There is often a discussion of steel versus synthetic materials when it comes to winch line. In my opinion, there is only one choice for trail and recreational use. I prefer a synthetic winch line for its easier maintenance and increased safety if it fails.
During a video shoot on how to repair a synthetic winch line, I shot some video of us cutting the winch line. It really shows how tough the synthetic rope is and if you watch until the end you can see how the winch line reacts when it breaks under tension.
Everyone may still have an opinion about what is better and neither side is necessarily wrong. For your average winch user, the safety benefit of a synthetic winch line and the reduction in maintenance are certainly attractive features.
A few other items that make synthetic my rope of choice:
It floats. Ever drop your winch line in the water and try to find it?
You can get it in custom colors. Not just for styling, this is handy if you get a contrasting color to your terrain. Makes it easier to see your rope in recovery situations.
No metal splinters when doing maintenance. Most consumer winch lines do not require greasing, back in the military it was commonplace to slap grease on some gloves and make sure the entire line was treated. Even though we don’t have to do that maintenance on consumer winches working with a metal winch line definitely has a higher risk of injury from handling.
Weight is another area where the synthetic winch line is superior. Eighty feet of synthetic winch line weighs about 8 pounds, compared to 20 pounds for the equivalent steel cable.
Steel has two distinct advantages.
Steel is significantly cheaper to buy, often hundreds of dollars less. Steel is more resistant to abrasion damage.
Regardless of what you ultimately use always follow proper winch techniques and be safe. Happy wheeling! Thanks to our friends at Off Road Consulting for participating in the video.