The great expanses of wilderness stretching through America’s interior are sliced and stitched together by thousands of dirt roads, muddy passes and barely discernable trails. Some are carved through the backwoods for pleasure, challenge and thrill, and others are remnants of logging roads, mining trails and Native American passes worn wider by the increasing popularity of off-roading. Sandstone formations, desert panoramas and sandy canyons beckon drivers to Tower Arch Trail in Arizona, and the white-knuckled switchbacks of Black Bear Pass above Telluride, Colo., test wheeling skills, concentration and courage.

While exploring these trails, drivers might face snow, mud, a rollover, a mechanical failure, a slick rock incline or other challenges. However, they can use a winch, a couple of tree-savers, a snatch block or two, and a few D-ring shackles to set up a complicated vehicle recovery system that might make the difference between continuing a trek or being irrevocably stuck. When you head out to see what’s over the horizon, you’ll want the right gear to keep you on the road.

Having a winch bolted to the front of your rig is the first step in being properly prepared, but with budget constraints and all of the winches on the market, finding the right one depends on many variables, including the size of your rig, the capacity of the winch, the drivetrain gear ratio and even how the winch is mounted. Let’s break down eight different winches in the gallery above.

For more information on these winches, please visit the following sites.

Champion 4,700-Pound Winch Kit

Mile Marker H9000 Hydraulic

MotoAlliance X3000 Viper Elite

Ramsey Patriot Profile 12000

Rugged Ridge Spartacus Heavy Duty

Smittybilt Gen2 X20 Wireless

Superwinch LP8500

Warn PowerPlant 12

This article was originally published in ‘Ballistic’ Summer 2017. To order a copy, visit

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