As the critical connector between stuck off-road truck and recovery vehicle, shackles are the most important part of your recovery gear and must be carefully chosen.
While most people are familiar with iron bow shackles, soft shackles made from thick woven nylon have also become very popular.
Should you use them or stick with the standard bow shackle?
Since there are pros and cons to both, it wouldn’t hurt to have both in an onboard off-road recovery kit as long as you know how and when to use each type.
Bow shackles are made of iron and normally have a load rating of 6X their working load limit.
Available in sizes large enough to have a 22,000-pound tow rating, these shackles are very commonly used for the reliable strength and durability that iron offers.
Soft shackles are made of nylon and other synthetic fibers and offer the same tow rating and load limit as iron shackles.
Though they are a newer product, soft shackles offer certain benefits over bow shackles that have prompted more people to start using them when out in their weekend warriors.
Of the two, bow shackles are very durable and will last the longest.
They can be used on any type of attachment point on your off-road truck whether sharp or dull without damage to the iron and aren’t affected by UV damage, dirt, or moisture.
Soft nylon shackles can be damaged by sharp metal edges, deteriorate over time due to UV damage, and be negatively affected from sand or dirt in the rope cutting the microfibers if it’s not cleaned after each use.
Soft shackles should be replaced whenever there are any signs of wear, discoloration, or deterioration, as its reliability could be questionable.
There is a big difference in cost between the two shackle types.
- Large iron shackles can be bought at just about any hardware store and cost about $10-$20 each depending on the size and thickness.
- Soft synthetic shackles range in prices that start at about $30 and can go as high as $75 or more depending on the thickness and rating.
One area where soft shackles can be more useful is in their application when you're out traveling the trails or climbing rocks in your modded off-road truck or Jeep.
They can be used to loop through a truck’s factory tow point as long as there are no sharp metal edges to damage it as well as be used as a safe link point between two recovery straps.
Conversely, bow shackles should only ever be used through a factory recovery point and never used for joining two straps together.
While bow shackles can be purchased at just about any hardware store, soft shackles probably won’t be; however, you may find both at an RV store.
One-piece soft shackles are easier to use with an off-road truck as they simply loop through and secure with the big knot while iron shackles are secured with a screw-in pin that has to be correctly threaded for it to secure properly.
In addition, soft shackles are easier to keep track of as the whole shackle is made of a single part with no pins to lose in the mud or sand and won’t end up at the bottom of a stream since they float.
They’re also a third of the weight of a comparable iron bow shackle, which might be preferable when trying to keep your truck or Jeep as light as possible as a few metal shackles can really add the pounds.
Although tough iron bow shackles are superior in terms of durability and cost as well as equally as strong as their counterparts, the one area where soft shackles are head and shoulders above bow shackles is in safety when used to get a stuck off-road truck out of trouble.
The biggest danger when using heavy iron bow shackles is the possibility that it could break or come undone and become a flying projectile; people have been killed by shackles flying back to hit them during a recovery effort.
Soft shackles are exponentially less likely to cause more than minor injuries if someone is struck by one.&
Which Shackle Fits Your Recovery Kit?
With the different pros and cons of each, it should be easy to see that iron shackles might be better in some recovery situations while soft shackles would be better used in others.
Choose the one that fits your situation best or if being prepared for any situation is important, have one of each in your off-road truck or Jeep.
Just be sure the ones purchased are each rated strong enough to do a recovery for your vehicle’s weight and size!