3 Ways to Get Unstuck When You're Riding Solo

Closeup of UTV stuck in the mud.

You like to think you’re prepared for everything that can happen when you’re out for a ride — you’ve got your winch, a spare tire, spare axles, tire plugs, and even jumper cables. But even the most prepared riders can end up in awkward recovery-proof situations.

What do you do if you’re bogged down in mud in an open field with no trees to anchor to? What if you get stuck in the dunes and don’t have a buddy around to get you out? What if your winch craps out? (go with Black Ops Winches to avoid that problem.)

Here are three ways to get unstuck when traditional methods won’t work.

  • The Deadman Anchor Method
    The deadman anchor method makes use of your winch, a shovel, and some found supplies to give you an anchor point where there is nothing else. This is great for when you get bogged down in the moors or just out of reach of the nearest tree. It’s not great for using in loose sand but can be successful. We’ll cover sand anchors in a bit.

    Diagram of the Deadman Anchor Method
    Add a stake to either end of the anchor log for more strength.
    To make a deadman anchor, you need a thick heavy log, another log that doesn’t have to be huge, and, if you have some or can make some, a pair of stakes. If you’re in a really barren location and can’t find an appropriate log for this method, you can use a spare tire or spare axle instead of a log as a last resort.

    Step one is to dig a trench in front of your stuck UTV that’s big enough to bury the bigger of two logs (known as the deadman). The strength of the anchor is dependent on the size of the log but also on the depth of your trench. So, dig it deep if you’re especially stuck. You can further strengthen your anchor by placing stakes in front of the log. Be sure to dig a small channel for your winch line as well.

    The next step is to anchor your winch line to the deadman and run the line over the smaller log at the brim of your trench to keep it from digging into the dirt.

    Finally, bury your deadman, stakes, winch line, and winch out as you normally would. If the deadman is deep enough and the dirt is dense enough, you should have no problem pulling out of your sticky situation.

  • The Sand Parachute Method
    This is your method if you’re stuck in the sand with no trees or friends to help pull you out. You can use this method in most terrains, but it tends to be too labor intensive in everything but sand and snow. For a sand parachute, you’ll need a tarp, a rope, a shovel, and a winch.

    A UTV about to get stuck in the sand
    Riding solo in the sand is risky if you can't rescue yourself. Bring a tarp!
    Step one is to dig a hole in front of your vehicle and line the hole with a tarp.

    Then you need to fill the hole, making sure you have access to all four corners of your tarp.

    Lash the four corners of your tarp together with a rope and anchor your winch line to the rope.

    Finally, you simply winch on out.

    Obviously, anchoring to sand has some limitations. If you’re really super stuck, you will probably just pull the tarp right out of the sand, and if you have a cheap tarp, you might end up ripping the corners off. These limitations can be avoided somewhat by making two sand parachutes and connecting them in a “Y” using a snatch block. At any rate, a couple tarps and some rope won’t take up too much space in your cargo, and if you plan on riding solo, they’re well worth the space.

  • The Put a Plank on Your Tire Method
    This method is incredibly simple and effective. It can work in any stuck-style situation, but it’s especially useful in the mud.

    If you’re stuck in the mud and can’t get traction, you can lash a plank of wood or a branch to your wheel. Just be sure whatever you use won’t interfere with your fender, suspension, or brake lines at any point in your tires rotation.

    Placing a tree branch under the tire of a UTV stuck in the mud
    Getting the right branch is tricky. In this setup, we'd have to move the branch after every quarter turn to keep it from hitting the shock mount.
    Once lashed, give just enough gas to turn your wheels. Every time the plank comes around, it’ll grab the mud like a paddle to move you forward. It’s the same concept behind tank treads, just a little more redneck.

    Be sure to move slowly and keep an eye on your wheel to make sure nothing shifts and starts tearing up your fender. It’s a super easy way to get unstuck, and its much more effective than just throwing crap in front of your wheels and hoping it grabs.

Be Prepared If you insist on riding solo, and I know a lot of you do, bringing a couple simple tools and using a little finesse can keep you from hiking home. One thing is for certain, though—you need a good winch to make sure you get home. If you don’t plan on making your own, grab one of our Black Ops Winches and enjoy your freedom. Ride safe when you ride solo. After all, it feels good to know you can take care of yourself.

It's always important to remember to ride safe, especially when you're riding solo.