Recovering In Reverse

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If you’re adventurous at heart, there’s a good chance you don’t mind pushing that little bit harder to find the perfect camping spot. Odds are you’ve probably even bitten off a bit more than you can chew at some point too. Am I right? Well, the good news is if you’ve ever found yourself stuck up a track with no hope in hell of continuing forwards, we’ve got a few handy hints you’ll need to recover yourself backwards with a trailer in tow. So strap yourself in, because we’re about to flip things around a bit!



Ok, so your camper trailer has a couple of tow/recovery points hanging from the rear, does that mean you’re ready to hook the snatch strap up and pull your whole rig out of trouble. Well, the short answer is – nope! There are quite a few things to consider beforehand. The first point being, are those tow/recovery points actually rated for a recovery? Believe it or not, most of the hitch receivers you see at the back end of a camper are nothing more than bicycle rack mounts with a few tack-welds holding them in place. Plus, they’re commonly found attached to a weak or non-structural part of the camper, so they’re not fully fledged recovery points. Heck, some campers just aren’t strong enough to handle a full-blown recovery. If you’re not 100 per cent sure of their capabilities, do your research now before you hit the tracks. It’s definitely worth it!



Now, if you’ve done your homework and discovered they are in fact “rated” recovery points, it’s time to have a think about their capabilities and limitations. For example, these recovery points are almost always only rated to recover the trailer on its own, in other words, unhitched from your 4WD. When you think about it, a fully loaded 4WD weighs a heck of a lot, especially when it’s stuck good and proper in mud or sand. Long story short it’s got the ability to place more stress on your camper/trailer than it was ever designed to handle, both structurally and also on components like the hitch or coupling, which are rarely rated for the task when you think about it. So what are we saying? Well, when it comes to recovering backwards – unhitch it first!



When skull-dragging a trailer backwards, the jockey wheel is absolutely useless! So you’ll need to make sure it can be dragged on its drawbar. If it can’t get dragged without getting damaged or snagged up, it’s time to put your thinking cap on and devise a makeshift skid plate. Strapping the old shovel under the coupling will usually get the job done. Failing that, you can always bung an old car panel or a fallen log underneath it too.

Then, attach an equaliser strap between the two rear recovery points on your camper trailer (when applicable), which helps spread the load evenly across the camper’s chassis. It’s worth saying; you don’t want to perform a snatch recovery on an unhitched camper trailer. There’s no control that way and more initial (jolting) force, so it’s kind of like dancing with the devil if you know what I mean. You’re much better off using an electric winch (or even a turf winch), which allows you a heck of a lot more control. Normal winching safety procedures apply here. That means using a cable damper, rated equipment and keeping bystanders clear of the area. You might even want to chock the wheels of your 4WD too.



1. In tricky or slippery situations, you can use traction boards to help guide the camper’s wheels in the right direction instead of slipping sideways. Doing this will also help reduce the resistance against the trailers tyres, which reduces the strain on your camper and recovery gear too – win, win!

2. If for some reason you need to use your 4WD to physically recover the trailer/4WD with a snatch strap or recovery strap, don’t do it in reverse – unless you like damaging your gearbox that is! The straight cut design of the reverse gear is different (weaker) than the rest of the forward gears, and usually doesn’t like being subjected to hard work. Instead, turn your 4WD around and use first or second gear.

3. If you need to unhitch the trailer backwards while on an incline, you can run your 4WD’s winch via a snatch block or two and back to a sling on the trailer’s A-frame. That way as you wind the winch out, it slowly lowers the trailer.


Michael “Borgy” Borg

Borgy’s one of those blokes who lives and breathes offroad adventure. He’s travelled to almost every extremity of the Australian continent, built 4WDs and camper trailers from the ground up and tackled some of the most epic adventures Australia has to offer.

Being a mechanic by trade, he’s customising both of his Toyota LandCruisers, ‘Toot’ the Troop Carrier and ‘Uncle Grump’, his big red 80 Series Cruiser. With plenty of tough low range kays under his belt, you can bet your bottom dollar he’s learnt the art of bush mechanic fixes. In fact, Borgy reckons relaxing around the campfire after an epic day on the tracks is what 4WDing is all about, not to mention that feeling of freedom you get when you lock in the hubs!


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