Before we can begin winching we need to consider accessories very carefully, these are vital before winching begins as we cannot winch without them; this adds considerably to the cost of a winch and this cost is often ignored by beginners.
These items must be considered a necessity, they are what we need in our box of kit to utilise the natural environment, many are necessary for safety reasons, others are for environmental reasons, but all are required for our personal safety. When we consider accessories we must look at quality, many cheap accessories may appear bargains, but, I along with many others have seen the injuries sustained by people buying and using cheap or inferior accessories, and they are often not pleasant.
Having a winch rated at 9500LBS may seem to be nothing more than a number, but exert 9500LBS on a steel cable and it has the potential to cut a human being in half if it snaps and flies, and there are many recorded cases of such injuries. 9500LBS is also enough force to tear a vehicle in half, even a substantial off road vehicle, and this now puts the realities into a context most intelligent people may understand.
Leather Gloves are a vital element for winching, these protect your hands when handling winch cables as well as dealing with some of the prickly foliage we will often encounter, particularly during the summer months. Gloves come in a variety of styles and thicknesses, it is down to personal choice as to what you select; gloves are cheap so always carry two pairs so any winching helpers can have a pair.
Webbing Straps/Strops are basically straps which are designed to wrap around specific items such as trees, these come in a variety of lengths, widths, and ratings, these must always be used to wrap around a stout, solid item used for winching.
NEVER WRAP A WINCH ROPE AROUND AN ITEM AND HOOK BACK TO THE WINCH CABLE.
Webbing straps should be a minimum of 2” (50mm) wide, or wider if available, these prevent damage to trees bark and prevent the winch rope from working at tight angles which would damage the rope. Aim for various lengths from 4 metres upwards, remember a 1 metre wide tree needs a 3 metre strap just to pass around its trunk, straps can be connected together to form longer lengths, or used with other equipment for awkward pulls.
Always have at least four straps with your kit.
Pulley/Snatch Blocks are basically a pulley wheel in a steel frame, the winch rope passes around these and allows us the possibility of gearing our winch, or in conjunction with our straps, to straighten an awkward pulling angle. Selection rules are simple, the pulley roller must be a minimum of nine times the diameter of our winch rope, and if our winch rope is 9mm diameter our pulley roller must be a minimum diameter of 81mm. In reality this is an odd size, so move up to the next standard size of 4” (101.6mm) diameter, the larger the better is the general rule as larger means less radius on our winch rope, this prolongs its working life. Snatch or pulley blocks are rated for capacity, again, get the largest capacity above the winches capacity you can afford.
Always carry a minimum of two, three are better.
Shackles/D Links are used to connect everything together, never hook directly into a snatch block or strap with the winch hook, always use a correctly rated shackle to connect everything.
Kit Boxes are used to carry equipment and store it all together, these must be of a suitable size to house your winching kit, and waterproof is better; many winches now come with some accessories housed in padded, waterproof bags, these are fine. There are no hard and fast rules about kit boxes, if you are a good fabricator, then make one from steel, if you are a good woodworker, then make one from wood, but always ensure the box is waterproof.
Kit boxes should be constructed to fit into your vehicle, they should be capable of being anchored securely, and easily removed; when winching, always keep your accessories in one accessible place, and return used equipment to that place. Equipment is expensive and it is often left or forgotten when you are up to your knees in mud, and your vehicle is bogged up to its floor, this is why it is crucial to have a removable box in which everything has a place, and should be in its place.
Maintaining your kit is essential, it will often be covered in mud after use, and it should always be cleaned in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions after every outing or use. Any damaged kit should be removed and destroyed, if a strop is damaged, cut it into pieces, if a shackle is damaged, cut it in half, this ensures any unsafe kit will not be capable of being used.
Always remember that the weight of your vehicle, multiplied many times will be on this kit, do not take chances; a successful outing is one where you return home with a smile and a dirty vehicle, unsuccessful trips mean you are covered in blood.
Many other accessories exist which would not be classed as essentials, these are dependent upon the specific use of a winch, or winching conditions.
Ground Anchors are basically anything which can be knocked into the ground to provide a suitable winching point, and these range from a basic spike with a flat plate welded onto them to the complex boat type anchors which dig in more with weight. Ground anchors are a speculative device, and they are often selected only by the ardent off roaders as they will only work in certain types of ground conditions, it must be soft enough to knock them in, but firm enough for them to hold.
Synthetic Ropes are a replacement rope for winches, these are considerably lighter and stronger than wire ropes, and they float on water, and stretch very little when compared to an equivalent wire rope. Concerns have been raised about their durability when used in muddy conditions as the abrasive effects are wearing out these ropes, and they are now showing deterioration from UV rays, both these conditions weaken them.
Considering these potential problems I feel the extra expense is not justified for a newcomer to winching.
Wireless Remote Controls are becoming available for winches, these replace the traditional wander lead, and they are expensive and are prone to interference from others using them nearby, on the same frequency. This could be an even bigger problem as they become more popular, particularly if you are ready for winching and someone on the same frequency uses their winch, your winch may inadvertently start and injure anyone working on your winch rigging.