Maybe you’ve been there before. You’ve been riding hard for the last couple hours, conquering boulders, mud, and tight spots until suddenly you find yourself good and stuck, and no amount of pushing, pulling, or cursing will make your vehicle budge. You’ve got a winch. The problem is there’s not a rock, tree, or stump in sight and no buddy around to pull you out. How are you going to find an anchor point to winch out? Roll up your sleeves and get ready to move some dirt. It’s time to dig a dead man.
Digging your own anchor is a last resort, but when you find yourself in a desperate situation, miles from civilization, it may be your only option. Here’s how you can make your own winch anchor if the situation calls for it.
If you’re adequately prepared for times like this, most likely you have a shovel stashed in your ATV or truck. Pull it out and start digging. The depth of the hole will depend somewhat on the size and weight of your vehicle and just how good you’re stuck. The deeper the hole, the sturdier your anchor will be. At minimum, it should be deep enough to fully cover an object the size of your spare tire and rim.
Dig the hole directly in line with the stuck vehicle, if possible, and far enough away from your quad or truck to spool out a decent length of cable for a maximum power pull. Spool out the cable ahead of time to measure the distance if you’re unsure where to start digging. Taking the time to plan out where your dead man needs to be is better than making the hole too close or too far away from your vehicle and then having to dig a new one.
A broad, weighty object makes the sturdiest dead man winch anchor, such as a log, large rock, or spare tire. If you carry a spare, you have a heavy, solid object on hand without scrounging around for a log or other large object. The size of the tire corresponds to the size of your vehicle and, if buried deep enough, should hold fast as you winch out.
Attach a chain or tree strap to the anchor and bury the log or tire deep in the hole, angled away from your vehicle for greater resistance during the pull. Fill in the open areas with dirt and pack it down solid. Hook up your winch to the chain or strap and you’re ready to start the recovery. After you winch out your vehicle, make sure to retrieve your makeshift anchor and fill in the hole. Leave as little trace of your digging as possible.
Instead of burying a heavy object, you can also drive in long stakes or axles. They should be at least three feet in length to reach deep enough into the ground. For a solid anchor, pound in several stakes, one behind the other, at an angle away from the line of pull. The stakes must be deep enough and the ground dense enough to sustain the force of the pull or the winch will yank the anchor right out and all your work will be for nothing. This can also create a potentially dangerous situation if the buried anchor pulls free and rockets toward you or your vehicle.
After driving in the stakes, connect them with a chain or strap, and attach the winch hook to the strap as close to the ground as possible. If you have trouble pulling the stakes back out, try winching them out by pulling at the same angle as the anchor.
As you can see, digging a dead man takes time and hard work and is not going to be your first option, but when it comes down to walking back for help or making your own winch anchor, now you have the option of getting out on your own without the embarrassment of calling in the rescue squad.