A jack is something you don’t want to have to use. But if you’re off-roading, it’s something you need to have. A busted tire in a remote location could be a disaster—or just a hiccup.
Any good jack can range from $45 to $800, so it can be tricky to know which one to invest in. Ultimately, it’s down to your rig and setup.
To make it a little easier, we’re looking at what to consider when choosing one, different types of off-road jacks, and our personal top five.
How To Choose An Off-Road Jack
Choosing a jack for an off-road vehicle is different from the gear you need for your car. You want to know you’re safe when embarking on adventures in remote destinations and tricky terrains. So, when choosing a jack, make sure you consider the following:
If you’re off-roading, the chances are you’re in a pretty heavy vehicle. A standard car jack may not have the capacity to lift your rig off the ground in order for you to change the tire. This means you’re looking at a piece of heavy-duty kit.
This is standard for most overlanding vehicles but may not be the standard weight capacity for any normal car jack. So be sure to check how much a jack can lift before you purchase.
The lift height or range of a jack refers to how high it can lift a vehicle off the ground. Most off-road rigs are lifted, so you need to be sure it can bridge the gap.
Related: Best Lift Kits for a Toyota Tacoma
If you know you’ll be scaling rocky and bumpy paths, a higher lifting range will help clear your vehicle if you need to. If you don’t get this right, off-road recovery will prove difficult.
If you’re traveling remotely, you want to travel light. Overlanding vehicles are often already overpacked with solar systems, tents, kitchen equipment, and more. Ideally, your recovery equipment should be nice and compact—because there’ll be a lot of it.
There are always transportable options. However, it will depend on the type of jack you want and which features you prioritize.
4 Types of Off-Road Jacks and How to Use Them
There are plenty of different types of off-road jacks. The design you should go for depends on your vehicle and where you’re overlanding. If you’re likely to be stuck in knee-deep mud, you’ll want to opt for features like a wide base or a skid plate, like on an exhaust jack.
Alternatively, if you’re on dryer ground and want to rescue your wrangler in style, then high-lift or bottle jacks might be worth considering.
1. High-Lift Jack
Also known as farm jacks, high-lift jacks are pinnacle pieces of recovery equipment. They work by the following process:
- As you crank the handle, one pin will move up to the hole above in the main spine.
- With the next crank, the other pin will follow (like climbing a ladder). This means it remains strong and stable as the height increases.
They are low-tech and simple to use. But you may be wondering why they are such a popular option with such a high price tag. Well, they can be used for a lot more than just lifting—they can also act as a winch and are often considered the do-it-all recovery jack.
Keep in mind, however, that high-lift jacks can be incredibly dangerous if you don’t know how to properly use one. Because they have a narrow base, if not used properly, they can allow your vehicle to fall off the lift and damage the vehicle—or worse, you.
2. Bottle Jack
A bottle jack is also known as a hydraulic jack. They work by the following process:
- When you pull the handle up, the fluid inside the jack is drawn into a small space under a piston.
- When you push down on the handle, the piston forces the liquid into the main cylinder, which has a larger piston.
- The more you do this up-and-down movement, the more liquid under the large piston. This pressure increase means the piston is forced upwards and will stay there.
This amount of pressure means these jacks can have a huge weight capacity and are sometimes even used on building sites. So, if you’re looking for robust durability, this might be a good option for you.
Image Source: Hydraulic-calculation.com
3. Exhaust Jack
Exhaust jacks are great space savers. They work by the following process:
- A hose attaches to the tailpipe of your vehicle.
- When you turn on the ignition and keep the vehicle in neutral, the air coming out of your tailpipe will inflate the bag.
- As the bag inflates, it will lift the vehicle off the ground.
They also deflate in just 5 seconds and can fold up to fit in small spaces.
Image Source: Whichcar.com
4. Floor Jack
Floor jacks work the same way as a bottle jack, but rather than a vertical cylinder, it sits horizontally. This means they work well for vehicles low to the ground and have very stable bases.
They can also be wheeled for easy transportation. However, they are bulky, heavy, and difficult to use on off-road terrain. Types of floor jacks include bottle, trolley, and scissor jacks.
5 Best Off-Road Jacks
We have chosen our top 5 off-road jacks to cater to every budget and every type of adventure and vehicle. In this list, we’re sure you’ll find the right one for you.
Lifting range: 48”
Weight capacity: 7000 pounds
Size: 49 x 5 x 10 inches
The best feature of the Hi-Lift jack is, no surprise, its lifting range. An impressive 48” means you’ll be able to pick up your vehicle high enough to fit your spare tire with ease and clear the largest of rocks. It also has a top winch connector clamp, meaning you’ll be able to pull heavy vehicles out of sticky situations.
This cast and steel jack is incredibly versatile and durable while remaining lightweight and easy to maneuver. This means you can pack it for every overlanding adventure without worrying about space or weight. Consider purchasing a jack cover alongside it to reduce the amount of mud and dirt buildup.
Lifting range: 17”
Weight capacity: 20 tons
Size: 8.07 x 7.09 x 6.61 inches
The Zeluga 20-ton goes to show you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a great product. This sturdy hydraulic bottle jack is powerful. The jack base is wide, meaning you don’t have to worry about any instability when you’re working, and the welded steel construction means it is leak free and reliable.
The only downside of this design is the limited lifting range, it’s also not suitable for any pulling, pushing, or clamping. If you want a reliable, cheap, and basic jack for changing tires on your truck, the Zeluga is a great option.
Lifting range: 15”
Weight capacity: 3 tons
Size: 13″ x 31″ x 6″
Pro Eagle jacks are renowned in the overlanding world for their sleek and practical design. The price tag of the ‘Kratos’ can put some people off, but let’s take a look at what this piece of kit has to offer.
- Sturdy wheels make it easy to maneuver in difficult terrains like sand
- Comes with a built-in skid plate to stop the jack from sinking or shifting
- Comes with a 2-year warranty
- Solid axles and non-pneumatic wheels to give it lift
Pro Eagle pride themselves on the research that went into this design. It really is considered the ultimate off-road jack.
Lifting range: 31”
Weight capacity: 4 tons
Size: 17.09 x 14.25 x 8.35 inches
These kinds of exhaust jacks are perfect for off-road surfaces like deep mud, sand, and snow. They work perfectly on steep slopes because of their wide base and are one of the most stable options out there.
This particular design can inflate and deflate in seconds, making a tire change quick and simple. Your purchase will come with a handy tool kit that includes puncture repair materials, filler tubes, and safety carpets. With this kind of product, you won’t have to worry about jack mounts or jack stands. Just simply inflate and go.
Lifting range: 48”
Weight capacity: 4400 pounds
Size: 35 x 8 x 6 inches
This really is the beast of all off-road jacks. The powerful hydraulic technology means minimal effort gets big results. It’s designed to insure your vehicle is never damaged in the process of recovery, offering a two-stage descent feature, a safety stop, and a rubber body bumper to shield your truck.
The high handle means you’ll be comfortable while maneuvering the vehicle instead of kneeling in the mud. It’s also made with aircraft-grade aluminum, making it incredibly strong and durable. The video below shows just how easy the ARB jack makes getting out of difficult situations. It may cost a pretty penny, but it’s certainly a worthwhile investment.
Don’t be caught out. An essential element of overlanding is being prepared for when it gets difficult. Having the most suitable off-road jack will ensure no matter the situation, you’ll be able to keep yourself safe.
For this reason, the 48” Hi-Lift is a great option because of its other features alongside being a jack. Having a tool like that in your trunk will give you that extra confidence you need to go and explore.
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