LAST UPDATED: August 20, 2019
Best Synthetic Winch Ropes: Top Picks for Towing and Off-Roading
Upgrade from an old-school steel cable with a synthetic winch ropes
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PUBLISHED ON August 20, 2019
A winch is only as good as the rope that it's paired with. A high-quality winch is essential for off-roading, towing, and even some work-related projects. Years ago, the only tow ropes that were available were made of steel cable. Today there is a safer and much easier alternative that can provide even better results. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the best synthetic winch ropes available.
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Benefits of Synthetic Winch Rope
- Weight. Synthetic winch ropes are significantly lighter than steel cables. This is a great advantage for storing your ropes and also makes it easier to maneuver them while in use.
- Safety. A serious drawback of using the traditional metal cables for towing is that when they break, it's a huge safety hazard. Not only is synthetic rope safe during a breakage, but it’s also less likely to break.
- Strength. While you might expect steel to win in the strength category, physics can work against it. When stretched, steel stores energy that is eventually released through an explosive snap of the cable. Synthetic winch ropes are made to stretch.
Types of Winch Ropes
Synthetic tow ropes were introduced in the 1990s as an alternative to steel ropes. The materials can vary based on the manufacturer; typically, there are braided strands of various materials, which can include steel wires and nylon. While it is a fairly even match up when you're looking at a synthetic winch rope vs. steel cable, there are key differences. We previously mentioned the benefits of synthetic, but two places where steel wins out is weatherproofing and price. Synthetic tends to be more expensive, and the rope is vulnerable to UV light.
Steel cable has been used for off-roading vehicles winches since they were first introduced. The wires are strong enough to tow vehicles and other heavy objects, and there are still people today who prefer this product. Steel towing cables aren't perfect for every situation. They are much heavier than synthetic rope, they can be harder to connect to the object you're towing, and if the winch cable breaks it’s a big safety hazard. Positive attributes include a lower price and less vulnerability to sunlight.
Smittybilt offers a huge range of off-road gear such as Jeep Armor, camping refrigerators, and its popular Synthetic Rope Winch. The company gets its name from Basil Smith, a.k.a. "Smitty," who started a four-wheel-drive equipment company in 1956. Smith's son Tom worked at the original company before renaming it to Smittybilt.
Offroading Gear is a Canadian company that manufactures products for a wide range of off-roading vehicles. The company tests its goods in the harshest of conditions at its base in Vancouver. Offroading Gear's parent company, OFR Brands Inc., has over 30 years of production experience. It produces high-quality winch products like its synthetic winch rope and winch cover.
Synthetic Winch Rope Pricing
- Under $25: The smallest and least expensive winch ropes are made for ATV and UTV use. These ropes tend to be only 3/16 inch thick and typically have tensile strength under 6,000 pounds.
- $25 to $75: Some winch ropes for light-duty trucks and larger UTVs come at a slightly higher price. These will cover 6,000 pounds to 12,000-pound winch cables and might include off-roading kits with useful features.
- $75 to $125: Most synthetic winch ropes will land in this price range. These include 75- to 100-foot cables with premium features such as protective sleeves and steel D-links.
- Over $125: Some off-road kits that include premium ropes will come at a higher price. There are also full winches with synthetic lines included at this price point.
Using your winch isn't going to be possible if you buy a rope that can't handle the load you're moving. Every synthetic line will give you a tensile strength, or breaking strength, of the product. You don't want to push the cable too far either, so it's important that you don't buy a rope that's weight capacity is near your average pulling weight. For example, don't trust a 10,000 pound line to pull 9,500 pounds.
If you can imagine your typical winching distance, it'll help you pick a product that can fit your needs. You need a rope that can bridge the gap between your vehicle and anchor point as well as give you extra working room. Smaller winch cables made for ATVs are typically under 50 feet long, while the heavy-duty truck lines can be up to 100 feet long.
- Cost: Synthetic winch ropes vary enormously in price. This is important for your personal budget and also making sure you don't spend extra money on features you don't need. Also keep in mind that no matter how expensive the product is, breaks can and do occur.
- Included Parts: Something to think about before investing in a new winch rope is what you might need for additional pieces. This includes things such as installation hardware, D-rings, snap hooks, carrying cases, and other useful features, which tend to come with a higher price tag. Buying them all at once can save you money in the long run.
