Questions? Email Us or call (888)-657-9997
(Hours: M-F 8am - 4:30pm Central)

  • Friend Us on Facebook
  • Follow Us on Twitter
  • Watch Us on YouTube
Free Shipping Daily Deals

ProMark Offroad Blog

Offroad Recovery: Anchoring the Winch

Winching out

Winching out with a Jeep recovery winch

When your vehicle gets stuck and you need to winch out, the first step is choosing an anchor point. Since where you get stuck is beyond your control (except for daredevils who deliberately try to get stuck), every situation is different. You might have the perfect anchor point in front of you, or you might be stuck in a sand pit with no trees or rocks in sight. Depending on what’s around you and who is riding with you, your anchor point might be a rock, a stump, a ground anchor, or another vehicle.

Natural Anchor

Natural anchors—rocks, trees, stumps, etc.—are one of the best choices for an anchor point. Since it doesn’t involve another vehicle, there’s less risk of damaging your friend’s rig or ATV if something goes wrong. Make sure the rock, tree, or stump is large enough to withstand the force of the recovery winch. Hook the cable as low as possible, at the thickest part of the natural anchor. Be responsible to the environment by using a tree strap instead of a chain to hook around a live tree. Also, never hook the cable around an object and back onto itself. This will weaken or damage the cable.

Anchoring to a Vehicle

When there are no natural anchors within reach, a second vehicle becomes your anchor point. If possible, position the recovery vehicle directly in line with the stuck vehicle for a straight line pull. Put the recovery vehicle in neutral, apply the hand brake, and block up the wheels to prevent the vehicle from sliding. Hook up the recovery winch, and you’re ready to go.

Deadman Anchor

As a last resort, use a ground anchor (also called a deadman anchor). You can either buy a ready-made ground anchor (such as the Pull-Pal) or bury an object such as a log, a spare tire, or stakes or axles tied together. Since a deadman anchor involves digging into the ground and since it takes more effort than your other options, it’s not your first choice. But when it’s the only way out, you do what you have to do.

Dig the hole or drive the stakes in at an angle away from the stuck vehicle. If you’re burying an object, dig a hole deep enough to completely submerge the object below ground level. Tie a chain to the object. Dig a narrow trench for the chain, and hook the winch cable to the chain.

Winch Recovery Pulling

Jeep Recovery Winch

Make sure the wire rope does not pile up on one side of the drum.

After you rig up your winch and double check the anchor point and rigging, it’s time for the pull. Here are some tips on safely recovering another vehicle.

  1. Clear the area of bystanders. Don’t let anyone stand behind or in front of the vehicle(s). Ask bystanders to stand clear of the wire rope and snatch block. When determining “no people” zones, err on the side of caution. Better safe than sorry.
  2. Communicate your actions. If you are winching with the help of others, communicate your intentions clearly. Use hand signals to communicate between the driver/winch operator and the assistant. The driver should be able to clearly see the assistant at all times.
  3. Check the wire rope. As you winch, make sure the cable doesn’t pile up on one side of the drum. If it piles up high enough, it can damage your rope or winch.
  4. Keep it slow and steady. With a certain amount of tension already in the wire rope, begin winching slowly and steadily. If needed, the vehicle being winched can be cautiously driven as the winch pulls. Continue pulling until the vehicle is on stable ground and can be driven without assistance from the recovery winch.
  5. Secure the vehicle. Put the recovered vehicle in park or low gear, and release the tension in the cable.

Winch Recovery Rigging

Winch Recovery Kit

Winch Recovery Kit

Knowing how to rig up for a pull is important for the protection of yourself, those around you, and your vehicle and equipment. Even if the pull is relatively light, don’t compromise your safety by rushing the recovery process or rigging up improperly. Here is a basic outline of the steps involved in rigging up your winch for recovery.

