Anyone who spends any amount of time in the backcountry on an overland adventure is going to get their vehicle stuck at some point. The question isn’t if it’ll happen, it is when it will happen.
If you were alone in the backcountry and got high-centered on a rock, stuck in a mud bog, snowed in, or were to spin your tires in loose sand, how would you self rescue? Accessories like traction boards, shovels, and Hi-Lift-style jacks might help. However, there will be a situation where you get so stuck that they are unusable, leaving you wishing that you bought and installed that winch you’ve been scoping out at Overland Expo shows for years.
Winches can also be helpful tools to remove debris blocking the trail, recovering other vehicles that you come across off-highway, or stabilizing and moving vehicles too close to precarious drops.
Obviously, one should never use a winch without proper training. Winches can be extremely dangerous (and even lethal) under load without proper safety precautions. I highly recommend getting an Overland Experience ticket and get proper training by professional trainers who can prepare you for a backcountry recovery. You’ll be happy you did.
A winch can provide peace of mind. And, if used correctly, a winch can help you out of a tough situation. Often, winches are the difference between driving home or hiking out of the backcountry to get help.
Always choose a winch that has at least 1.5 times more weight capacity than the total weight of the object you are pulling. So, a 10,000-pound capacity winch is perfect for recovering vehicles 6,500 pounds or less. Most of my picks below have multiple units with different weight ratings, just choose what is best for you.
Here are my top picks for winches for overland travel:
WARN VR EVO 8-S WINCH MSRP: $684.99
A hard-working and ultra-reliable winch ideal for lighter vehicles like two-door Jeeps and light SUVs designed for everyday pulls and self-rescue. The Warn VR EVO 8-S (the “S” denotes synthetic rope versus steel cable) features IP68 rated waterproof construction, reliable Albright connectors inside a relocatable control pack, and a useful two-in-one remote control. The VR EVO series differentiates itself with fast line speed and a lower amp draw. 8,000-pound capacity.
WARN ZEON 10-S PLATINUM WINCH MSRP: $1909.99
Another entry from Warn, the ZEON 10-S Platinum is the most technically advanced winch ever conceived by Warn. The ZEON Platinum series is twice as durable, 20% faster, and features a new high-performance motor for efficient amp draw and fast line speed, a stronger gear train, and high-strength sleeve-in-drum brake design. The IP68 Waterproof resting keeps both water and dust out. This is a high-end winch that will give you years of service. 10,000 pound capacity.
WESTIN/ SUPERWINCH TIGER SHARK 11500 SR WINCH MSRP: $959.99
The Westin/ SuperWinch Tiger Shark 11500 offers great performance at a value price. It features strong 3-stage planetary gearing, 80-feet of synthetic rope, a weather-sealed solenoid and includes a mechanical and automatic load holding brake system. The TS 11500 SR includes a 12-foot rubber sealed hand-held remote. This winch has a rated line pull of 11,500 pounds.
ROUGH COUNTRY 9500LB PRO SERIES WINCH MSRP: $299.95
If you’re looking for a winch that won’t break the bank, you might consider the Rough Country 9500LB Pro Series Winch. Featuring an IP68 waterproof and dustproof rating, Rough Country’s winches ward off water, dirt, mud, and sand with ease. Each unit features series wound motors that are efficient and less prone to overheating. This unit has a rated line pull of 9500 pounds.
RUGGED RIDGE TREKKER S12.5 WINCH MSRP: $659.99
The Rugged Ridge Trekker S12.5 Winch offers trail-proven reliability with a heavy duty series-wound motor that delivers consistent pull through a three-stage planetary drive gear. With a 212:1 gear ratio, you’ll experience fast line speeds to make your recoveries quick and easy. Like most winches the IP-68 waterproof rating means your winch is practically impervious to water, dust, mud, and dirt. This unit is rated to 12,500 pounds.
FACTOR 55 FLATLINK MSRP: $140.00
While the Factor 55 FlatLink is not a winch, it is a great safety tool that compliments your winch perfectly. Conventional winch hooks (like the ones that come standard with most winches) can cut and fray recovery straps and often allow strap ends to escape during slack cycles. The FlatLink stops this by creating a closed system that holds your shackles securely. The Factor 55 FlatLink adds another layer of peace of mind when your winch is under load. Max load rating is 16,000 pounds.
There’s a lot to digest when you’re shopping for a winch. If you do your homework and create a system that works for you, that is all that matters. Get proper training and learn to use your new winch safely and efficiently. We have loads (see what I did there?) of winching classes available at Overland Expo through 7P Overland, our professional training team.
Safe winching and safe travels!
Header image: Warn Industries