4x4

Product Test: Bog Out Vehicle Recovery Kit

We test the Bog Out vehicle recovery system.

THERE IS NO perfect recovery gear, as everything has its pros and cons. That’s why it’s always interesting to try new products that take a different approach to the mainstream, and here we have a Bog Out vehicle recovery system.

What it is

A tyre harness made of similar material to synthetic winch rope. You hook a harness over the tyre that’s spinning, and that increases torque on both tyres including the one that’s got traction, and out you come.

Bog Out claim it is a sort of winch for your tyres, but that’s only really true if you use one on both wheels on an axle. You can buy Bog Out in singles or in pairs, and while we have a pair we used just the one for our first test.

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Image credit: bogout.com

The image above from Bog Out’s website shows how the harness fits over the tyre like a chain. You need only one attachment point – the supplied red tags are used to tie the Bog Out to the wheel.

While it looks like a tyre chain, it’s not. A chain works by increasing the traction of the tyre by gripping the ground, whereas the Bog Out is quite different.

How it works

Here’s a video of the Bog Out in action:

The key to understanding Bog Out is to understand differentials. An open differential will always equalise torque (turning force) on both left and right wheels on an axle. When you see one wheel spinning, like the Ranger’s front right does in the video, then there’s actually equal torque going to both left and right wheels…and not enough to move the vehicle forwards. Same deal for the back axle, except it’s the rear left spinning up against a rock ledge.

When you attach a single Bog Out to the wheel that was spinning you make it harder to turn, which means more torque is required to turn it. With an open diff that means extra torque is applied to the other wheel, the wheel with traction, in this case the Ranger’s front left wheel. This is also precisely how electronic brake traction control works, applying the brakes to an individually spinning wheel.

So it is not correct to say a single Bog Out on an open-diffed car works as a winch, even though it looks like one. If it did, then the Ranger in the video would be pulled sideways. Instead, it drives straight. A winch drags a vehicle irrespective of its traction, but all a single Bog Out does is increase torque on the wheel with traction. If that wheel then gets into trouble what will happen is that it’ll spin, and the single Bog Out won’t help as it would then be attached to the opposite tyre which would then be stationary.

However, if the front diff was locked then there would be a winch effect, as there would be with two Bog Out attached to an axle with open diffs. In that case the Bog Out could in theory drag the vehicle up a hill that has no traction at all, but we didn’t test that scenario.

Look at the photo below; imagine the vehicle moved forwards a metre then the front right had traction and the left was in a hole. Then you’d need to switch the Bog Out over. Or, just use two of them at the same time, or use a front differential lock.

You’ll also need an anchor point to attach the Bog Out to, such as a tree. The Bog Out must also be run in a straight line or no more than 30 degrees off centre, and you have to be careful not to foul any brakes or similar, just like using a snow chain.

A drag chain’s length can be varied, which is what you really need for a Bog Out. There is an optional 30m rope which would work as well.

I don’t think Bog Out places any special stress on the vehicle. Some similar “bush winch” systems extend the hubs and winch off that, and that would definitely stress the wheel bearings as the leverage point is further out than designed instead of being the bottom of the tyre. But the Bog Out places all the stress exactly where it’s designed, at the tyre. And of course a slow, controlled recovery is less stress on the car than backing up and hitting things at speed.

Bog Out also say it can be used as a tow rope. Certainly it looks strong enough and is designed for a 4000kg breaking limit. The product is claimed to have a 5% stretch under load, and that seems to be the case from our testing.

A huge advantage of the Bog Out compared to just about every other recovery item is that it doesn’t require a recovery point. This is especially important for softroaders.

Our test

Any item of recovery gear takes a long while to fully understand and appreciate, and we’ve only used the Bog Out in one situation so far compared to hundreds of recoveries with other gear. Nevertheless, some first thoughts.

The Bog Out does work more or less as described. It certainly will extract a vehicle from some bogged situations. It is well built, strong, seems to be well tested in Australia, has a credible back story, there are clear instructions plus a great support website. It is by no means a cheap and nasty bit of junk you see from time to time that has no business in the bush. It is inexpensive, requires little maintenance, and is light as well as easy to pack.

Like any item of recovery gear, there are going to be times when it is better than anything else you could have brought with you.

Now to the downsides. The first is the requirement for an anchor point, which is not too hard to find in wooded areas, but much harder to come by on beaches. Bog Out say you could do something like bury a spare tyre but my experience with trying that and winching has been it’s not worth it – using Bog Out may be different. We will test at some point and see.

You then need your anchor point to be more or less straight in the direction of travel, or play around with redirect ropes which is extra trouble.

Then your anchor rope needs to be variable-length so the Bog Out is on tight before you more. You can’t really tie the Bog Out itself to a tree, it’s not long enough or designed for it. We used a drag chain and a tree-trunk protector. These items or similar would really be needed for Bog Out use, so just as when you buy a winch you need extra gear, same deal with Bog Out. There is a optional 30m rope which you could wrap around a tree or rock which would give the required variability of length.

You can easily vary the length of a chain.

Another concern is the lack of clearance on the front wheels of front independent-suspension 4x4s. My Ranger runs 265/70/17 tyres, and there’s just barely enough clearance. I can’t run snow chains on the front wheels, but Bog Out are softer and smaller so I tried the front wheel anyway and it worked, but only just.

Bog Out also require resetting every few metres as they are 4.5m long, which is about 1.5-2 rotations of a 4X4 tyre.

