We've never once gone on a trail ride without running into a situation where a winch was needed. It wasn't always our group that needed the assistance, but we seem to inevitably run into folks along the way who aren't as prepared to get stuck as they should be. It can be an important tool in safely extracting a vehicle from an impossible situation, or righting a rig after a rollover. A winch can also be used to clear or clean a trail by moving fallen trees or rocks (if permitted by the land owner). Basically, we wouldn't be caught dead without one. It's saved our tails too many times and gotten us home to dinner and a hot shower when our winchless option still had us hiking out to the trailhead.
One aspect of winching that leaves us a bit apprehensive, however, is how often we witness a good product being used improperly. Knowing how to operate a winch correctly is as important as knowing how to drive the 4x4 it's mounted to. Misuse can result in great injury or even death, so it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with your winch before reaching a situation where you need to use it. Check out the photos and captions to get an idea of how we broke in our new winch by completing a few practice runs, and what equipment you need to properly and safely operate a winch during a vehicle extraction.
4 Safety Checklist
•Know your winch
•Assess your situation
•Plan your extraction
•Always wear gloves
•Establish no-people zones
•Establish hand signals
•Use secure anchor points
•Use a tree saver when necessary
•Use the proper equipment/rigging
•Inspect equipment for damage after each use
•Take your time