Hi-Lift jacks have been around for a long time. To a lot of people they are still known as ‘wallaby jacks’, but to the majority of 4WD owners who use them, they are known better as Hi-Lift, or recovery jacks. The main principle behind this recovery tool is to lift the vehicle up and out of whatever it happens to be stuck in, or on.
It isn’t uncommon to find yourself caught up on a stump you didn’t see, or a rock, often during a water crossing. In this situation, jumping in with a snatch strap or winch may cause more trouble than it solves, and using an exhaust jack to lift it usually isn’t feasible when you get caught up in a creek crossing.
A Hi-Lift Jack can also be used as a fill-in winch. You will need either a couple of chains or recovery straps to do this. Undo the jack from its lifting shaft and put it back on it the reverse way it came off. Starting with the lifting foot at the opposite end of the shaft to the base, you hook a chain or recovery strap onto each end, with one hooked up to the casualty vehicle and the other to your anchor. Winching is done by engaging the lift mechanism on the jack. This method will shift the load the length of the lifting bar before you have to stop and set it all up again. Sneer if you will from the lofty performance of you 12,000lb electric winch, but in vehicle recovery, the end result usually justifies the means.
One further word about Hi-Lift jacks; they should never be used to change tires or anything else that involves getting under the vehicle. An unstable tool at the best of times, being under a vehicle (almost) supported by one is as close to a death wish that you need to go. Something else worth noting is the idea of carrying a decent sized bit of plywood for use as a baseplate in soft ground. It needs to be about the size of a kitchen chopping board, which is another use you can put it to. Or you can use a Hi-Lift Jack base platform specifically designed for off-road ground conditions.
In these days of sensuous body panels and politically correct bull bars, it’s getting harder to find a place to hook your jack up to if you want to lift the vehicle. Most standard bumpers are plastic, and only steel bull bars offer enough strength to hold the weight of the vehicle. However, you can get the Hi-Lift bumper lifting hook accessory that will mate up with aftermarket bumpers such as the Addictive Desert Designs HoneyBadger bumpers. Most new off-road aftermarket bumpers have a slot on each side to accept the lifting hook attachment. If you intend to get a Hi-Lift jack it would be a good idea to first make sure you have the means of using it with your vehicle.
Having said all that, one of these recovery jacks remains to be the most useful tools you can carry with you. Apart from its lifting and winching duties, it can also be used as a clamp or to break the bead on a tire in the bush. Definitely worthy of your consideration.