ATVs are ideal for small-scale forestry like collecting firewood, thinning jobs and even hauling logs for your hobby milling projects. In this post, I have gathered the most useful types of equipment and accessories for various ATV forestry work. I’ve also included my personal favorite type of attachment.
1. Log trailer
With a proper logging trailer, you will be able to haul surprisingly large amounts of firewood with your ATV. You can even manage some bigger sawmill sized logs. The rated payload on these trailers is usually more than you are able to fill with logs.
They are fitted with boggie-wheels for better off-road stability and loading capacity. Look for one that has minimum 4-ply tires for better protection against flats.
The design of the side supports varies quite a lot from model to model. Most of them are made to be lowered some way or another for easier loading.
Other important features to look for is a properly galvanized steel frame, greaseable axles, and an adjustable wheel assembly.
2. Log skidder/log hauler
Log haulers are my personal favorite ATV attachments for logging.
They are cheap, simple, robust and maneuverable. The loading capacity is great, and they work just as fine for strings of firewood as they do with bigger logs up to 18-20 inch in diameter.
Most of them come with a mechanism to raise the log in front. This can be in form of an electric or manual winch or a variety of other designs. The logs are hung in a chain or placed in a studded cradle.
I prefer the type that uses a pulley or a ring on an angled piece of iron. This design mechanically raises the log when you drive forward. No winching required.
Not only does this design make loading fast and easy, but it acts as a clever safety feature when skidding downhill.
When the log wants to slide forward against the ATV, the mechanism makes sure the log instantly gets lowered to the ground where friction helps prevents it from sliding into the rear of the ATV.
The lifting mechanism makes skidding the logs a lot easier and helps to keep them cleaner. But when skidding on bare ground the logs will not stay completely clean. And the method will leave some visible tracks on the environment.
If contaminating the log with mud or sand is a big concern to you, you can get log haulers that include rear log support. This may be the case if you plan on milling the logs. Sand in the bark will damage and wear the milling blade in no time.
The rear support consists of a separate arch and drawbar with its own set of wheels. The part is designed so that you use the leverage of the drawbar to lift the log up from the ground. Then you attach the log to the front arch and can start skidding.
But this extra step does add up in time throughout the day. Therefore I prefer using only the front arch for the most part.
3. Loading attachment for log trailer
Loading those logs by hand works fine for the occasional load of firewood. But this nifty little gadget makes the whole process much more effective and a lot less tiresome.
It utilizes the lever principle to lighten the job significantly. You are also able to load higher stacks without breaking your back.
The cost/benefit ratio of this little thing is hard to beat and makes it my second favorite ATV accessory for logging.
4. Manual logging crane
Old-school loggers managed to load some impressive piles of logs without having access to modern equipment like loading cranes and winches. In theory, you can do the same with you ATV trailer, but I prefer using a crane.
Manual logging cranes are the entry option for loading heavier logs onto the logging trailer. They usually come with a hand-cranked winch and steel cable. The crane can be rotated to either side of the trailer and is adjustable in height and length.
When installing a crane you must also get proper lateral support or you will have tipping issues. Ideally, it should be possible to widen the support for even better stability.
5. Log trailer with hydraulic crane and grapple
For maximum forwarding capacity, you should consider getting a log trailer that’s fitted with a hydraulic loading crane.
These type of trailers come with a wide variety of features and practical accessories. Be aware that quality does vary quite a bit, even if they look very similar from a distance. On cheaper models, the crane is usually harder to operate smoothly, and the trailer may be lacking in overall build quality.
As a minimum the trailer should have:
- Hydraulically operated support legs to prevent tipping.
- An external motor and hydraulic pump aggregate that provides sufficient hydraulic capacity. This can be mounted on the ATV or may be self-contained on the trailer.
- A quality crane with good reach and a rotating grapple.
- Quality ergonomic operating controls that attach to the back of the ATV or on the trailer drawbar. Look for a model with two four-way joysticks for the smoothest operation (only on high-end models)
In addition, you can get a wide variety of practical upgrades and accessories. Availability depends on make and model. These features do drive the price up, so consider carefully what you really need for your operation.
- Hydraulic four wheels drive for better pulling capacity
The system is called “Robson-drive” and basically consists of a metal drive wheel that in turn drives the trailer wheels. See the above picture. The system works by friction and gets its power from a hydraulic motor, one on each side. With drive on the trailer wheels, you no longer have to worry about getting stuck under most logging conditions. With the weight of the logs pushing down, the trailer will basically provide all the traction it needs on its own. The systems also function as brakes when you need to go down steep hills. Attempting a steep decline with a fully loaded trailer with no brakes is one of the most common causes of ATV logging accidents.
- A hydraulic winch mounted to the crane boom
Having a winch on the crane boom effectively extend the reach of your crane. An electric winch would also work, but with a hydraulic motor, you do not have to worry about battery capacity.
