It looks just like all the other couple dozen muddy logging side roads I’d been driving over during the past month of scouting prior to Oregon’s elk season. The road was a lot like the weather – wet and nasty.
Around 4 a.m. my hunting companions and I were about a mile from where we were going to stage for the morning hunt when the ground beneath my truck’s tires suddenly fell away. What was once a culvert running beneath a hard-packed clay road was now a 2- foot-deep quagmire that no amount of four-wheel-drive or deep-lugged mud tires were going to overcome.
We were instantly stuck.
But I wasn’t worried. The electric winch mounted on the front of my truck was there for that very reason—the unexpected. We ran out the cable, slipped a winch strap around a nearby stump, connected cable to strap and proceeded to yard 6,000 pounds of immobile 4x4 to firmer ground.
It’s not the first time I’ve found myself slogging through mud and working a winch control – and it won’t be the last. It’s just part of being a four-wheel- drive owner and hunter. Winches have been a vehicle security blanket in my family for as long as I can remember. Dad had a PTO-driven winch on an old Dodge Power Wagon way back in the day, and I’ve had a winch on every 4x4 vehicle I’ve owned since high school.
For me, a winch isn’t just for getting unstuck on that rare occasion my own vehicle gets stuck. More often than not I find it useful for helping others get their vehicles out of trouble. It’s also been handy around the job site and a great asset during storms, when trees and debris block the roads.
In fact, when Hurricane Katrina slammed into my town here on the Mississippi Coast, I used a winch for everything from winching flooded vehicles onto trailers to standing up framed walls of a home being rebuilt. But I’m sure you already know the wide range of benefits of having a winch. So let’s cut to the chase: selecting the right one for your truck or ATV.
It’s pretty easy to get the proper ATV winch because the choices in style and pulling power are somewhat limited compared to those available for larger vehicles. The best bet is to rely on the ATV’s manufacturer for both the mounting kit and winch if you’re buying the quad and winch new.
From my ATV winching experiences – and I’ve had my share – the amount of cable on the drum is far more important than the pulling capacity. ATVs have this uncanny knack for getting buried 5 feet farther from the nearest tree or stump than the winch cable is long.
Being caught short a couple times has made me a believer that the winch on a hunter’s ATV should have at least 45 feet of cable (or synthetic line) on the spool. Having an extra 50 feet of winch cable or line and connecting hardware in the ATV’s storage compartment is also smart.
When it comes to pulling power, always try to get at least double the weight of whatever it is you’re riding. A 1,500- pound-capacity winch is OK for the under-400cc ATVs, and 2,500 pounds of pulling power is good for today’s big 4x4 utility quads.
On side-by-sides and UTVs, which can top 1,500 pounds, get as much winch as is available; a winch with 3,000-pounds capacity is the minimum, while 4,000 makes quick work of the worst case scenarios.
A few of the newest ATV winch offerings that caught my attention include the MILE MARKER VMX 2.5 ATV winch. This 2,500-pound-capacity model is the world’s first variable-speed ATV winch, enabling precision line retrieval speed for the ultimate control and safety. The gear train is composed of heat-treated steel and the electric motor is waterproof.
From WARN POWERSPORTS comes the XT-SERIES winches, with pulling capacities of 1,500, 2,500 and 3,000 pounds. The Warn XT-series winches come standard with synthetic line, which is much easier to handle than cable.
The XT30, the flagship of the XT-series, has a wireless control system.
The 4,000-pound-capacity Warn RT40, another new ATV winch, has wire rope and is designed specifically for today’s heavier UTVs and side-by-sides. Also new is the stand-alone Warn Wireless Control System that will work with any Warn Powersports winch with a contactor.
For those who have multiple-passenger or heavily loaded UTVs, the RAMSEY HONCHO 5000 offers the most pulling power in a compact package. With 60 feet of cable and 21/2 tons of pulling power, it can easily get the biggest UTV or side-by-side out of a bad stuck. Its limited lifetime warranty is also quite attractive.
I base winch selection for pickups and SUVs on the hunting rig’s “Gross Vehicle Weight Rating” (GVWR), which is the weight of the truck and its maximum payload capacity noted on the vehicle’s door tag or in the specifications pages of the owner’s manual.
When a vehicle gets stuck in mud, the tires dig down. That creates a step the tires must get up and over before the truck can move again. So that winch literally needs the power to both lift and pull a vehicle that’s bogged down in mud, sand or snow. Hence my criteria in using the vehicle’s fully loaded weight as the basis for choosing the right winch.
I take the GVWR and multiply it by 1.25. For example, a 2008 GMC Sierra Crew Cab 4x4 has a GV WR around 7,300 pounds. Multi plying GVWR by 1.25 comes to 9,125. So that means a winch with 9,000 pound capacity would work fine for most situations.
For you Ford lovers, a winch for a new F-250 Super Duty Diesel 4x4 Crew Cab, which has a 10,000-pound GVWR, should have a pulling capacity of 12,500 pounds. Likewise, a Toyota FJ Cruiser (5,600 pounds GVWR), a 7,000-pound¬capacity model would suffice, and a winch rated for 6,000 pounds would be fine for a rig such as the Jeep Wrangler.
Speaking of fine winches, here are some new models that might be just the ticket for your truck or SUV:
The RAMSEY PATRIOT 9500UT is a 5.5 hp planetary-style winch that delivers 9,500 pounds of pulling power from the first layer—and the clutch engages automatically when operated by the Ramsey wireless remote control. That’s an industry first.
Another cool winch is the innovative WARN POWERPLANT DUAL FORCE winch system that integrates a high-volume, state-of-the-art air compressor mounted just above the cable drum and uses the 4.6 hp, 12-volt winch motor to power the compressor head. So, not only do you have a big winch, you also have a big air compressor at your service.
MILE MARKER’S SX9.5 and SX12 are identical-looking low-profile, heavy-duty winches that feature the latest in electronic circuitry, with external LED display to keep the operator informed of how the winch is operating. The SX9.5 is rated for 9,500 pounds, while the SX12 is rated to pull 12,000 pounds. Inside each there’s a strong planetary gear system, and both come with keyless remote operation so you never have to be in harm’s way during the winching process.