The Bubba Rope - Renegade Model Breaking Strength is 19,000. This rope has already seen hard use in my class. (Click picture for a larger image.)
I have been experimenting with a Bubba rope now for a few months. The one I have is the recently released Renegade model. It is designed primarily for 2 door jeep size vehicles. This one is rated at 19,000 lb. breaking strength and is 20 feet long.
The Bubba rope is representative of the higher end manufactures in that they have a tag attached on one end of the rope with all the specs. This is important – don’t use anything for recovery if you do not know the ratings for which it is designed. If you buy any recovery gear that does not have a tag, write, carve or engrave the information from the package onto the product.
The Bubba rope is the brand name for a class of ropes referred to as KERR – kinetic energy recovery rope. Kinetic energy recovery ropes have been around for a long time. I made my own version back in the 70’s and am a firm believer in using them.
One rainy fall day in southern Michigan, I wanted to go wheeling but had no one to back me up. I drove my 70 CJ5 out to a local spot and waited for someone else to show up. It was a short wait. Another vehicle agreed to go with me. It was fun - just enough mud on mostly flat ground to be challenging. About an hour into it, we rounded a thicket of trees to find 3 full size pickups buried in the mud. My observation was that one vehicle was going too fast and could not make a required turn and ended up in the swap. How the other vehicles got stuck I don’t know but it was obvious that his buddy hooked up to him with a chain and tried to tug him out. The result was he spun his wheels until he was buried to his axles.
So this reminds me of a couple more rules (besides don't go alone): 1) Never use chain in a “dynamic” recovery. Something or someone is sure to be damaged. 2) On soft and wet stuff always start with a “snatch” not a tug. And if the other vehicle does not move with you when you hit the end of the rope get off the power immediately.
Using my homemade version of a Bubba rope, I was able to pull all 3 pickups out even though they out weighted my vehicle by 2 to 3 times. Not only did they weigh more, they were stuck in mud. As a rule of thumb you can assume you will need to pull up to 70% of the GVW of the stuck vehicle if they are stuck to the bottom of the rims in mud (we call that “shallowly” stuck) and 100% of the GVW if they are grounded on their axles.
BTW, just as I left, I watched the first vehicle try to negotiate that turn in the same manner as he had the first time - too fast. I left him stuck in the swap right where I pulled him out. Maybe his buddies pulled him out.
The Bubba Rope - Renegade Model (Click picture for a larger image.)
The Bubba rope can stretch up to 30 % unlike flat straps that only give you 10-15% stretch. The ability to stretch more allows you to make a faster harder snatch resulting in creating more energy to pull out the stuck vehicle. When you don’t need that much force the Bubba rope pull will just feel much smoother.
So why do most people only carry a flat strap?
My opinion is cost and space. A KERR can be as much as 3 times the cost of the flat strap. And a 30 foot 7/8” KERR is quite a big pile of rope. I didn’t confirm this with the Bubba people but I suspect the new Renegade addressed the space issue. By matching the rating to a typical 20 foot flat strap (20,000 lb. typical flat strap vs. 19,000 lb. Bubba rope) allows the use of 3/4“rope. So a 20 feet rope is actually manageable.
I feel the 20 foot strap however is too short and 30’ would be better. If you need the extra energy, 20 feet does not give you enough room to build up momentum particular on slippery stuff or starting off uphill. I feel 30’ is the minimum. Again I will leave it up to the Bubba boys to tell me whether the ¾ inch diameter is up to the task at 30’ or if we need to move up to the next bigger diameter.
I would like to see the 20 foot Bubba rope come in a larger bag. I have no intentions of spending the time to coil it up and put the Velcro strap on. I just want to shove it into the bag. I guess a compression type bag would be ideal for quickly tossing it in but still making it into a small package. But any bag is better than none when it comes to storing it in the vehicle. A bag is more manageable and more likely you will take your rope along for the ride.
This was our test bed for side by side comparison of a Bubba Rope and a flat strap. That is a 30 degree slope in dry sand. Roughly, the stuck load is about 125% of the GVW. (Click picture for a larger image.)
Part of my testing involved giving my students a chance to see and feel the difference between a flat strap and a Bubba rope. In one class we had 5 JKU’s (4 doors) and 1 JK (2 doors). Each vehicle was stuck in a sand berm and pulled up and out by another student with the flat strap and then the Bubba rope. Each student experienced being the stuckee and being the driver of the recovery vehicle.
The flat strap broke when the JK (2 door) tried to pull out a full size JKU (4 door). It is possible we over stressed the flat strap with the first 5 pulls. But I believe it was the necessary extra momentum the 2 door vehicle built up on his third attempt to pull out a much heavier vehicle and the strap exceeded its breaking strength. When we switched to the Bubba rope the smaller JK pulled out the larger JKU on the first try.
In the debriefing all the students preferred the Bubba rope. They agreed the Bubba rope made for a smoother pull.
I have gone through 2 flat straps and am on my third this year alone. That one broke and its replacement was frayed in another recovery involving a rock as an anchor. Once there is a fray or nick, retire the strap! It is not worth the risk to see if you can get by with it. As a rule it is not a good idea to incorporate a strap or kinetic energy recovery rope into the rigging for a winch extraction. The stretch built into them for a dynamic recovery, will preload the winch rigging and create even more recoil in the event of a line failure.
We use the “dynamic” recovery method- using a strap or rope - most of the time because generally vehicles are “shallowly stuck” and it is quick. As a result, we don’t always take the time to ensure a few safety steps. Whether a flat strap or Bubba rope, I recommend that you take the time to put a blanket over the rope or strap and keep everyone back out of the danger zone.
I hope that KERR as represented by the Bubba rope becomes the new standard for recovery when a winch is not called for. We will know that for sure when the “boulevard trucks” all have Bubba ropes as required accessories.
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Tom Severin, 4x4 Coach, teaches 4WD owners how to confidently and safely use their vehicles to the fullest extent in difficult terrain and adverse driving conditions. Visit www.4x4training.com to develop or improve your driving skill.