Technical Winch Recovery Techniques For The Trail

If you spend a significant amount of time off-roading on rough terrain, you’re likely to encounter a recovery situation at some point. Out on the trail vehicles regularly get bogged down in mud, stuck in ruts or even tip over.

Recovering such rigs and setting them back on the road often requires the use of a winch. A winch is one of those pieces of equipment that all off-roaders should know how to use. Having one, coupled with proper training on how to use it makes all the difference between getting you – or one of your off-roading buddies – from a tight spot or remaining stranded for hours on end waiting to be rescued.

Here are some winch recovery techniques you should be aware of:

Equipment rating.

Never use any winching equipment i.e. pulleys, the winching line, D-rings, the winch or straps, without knowing its load rating. Such equipment is designed to handle a certain load limit and exceeding it can spell disaster. Most winching equipment has the load rating stamped on it, if not, ensure you get it done as opposed to relying on stuck on labels.

Rigging a straight pull.

This is the most common type of rigging. You simply hook up to an anchor (rock or tree) or even straight on to a stuck vehicle and pull. Use a tree strap rather than a cable or recovery strap when connecting to a tree and use a D-ring to connect the strap to the winch line. Don’t use anything smaller than a ¾-inch D-ring. The working load limit (WLL) that a D-ring can handle is stamped on the bow so confirm and adhere to it.

Rigging an angle pull.

If you can’t get a direct line with the vehicle you want to recover, use an angle pull. A pulley, which comes in most winch kits, can help facilitate this. The pulley is connected to a tree strap using a D-ring. In this case, both sides of the strap have to be checked for equal tension to avoid a spike load that may exceed the equipment’s capacity.

Rigging a two-way pull.

Sometimes you might need to pull a vehicle in two directions at the same time e.g. forwards and to the side. This can be done using two pulleys and two different anchor locations situated in the direction you’d like the vehicle to move.

Using a Pull-Pal.

The key to successful winching is choosing the right anchor for your tree or recovery strap. However, rocks or trees- the most common anchors on trails, might not be available in all terrains e.g. out on the dunes. This is where a Pull-Pall comes in handy, helping you establish an anchor anywhere it’s needed.

A word of caution – since the parts and equipment used are subjected to intense tension and pressure, winching is a risky procedure. When using a winch, remember to proceed slowly and methodically in order to avoid any unfortunate accidents.

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