Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A tow strap and folding saw can keep forest deadfall from derailing your wildland journey

Now and then we encounter forest roads blocked by deadfall ... trees felled by fire, age, drought, insects or wind. Often they can be cut away with the folding hand saw we keep in our moto and SUV tool kits.

Tow strap being used to move deadfall
Sometimes, however, they need to be pulled off the road using a tow or recovery strap.

We've never used our 30-foot-long recovery strap for its intended purpose: hitching to a second vehicle to be extracted from a hole of some sort. We find that good judgment, used preventively, is the better tool.


We have used the strap a number of times to pull deadfall either completely out of the roadway, or far enough to make room to pass. (Why 30 feet instead of, say, 20? We find that a longer strap can probably be made shorter with wrap-arounds; but a shorter strap cannot by itself be lengthened if necessary.)

Tow straps are intended for towing a disabled vehicle. They have no "give" or elasticity. (We carry a moto-sized one in our dual-sport motorcycle's kit as well.) A recovery strap, on the other hand, has built-in elasticity that makes it yank on the stuck vehicle with the greater energy that may be needed to extract it from its predicament far enough to continue on its own.

The idea behind moving deadfall from forest roads is to wrap one end of the strap around the obstacle, and run the longer length through a loop sewn into each end of the strap. If the strap proves too long, just wrap it around the obstacle a few times. (It may be necessary at times to wrap a shorter, secondary strap around the log, then attach the tow or recovery strap to it.)


Deadfall is common in spring and early summer.
Then attach the loop at the opposite end of the strap to one of the tie-down hooks typically bolted to the front of the truck, on the frame. (The hooks originally were used to secure the truck during shipping.)

There may be another way to attach the loop and strap to your truck, perhaps using a high-strength climbing carabiner. Any way you do it, determine the manner of attachment early in ownership of your truck.

If the log blocking the road is long or awkwardly positioned, it may help to use the folding hand saw you have stowed in the truck to cut a breaking point.

Then just drive slowly in reverse, perhaps in low range, until you've made room to pass or the log breaks into a section you can move out of the way by hand.

Be sure passengers or bystanders are standing well clear of the operation in case something unexpected and dangerous occurs.

On a motorcycle, towing the obstacle far enough to make passing room may not be possible. A good, packable hand saw like the well-regarded Bahco 396 Laplander might be adequate. If the log is too large for sawing by hand, it might even be possible to lay your motorcycle down and (with a buddy's help, hopefully), drag your bike underneath the log, assuming there is enough room to do so. Or perhaps if there are others in the group, lift each bike over the obstacle.

Some riders master the skill of riding over suitable obstacles, building a small ramp on the approach side and giving the front wheel a lift by throttling up as the apex is reached. Do a YouTube search for riding over obstacles.

Of course, sidecar moto and SUV travelers may just have to find another way to go, perhaps retreating to a go-around or bypass. Such alternate routes are often included in the GPS-guided track files we build for our clients, as well as the GPS files for our plug-and-play Heart of the West and Sierra to the Sea Adventure Routes.

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