There’s nothing better than hitching up the camper trailer and heading bush for a few days of pure old fashioned fun.
Bringing the camper trailer along for the ride allows a few extra luxuries as we explore the tracks less travelled, but what happens when it comes to the recovery side of things? Have you got the equipment and the know-how to get yourself out of strife if and when something untoward occurs?
We never know what obstacles lie just around the corner and, let’s face it, this country has just about every terrain imaginable waiting to catch you off guard. With that in mind, we’ve put together a complete guide to recovery from all types of sticky situations, even with a camper trailer in tow.
So grab a beer, put your feet up and read on as we run you through some key recovery tips and techniques to get yourself out of trouble and back in the game.
Getting bogged in sand puts a lot of load on your 4WD and recovery equipment, but there are a few little things you can do to help reduce the strain. First up, use of an equaliser strap is highly recommended for sand recoveries, as it helps to spread the load across two recovery points rather than one, which not only reduces the strain on the recovery point itself, but the whole chassis of your vehicle.
Secondly, you’ll find you can almost halve the amount of resistance created by the sand by clearing a path in front of all your tyres, including those on the camper trailer.
Thirdly, remember to keep your wheels straight! Having the wheels cocked sideways means you’ll have to drag them through the sand making things twice as hard. Oh, and if you stop moving forward, you’ll start digging down, so back off the throttle and you’ll avoid making matters worse.
When it comes to tackling steep hills, it pays to have your recovery gear out and ready — there’s nothing worse than digging around the back of your 4WD looking for it on a steep hill. In saying that, always make sure heavy objects such as bow shackles are secure so they don’t fly around.
Sticking to the ruts is usually the preferred route choice, mainly because they’ll help guide you and the trailer down instead of jackknifing if you don’t make it up. If you do get stuck and can’t reverse back safely, your first priority, always, is to make the vehicle safe and secure and keep it from rolling backwards. You can do this by securing your vehicle to a tree via a winch extension strap, and/or chock up the back of the tyres with rocks or logs.
The biggest problem you’re likely to come across when recovering a 4WD from big rocks or deep ruts are clearance issues or slipping into nasty angles. For big rock steps, one top tip is to build a ramp using smaller rocks to give you that extra clearance. If you find the hole is too deep for your tyre to touch the ground, and fill the hole up with whatever you can get your hands on. Pay particular attention to the camper during recovery efforts as they have a nasty habit of sustaining damage when hung up against rocks.
The extra weight of the camper during a recovery technique really increases the strain placed on all of your recovery equipment. However, a couple of techniques will maximise the efficiency of your winch, compared to what you’d achieve with a standard, single-line pull.
Start this technique by running the winch cable out to a snatch block attached via a tree trunk protector to a tree, and return it to the front of the vehicle. While this method actually reduces the line speed, it increases the mechanical advantage to make most of the winch’s torque. You’ll end up with a much safer recovery and less wear and tear on your winch.
To increase the mechanical advantage even more, a triple-line pull could be your safest bet. Run the winch cable out to a snatch block that’s secured to a tree trunk via a tree trunk protector and then run it back to the 4WDs. Wrap it around a snatch block secured to the bullbar’s recovery point. Then run the cable back out to another tree and tree trunk protector and secure the hook to a D shackle.
If you get stuck halfway up a steep hill, one way to avoid any backwards roll is to use a technique called ‘the stall recovery’. You basically let the engine stall while it’s still in gear on the hill. Keep your foot off the clutch and engage the foot brake and handbrake. This ensures the vehicle won’t backwards roll on its own as it’s still in gear. Then, with the engine still off and your foot hard on the brake, select reverse and take your foot off the clutch. With your handbrake off, and low range/reverse selected, start the engine in gear and let it slowly idle backwards. The end result should be a smooth and controlled descent using the engine to guide you down.
Most camper trailers come standard with a rear hitch receiver, which can be a very convenient addition to your camper. The problem is, while they often look like a solid anchor point capable of aiding in a recovery, most are actually designed for nothing more than carrying a bike rack. You’ll find most are only joined to the camper by two small welds, which provide little strength.
So before you even think about using the camper’s rear hitch as a recovery point, check with the manufacturer or an engineer to guarantee it’s designed and equipped for the job.
I have to say my Maxtrax are one of the first things I pack in my kit of recovery gear. To put it simply, they make recoveries on sand and mud easy. The trick is to admit defeat early when you’re bogged, and keep the Maxtrax nice and easy to access. Then it’s a matter of sitting them in front of your tyres nice and close, and let your tyres slowly crawl up them.
They’re specially designed to offer maximum traction and, after saving myself hours and hours of shovel work, I can honestly say they work!
In some cases, you might have no option but to unhitch the camper trailer and recover it separately to your vehicle. Now you’ll need to exercise some common sense here, as every scenario is going to be different. Obviously, you’re not going to perform a full-on snatch strap recovery, unless you like chunks of trailer coming through your windscreen. You’re far better off using a 12V winch purely for the extra control it offers. If the camper is on a really soft surface such as sand, a little trick is to place the head of the shovel under the jockey wheel to avoid it digging into the ground. Remember, always try and recover from either the A-frame or from the chassis of the trailer, not the tie down rails – they’re often not rated for the entire weight of the trailer, especially one that’s axle-deep in sand or mud!
At Mars Campers we work hard to develop the best value for money camper trailers with a view of helping you create memorable experiences with your loved ones.
Did you find this information useful? If you found even one tiny nugget in this material to be useful, please do forward it to one of your friends. I am sure they will thank you for it. You can send it to them via email, Twitter, Facebook or post it on your own website.