As an Overlander, you’re probably all too familiar with going off-road. If you’re serious about off-roading, you’ve probably considered a winch at some point.
Perhaps that’s brought you here, or maybe you have a winch already and are considering upgrading and what to know what your options are. If any of these sounds like you, then you’re in the right place. We’ve down the research and have come up with the best winches for your next adventure.
Winches can be our Hail Mary when we’re stuck in a remote area, and it wouldn’t be pleasant to be stuck without one, especially if you’re on your own.
However, with so much choice and so many options available, it can be difficult to know which one is right for your defender. Let’s look at the key differences to see how they compare.
Electric or Hydraulic
The two main types of winches are electric and Hydraulic.
Hydraulic winches usually run off the power steering pump and need the vehicle to be running to operate, this could be a problem if the vehicle is submerged, for example. Hydraulic winches are also a lot more difficult to install.
Electric winches use the battery of the vehicle to operate, many people will install a second deep cycle battery for this purpose.
They are much easier to install, making them the more commonly used type of winch for off-road vehicles. They can be used without the motor running and need little maintenance. They are also more affordable than hydraulic winches.
Steel cable or Synthetic rope
The choice of what material to use again gives us two options. Steel cable and synthetic rope. Both options are extremely capable and both are used widely.
Steel cable has been used since the start and is very commonly used still today. The cable is made of tightly wound strands of steel and is very durable.
The cable is resistant to abrasion and can be used in all sorts of environments without getting damaged. The downsides of steel cable are that it can rust and therefore must be maintained to try to prevent that.
It’s more difficult to handle because of frayed wires. One of the biggest drawbacks is its ability to store kinetic energy, making it extremely dangerous. If the cable snaps when under load, it will send the cable flying and a very serious hazard to anyone around.
Synthetic ropes came into circulation in the 1990s and have been steadily growing in popularity ever since. It is a much lighter alternative to the steel cable and easier to handle.
One of the major benefits of synthetic rope is that it doesn’t store kinetic energy, making it a safer option than the steel cable.
On the other side, synthetic rope can fray if rubbed against rough surfaces and can be damaged if exposed to UV light, so it would need a winch cover. It is also generally more expensive than steel cable.
The general rule of thumb when buying a winch for your Defender is to get one that can pull 1.5 times the Defenders weight, taking into account any extra weight you have added to the vehicle.
So, for example, if you had a stock 110 300TDI with no extras you would have a weight of 4 530 lbs. To find the size winch you need, you would multiply 4 530 x 1.5 giving you 6 795 lbs.
This would be the minimum size winch you would need for a stock vehicle with no extras or carrying no load, but then it’s very unlikely that you would be going off-roading in such a vehicle so when making your calculations take into account all the extras on the vehicle and the load you will be carrying.
Our top picks
Warn 89611 ZEON 10-S
No winch list would be complete without a Warn winch. Warn has been producing winches since 1948 and is probably the most recognized in the industry, with a stellar reputation.
This 10 000 lbs electric winch is capable of most tasks thrown at it. The synthetic rope makes it lightweight and easy to handle.
What we like most about this winch is the full IP68 rating keeping water out. Also, the convertible control pack allows you to mount the control pack somewhere else for a low-profile setup.
Note this can also be purchased in a bigger option with 12 000 lbs capacity.
Superwinch Tiger Shark 11500 12V
Superwinch has been in the industry for 45 years and knows a thing or two about winches,
The Tiger Shark 11500 is their latest model of performance winch. It can be purchased with either steel cable or synthetic rope.
With a 6.0 HP weather-sealed motor, there’s not much this winch can’t do. With a whopping 11 500 lbs of pulling power at a very affordable price, it’s definitely one to consider.
Smittybilt X2O COMP
Smittybilt started back in 1956 producing equipment for off-roaders and is well established in the off-roading industry today.
The X2O COMP is a whole lot of winch for not so much money.
With a 6.6 HP amphibious motor, 10 000 lbs pulling capacity, ip68 rating, and waterproof synthetic rope, we don’t think it’s possible to get more bang for your buck.
Warn VR Evo 10-S
As we stated earlier that Warn is probably the most recognizable when it comes to winches, hence why we have another one in our top picks.
The VR EVO 10-S is a more affordable Warn winch but still with the great warn quality. Another IP68 rated winch. These winches offer a faster line speed with a low amp draw making them suitable for quick rescues.
Mile Marker HI12000
The only hydraulic winch on our list comes from the famous Mile Marker company. Supplier of high-quality winches to the US military.
Electric winches are more commonly used due to their easy fitting. But that doesn’t mean hydraulic winches should be dismissed, and the Mile Marker HI12000 should definitely not be dismissed.
Delivering 12 000 lbs of pulling power and completely element proof it’s not to be sniffed at. The H1I2000 is independent from its solenoid allowing it more flexibility when it comes to mounting.
The hydraulic power can allow continuous running without any battery drain as long as the vehicle is running.
With a two speed spooling system and a mechanical lock system, this one is for the serious off-roaders.