
In your description, if you had laid a crowbar across a winch cable and it had snapped, the crow bar could have been propelled quite a distance at a much higher speed than you might imagine. This is probably worse than nothing at all because the winch cable at least cannot travel farther than its own length, whereas the crowbar could travel hundreds of feet.
Tow straps are both better and worse than winch cable. They stretch more, so the amount of energy they can store up before breaking is much greater. On the other side, they weigh less and therefore have a (slightly) lower potential for damage. Still, I have heard reliable stories of people losing limbs from broken web straps, as well as dented sheet metal and broken glass.
Another often-overlooked safety concern when off-roading... If a vehicle is struggling with traction, everyone (well, most everyone) knows about the potential for a wheel throwing rocks or debris. This is the reason you should not follow too closely when ascending a steep hill with a loose surface. What many people do not realize is that the vehicle itself poses a significant threat. The story goes like this...
Vehicle recovery is one of the most dangerous aspects of off-highway vehicle operation. I am not trying to scare anyone - just the opposite. Treat these situations with the respect they deserve, and have not only the correct equipment, but the knowledge and experience to use them correctly.
Books are a great source, but nothing can replace actual hands-on experience.
At the beginning of each season, we (the Colorado Hummer Club) hold a winching and recovery workshop. The purpose of this workshop is to teach safe vehicle recovery, and to give everyone a chance to actually use their recovery equipment. The best possible time to learn how to do these things is before you actually need to.
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