Fact Checked

What Is a Logging Winch?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A logging winch is a device usually mounted to the rear of a tractor that is used to haul large logs or pieces of wood out of the wilderness. This cable system is useful for exceptionally heavy jobs or for repeated use, and it eliminates the need for more expensive grappling systems. Like other types of winches, the logging winch uses a cable that is wrapped numerous times around a pulley wheel; when the wheel turns in one direction, the cable is fed out so it can be wrapped around the logs. When the wheel turns in the other direction, the cable retracts, tightening or hauling the logs.

The tractor to which the logging winch is attached must feature a power take-off system (PTO). This is the device that will power the winch pulley to pull logs and secure them in place. A rope is used to control the clutch of the system, which will allow a user to feed out cable easily or begin the activation that will retract the cable. A user can stand to the side of the logs, or he or she can operate the system while sitting in the driver's seat of the tractor. A cage is usually mounted behind the driver's seat to protect the driver in case of an accident or system failure.

A logging winch can be used to haul logs from a forest.
A logging winch can be used to haul logs from a forest.

While a grappling hook system is preferred by many loggers, a logging winch is capable of moving more than one log at once, and it is also capable of moving logs over a long distance. Grapples can usually only haul one log at a time, and they are generally designed for moving logs a short distance. The cables of a logging winch can be wrapped around several logs at once, and the logs can then be pulled up against a skidder; the logs are then dragged behind the tractor to a final destination.

A logger working.
A logger working.

Smaller winches can be used to accomplish this task as well, though they will only be able to haul smaller logs, depending on the weight capacity and function of the winch and towing vehicle. Some ATVs, for example, may feature winch systems to which logs can be secured for dragging, but ATVs are much less powerful than most tractors and the winches mounted on such vehicles are likely to only be rated for a lower weight capacity. This system would be useful for a homeowner hauling smaller logs to be cut for firewood.

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Discussion Comments


@cardsfan27 - You won't be able to pull out any huge logs with an ATV, but it should work fine for what you're probably wanting for firewood. A lot of what you need really just depends on the terrain you're going to be using. If you're on very steep terrain, you'll probably have to find a winding path that covers a lot of flat ground.

I'm not sure what the voltage of a good winch would be, but one that is rated to pull 2500 pounds should be okay. Just consider that you'll probably have to anchor the ATV to a tree or something at first. That poses another problem of putting stress on the frame, so be careful.

If you're mainly going to be working on flat ground, I would high suggest getting what is called a skidding arch. It is basically a little carriage for the log to sit in while you are pulling it. It helps keep the log from dragging on the ground or digging into the soil, which helps the ATV have to work less. That is what I use when I am hauling around firewood. Good luck!


@TreeMan - You would be surprised by how much a skidding tractor can haul. They usually have tracks, like a tank, instead of wheels. They gives them a lot more grip on the ground. Also, they are very powerful. They have to be if they are going to be able to make it up and down the hills in some places.

What I was wondering, though, is if anyone here has had any experience using the ATV mounted winches. My family owns some forest land, and we are wanting to try to carry some logs out to cut up for firewood. We have a fireplace that we will use some of it in, but most of it we will probably try to sell.

We have thought about doing it in the past, but really haven't known how to go about it. About what size of logs can the average winch handle, and are there any more suggestions for how to go about this? We currently have a 12 volt winch on our four-wheeler.


@TreeMan - The cables are just like the ones you see on the TV shows. It is basically a really thick steel wire with a little hook at the end to connect the two ends of the cable. One section of the cable loop slides and is adjustable to accommodate different sizes of logs. Once you connect the two ends and put some tension of the cable with the log winch, the cable kind of digs into the bark of the tree and stops it from slipping out. The tighter the winch pulls, the tighter the grip on the trees.

I only know this because my grandfather recently had his property logged, and we briefly stopped by to check up on what was happening. They were nice enough to show us a little bit about how the whole process worked. As for carrying a whole tree, they only did that with the smaller ones. For the biggest trees, they had to cut them down in the field and then "skid" them to the landing area. I don't think I ever remember seeing one of the tractors carrying more than one tree at a time.


I understand generally how a winch works, but what does the article mean when it is talking about the cables that are wrapped around logs? If you wrapped a cable around a log or something, wouldn't it just keep slipping off?

How much does a log weigh, anyway? I can't see how a machine could possibly pull out an entire tree no matter what kind of system it was using to hang onto the tree. I guess my only real logging experience is with those shows that are on TV. On those, they always set up those cables in the air to help pull logs up and down. I guess I could understand that, but not some tractor being able to pull logs around.

Besides the log winch and grappling hooks mentioned in the article, are there any other ways that you can transport logs around?

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    • A logging winch can be used to haul logs from a forest.
      By: Lars Johansson
      A logging winch can be used to haul logs from a forest.
    • A logger working.
      By: Val Thoermer
      A logger working.