Soft Shackles and Kinetic Ropes

By Jim
Category: 4x4 Tips

Soft Shackles and Kinetic Ropes

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The correct recovery equipment when 4WDriving is the first thing you should invest in. Using incorrect or wrongly rated gear can lead to serious injuries and damaged vehicles.

One of the most important pieces of recovery equipment is shackles. These are used in almost every recovery and enable undertaking various types of recoveries. 

As with many things, there are different types and sizes of them. 

Soft vs Steel Shackles: Safety

Which one of the two is the safest? It’s the soft shackle. Why? Imagine a steel shackle flying towards someone with all that force. I don’t need to tell you what’s going to happen. 

Or imagine it hitting your windshield or body panels, it will most probably destroy them. 

A soft shackle will hurt if it hits you, but you’ll live to see another day. The same is true for your windshield and body panels. 

Soft vs Steel Shackles: Recovery Point Compatibility

The sharp edges of standard recovery points can slowly tear the soft shackle leading to failure. If your vehicle has this type of recovery points, a steel shackle is better. 

Recovery points with rounded edges exist, made especially for soft shackles. Steel shackles should not be used with these as the steel shackle may damage and burr them which would cause tearing to a soft shackle.

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Recovery points for use with Soft Shackles

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Recovery Points for use with Steel Shackles

On rough roads, if you leave a soft shackle hanging from a recovery point it can rub against sharp rocks and lose its strength over time. A steel shackle hanging from a recovery point can come undone and you’ll be one shackle down. Therefore, when driving it is recommended to remove it beforehand.  

Load Rating for Shackles

On steel shackles, the breaking strength is usually five times the rated load limit. Thus, a three-ton steel shackle can handle forces of up to 15 tons. 

Most soft shackles come rated at about 13-15 tons depending on what you buy. The strength both offer is more than enough for most 4×4 recoveries. So, in the soft vs steel shackles debate they are about equal.

Sizes of Shackles

With soft shackles, one size fits all. Their opening is far bigger than that of a steel shackle, therefore, combining multiple straps together won’t be an issue. 

A steel shackle has a very small opening which can be difficult to fit your snatch straps through. The larger ones may be too thick for certain recovery point holes. 


A steel shackle isn’t better than a soft shackle – the opposite is also true. Each one of them has its uses based on the situation – you should have the knowledge to decide which one of the two is best suited.

Kinetic Rope or Snatch Strap

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A snatch strap and kinetic rope are designed to serve the same purpose. They both stretch, store kinetic energy and release it to assist vehicle recovery.  

Both are used by attaching a stuck vehicle to a recovery vehicle and using the kinetic energy stored in the rope/strap when the recovery vehicle uses a “snatching” or “yanking” method to recover the stuck vehicle.

What’s the difference between a snatch strap and a kinetic rope?

The difference is in the way they are manufactured, a snatch strap is made with webbing material and is a flat strap with sewn end loops. A kinetic rope looks like a standard rope, but it has loop ends reinforced for protection. Kinetic ropes typically have more stretch than a snatch strap and are a newer technology.           

Manufacturing differences

 Snatch Strap

Snatch straps are manufactured from flat 100% nylon webbing with sewn end loops and are available in different lengths, widths and capacities. Nine-metre lengths and ratings between 8000kg and 9000kg, are the most appropriate choices for four-wheel drivers.

Snatch straps typically have 20% stretch.

Kinetic Ropes

Kinetic ropes are also manufactured from nylon, but in the form of a double-braided rope. The inner nylon core is the stretchy component, and this is protected by a braided nylon outer layer. The outer layer is made from a nylon 66 polyamide, it is double-braided and coated to give resistance to abrasion. Nine-metre lengths and ratings between 8000kg and 9000kg, are the most appropriate choices for four-wheel drivers.

Kinetic ropes typically have 30% to 35% stretch.

Pros and Cons

Snatch Strap

 Pros: less bulky once rolled up.

           less weight (1kg lighter).

           good value and price, typically from $45 to $120.


Cons: has stitched end loops (fail point).

           has 20 percent stretch rate.

           doesn’t float.


Kinetic Rope

Pros: has inter-woven end loops for better strength.

          more abrasion resistant.

          more stretch for lower impact recovery.

Cons: more weight (approximately 1k heavier).

           slightly bulkier to store.

           Cost, typically $100 to $350.


Recovery ropes stretch by as much as 35 percent compared with about 20 percent for a traditional snatch strap. This is a huge difference, for a 9 metre snatch strap think 1.8 metres of stretch and for a 9 metre kinetic rope 3.15 metres of stretch which results in a much softer impact.

The obvious benefit of having reduced shock load during a recovery operation is less strain on the recovery equipment itself and less strain on the vehicles involved. The flow on from this is less damage and breakage resulting in a safer recovery.


Kinetic recovery has proved to be very effective for a long time in 4wding circles. Snatch straps and kinetic ropes serve the same purpose. Whichever one you are currently using is fine. When it comes time to replace it perhaps the increased safety aspects of the kinetic rope may outweigh the much higher purchase price. If cost is an issue, then remember that snatch straps have been used safely for a long time.


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