- Hydraulically controlled frame extension
Most trailers come with the possibility to mechanically extend or shorten the frame to fit the length of wood you’re hauling. Some trailers do this with a hydraulic cylinder, which makes the system a lot more flexible. It gives you the possibility to adjust how much weight that goes to your bikes trailer hitch with just the push of a lever.
- Hydraulic boom extension in the loading crane
This feature effectively gives you extended reach
- 360-degree grapple rotator
Not all cranes come with the ability to rotate the grapple freely in a full 360-degree rotation. They stop just before making a full circle, and then you have to go back. You can get the job done without this feature, but it all comes down to efficiency.
- Hydraulicly foldable drawbar for better maneuverability
- Hydraulic felling grapple
Some manufacturers offer hydraulic felling grapples that attach to the crane. This allows you to efficiently take down smaller logs and makes a great setup for thinning jobs.
6. Chainsaw mount
When you’re just transporting the saw, a simple bungee cord is often enough to secure it to the ATV. But this would not be very practical when you are logging and constantly shift between cutting and transporting the saw.
If the mount is not easily accessible, you’ll end up taking chances by putting the saw on your half full trailer, or somewhere on the bike. There is also a bigger risk of misplacing it and then running over it with the bike.
A good chainsaw mount should have features like:
- easily accessible when logging
- rugged – you should be able to use it without any risk of breaking it
- quickly locks the saw in place. A one-hand tool-free operated locking nut is good.
- should cope with both warm and cold temperatures. Cheaper mounts made of flimsy plastic may break when temperatures drop low.
7. Quadskidder skidding plate
While it is possible to just pull a log behind the ATV without using any tools, it is far from ideal. You run a great risk of getting stuck on every stump and root on your way, and the log will become really dirty.
By strapping the front end of the log onto a skidding plate it will slide a lot easier over obstacles and will not be forced into the ground. You will be able to skid much larger logs just by using this basic skidding tool.
The plate is made out of durable metal and has a curved front for better flotation. Some models like the QuadSkidder is made so that the log gets lifted slightly up from the ground when you pull the tow-chains. When you stop the load sets back to the ground again.
8. Skidding cone
A cheaper alternative to a metal skidding plate is getting a polymer plastic skidding cone. You thread the chain or winch cable through a hole at the end of the cone and then hook up the log for hauling.
As soon as you start pulling, the log or several smaller logs will get pulled inside of the cone, where it’s well protected from dirt and slide a lot easier over uneven terrain, roots and tree stumps.
A quality cone should be flexible and does not crack easily. Even at temperatures down to minus 30 degrees Celsius.
9. Waterproof storage box
It’s a good idea to have some sort of waterproof storage on your ATV. That way you can safely bring more sensitive gear like a phone, keep your lunch from being smashed and always have a set of dry clothes for when you need a change.
Because when doing forest work with an ATV, you will get wet, both from the inside and out. Snow falling down your neck from snow filled branches, pouring rain, or dripping sweat.
Traditional manual logging using a chainsaw is physically challenging. Even if you do this for a living and find yourself in the best shape of your life, you’d be hard pressed getting through the day without breaking a sweat.
In any case, it is nice to have a set of dry clothes to put on when you take a break or when your trailer is full and you take on the road back home.
10. Electric Winch
With a winch, you can retrieve heavy or out of reach logs. You can finish off a tree that accidentally got stuck halfway down. Or you can perform an impressive exact tree felling.
When the trailer is full you may need to winch yourself through and over some of the obstacles on your way home.
Having a winch is like having a really strong friend there with you to help out in the most tricky situations.
You can get winches that mount onto the ATV itself or you can mount it to the trailer crane.
11. Snatch block
If you already have a winch, you can multiply its power and usefulness by adding a simple snatch block to your kit.
While more pulling power is always nice, it’s the ability to change winching direction that makes snatch blocks so useful when logging.
Heavy logs may need some winching to retrieve. Difficult terrain or other obstacles may sometimes prevent you from lining up the ATV where it needs to be to winch properly.
By hooking the snatch block up to a tree and running the winch line through it you can reach logs that otherwise would be impossible to reach.
12. Choker chain
A choker chain is a short piece of chain with a hook at one end. They can be used for a lot of things, but are particularly good for hooking up one or more logs.
Form a loop by hooking the chain hook onto the chain. When the free end of the chain is pulled the loop tightens firmly around the log or logs. Whether you attach it to your winch or to your log skidder, the choker chain will keep your logs securely in place.
13. Lifting tongs and grapples
As an alternative to using a choker chain, you can get a mechanical grapple that closes and grips the log when being pulled or lifted. They allow you to attach the log a bit faster, but also involve a greater risk of losing the grip of the log. The tool can be used for skidding, lifting or winching.
