I’ve gathered 17 of the most useful accessories you can get for your ATV winch. You may not need all of them; some are in the “nice to have” category, while others are absolute lifesavers.
Tree strap/tree trunk saver with a D-shackle
Let’s begin with one that is essential for anyone that owns an ATV winch. You will most likely end up making one of the most common rookie winching-mistakes out there without it.
And that is looping the winch rope or cable around a tree and hooking it back onto itself. You will get a solid anchoring point, but it is not the right way to do it.
I’ll be the first to admit I have also made this mistake simply because I didn’t know better.
The correct way is to loop a tree saver strap around the base of a solid tree trunk and then hook the winch cable to the strap. Use a D-shackle as a connector between the strap and the hook, and you have yourself a rock-solid anchoring point.
The purpose of using a tree strap is two-sided:
- It saves the tree from damage.
- It protects your winching cable from premature wear.
The strap should be about one to two inches wide. A flat and wide strap will not dig into and damage the tree as your round winch cable would. This is simply due to having a larger surface area in contact with the tree trunk.
Some riders don’t consider the occasional scuffed-up tree trunk being a big deal. But it is. Not only because of the actual damage you do to the tree, but also the damage you do to all other ATV riders’ reputations.
Leaving scarred trees may be what causes the next ATV trail to be closed or what prevents a new one from being opened.
Another good selling point for using a tree strap is how it keeps your winch cable from fraying.
If you loop the cable around a tree and hook the winching hook back onto the cable, you will prematurely wear or possibly damage the part of the rope that comes in contact with the tree and the steel hook.
The tree strap, on the other side, is more robust and will not wear as fast. It is also much cheaper to replace when worn instead of having to replace the entire winch cable.
The shackle or D-rings give you a more robust and safe way of hooking up to your anchoring point.
A proper snatch block is one of the most versatile and helpful winching accessories out there. It comes with a range of benefits and uses, such as:
- Allows you to double or triple the pulling capacity of your winch, wich.
- This does not only make your winch more powerful; it reduces the stress on the winch motor and gears, which may expand the life expectancy of your winch.
- You can use a snatch block to change winching direction when needed. Changing the course of the winch rope is useful to reach solid anchoring points, winch around objects, or prevent damaging your winch rope by winching over sharp rocks.
Make sure the snatch block you get is designed to be used with the winch rope you have. Some pulley wheels are made to be used only with steel cables and will wear or even damage synthetic winch ropes.
Heavy-duty leather Gloves
If your ATV winch is fitted with a steel cable, you will definitely need a pair of heavy-duty leather gloves any time you handle the winch cable.
Steel cables come with the downside that they will start getting small burrs or splinters as they wear. These small steel splinters can do a lot of damage to your hands if you do not protect them adequately by using a beefy pair of gloves.
There are no steel splinters with synthetic cables, so the need for gloves is not that big if you use this type of cable. But you still run the risk of getting burnt, so using gloves is always a good idea, regardless of what kind of cable you have.
Upgrade to a synthetic winch rope
Upgrading your steel cable to a winching rope made from synthetic material will drastically reduce the chance of getting your fingers hurt when handling the rope.
Safer and more comfortable handling is just one benefit of a synthetic winch rope. They also come with some other cool perks, such as less weight and higher breaking strength.
Look for a rope that has a protective sleeve and a connector loop with a metal insert.
Read about all the other benefits of a synthetic winch rope in this post, where I look at the pros and cons of both steel cables and synthetic ropes.
Aluminum hawse fairlead
With a synthetic winch rope, you will also be able to replace your steel roller fairleads with an aluminum hawse. They are more gentle on the synthetic rope than the steel rollers, as well as significantly lighter.
Reverse winching kit
Most ATVs have the winch permanently fixed at the front end of the machine. That’s where you’ll need it to be most times anyways.
When you ride in the mud where there is a risk of getting stuck, you should always plan to have a tree in front of you where you can hook up your front winch.
But things do not always go as planned. You get stuck, and in front of you, there is just more mud. There may be a big tree behind the ATV, but no way to reach it with the front-mounted winch.
Having a rear winch installed permanently is one option, but on many ATVs, you’ll have a hard time finding a good spot where it won’t be in the way.
A reverse winching kit uses a set of pulleys that allows you to direct the winching rope or cable down and under the ATV. This way, you can use your front-mounted winch to pull the ATV backward out of the mud.
It may not be for everyone, but if reverse winching is vital to you, it may be worth checking out.
Removable rear-mounted winch
As an alternative to permanently installing a winch at the rear of your ATV, you can get a detachable unit that you hook up only when you need it the most.
Some models connect to the hitch receiver, while others hook up to the rear cargo rack/frame.
Mobile winching anchor
If you do a lot of dune riding where there are just sand and no trees around to use as an anchoring point, you will need a mobile winching anchor. Having one is even more essential if you ride alone, with no one to hook on to if or when you get stuck.