We found fitting the Bog Out a bit fiddly, but that was more due to messing around trying to get the knots right and it was our first time using them. If you know your knots and your Bog Out it’d be reasonably quick and easy to attach to a tyre, but not a job you’d want to take on in mud.

Once the recovery was complete just untie the Bog Out and then drive off them, again in a similar way to snow chains. If you’ve done the knots right that’s not difficult.

Compared to…

No one item of recovery gear is better than all the rest. However, every item should be the best at something, and useful enough at other things to pay its way. Let’s take a look at Bog Out compared to other self-recovery gear:

Power Winch
A winch is an expensive and heavy bit of equipment, which like Bog Out requires an anchor point and it’s only really useful for a forwards pull. However, I’d rather use one for a forwards pull than Bog Out because it’s easier to set up, and if you don’t want to drive the wheels for fear of sliding sideways then you don’t need to. The winch doesn’t need to be reset every couple of metres either, it’s less sensitive to being straight on, and you need only the one anchor point compared to up to two for two Bogouts. You can use winches to recover other people and drag trees off tracks too.

However, the Bog Out will work backwards, which is a huge advantage over a power winch, and it’s arguably more reliable as power winches can go wrong.  Power winches can also pull a vehicle downwards if the anchor point is low. And not all vehicles can be fitted with a power winch.

Tirfor-style hand winch
This can pull any direction you like, for as long as you have the energy, including sideways. It can also secure vehicles on hills, so it’s got all the advantages of a power winch. The disadvantage is that it’s quite heavy and bulky, and takes a lot of manual effort. However, as Bog Out themselves say, many recoveries only require the vehicle to be shifted a metre or so.  The hand winch is also a very slow and precise recovery which does not require the vehicle’s wheels to be driven, unlike traction ramps or Bog Out.

Overall, I’d rather have a hand winch than a Bog Out as it is more flexible and a more effective recovery tool, and I can’t think of a situation where the Bog Out would work but a hand winch would not. However, you’d often leave the winch at home due to weight and bulk. Not so the Bog Out.

Traction ramps
These are ramps like Maxtrax and Tred, the only two I suggest you buy as some of the cheaper copies are simply junk. The big advantage of these ramps is that they require no anchor point, which is one reason they are so effective in sand. They can also be used in ruts for clearance or for small bridging or to make ramps over rocks or logs, and they are easy to use. Ramps can also work on all four wheels, whereas Bog Out can work on only two at a time. Ramps are also far quicker to set up, and can be set up in advance of the vehicle’s arrival to prevent the need for a recovery in the first place. And like Bog Out, these items do not require a recovery point.

The big advantage of Bog Out over ramps is that once set up the recovery is very slow and precise, often more so than with traction ramps. However, I’d recommend a set of four ramps over Bog Outs for general purpose recovery work on the basis of versatility.

Note: Cross-axle lockers

A problem with a single Bog Out is that for some recoveries will you need to switch it from wheel to wheel depending on which one is losing traction. If you have a cross-axle locker then that won’t be such a problem because you can’t have one wheel on an axle just spinning. In that case, Bog Out would indeed work more like a winch, just as it would if you had two Bog Outs connected instead of one.

Pros and Cons of the Bog Out

Pros

  • Strong, well made and well supported
  • Can be used for slow, effective and controlled recoveries in the right conditions
  • Can fit lots of vehicles
  • Works backwards and forwards
  • Minimal extra stress on the vehicle
  • Low-down anchor point
  • Doubles as tow rope
  • Does not require a recovery point! This is a huge advantage for softroaders and the like.
  • Small, light and easy to store

Cons

  • Requires an anchor point straight ahead or 30 degrees off. Note – you can use one anchor point for two Bog Out if the point is far away enough.
  • May be a bit fiddly to fit, not something you can just use without practice in the field
  • Can only recover the vehicle a short distance

Summary

The Bog Out system works well in specific situations – where a vehicle can be recovered straight ahead or backwards for a short distance, and there’s an anchor point or two handy. But those situations are not always the case, and there are other recovery options.

If you are with other vehicles then a simple snatch is often quicker and perhaps more effective. Traction boards are more versatile and I find it hard to think of a situation where a Bog Out would work and they wouldn’t, albeit achieving the same result quite differently. For a forwards pull with an available anchor you’d want a power winch almost every time.

If you think you’re likely to get bogged in situations where Bog Out would help and you don’t have a power winch then it looks like they’ll do the job, but other recovery gear is more versatile. But the most versatile gear is a combination; I often winch with traction boards for clearance, for example. Adding a Bog Out is just adding extra options and that’s never a bad idea. Nobody goes offroading with just one item of recovery gear.

However, this is just the first review; we will continue to use Bog Out and see how our initial impressions change over time. This product is worthy of further investigation, and it’s small enough that I’ll now throw it the back of future press cars. I doubt I’ll use it often, but when I do, I’ll be glad it’s there.

http://www.bogout.com/

Cost: $159 for a single, $279 for a pair. Bog Out also sell rope which you can use to run to the anchor point.

Also read: the inventor of Bog Out responds to this review.

Have you used Bog Out? What’s your view?

Further reading


Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper is a motoring journalist, offroad driver trainer and photographer interested in anything with wings, sails or wheels. He is the author of four books on offroading, and owns a modified Ford Ranger PX which he uses for offroad touring. His other car is a Toyota 86 which exists purely to drive in circles on racetracks, and that's when he isn't racing his Nissan Pulsar. Visit his website: www.l2sfbc.com or follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RobertPepperJourno/ or buy his new ebook!