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ProMark Offroad Blog

Winch Pulling Power and Snatch Blocks

Snatch block

Use a snatch block to double your winch's pulling power.

Want to know how you can increase the pulling power of your ATV or truck winch? Meet the snatch block. This little powerhouse can almost double the rated load capacity of your winch, without even breaking a sweat.

What Is a Snatch Block?

A snatch block is basically a pulley with a metal casing designed to give you more flexibility in winching—whether you need to redirect a pull or get more power and reduce the strain on your winch. It’s compact enough to easily store inside your vehicle.

How Do I Use a Snatch Block?

To use a snatch block, spool out a few feet of cable, thread the winch cable through the pulley, and attach the hook to a recovery point on your vehicle. The winch line should travel through the block on the pulley and back to the vehicle.

Then grab hold of the snatch block and walk the cable and pulley out to your anchor point. Wrap a tree strap or chain around your anchor point and attach the snatch block to the strap/chain with a D-shackle.

Safety Tips

Make sure the recovery point on your vehicle is rated high enough to handle the full force of the pull. Your winch’s line speed will be slower with a double line pull, but the stress on your winch will be reduced and the power will be greater—both because of the snatch block and because you have more winch line out.

Winching a Dead Log Off the Trail


Moving a log with your winch gives you more control and direction.

If you ride much in the woods, sooner or later you’re going to end up with a fallen log blocking the trail. At that point, it’s either turn around and go back the way you came, or drag the log off to the side. That’s where a winch comes in handy.

An ATV or recovery winch is good for more than just getting you out when you’re stuck. You can also put it to work moving logs, firewood, and other heavy objects. The key is to rig it up properly so that your winch cable doesn’t get damaged in the process.

In order to rig up for the pull, you’ll need a few winch accessories, including a tree strap or chain and a shackle. Never wrap the winch cable around the log and hook it back on itself. That’s a sure way to ruin the cable. Instead, wrap a tree strap or chain (only use chain for deadwood—never for live trees!) around the log and connect the strap to the winch hook on the cable by using a shackle. You may need to dig underneath the log a bit to get the strap around the trunk.

You can change the angle of the pull by rigging up a pulley block and tree strap to a good, solid tree nearby that gives you the angle you need. Instead of dragging the log straight towards your vehicle, you can drag it at an angle off to the side of the trail.

If the fallen log is a long timber wedged between two trees, it may be impossible to move the log without cutting it. In addition, you’ll want to take into consideration the environmental impact (i.e. you don’t want to kill 20 saplings just to move a dead log) and the federal, state, or local rules that may apply to the trail you are riding. Take time to assess the situation before rigging up your winch. Safety is always your first priority.

Basic Offroad Recovery Kit

If you wheel out in the backcountry, you know how important it is to be prepared in case things go wrong. And when it comes to offroad recovery, there are certain items you just don’t want to leave at home!

We’ve put together a basic list of offroad recovery and winching tools to help you prepare for any recovery situation you might face. Some of these items are essential to the winching process, and others are just a matter of convenience. Feel free to add your own items to the list.

    20,000 lb Snatch Block for Offroad Recovery

    20,000 lb Snatch Block for Offroad Recovery

  1. Gloves – Protect your hands during the winching process with a pair of heavy duty leather gloves.
  2. Hook Strap – Keep your fingers from getting pinched in the winch hook by using the hook strap to spool out the cable.
  3. Snatch Block – Double up the winch line with a snatch block for really tough pulls.
  4. Clevis / D-shackles – Attach the winch hook to the anchor point with a clevis or D-shackle.
  5. Choker Chain – Use the choker chain to hook up to sharp objects or other vehicles. (Note: Not for use on trees, since a choker chain could damage or kill the tree.)
  6. Tree Strap – Use the tree strap to hook up to trees or other natural objects as an anchor point.
  7. Heavy Blanket or Coat – Throw a heavy blanket over the winch cable to zap the momentum of the cable in case it breaks.
  8. Recovery Strap – Use the recovery strap for quick and easy snatch pulls. (Note: Do not use the recovery strap in combination with your winch.)
  9. Batteries – Throw in extra batteries for the winch remote, just in case your batteries die out on the trail.
  10. Accessory Bag or Case – Keep all these winching accessories handy when you need them by storing them all together in one place.
  11. Shovel – One of these might come in handy during a tough recovery.
  12. Toolbox – Throw some pliers, a wrench, a screwdriver, and other basic tools into your accessory kit for repairs and quick fixes.
  13. Backup Parts – If you have room, it’s a good idea to throw in an extra winch cable or cable extension, an extra tree strap, and an extra clevis shackle and snatch block, along with any other extra parts you think might come in handy.

