We've all been there: stuck out in the woods on some middle-of-nowhere trail with your back end at the bottom of a deep, snowy embankment. There's not a soul within 20 miles and you didn't want to buy a winch for your machine. You just don't get yourself into these situations normally. You have 2 options. You can either sit and freeze to death in the unheated cab of your UTV, or you can start walking and hope you still at least have your big toes left by the time you find some help.
How about you take option 3. You can still get yourself out of this bind—and keep your toes too! You just need to make your own winch using some basic tools (let's hope that your winch eschewing hubris doesn't extend to your toolbox.)
The Redneck Winch
The term "redneck winch" covers a lot of different winching techniques. This particular version of the redneck winch is nice and simple. It only requires rope but it has some major limitations.
The first thing you need to do is get your rope. Easy enough.
The next thing you need to do is tie one end of the rope through whichever wheel is facing the direction you want to go. If you're nose first in the ditch you'll attach to your rear wheel; if you're butt first in the ditch then you'll attach to your front wheel. Whatever wheel you attach to must receive power. If you have two-wheel-drive only for example, you'll need to attach to one of the two wheels that receives power even if they're at the bottom of the ditch.
You'll also want to make sure your rope has enough room to get around your brake calipers, otherwise you're going to tear something up.
Next you need to anchor your rope. You'll need to find something that's almost perfectly in line with the wheel you've tied to. This is because the winch works by spooling the rope around your tire. You're only going to be able to get that rope to spool if it's pretty much straight on. No fairlead here!
If you want to, and you have enough rope, you can repeat this process on the opposite wheel. It'll make the winch twice as likely to work and double your winching power.
The final step is to give your machine some gas. You want to go as slow and steady as you can. If your anchor point is perfectly straight on, the rope should spool up easily and you'll begin to winch yourself out. If you're not perfectly straight on, the rope will probably slip off the tire and slacken at some point. Don't worry! You can still make it out... probably. If the rope slips check to make sure it's not wrapping around your axle or else you might end up tearing apart your boot.
After it slips, line up your rope again. Try to wedge it between some big lugs if you've got them. But if the angle to your anchor point is bad enough, you'll only be able to get one or two rotations of your tire before it slips again.
Hopefully that's enough to get you out. This works best when you're just barely stuck or need to move across flat ground until you find traction on a better surface.
The Flip-Flop Winch
If the redneck winch doesn't get the job done, you can try out this much more effective (and more difficult. And slower. And more dangerous.) home-grown winch. It's called the Flip-Flop winch. This one requires more than just a rope, but not too much more.
First thing you need is a rope. Preferably a rope rated to 3500 lbs or more. You'll also need two poles. I'm guessing you didn't bring those with you so you'll have to find a couple. That means you'll probably need a hatchet or saw to get these poles up to snuff.
Getting these poles is the tricky part. They need to be very, very strong. So look for living hardwood that's no less than 5 inches in diameter and at least 6 feet long. Remember when I said this was dangerous? Don't skimp on these poles. Get the right ones.
Next you need to tie your vehicle off to an anchor point. It's not so critical to get it perfectly straight for this winch but winching in a straight line is always easiest. Make sure you've got some good knots on there that can stand up to a lot of force.
Now comes the complicated part. Lay your two poles on the rope midway between the vehicle and the anchor point. Lay them so that they make an off-center cross and cross each other about one foot from their ends. One pole should be parallel with the rope and the other should be perpendicular with the rope. The pole that's parallel should be the stronger of the two poles and should be on top of the two poles.
The parallel pole on top is your lever pole. The perpendicular pole on the bottom is your drum pole.
From your anchor point, you need to run the rope over the drum pole at the short end. Then back under and over the lever pole at the short end. Then under the drum pole and on to your vehicle. Clear as mud? Here's a picture.
Winch it! To do that you just flip the lever arm to the other side of the contraption, then you flop the drum arm and repeat. You'll want to cinch up the rope a bit after your first couple flips and flops but after that your golden. It will get tougher to flip and flop as you go along and it will get more dangerous because the poles tend to want to flip back as the tension builds up. Also those poles or the rope could snap at any time and wack you. But hey, at least you don't have to spend the night in the ditch. If you're OK with a few scrapes, bruises, a black eye, maybe a broken arm, and a bunch of wasted time, then this is the winch for you!
There's one other thing you could do that's much quicker, easier, and safer. You could just buy a winch right now before you're stuck. We've got some you might like, and they happen to be on sale until Sunday (10/8/17). Here's how to use a Black Ops winch.
End of story.