- Warranty: The last thing you want to deal with is spending money on a new winch rope and having it break the first time you use it. Whether it's the quality of the product, a manufacturing defect, or just user error, having extra guarantees can go a long way.
Best Synthetic Winch Rope Reviews & Recommendations 2021
The FieryRed Synthetic Rope is a thick and sturdy cable for any winch. It’s made out of a reliable material wound tightly around 12 strands. This allows it to hold much more weight - up to 8,200 pounds - and it won’t buckle under pressure. Plus, the cable is coated with a treated fiber to protect it from high temperatures and wear and tear.
Another great aspect of the rope is that it's available in black and bright orange. The orange makes it stick out, so you know exactly where it is at all times. When it comes to safety, the synthetic rope is designed to store energy differently than steel ropes. As a result, it should just fall to the ground if it fails instead of snapping and lashing out. It’s stretchy and quite capable, especially considering its low price.
You may notice slight fraying in the rope if it’s used repeatedly to pull extremely heavy equipment. There have also been complaints with the eyelet. It may be the weakest part of the cable and might come off or detach from time to time while you’re hooking everything up.
This 50-foot, 1/4-inch synthetic winch rope has a breaking strength of 7,700 pounds and comes in several colors. It's designed to produce minimal stretch and non-rotation and is also UV- and chemical-resistant. It designed for use with ATVs and UTVs and features a solid metal loop and a black protective sleeve.
This line is strong, well constructed, and durable. It is made of heavy-duty synthetic fiber and has a low stretch. It's also lightweight. You can fold it in half once it's rolled to fit in a small area in your truck if you want to use it as a safety line or for other purposes. It's also easy to install and looks good.
However, you need to use an aluminum Hawse fairlead with this rope because it can snap when paired with a traditional fairlead. In addition, it has a tendency to fray if it jumps the track. There have also been some complaints that it breaks after a short period of use.
This universal rope is made to fit any winch, including SmittyBilt, ARB and Power Winch. Offroading Gear offers several different options with this kit, and each rope comes with a protective sleeve, a stainless steel snap hook, and rubber stopper. It also includes a bag that's useful for storage and protects your line against the elements.
One great thing about the Offroading Gear winch rope kit is the available options that can help you pick the perfect product. The synthetic ropes come in two sizes and tensile strengths: a 3/16-inch by 50-foot cable that can pull 4,400 pounds and a 3/8-inch by 95-foot cable that can pull 18,500 pounds. The company offers a 30-day, worry-free warranty with all of its products.
Offroading Gear gives you a lot of options and parts, but the product isn't ideal for everyone. The 3/8-inch rope is the most expensive option on the list, and even the smaller size is pricey for its size. The 18,000-pound tensile strength is also less than some competing rope.
The OFF ROAD BOAR 3/8'' x 92ft Synthetic Winch Rope has an 18,000-pound breaking strength and is compatible with winches with a 25,000-pound pulling capacity. The rope works with a variety of Jeeps, trucks, SUVs, ATVs, UTVs, as well as SmittyBilt, WARM, ARB, AC-DK, and Power Winch winches. It features 12 braided dyneema strands and has a 1/4-inch diameter.
The heavy-duty nylon rope has a black protective sleeve and is waterproof, UV-resistant, chemical-resistant, and weather-resistant, which prolongs its lifespan. Users like how lightweight, safe, and strong this product is. It's well made for the price and is good quality overall. It also spools up nicely.
However, there have been some complaints that it can get scuffed up during shipping because it's not packaged very well. Also, it's only available in black, which is disappointing to some users.
This 50-foot, 3/16-inch synthetic rope is for use on the following WARN ATV winches: RT25, XT25, RT30, XT30, 2.5ci, and 3.0ci. The rope is lightweight, flexible, and easy to handle. It also comes with a rock guard sleeve.
This WARN rope is strong, nimble, good quality, and quick and easy to install. It's a perfect fit, winds up nicely, and is a perfect replacement for old, worn-out cables. The line can pull ATVs, trucks, and more out of the mud without fraying or breaking. Also, the instructions are easy to follow, and it looks nice.