How to Dig a Deadman Ground Anchor, Part 2

Tie stakes or axles together with a tree strap for a homemade ground anchor.

Tie stakes or axles together with a tree strap for a homemade ground anchor.

Instead of burying a heavy object, you can also drive in long stakes or axles. They should be at least three feet in length to reach deep enough into the ground. For a solid anchor, pound in several stakes, one behind the other, at an angle away from the line of pull.


The stakes must be deep enough and the ground dense enough to sustain the force of the pull or the winch will yank the anchor right out and all your work will be for nothing. This can also create a potentially dangerous situation if the buried anchor pulls free and rockets toward you or your vehicle.

After driving in the stakes, connect them with a chain or tree strap, and attach the winch hook to the strap as close to the ground as possible. If you have trouble pulling the stakes back out, try winching them out by pulling at the same angle as the anchor.

As you can see, digging a dead man takes time and hard work and is not going to be your first option, but when it comes down to walking back for help or making your own winch anchor, now you have the option of getting out on your own without the embarrassment of calling in the rescue squad.

For more tips, see Part 1 of How to Dig a Deadman Ground Anchor.

How to Dig a Deadman Ground Anchor, Part 1

Maybe you’ve been there before. You’ve been riding hard for the last couple hours, conquering boulders, mud, and tight spots until suddenly you find yourself good and stuck, and no amount of pushing, pulling, or cursing will make your vehicle budge. You’ve got a winch. The problem is there’s not a rock, tree, or stump in sight and no buddy around to pull you out. How are you going to find an anchor point to winch out? Roll up your sleeves and get ready to move some dirt. It’s time to dig a dead man.

Digging your own anchor is a last resort, but when you find yourself in a desperate situation, miles from civilization, it may be your only option. Here’s how you can make your own ground anchor if the situation calls for it.

If you’re adequately prepared for times like this, most likely you have a shovel stashed in your ATV or truck. Pull it out and start digging. The depth of the hole will depend somewhat on the size and weight of your vehicle and just how good you’re stuck. The deeper the hole, the sturdier your anchor will be. At minimum, it should be deep enough to fully cover an object the size of your spare tire and rim.

Dig the hole directly in line with the stuck vehicle, if possible, and far enough away from your quad or truck to spool out a decent length of winch cable for a maximum power pull. Spool out the cable ahead of time to measure the distance if you’re unsure where to start digging. Taking the time to plan out where your dead man needs to be is better than making the hole too close or too far away from your vehicle and then having to dig a new one.

A broad, weighty object makes the sturdiest dead man winch anchor, such as a log, large rock, or spare tire. If you carry a spare, you have a heavy, solid object on hand without scrounging around for a log or other large object. The size of the tire corresponds to the size of your vehicle and, if buried deep enough, should hold fast as you winch out.

Attach a chain or tree strap to the anchor and bury the log or tire deep in the hole, angled away from your vehicle for greater resistance during the pull. Fill in the open areas with dirt and pack it down solid. Hook up your winch to the chain or strap and you’re ready to start the recovery. After you winch out your vehicle, make sure to retrieve your makeshift anchor and fill in the hole. Leave as little trace of your digging as possible.

For alternative methods of burying a ground anchor, see Part 2 of How to Dig a Deadman Ground Anchor.

3 Basic Winch Tools for Rigging Up

When you’re out exploring or working in the great outdoors, there’s no telling what kind of tricky situations you may find yourself in. That’s why it’s best to be prepared for whatever life throws your way. A winch can get you out when you find yourself stuck, but some situations may take a little more ingenuity and finesse. Here’s where your winching tools come to the rescue. The three most basic winching tools you should always keep at hand are a snatch block, tree strap, and D-shackle.

