Say you’re enjoying an awesome mud pit on an off-road trail and suddenly you’re in deeper than you anticipated, and you’re S-T-U-C-K. You’d winch yourself out but you haven’t gotten around to investing in that important piece of recovery equipment yet. So… what to do? If there are trees around, try building yourself an old school flip flop winch!
On an episode of Dirty Rotten Survival, an amusing show about three guys who do their best to live for several days in different types of terrain, they got an old Willys stuck in a swamp. To aid in recovery, they built themselves a flip flop winch (which didn’t work because the appropriate quality rope wasn’t used and the strap broke). I’d never heard of a flip flop winch and I was intrigued enough to do some additional research.
Description and History
A flip flop winch utilizes a rope or strap, an anchor point (such as a sturdy tree), and two sturdy logs that are attached together at a 90 degree angle and then flipped one over the other to wind up the rope in order to pull a stuck vehicle toward the anchor point. Mors Kochanski popularized the use of the flip flop winch, as a Canadian wilderness survival instructor who coined the phrase, “The more you know, the less you carry.” The flip flop winch was also during World War II to assist in the removal of vehicles from deep muddy trenches.
Safety first! Be aware of the possibility that the trees or logs used, as well as the rope, could break and lash back at the users with tremendous force. Lessen the possibility of this by using solid good-sized trees for anchoring and winching, and ensure the rope or tow strap you use is good quality and rated for the weight of your vehicle. Also ensure that the rope or strap used is non-stretchy to lessen the snap-back should it break.
Bushcraft Northwest has a great video that clearly shows how to build and use a flip flop winch. It's well worth the watch.
Written instructions and photos by Bushcraft Northwest, in Self Reliance Illustrated.
Ideally make sure you’re prepared for getting stuck in the mud or other survival situations, before they happen. Preparedness plus a little know-how and ingenuity will ensure you make it out of the woods alive and well.
Have you tried a flip flop winch, or other alternatives to a traditional winch system (such as WARN)? Leave feedback in the Comments below!