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How to Use a Winch to Get Unstuck

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In part 2 of our visit to Tactical Application Vehicles, Bryan Rogala of Adventure Vehicles 101 tags along with TAV’s crew to take some epic rigs off-road. Walt Wagner III shows us the basics of using a winch to get unstuck. (Maybe don’t try this at home, folks.)

Video Transcript

BRYAN ROGALA: What's up, guys, Bryan Rogala here for Outside. This is Rigs 101 with Walt Wagner and tactical application vehicles. Walt, what the hell are we doing right now? 

WALT WAGNER: We are descending into the abyss. 

BRYAN ROGALA: This series is all about adventure vehicles. So buckle up because we got a lot to talk about. To me, driving is not just about getting from point A to point B. It's about how you get there and what you find along the way. And that is the whole point of a good adventure mobile. It's something that enables you to get outside more often and do the things you love. 

So we are out in the middle of New Mexico right now with Walt Wagner from TAV and a couple of custom trucks that he's built. We're going to put them through the paces, see what these rigs can do, and we're going to learn how to use a winch to get ourselves unstuck. 


WALT WAGNER: The cool thing, like with this trip, we've seen pavement on the highway on I-40 and then you get down gravel roads, then you get into some snow, like we did back there on the trail that's melting, and now you're in mud, and here we are in rocks. So we're seeing all of the disciplines and the truck's got to be able to do all of that. 

BRYAN ROGALA: And that's what these trucks are used for. 

WALT WAGNER: Exactly. Yeah. 

BRYAN ROGALA: Well, let's see what else we can find. 

WALT WAGNER: Let's do it. 


BRYAN ROGALA: You've managed to get a little stuck here. 


BRYAN ROGALA: Somehow. It's hard to get one of Walt's trucks stuck-- 

WALT WAGNER: It's weird. 

BRYAN ROGALA: --but when you do, they're really stuck. 


BRYAN ROGALA: So we've got a couple of options, and what Walt's going to walk us through today is how to use a winch. So baseline, tell us what what a winch is, first of all, for people who might not know why you want one on your truck. 

WALT WAGNER: So basically a winch is a mechanical advantage. It's a tool. It's anchored to the vehicle and it gives you a mechanical advantage if, say the truck isn't running or you're stuck. It's one of those things that you hope you never need to use it, but if you do you've got it. And it saves you. We like to use them as a tool for pulling trees out of the way, not just getting yourself unstuck. So there's any number of ways you can use them. 

BRYAN ROGALA: So what are we going to do here today? 

WALT WAGNER: We're going to pretend that we're just stuck where we're at. And we can't just use Maxtrax. We can't just back up. We're going to winch forward. 



See, this is why you want to come out with Walt, because he gets his truck stuck and then he does all the hard work and I just have to stand here. Well, I can barely walk up this hill. I see why we're doing this. 

WALT WAGNER: OK. So we've got a tree that we're going to winch off of. 

BRYAN ROGALA: What is this? 

WALT WAGNER: This is basically just a snatch strap. We'll use this for some extra length. 


WALT WAGNER: But this will be our tree strap. 


BRYAN ROGALA: Basically a little 10-footer. 

BRYAN ROGALA: And this is going to help protect the tree. 

WALT WAGNER: This protects the tree, yeah. And it gives you something to put your winch line on. You don't ever want to wrap your winch line around a tree and then into itself. 


WALT WAGNER: You want to put it down as close to the base as you can. 


WALT WAGNER: And now we will hook a shackle to this. So now, once we've got our tree strap fixed to the tree, we can put our bow shackle in there. We need a little extra line, so we could put our strap on here. Run it all the way in, and then back it off a couple of turns because these things can't stretch and move. So if you run it all the way in tight, and that stretches, you'll have a hard time getting this off the tools. And then all your stuff is stuck to the tree. 


BRYAN ROGALA: Now we're getting all the slack out. 

WALT WAGNER: Yeah. Going to pull the slack out and make sure everything lines up good. There we go. All right. Now we can jump in. So what I want to do is, I want the winch and the truck to work together. I don't want to winch do all the work. And I want to also know when the truck can drive on its own power. 


WALT WAGNER: So what I want to do is kind of turn, since we're kind of pointing in a weird direction, I want to point towards where the winch is anchored with my wheels. 


WALT WAGNER: So I need to turn into it, which I'm already kind of there. And as I'm giving it a little bit of throttle, you see how the winch line is slacking? 


WALT WAGNER: I'm spinning a little bit, but I'm coming in on the winch at the exact same time. There we go. See that? 


WALT WAGNER: Now we're pointed in the right direction. We're getting closer. 

BRYAN ROGALA: You can see how stuck we were, actually, too. 

WALT WAGNER: Yeah. And we're also uphill, so that's going to have a lot to do with it. And winches are not fast, so don't expect yourself to go anywhere real fast. 

BRYAN ROGALA: To fly right out. 

WALT WAGNER: Yeah. There we go. See how it wants to give and then catch? So if that happens, just ease off, let it catch up, and then give it a little bit more throttle again. 

BRYAN ROGALA: This is that whole-- 

WALT WAGNER: Feeling the ground. 

BRYAN ROGALA: --as slow as possible, fast as necessary thing? 

WALT WAGNER: Yeah, exactly. See that? Now we're on our own. 


WALT WAGNER: I can ease forward. And I'll come in with the winch some more. But see how it's slack? 


WALT WAGNER: So we'll go as far as we can here. We know the lines going right underneath us. Throw it in park. And we can hop out. Since we know we got to go way up this mountain here, that could end up happening again. So we'll just coil this up, stash it in the truck, and drive with slack line here. In case we need to use it again, we don't have to pull all that line back off the winch. 


BRYAN ROGALA: OK. So that's how you properly use a winch. We've got some great instructions from Walt. We're going to keep moseying our way down the trail here, see what else we can get into. But if you like that and want to see more videos like it, like, comment, subscribe. You know what to do. Otherwise, we'll see you next time. 


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