Recovery gear has been ever evolving, from the very first rope used to tow another vehicle to today’s modern synthetic lines. The goal has always been to tow more, do it safely, and make it last.
If we look back into the early years of recovery gear the designs were basic, heavy, and utilitarian. The overarching theory was the heavier the better. The bulk of this early gear was brought over from the heavy equipment and crane industry. Strong but bulky for general use.
The basic design of these early recovery parts worked but the constant danger from a failed part and the difficulty in teaching proper use made them dangerous when not used properly. Add the large size and the extreme forces at work when there was a failure the potential for dismemberment or death was very likely.
As recovery gear began to evolve companies began to downsize these larger components for ones that matched the lightweight vehicles (compared to cranes) they were being used with. The most recent trend is to forego metal products altogether for synthetic line based recovery gear. But is it going too far?
One of these pieces of equipment is the pulley block (snatch block or sheave). Made from slabs of steel with a pulley sandwiched in between they remained big, bulky, and heavy.
The Snatch Block Goes Soft
Performance Unlimited in Vermont have begun to redesign the snatch block and replaced the metal with a sailboat style anti-friction ring and a soft shackle rated for 18,000 lbs.
This alternative to the heavy metal pulley block deletes the heavy and unsafe components out of the recovery equation.
Historically when using a pulley block you had to use a shackle of some kind in conjunction but now with this new design it has taken both components and merged them together to create a safer tool for a recovery situation. This equates to less gear and fewer pieces in the rigging.
So taking the aluminum pulley and merging it with a soft shackle, sounds pretty simple right, but how well does it work? It actually works just as well as a metal pulley block. Now, will it last using it daily for day to day work? The soft shackle will not hold up to the constant use but that is not what this is for. This is for the occasional need of a pulley set up but without having to carry all the weight. So in that usage, it will hold up excellently.
Is friction an issue? It is but not like we thought. The soft shackle shows some compression spots from the load but can be massaged back into shape. At the low speeds, the pulley seems to absorb the friction, not the soft shackle. This may be partly due to the low speed of off-road winches.
This new snatch block design has been impressive and a great product that holds up to the tedious motion of winching.
From the beginnings of the snatch block, it was always a simple design but with the downside of being heavy. However, thinking the even simpler design and softer, lighter components it is a great option to add to your recovery kit.
Soft Recovery Verdict
We now keep the soft pulley in our recovery kit and have been putting it through its paces. It is exposed to various weather elements and I’ll admit, we are not gentle on our gear. It has to be tough and hold up which the soft pulley has been proving to be over and over.