  1. Wear gloves. Before handling wire cable, dig out a pair of thick leather gloves from your winch recovery kit. They could save your hands from a few burrs, cuts, and slices.
  2. Move the clutch to the free spool position. This lets you spool out as much cable as you need for the recovery, without using up your battery power. Make sure the clutch is fully disengaged before free spooling.
  3. Grab the hook strap. If the hook strap is not attached, free the winch hook and attach the hook before free spooling. Holding on to the strap prevents your fingers from getting caught in the winch hook or fairlead opening and protects your hands from the wire rope.
  4. Spool out the cable. Make sure you spool out enough wire to power the pull. The more cable you unwind, the more power you will get from your winch. Leave at least 4-5 wraps on the drum to keep the cable from coming off the drum.
  5. Rig up to the anchor point. Use a tree strap or choker chain (depending on what your anchor point is) to secure the cable to the anchor point. Do NOT wrap the cable around the object and hook it back onto itself. Use a D-shackle to attach the cable to the two ends of the tree strap or choker chain.
  6. Engage the clutch. Rotate the clutch lever to the engage position to power in the cable.
  7. Attach the remote control, if needed. If you are using a corded remote, plug the remote into the winch. Keep the cord from getting tangled up in the cable or winch.
  8. Power in the slack. Put some tension on the rope by pulsing the remote and powering in slowly until all the slack is out of the rope. Once the rope is under tension, never step over it.
  9. Double check your anchor. Check all of your connections and equipment to make sure they are secure before starting the pull.
  10. Lay a weight over the rope. Use a moving blanket, back pack, tree limb, or other heavy object to keep the wire rope from snapping in case it breaks.

Once the area is clear of bystanders, you are ready to start winching!

Winching Techniques: Use a Pulley Block to Double Pulling Power

Pulley block

Using a pulley block can give you almost double the pulling power.

Pulling power decreases as the number of layers on the winch drum increases. The more winch power you need, the more line you need to spool out.

So what if your anchor point is too close to the recovery vehicle? Or what if you have almost all of the cable spooled out, but you’re still not getting enough power to make the recovery?

A snatch block (also called a pulley block) can almost double your winch power. And since it doubles the amount of winch line that you need to spool out, you can choose a closer winch anchor without losing pulling power.

To rig up a double line pull, spool out a few feet of winch line and attach the winch hook to a tow hook or recovery point on the front of your vehicle. Open the snatch block and run the cable through the block. Walk the snatch block and cable out to your anchor point, and secure the snatch block to the anchor point using a clevis and tree strap or chain. Follow proper winching techniques to complete the recovery.

What’s the downside to rigging up a double line pull? A slower recovery. But even a slow recovery is better than leaving your truck in the mud or waiting for someone to come and rescue you.

Offroad Winching and Respooling Tips

Recovery winch accessory kit

Use the leather gloves in your recovery winch accessory kit to respool the cable.

Winching Tips

Observe your winch while winching, if possible, while standing at a safe distance. Stop the winching process every 3 feet or so to make sure that the cable is not piling up in one corner. Jamming the cable against the winch housing can break your winch or damage your cable.

The uneven spooling of cable while pulling a load is not a problem unless there is a cable pileup on one end of the drum. If this happens, reverse the winch to release the tension on the cable and move the anchor point further to the center of the vehicle. After the job is done, you can unspool and rewind for a neat lay of the cable.

Neat, tight spooling prevents cable binding, which is caused when the cable is pinched between other wraps of cable while under load. If this happens, alternately power the winch in and out. Do not attempt to work a bound cable under load; free by hand.

Respooling the Cable

Wear thick leather gloves while respooling to protect your hands. To respool correctly, it is necessary to keep a slight load on the cable. Hold the cable in one hand and the remote control switch in the other. Starting as far back and in the center as possible, walk towards the vehicle, keeping a load on the cable as the winch is powered in.

Do not allow the cable to slide through your hand, and be careful not to approach the winch too closely. When your hand is at least a few feet from the winch, stop powering in. Let go of the cable and walk back to the end of the cable, or as far back as possible, and continue rewinding the cable. Spool the cable in until there is only about 3 feet left in your hand. Disconnect the remote control switch and finish spooling in the cable by rotating the drum manually with the clutch disengaged. Secure the winch hook to an anchor point on the vehicle to prevent the hook from getting caught in the fairlead or rattling around while you drive. On hidden winches, spool in the cable under power but keep your hands clear of the winch.

Rigging Up a Winch Snatch Block

Winch snatch block

Make sure your winch snatch block is rated high enough for the force of the pull.

A winch snatch block can come in handy when you need to redirect a pull, rig up a double line pull for more power, or spool out more cable for maximum single-line pulling power. A snatch block is a basic winch tool that every offroader should own. It makes your winch more versatile and can give you the extra power and direction you need to get out safely.

How to Rig Up a Snatch Block

  1. Free the winch hook and feed out several feet of cable.
  2. Attach the winch hook to your vehicle’s tow hook (make sure it is attached to the vehicle frame and not the mounting plate).
  3. To open the snatch block, rotate the side plate until there is opening to attach the cable.
  4. Run the cable through the snatch block so that it fits into the metal groove on the wheel.
  5. Rotate the side plate so that the two side plates are lined up together.
  6. Disengage the clutch and use the snatch block to feed out enough cable to reach your anchor point.
  7. Secure the snatch block to the anchor point by using a tree trunk protector or choker chain and a clevis/shackle.

