If you travel often enough, chances are you’ll need more than recovery boards and the ability to air down for recovery. The MAXTRAX Recovery System is a range of modern 4×4 recovery gear that aids safer recoveries.
I’ve been travelling with prototypes of the MAXTRAX Recovery System since 2019. MAXTRAX released this range in late 2020, and I have since changed my equipment to the production versions. Testing has been with both the prototypes and final products.
The Philosophy of the MAXTRAX Recovery System
The goal of the MAXTRAX Recovery System was to offer a complete range of modern style recovery. Steel shackles and other bulky gear becomes extremely dangerous at velocity if systems fail. Where possible, these are replaced with soft shackles, and the metal parts that remain are rated to ensure they are not the point of failure.
While soft shackles and kinetic ropes are now available from several brands in the 4×4 industry, MAXTRAX brings some innovations with their Fuse Shackle, Hitch and variable-length Kinetic Ropes. They’ve also invested in extensive in-house field testing, testing with some parties like us and exhaustive destruction testing to meet Australian Standards.
What Components are in the System?
The complete system includes the following options:
- MAXTRAX Core Shackle
- MAXTRAX Fuse Shackle
- MAXTRAX Kinetic Rope – 2m, 3m, 5m or 10m
- MAXTRAX Static Rope – 3m (anchor or bridle)
- MAXTRAX Static Winch Rope – 30m (can be used as anchor extension)
- MAXTRAX Hitch 50 (specifically for soft shackles)
- MAXTRAX Winch Ring 120 (for double line winching)
- MAXTRAX Recovery Kit Bag
MAXTRAX Core Shackle
The MAXTRAX Core Shackle is a quality soft shackle. Its minimum breaking strength is 14,000kg or 30,864lb. The Core Shackle is for most connections in the MAXTRAX Recovery System including joining Kinetic Rope Lengths, attaching to the Hitch or connecting the Winch Ring.
It has a protective sleeve to add longevity. The sleeve is loose fitting which allows removal for monitoring wear.
While safer and easier to use, soft shackles are less robust than steel ones. Extra care and regular inspections are required, but in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh the downside.
MAXTRAX Fuse Shackle
The Fuse Shackle has a minimum breaking strength of 7,000kg or 15,432lb. It’s a brilliant idea. Like an electrical fuse it is designed to be strong enough for usual loads but by far the recovery system’s weakest point.
In a typical snatch or winch recovery, it would usually be anyone’s guess what might break. I would typically place my dampener in the middle, ensure everyone was clear and hope for the best.
With the Fuse Shackle, it’s possible to control this potential failure point to our advantage. Let’s look at a couple of examples:
In a Snatch Recovery, based on our testing, I would now choose to reverse the pictured setup, and connect the Fuse Shackle to the 4×4 being recovered and place the dampener at that point. In doing so, the rear of my recovering 4×4 is more protected with spare wheels, and ultimately a cargo barrier, while a windscreen is all that protects the driver of the 4×4 being recovered. While it is an unlikely scenario, it is just as easy to set up in the safer configuration, so for me, it is an easy decision.
In a double line pull winch recovery using the MAXTRAX Winch Ring, it’s the Winch Ring that I don’t want to come towards me in the scenario of a system failure. In this instance, I would opt to place the Fuse Shackle at the point where the winch line connects to the vehicle and the dampener at the winch anchor to drop the Winch Ring and line to ground.
MAXTRAX Kinetic Ropes
While kinetic ropes are used in place of traditional snatch straps, the critical differentiator is the stretch difference. MAXTRAX Kinetic Ropes have ~30% more elongation than flat snatch straps.
This extra stretch makes a big difference. When the rope becomes taught, it is gentler on the vehicles, and the elastic rebound is more robust and more effective.
Like many people, I was taught to recover with a snatch strap at pace. The beauty of a more elastic rope is that you can recover successfully at far lower speeds.
For this test we purposefully got the FJ buried deep and facing uphill. My first attempt to recover was slow in low range and first gear. It failed, but the second attempt was successful while still at a slow speed.
In a real-world scenario, I would take the time to place MAXTRAX under the vehicle and perhaps do a little digging to make it easier again, but we skipped this step to make the recovery test more challenging.
With ramps under the vehicle and recovering at slow speeds, the chance of equipment failure is significantly reduced. Combined with the removal of steel shackles, a known and dampened weak link using a Fuse Shackle and the widely adopted best practice of keeping bystanders well clear and I now feel safer undertaking this style of recovery than ever before.
At slow speeds and with recovery boards, vehicles are far less likely to be damaged too. Steering components are particularly vulnerable. Remote travellers need to be especially careful, but expensive repair bills will ruin almost any week.
MAXTRAX make Kinetic Straps in 2m, 3m, 5m and 10m lengths that can be joined with a Core Shackle. The longer lengths are familiar and are ideal for the scenario where the recovering vehicle needs to get out ahead to firmer ground. The shorter lengths are suitable for tighter tracks and when more creative thinking is required to affect a recovery.
MAXTRAX Static Rope
The MAXTRAX Static Rope is a versatile 3m rope designed to be used as bridle or anchor for winching. Like the Core and Fuse Shackles, it has a protective sleeve that is removable for inspection.
MAXTRAX Static Winch Rope
While we are yet to try the MAXTRAX Winch Rope it looks like a great option for those looking to change from a steel rope to a synthetic one. It’s 10mm in diameter, 30m long and has a MBS of 9,500kg or 20,943lb. the eye of the winch line has no metal thimble for safety. It’s also cleverly designed for easier removal from the winch line in the instances where a 30m static line may be just what you need for the recovery.
MAXTRAX Hitch 50
The MAXTRAX Hitch 50 connects into standard towbars providing a connection point that is suited to soft shackles and with a WLL of 8,800kg or 19,400lbs. We’ve previously reviewed the MAXTRAX Hitch 50 in full; please click here to read the article.
MAXTRAX Winch Ring
Modern winch pulleys originated in the sailing industry, and in recent years these have been adapted to 4×4 recoveries. Combined with a soft shackle, they allow for the reduction in mass compared to a traditional steel snatch block and shackle combination. It’s a weight saving for those looking for every option to get their vehicle below GVM, but more importantly, it’s less mass in the event of a failure. We have also reviewed the MAXTRAX Winch Ring, click here to read that article.
MAXTRAX Recovery Bag
The MAXTRAX Recovery Bag measures 600mm long x 400mm wide x 240mm high. It’s weather-resistant, and the body of the bag is designed to hold a combination of ropes while the outside pockets keep smaller items like the soft shackle, and Winch Ring organised and accessible.
Whether you are looking at new equipment or doing things differently with what you have, conducting recoveries at slower speeds and combing recovery boards into kinetic/snatch style recoveries is safer.
For those new to recoveries, if you get the chance to spend some time practising on one of your next trips, I’m sure you will learn valuable skills.