Tag Archives: survival. backcountry

Do You Really Need A Winch?

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IMG_0302We just picked up an awesome winch from Warn. Since that point I have been asked a multitude of questions about it- especially in our outdoor preparedness workshops. The biggest question is— “Do you really need a winch?”
Most know that we are not rock crawlers- and going down trails steeped in mud are not planned. We have also found ourselves stuck on the most basic of roads with our 2wd vehicle. So here is a basic outline of why I feel we need a winch and perhaps some guidance on making your own decision.
We do allot of solo travel, so there isn’t the advantage of someone else yanking us out, digging us out, or even pushing us out. Its usually me and the pup or the family. A few years ago we were faced with an all-night adventure when our truck broke through a thin sheet of ice and we were high-centered in a rut. Think 5500 elevation in December….now think Sunday evening with no-one else on the backroads…now think sub freezing temps during the day. A winch and a pull pal would have saved the day….and night.
Since we travel alone in many cases, we don’t have the advantage of another rig to be an anchor point either. When we do though, most rigs we travel with don’t have winches at this time. So we have to be set up for self rescue, even if there is another rig. I addition, many times we are in the desert where the largest anchor point is a sage brush. Here we have a choice of another rig or what I soon hope to add to the arsenal, a pull pal.
When we were in living in New Jersey, we got to witness what happens to a rig at high tide on the beach. We had just come off a shipwreck dive and decided to hang-out on near the jeddies and see if we could snag a few lobsters. As tide came in, we noticed a pick-up had sunk its-self in sand. Within about 20 minutes, the water was over the bed of the truck. A winch and an anchor point would have saved the truck.
The last reason is not so much getting the vehicle stuck in soil, more about having objects obstructing your path. Last spring we had some pretty wild wind storms. Some of the largest ponderosa pines on one of our favorite trails came down in several sections. Our camp site sat between multiple falls of very large pines, most you could not even get your arms around. A winch, chainsaw, and good recovery bag makes a long wait for rescue an exciting challenge.
As we were looking for a winch, we were often tempted to buy one from a discount store or even go with a light weight winch. After attending several workshops and seeing both how dangerous a small winch can be or how a discount winch can fail when you need it, we settled on a WARN Zeon. From what I have been learning in multiple workshops, the Zeon is everything we would want. Based on an aluminum block to keep it light, a 10,000 pulling capability and 100’ of Spydura synthetic rope this is a must have safety measure. An added plus, its made here in the US and not in a sweat factory in China. All wiring is inside and it has an ergonomic control switch that plugs into the winch. We felt that for the capability and reliability that price was not going to be a factor in the decision to put this on our rig.
The last thing to consider is making sure you get good training. Winches can kill and maim. Learn to use the winch and any tools that go along with it.