Make sure your snatch block is rated for the capacity of the pull. Remember that if you rig up a double line pull, you are asking your snatch block and other rigging parts to handle up to twice the capacity of your winch. If a snatch block breaks under load, it can do an incredible amount of damage. Always take safety precautions and stand clear of the winch line under load.

Winch Rigging: Straight Line Pull

Winching Tip of the Week from ProMark Offroad

16K Snatch Block

Use a snatch block to straighten the pull as needed.

Winching Tip of the Week: Always avoid continuous side pulls. The rope can pile up on one side of the drum, possibly damaging your winch or rope.


Try to rig up the pull so that the recovery vehicle or anchor point is directly in line with the stuck vehicle. Make the pull as straight as possible, and any angle pulls should be no more than about 30 degrees to either side. With a straight pull, the rope should spool evenly and neatly from side to side on the drum.

If the winch rope begins to pile up on one side of the drum or gets tangled up, stop winching and spool the line back out. Re-spool the line in straight and even rows; then continue winching.

If you get stuck in a situation where a straight line pull is impossible, use a snatch block to redirect the line. A snatch block lets you change the pulling direction and guide the rope straight into the winch.

Winching Tip: Anchoring the Recovery Vehicle

Winching Tip of the Week from ProMark Offroad


Secure the recovery vehicle with a tree strap and clevis.

Secure the recovery vehicle with a tree strap and clevis.

Winching Tip of the Week: Anchor the recovery vehicle if it has poor traction or if the stuck vehicle is bogged down.


In pulls where the recovery vehicle has poor traction or the stuck vehicle is badly bogged down, the winch may end up moving the recovery vehicle instead of the stuck vehicle. To keep this from happening, secure the recovery vehicle to another vehicle or to a solid natural anchor point, such as a tree or large rock.

Use a recovery tow strap to anchor the recovery vehicle to another vehicle behind it. Or use a tree strap and clevis to secure the recovery vehicle to tree or natural anchor.

Winching Frequently on a Trail Ride? Wrap the Cable around the Bumper

Winching Tip of the Week from ProMark Offroad


Winching Tip of the Week: If you need to use your winch more than once on a trail ride, wrap the cable around the bumper instead of wrapping it on the drum to save time.

You can get back on the trail faster if you just wrap the winch around the front of the vehicle instead of reeling it in. Just make sure you wrap it securely! If the winch cable comes loose, your cable or vehicle could be damaged.

When you’re all done winching for the day, make sure the winch rope is clean and free of debris; then reel in the rope in neat, even rows so that it’s ready for your next ride.

How to Use a Winch Snatch Block

8000 lb Winch Snatch Block

8000 lb Winch Snatch Block

One of the best winch tools to keep in your off road tool kit is a snatch block. It can get you out of some tough situations by straightening out an angle pull, spooling out more line on a short pull, and doubling your winch capacity.

Attaching the Winch Snatch Block

Snatch blocks are designed to attach to the cable without having to remove the load or take apart the pulley. Just open up the side plate by rotating it, then attach the block to the cable.

Setting Up a Single Line Pull with Snatch Block

To straighten out a pull or to route the winch rope around an object:

  1. Attach the snatch block to an anchor point in a straight line with the winch.
  2. Then attach the other end of the cable to the load (if winching out another vehicle) or to a solid anchor point (if recovering your own vehicle).
  3. Use a tree strap or chain to secure the snatch block to the anchor point. Do not wrap a chain around a tree; use a tree strap to prevent damage to the tree.

How to redirect an angle pull using a snatch block

How to redirect an angle pull using a snatch block
(Used with permission from JonFund and 4WheelDrive)

Setting Up a Double Line Pull with Snatch Block

To double the line for more winch power or to spool out more cable when the anchor point is too close to the vehicle:

  1. Attach the snatch block to the cable.
  2. Then freespool the cable out to the anchor point.
  3. Attach the snatch block to the anchor point with a tree strap or chain.
  4. Then attach the end of the cable to a solid mounting point on the frame of the vehicle for self recovery.
Self Recovery with a Double Line Pull

Self Recovery with a Double Line Pull
(Used with permission from JonFund and 4WheelDrive)

Recovering another vehicle with a double line pull

Recovering another vehicle with a double line pull
(Used with permission from JonFund and 4WheelDrive)

Snatch Block Ratings

Remember that a double line pull places double the stress on your mounting points, cable, and winch tools. Make sure all tools, including the snatch block, are rated to double the winch capacity if you plan on pulling the maximum load.