Winch Tips: How to Use a Snatch Block
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
A snatch block is a simple, but handy piece of equipment that greatly improves the functionality of your winch. If you have a winch or plan on getting one, putting a sturdy snatch block in your gearbox is a no-brainer. Not only will it increase your winch’s pulling power, but it will also give you more options in self-recovery situations.
Snatch block basics
The snatch block is a pulley block with a side plate that swings open. Because the side plate opens up, you don’t have to thread your winch cable through the opening; instead, you open the side plate, fit the cable over the pulley, and then close the side plate.
A snatch block has two primary functions in recovery winching. One is to change the direction of your winch cable when the anchor point is offset. The second is to increase the pulling power of your winch.
Adjusting for an offset anchor point
One of the rules of winching is to make sure your cable spools up on the winch drum evenly. This is easiest when you are winching straight forward. If you pull at an angle, the cable is more likely to bunch up on one side of the winch drum.
Ideally, you would have an anchor point located directly in front of your vehicle, so you don’t have to angle your cable. When you don’t have such an anchor point, you can use a snatch block to set up an angled, single-line pull. This involves running the winch cable through the snatch block to an offset anchor point. You would then identify a second anchor point that’s offset in the opposite direction as the first anchor point. Attach the snatch block to the second anchor point with a choke chain. Then, use the tension from the two offset anchor points to position the block directly in front of the vehicle.
Do this right and your winch cable will extend straight out from the vehicle. The snatch block redirects the cable at an appropriate angle to reach the offset anchor point.
Doubling your pulling power
Another type of winch rigging that uses a snatch block is the double-line pull. There are two common situations in which the double-line pull is useful. The first is if you think your winch doesn’t have enough muscle to pull out your vehicle. The second is if you want to recover a vehicle that’s bigger than yours.
A double-line pull involves using the snatch block to redirect the winch cable back towards the winch. In a self-recovery situation, you’d run the cable through the snatch block and then back to your own vehicle. The snatch block is attached to an anchor point and positioned directly in front of the vehicle.
If you are moving another vehicle, the stuck vehicle is attached to the snatch block. The winch cable goes through the snatch block and back to an anchor point that’s next to your vehicle. This anchor point takes some of the strain off your vehicle, which is important when you are recovering a heavier rig.
This double-line setup with the snatch block doubles the pulling power of your winch. Note that when you double the power, you also cut the line speed in half.
The snatch block may be simple in design, but using one properly requires some creative thinking. Make sure you practice rigging your winch with a snatch block before you head out on the trail.