Equipment review: Viking Off Road Recovery Bag $130

I wrote a brief review of Thor Jonsson’s stout U.S.-made Recovery Bag when I was with Overland Journal, but since then I’ve had more experience with it in the field. Nothing I’ve seen has altered my initial impressions of its quality and utility. 

If your vehicle is equipped with a winch designed for anything but pure poseurship, you need a comprehensive recovery kit to accompany it. A winch doesn’t work in isolation: If you’re winching from a tree you must use a tree saver strap to prevent damage to the trunk that could kill the tree; if you’re attaching to another vehicle you need proper shackles. In many situations you’ll want a pulley block to redirect a pull or increase power. Gloves, a winchline extension, a KERR (kinetic energy recovery rope) or strap, a winchline damper—all should be part of a winch kit.

Furthermore, if you’re winching it’s likely to be at least a somewhat stressful (and certainly potentially dangerous) situation, so you’ll want everything organized to eliminate fumbling and delays. Therefore I consider the recovery kit’s container to be just as important as the contents.

The first thing you’ll notice about the Viking bag is the can’t-miss-me-orange 3M reflective tape, which will prevent you misplacing the bag at night, and will warn anyone driving up on the scene to slow down. Open the bag and you’ll see the sturdy double-layer construction, using an orange liner which keeps the contents easy to see. Actually there’s a third layer: The central rope/chain compartment comes out for easy cleaning after a recovery that renders stuff muddy. The other compartments tidily hold shackles, pulley blocks, gloves, a KERR, a winchline damper (which can be Velcroed to the exterior via straps)—virtually everything associated with a comprehensive recovery kit. The lot is comfortable carried via a fat rubberized handle or a broad shoulder strap.

If you stuff this bag with the full assortment including a choker chain, it will represent a potential 30-pound projectile in the event of an accident or rollover, so it should be secured any time the vehicle is moving. I run a single ratchet strap over mine, but Viking has also thoughtfully included four tie-down rings on the base.

Virtually everything I could have thought of to include in a recovery kit bag is here, thanks to Thor’s extensive experience. It’s a U.S.-made product I highly recommend. Incidentally—I had my own recovery gear to fill this bag, but Viking offers a selection of well-considered kits to suit any overland vehicle from a Subaru to a Unimog.

- Jonathan Hanson, Overland Tech & Travel editor