We've covered quite a few topics when it comes to vehicle recovery here at the Overlander Notebook. Patrick wrote extensively about recovery gear and tactics in general last year, and we discussed winches in specific earlier this summer. Adding a winch to your overland set-up is definitely a big investment, buta winch can completely change the game for your vehicle recovery capabilities. A good winch paired with the training to know how to use it correctly and safely will open the door to more challenging and technical trails.
It offers a particular peace of mind that few other recovery aids can. And, while you will find that you might rarely use it, when you do find yourself in a situation where you need that winch, you really need it. This humble tool has been around since the days of ancient Greece. While the mechanics behind the winch have remained mostly the same over the millennia, 21st century technology is making the winch more user-friendly and versatile than ever.
One area of winch design that has made big leaps in recent years is in the winch line itself. High tensile steel cable has been the standard winch rope for decades, and while it is extremely robust and durable, there are a few draw backs.
Steel cable is heavy, and that weight penalty may be particularly hard felt if you don't use your winch all that often. Lugging around that extra mass way out front on your bumper definitely isn't helping your fuel economy, and it can put some extra strain on your suspension and braking components. Steel cable can corrode over time, and sharp strands that come loose from the winding can be a safety hazard for your hands. While extremely rare, when a steel winch line fails under heavy loads, all that mass can make for an extremely dangerous situation. The kinetic energy stored in the rope is significant, and a sudden failure lead to extremely powerful snap back - search for some YouTube videos of winch line failure and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Even with all these drawbacks to steel winch rope, for most of the recent history of the winch there wasn't much off road explorers could do about it. Nothing could match the strength and longevity of steel line. That is until synthetic winch rope hit the market.
Made from high strength and abrasion resistant nylons and polyethylene, synthetic winch line is quickly becoming the standard for most modern winch set ups.
With weight savings of up to 20 pounds over comparable steel line, the lower mass of synthetic winch line means not only less weight for your vehicle to carry around, but also safer and more convenient winching. No more lugging steel cables to winch points, no more flying rope in the event of a failure. Synthetic line is more flexible as well, so you can get really creative with your recovery techniques. Winding and unwinding your synthetic line from the winch's drum is nearly effortless.
As with any wound rope, synthetic winch line does require a bit more maintenance to ensure that it remains durable and long lasting. And, there are some accessories, such as soft shackles and fairleads, that are specific to winches equipped with synthetic line. But, the added versatility and safety of synthetic line makes it worth upgrading the rest of your recovery tool box.
Warn Sypdura Pro Winch Rope
Some synthetic line, like Warn's Sypdura, can be up to 11 times stronger than steel cable - remarkable considering how lightweight and manageable it is. Spydura line comes in two flavors - Synthetic, for standard winching applications up to 12,000 pounds, and Pro Syntheticfor really big rigs, up to 16,500 pounds! Warn's Nightline model includes a weave of high visibility reflective strands for extra safety during vehicle recovery after dark. You can upgrade your existing compatible winch to synthetic rope alone, or many of Warn's legendary line of winches come pre-wound with Spydura, like the Zeon 8.
Switching to synthetic winch line is an easy and super effective way to improve your recovery kit. Reach out to our Overlander support team if you have questions about which synthetic winch line is right for your rig, or drop a line down in the comments below!
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