14. Hydraulic front end loader attachment
That’s right, you can get front-end loaders that mounts to your stock ATV. They do not possess the same lifting capacity as a tractor or a wheel loader, but for smaller scale operations they can be quite useful.
They can be fitted with a range of implements, and pallet forks should work well for logging. With a lifting capacity of about 300lb at as much as 5 feet high, you should have no problems stacking a decent pile of firewood. You may even manage some bigger saw-mill sized logs.
Just remember that the potential lifting capacity will likely be more than the weight of your bike can manage. Too much, and the bike will tip forward.
Install the motor and hydraulic pump to the rear cargo racks of the bike to increase lifting capacity and reduce the risk of tipping.
15. Tire chains
Traction, or the lack of it, is usually the biggest challenge you will face when hauling any type of wood through the forest. The bike has plenty of power, you just need to make sure that it’s being put to the ground.
ATV tires come with aggressive tread patterns that provide a decent grip on many surfaces. But decent is often not enough when it comes to logging. Wet ground and slippery roots will often leave your bare tires spinning.
And when tires start spinning, what do you do? Resolve to speed to get the job done. This is when you’re likely to break stuff or get yourself injured.
A simple way to get better traction is to install a set of proper tire chains in all tires. And they are not only for ice and snow. Chains give you a lot better traction on mud and dirt as well.
Add some weight to the bikes cargo racks for even better traction. This allows you to haul at a nice and steady pace, where you maintain full control of your operation.
While chained tires are good on solid grounds like dirt and ice, they are not ideal in wet mud or deep snow. In these conditions, a set of ATV tracks is by far the best alternative.
They are not cheap, but gives you both exceptional traction and floatation, even when riding on soft grounds.
17. Heated grips
Winter logging usually equals wet gloves. And driving an ATV in freezing conditions with wet gloves is not something you would do voluntarily. There is a fine line between just being uncomfortable and inflicting severe frostbite to your hands.
So why not take the opportunity to dry and warm your hands when you’re riding the bike? You can get affordable aftermarket kits that will fit almost any bike. They are easy to install, and a great upgrade for anyone that uses their ATV at winter time.
18. Skid plates
The forest is full of obstacles like sharp rocks, roots and tree stumps. No matter how careful you are, you are likely to hit one at one time or other. Not only will this make the underside of your bike look bad. You may also inflict severe damage to the bike’s suspension and undercarriage.
By installing skid plates under the ATV you can protect it from a lot of the damages. This does not mean you can just hit any obstacle and be fine, but it gives you one extra layer of protection.
Most ATV skid plates on the market are made from aluminum or a strong polymer material. Witch one you should choose will often come down to availability and personal preference.
Some prefer polymer as it does not get dented as easily as aluminum.
Others prefer aluminum because dents can be removed with a hammer, and cracks can be welded.
19. Gas-powered portable capstan winch
As an alternative to an ATV mounted electric winch or a crane mounted hydraulic winch, you may want to consider a gas-powered portable capstan winch.
You can even get winches that attach directly to your chainsaw.
The portability of these kinds of tools makes them great for retrieving logs from areas your ATV simply cannot reach.
20. Tree Chopper
The tree chopper is an implement that’s made for efficiently cutting down brush and small trees up to four inches in diameter. The tool attaches to the front of the ATV where solid metal blades cut the trees by ground level as you ride the bike forward.
21. Receiver bar log holder /sawbuck
This attachment goes under many different names, but they all work by the same principle. You simply stick one end of the log into the tool to keep it off the ground when cutting firewood. Log jaws are one model that gets good user reviews.
I must admit I thought this tool seemed a bit unnecessary when I first saw it. But anyone that has tried operating a chainsaw at ground level for an extended period of time will understand the benefit of a more ergonomic working position.
You also prevent dulling your chain and keep it away from your feet.
22. Cargo basket
Stock ATVs come with very little available storage. There is no trunk or flatbed (except on 6×6 ATVs). If you’re lucky your bike may be equipped with a small storage box that can fit some basic tools and a pair of gloves.
But when out logging you need to bring stuff like gas and oil, felling gear, chains and straps, the chainsaw, felling tools chainsaw tools and a lot more.
A solid cargo basket will be a cheap and simple way to keep most of the more robust and roomy gear. They come in many shapes and are commonly made out of metal or plastic.
If you’re looking to keep your costs down, and don’t emphasize aesthetics, a simple plastic milk crate will do the job just fine.
23. Dump trailer
If you own a dump trailer, you may not need a logging trailer just to gather some firewood. Remove the front and rear hatch and you can load it up with logs. It’s also a great way of transporting finished cut firewood to where you are storing it.
24. Log splitter
A tow behind log splitter makes a great addition to your ATV. They are great when needing to split firewood at remote locations like a hunting cabin or anywhere else there is no access by road.
Get one that has its own gas-powered engine and you don’t even need electricity to get the job done.