1. Snatch Block

16k_snatch_block_smallWhether you need to straighten out the cable on a side pull or you need some extra “oomph” for a really good stuck, a snatch block gives you the power and flexibility you need. As an added bonus for heavy pulling, they also reduce amp draw and heat buildup.

In order to truly double the capacity of your winch, the snatch block capacity should be double the maximum capacity of your winch. For most ATV or UTV winches, which generally run up to 4000 lbs, an 8K pulley block is more than sufficient. For recovery winches, double your winch capacity to find the capacity you need for the snatch block. Make sure the snatch block can handle the diameter of your cable.

2. Tree Strap

tree_strap_main_1If you’re hooking up to a natural anchor point such as a tree or rock, a tree saver strap will come in handy. Tree straps soften the impact on the environment, unlike choker chains, which can damage or kill trees.

Your cable itself should never wrap around an anchor point and hook back onto itself. This can severely damage your cable. A tree strap saves your cable from rubbing against abrasive surfaces and gives you a secure hold on your anchor point.

3. D-Shackle

clevis_smallA clevis D-shackle (D-ring, anchor shackle, etc.) works as a link between the tree strap (or other anchor point, such as a tow hook) and your cable hook. Check the working load of your D-shackle to make sure it can handle what you put it up against.

With these basic winching tools and a little know-how, you can winch your way out of tricky spots with little effort.

Winching Techniques: Choosing an Anchor Point

The more stuck you get, the more important it is to choose a solid anchor point that’s strong enough to hold under pressure as you winch out.

ATV Winching Kit

ATV Winching Kit

The two best options for choosing an anchor point are a natural anchor or another vehicle. Natural anchor points include trees, stumps, and large rocks. Since a chain can damage or kill trees, use a tree strap and D-shackle instead to attach your cable to a natural anchor. Never wrap steel cable or synthetic rope around an anchor point and hook it back on itself, as this can damage your cable or cause it to snap.

The further away the anchor point, the better. The more winch line you spool out, the more weight your winch can handle. Just make sure you’ve got at least one full wrap left on the drum.

It’s best to choose an anchor point in line with the direction your vehicle will move as you winch it out. This guides the winch cable onto the drum in straight and even rows rather than allowing the cable to pile up on one side. Pulling at an angle is less efficient than a straight pull. The winch strap is also more likely to drag across sharp edges on your vehicle on angle pulls. If you need to winch at an angle, always use a snatch block to guide the cable rope directly onto the spool.

If you’re riding with a friend, you can use your buddy’s vehicle to winch yourself out. Just block the wheels of the recovery vehicle, throw it in neutral, and apply the hand brake to keep it from rolling.

Winch Safety Tips

Winch hook and strapA winch is a powerful tool that can create tremendous potential. Without the right knowledge, however, winching can escalate into a dangerous situation in no time. Take the time to understand how your winch works before you use it.

General Winch Safety Tips

•  Inspect the winch cable before and after each use. Keep an eye out for kinks, fraying, snapped threads, and other signs of damage or wear.

•  Wear heavy leather gloves to protect your hands from burrs or slivers when using a steel cable.

•  Avoid wearing loose clothing that could get caught on moving winch parts or the cable.

•  Communicate clearly with bystanders and others involved in the winching process. Clear the surrounding area of bystanders to ensure their safety in case of winch or cable failure.

•  Never straddle or step over the winch strap after it is tightened.

•  If you are winching with a steel cable, pile heavy clothing or blankets at the midpoint of the cable to prevent the cable from lashing back in case the cable snaps.

•  Leave at least one row of cable on the drum when winching.

•  Winch your vehicle out at a slow and steady pace, taking care not to let the cable pile up on one side of the drum.

Other Winch Safety Precautions

•  Never hook the winch cable back onto itself by wrapping the cable around the anchor point. Always use a tree strap and D-shackle to safely wrap around an anchor point and attach the cable.

•  Never engage or disengage the clutch while the winch is operating.

•  Never attach a recovery strap to a winch cable to lengthen the cable.

•  Never use a winch strap to tow another vehicle.

•  A winch is not designed to operate as a hoist. Using your winch in this manner can damage your winch or vehicle and create a serious safety hazard to the winch operator and bystanders.