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 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.
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.