A winching anchor works by digging a flat piece of metal into the soft ground. Then you hook your winch hook to the anchor.
The large anchor surface will distribute the pulling power over a larger area of the softer ground. Hopefully, there is enough holding power to get you unstuck.
Aluminum winch shackle connector
Upgrade your standard winch hook to an aluminum winch shackle to get a stronger, lighter, and safer connection to your anchoring point.
The aluminum connector is fixed to the winch rope with a steel pin. At the other end, you have a hole where you can hook up a D-shackle and a winching strap.
These connectors fit both synthetic ropes as well as steel winch cables.
Winching accessory kit
You can get many of the items discussed in this post as complete kits. The kits vary in contents and quality, but you usually get what you pay for. These typically contain gear such as:
- Tree saver
- Pulley block
- A couple of shackles
- Maybe a tow strap for towing your buddy home.
Do not cheap out and get the cheapest stuff out there. The quality of the cheapest ones can be questionable.
And if branding is not that important to you, you won’t really get that much better product by paying top dollar for the market-leading brands neither.
There is a lot of good stuff to choose from in the medium price range. I’ve included my favorite kit on the recommended products page.
Winch cable rubber stopper
A rubber stopper is just what it sounds like. It’s a two-part rubber ball that attaches to the cable a few inches from the winch hook.
Its purpose is to stop the cable just before the winch hook reaches the fairlead.
This will protect the towing hook and your fairlead/hawse from dents and rattles from being winched into each other. It also keeps tension on the cable, preventing it from coming loose.
Wireless Remote kit
From time to time it depending on the situation, it is nice to have the ability to operate the winch remotely.
But the remote that comes with stock winches are usually wired, or it comes with no remote at all, just a rocker switch.
Some brands offer wireless remote upgrades for their winches. Or, you can get a universal kit provided by companies like Cabelas and others. The universal kits will work with most ATV winches on the market.
Look for a model that automatically powers off when you are not using the remote. It’s easy to forget to turn off a manual switch with a dead battery as a result.
Wireless winch remotes left in the ON position will draw a small current from the ATV battery. This is, in fact, a widespread cause for ATV batteries that keeps draining.
Here is a full guide to troubleshooting an ATV battery that keeps going dead.
This one could be beneficial for all the mud bashers out there.
Most winches come with a tiny 12-inch grab strap attached to the winch hook. You’re supposed to grab onto this strap when you pull on the winch cable.
The problem with the stock strap is that it usually gets lost after just a few times use and that is it way too short.
If you’ve ever found yourself waist-deep in mud or water, you know what I’m talking about. Having to dig down into the mud looking for your winch hook is not that fun.
With a 2-3 feet long grab-strap, you can tie the free end to your front cargo rack, and you will find your winch hook without having to get wet and muddy.
You can make one yourself or get one from the store. It doesn’t matter how you make it; even a short piece of rope will do.
Log grapple, lifting tong, log hook, skidding tongs
They have many different names, but they all work by the same basic principle. It’s a simple log gripping tool that hooks up to the end of your winch cable. Two metal hooks tighten by the force of the pulling winch cable.
Place the hook around the end of a log and winch. The hooks will tighten and grab the log, fast and easy.
You can use it to retrieve hard-to-reach logs, skidding, or lifting when you use your winch with an ATV log trailer with a crane.
The tool is much faster and more practical to use than messing around with straps or chains.
A so-called choker chain is a short piece of chain, about 4-5 feet long, that can be used to attach logs to your winch cable.
At one end, they have a ring that allows you to loop the chain around the log. The chain will tighten firmly around the log as you pull on the winch cable.
They are not as fast to hook up like a log grapple but still very useful, everlasting, and cheap.
Their robustness and failproof operation make them my favorite log attachment tool for any log winching application.
If you are looking for creative ways to use your ATV winch, you will find 29 ideas for winch uses in this post.
Kinetic recovery and tow-rope
You should never use your winch rope to tow another vehicle. Doing so will likely damage the gears inside your winch.
Also, please do not fall for the temptation of hooking the winch rope to a stuck ATV and then trying to pull it out by driving your bike.
Yanking on the winch rope will more than likely do permanent damage to the inside of your winch.
Instead, you should use kinetic recovery rope any time you try to get an ATV unstuck by pulling instead of winching.
A kinetic recovery rope is a slightly stretchable rope designed to recover vehicles stuck in sand, mud, or snow. The stretch will take up much of the energy created from pulling hard on a stuck vehicle, creating much less strain on both vehicles anchoring points.
You can also use the rope to extend your winch rope any time you lack a few feet to reach the nearest tree.
I find them to be an excellent winch saver and a multi-purpose rope to extend the reach of my winch.
Hitch Receiver D-shackle mount
If your ATV does not have a proper rear anchoring point, consider installing a D-shackle mount to the hitch receiver. This will make a solid point to hook up the winch hook next time your friend will be winching you out of the mud.