The concept of using a series of ropes and pulleys to multiply force to move objects is a concept that has existed since the time of Archimedes (287-212 BC).
Since that time not much has changed, we still use hooks, pulleys, and rope. Some of the parts have been modernized along the way and materials have certainly seen the most change. We have steel instead of wood, Dyneema synthetic fibers instead of traditional rope, electric and hydraulic power instead of people power. One of the biggest changes over the last 5 years is the introduction of closed-system winching and the addition of soft shackle connections.
So what is closed system winching?
Closed System Winching is a technique that uses rigging built entirely of closed link hardware. The opening of winch hooks makes them susceptible to slipping from the secure attachment point. Thinly constructed sheet metal safety latches are not a secure means to contain loads. They are prone to failure, especially during momentary slack conditions where winch loads often shift and apply high forces to these non-structural latches. Think that safety latch will contain 3700+ pounds of the vehicle being hauled up a muddy hill when all the weight and tension shift?
A closed system on the other hand can handle a load on all areas. A D-ring is a perfect example of this. Once the pin is screwed into place the entire ring is load rated. How best to combine the simple perfection of the D-ring and your winch setup?
The invention of the safety thimble was a very big stride forward in off-road recovery and safety when using your equipment. Eliminating the winch hook and the use of a thimble meant you could combine the D-ring with your winch and have a safe secure recovery setup.
The thimble allows for both ends of a strap to be secured. Slide the bolt through the hole, screw it tight, and you now have 16,000 pounds of a secure safe recovery. (More depending on the thimble and D-ring) Most winches aren’t even rated for this amount.
The side benefit to the thimble is they can be drawn tight to the fairlead and are great for protecting your bumper. This also keeps tension on your line and because you don’t have it sticking out it will last longer. Nothing worse than your winch line hanging in the elements when it doesn’t have to.
Whether the winch line is under full tension or slack condition, closed system winch recovery gear keeps all of it secure and is by far the safest way to winch.
The advent of the soft shackle and soft connection winch rope is the next evolution.
Soft shackles were openly ridiculed when they first arrived. Deemed too weak to survive recovery situations, not strong enough to withstand heavy loads, and they were neat but not viable.
None of these turned out to be true. Soft shackles are amazing pieces of recovery gear, easier and lighter to carry, strong, safe, and much more versatile than metal rings and hooks. So much so that some winch ropes are hookless, and the Freedom Winch Line from BleepinJeep has loops incorporated into the winch line as built-in soft shackles.
Another new product is from Yankem ropes and a newly designed fairlead that has provisions for a hookless rope. Groove Fairlead
All of these improvements are making winching safer and lighter.
The Freedom Winch Line in particular has been proven in the field to be versatile, durable, and certainly a product worth looking at. You can check out its frequent use at Matt’s Off-Road Recovery and their daily activities.
No matter what option you take closed-system winching and using these new safer products will help get you home safe and sound.