A vehicle-mounted winch is one purchase any true wheeler is not likely to regret. Winches can save you lots of time and headache when you’re out in the middle of nowhere. They pull very stuck rigs out of muck and mire, over logs and rocks, and out of flops. In general, winches are one tool many a 4x4 nut is going to rely on as a last resort to get out of trouble.
Over the years we have told you how to use a winch on the trail in just about any imaginable situation, but the truth is we’ve been using winches for much more—carefully. Winches can create incredible forces when moving a vehicle. If you don’t yet realize that this also makes them inherently dangerous, we can’t help you. All we can say is don’t be dumb. Plan for the possibility of an accident and injury.
We’ve used winches for landscaping for years. Winches can be very helpful to move large objects around your yard. We like natural landscaping, and that includes rocks of all shapes and sizes (yes, we’ve also been known to do some yard wheeling on these rocks). You can move a large rock with a pry bar or a piece of steel tubing, but wrapping a towstrap around a rock and using the winch induces much less sweat. Here we ran the winch cable through a small gate to arrange some heavy rocks. You can also use trees and your snatch block to move rocks in a direction where you might have a hard time getting your vehicle-mounted winch.
Bushes and small trees occasionally die or just need to be removed. We have “adjusted” their placement in our yard a few times using a winch and a towstrap. Just know that the root system of even a small bush can grab and hold Mother Earth very well, so be careful when loading up the winch. Soaking the soil around the root ball can help free things up, but also creates lots of mud, so don’t get stuck!
Landscaping for the dedicated (or is it delusional?) gearhead often involves valuable and sometimes heavy car parts (some may call these parts junk, but they are wrong). Assembling a mini crane has been attempted by more than one enterprising winch owner over the years. Here we’ve modified a tow bar to act as a simple vehicle-mounted crane. The winch lifts parts in the same manner as a forklift or a bucket on a tractor. Either way, our back hurts a little less after we’ve moved stuff around the yard.
Here is a close-up on the crane’s lifting system. That’s 0.188-wall tubing welded to the tow bar. The tow bar is held up with chains that go to the grille hoop. Yeah, it’s not that strong, but we feel comfortable moving objects that weigh less than 200-300 pounds with this Jeep-based crane. Need to move more and you better do more engineering.
A winch, a couple tree savers, a snatch block, and a few D-ring shackles can be used to double the pulling power or to set up a complicated vehicle recovery pull, but these tools can also be used to set up a little fun in the yard or at camp. For years off-roaders have set up winch-based zip lines while camping out in the wilderness. The best way to do this is across a smallish body of water in the summertime for a fun way to cool off. We were stuck at home, so we rigged up this short zip line in the backyard. Caution: This is dumb and you could hurt yourself, so don’t ever do this. If you copy us and hurt yourself that’s your problem.
One tree saver is cinched around the tree trunk 8-10 feet off the ground (it would be dangerous and dumb to stand on top of your rig to attach this high mounting point; only a fool would do that). You can also use a fabric towstrap for this; just loop it around the tree trunk several times. The snatch block goes over the taught winch rope or cable. A D-ring shackle is used to attach a tree saver in a big loop. If you are foolish enough to try this (don’t, it’s dumb) you can sit in the tree saver and go for a ride (yay, it’s fun!). Heels down for safe stopping on dry land