One problem with this rope is it tends to get fragile when it gets wet, which can be an issue if you use it for tasks such as plowing. The rope may also wear rather quickly and may not have as long a lifespan as some rival synthetic winch ropes.
This 85-foot, 3/8-inch synthetic rope has a maximum breaking load of 26,000 pounds and is designed for ATV, SUV, Jeep, and truck use. The rope is easy to handle and will work in temperatures as low as -4 degrees Fahrenheit. It features a protective sleeve that is UV- and abrasion-resistant. It also has a stainless steel tube thimble and hook attachment.
This cable is high-quality and holds up well over time. It's strong yet lightweight and is easy to use for tasks such as pulling a vehicle or logs. It feels nice in your hands and is very flexible, and the end loop is durable. The eyelet is also very thick, which is a testament to its quality.
However, the hook is not included. Also, the sleeve may tear after a short period of use, which can cause the braided line to wear more easily. The product may also fray prematurely.
This 50-foot, 1/4-inch rope comes in grey and blue and is designed for ATVs, UTVs, SUVs, and four-wheel drive vehicles with a 2,500- to 4,500-pound winch. It is significantly lighter weight than a comparable steel winch cable, repairable, and can be braided and used again.
This rope is strong, flexible, easy to maneuver, and is a lot easier to use than a steel cable. You don’t have to worry about cutting your hands when you handle it. Many people also use this product for their tree stands and climbing steps for hunting. It's also very reasonably priced.
However, there have been some complaints that it can fray or snap easily the first time you use it. In addition, its maximum breaking load is just 6,500 pounds, which is considerably less than many other brands.
The Ranger Ultranger 7500 LBs Synthetic Winch Rope is an inexpensive cable rated to pull quite a lot of weight. At 7,500 pounds - or 3 1/2 tons - the rope is surprisingly strong when you consider its lower price point. It’s heat-treated and pre-stretched UHMWPE design also increases its overall pulling power and functionality.
Best of all, the rope is strengthened by a double protective sleeve layer. This ensures the fiber stays strong no matter the outside temperature. It’s heat-resistant as well. It’s a great cable for a UTV, ATV, Jeep, SUV, or any off-road vehicle. Plus, it’s rather long and is able to reach up to 50 feet.
There have been complaints that due to the rope’s design, it can be a pain to install on certain winches. The rope may also fray if it is overused or if it pulls too much weight. It may also be difficult to cut the rope with weak scissors and you may need industrial or wire cutters to get a good clean cut.
- For towing vehicles that you take offroad, investing in top of the line synthetic ropes might not be necessary. The average Jeep only weighs between 4,000 and 5,000 pounds.
- Be aware of what type of hardware you need to anchor the line to your winch. Every winch rope has a specifically sized eyelet (usually between 1/4" and 3/8") for connecting to a winch's anchor point, and this should match the sized bolt you need.
- Allowing your winch line to drag over jagged objects can cause fraying, which will increase the chance of breakage. Protective sleeves are a good option if you often use your winch rope over sharp surfaces.
- Winches go hand and hand with towing. However, it's important to note that a winch cannot be used with tow straps or recovery straps. Winch ropes are specifically made to connect to a winch, and plain towing straps won’t do. They also wouldn't be able to attach to a winch drum.
Q: Do synthetic winch ropes need to be maintained?
A: Maintenance might include cleaning your winch rope, but for the most part you just need to take some preventive measures. Keep synthetic rope out of the sunlight to protect it from drying out, and store it in a dry place to prevent moisture damage.
Q: What is synthetic rope made out of?
A: Synthetic rope can be made from a variety of materials. Manufacturers can use a mixture of materials such as metal wire, nylon, polyurethane, and other synthetic plastics.
Q: How do you install a synthetic winch rope?
A: First you need to rid your winch of any old rope or cable. Then you can attach the new line's eyelet to the winch's locking mechanism. Once secured, your new cord can be wound up on the winch drum, and it will be all ready to go.
With so many synthetic and steel winch cable options out there, it's crucial to find one that fits your lifestyle. If you need a heavy-duty rope, the HOOAI Synthetic Winch Rope is your best option.
If you're looking for a less expensive product that is still high-quality, you should try the Ucreative 1/4 Inch x 50 Feet 7,700-Pound Synthetic Winch Line Cable Rope.