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Steel Cable or Synthetic Rope – “Winch” side are you on?

Whether you’re out hunting that big game prize or just finding some time to get outdoors we’d like to discuss an important Side by Side tool that’s commonly used in Canada, especially around this time of year—your winch rope.

With all of the hazards on the trail—rocks, trees, mud, UFOs (wait, what?)—a winch makes a lot of sense to include on your ride. There are two styles to seriously consider: a steel cable or synthetic rope.

For years, our off-road community has debated with their respective arguments about what the best option to use is. Some might suggest that steel is too heavy, while others may counter that synthetic gets heavy with water weight; steel rusts, synthetic frays; sharp burrs, muddy mess; you see why the debate exists by now, I’m sure.

But arguments aside, we’re here to help you make the best choice for yourself.

You already know winches are handy when you get jammed, like poor ol’ Dennis Nedry tried to do in this memorable scene from Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park…

Fortunately for you, you won’t have a cute little dinosaur ready to tear you to bits while you operate the winch.

Time and time again, winches have been handy for:

  • Hanging your big game catch
  • Helping clear the trail from fallen obstacles
  • Winching a dead ride onto the trailer
  • Getting yourself unstuck when you run out of talent
  • Getting your idiot buddies unstuck from irresistible mudholes

We organized the differences between steel and synthetic in a pros and cons list format so you can easily compare the main characteristics of each.

You should keep in mind that not every synthetic rope and steel cable is of the same class, though; some will differ slightly from each other.



  • Extremely durable
  • Ideal for heavy vehicle/tree retrieval
  • Perfect for occasional usage
  • Low maintenance required
  • More affordable than synthetic


  • Prone to nasty kinks
  • Will develop rust and sharp burrs
  • Very heavy
  • Dangerous whip-backs when breakage occurs
  • Mandatory glove/hand protection when handling the line



  • Made from high-tech polyethylene
  • Great for high usage
  • Lightweight
  • Buoyant—perfect for usage in ponds/mud holes
  • Easy to handle—no sharp burr build-up
  • No dangerous whip-backs if it happens to break
  • Easy to repair (temporarily) in the field


  • Prone to core damage from UV rays, chemicals, heat, and prolonged usage
  • Can become knotted if not handled properly
  • More expensive than steel
  • Retains water and can potentially freeze in cold temperatures

What it comes down to is this: Your style will depend on what kind of rider you are, where you live, and how you enjoy to ride most.

Whatever you do decide on, check out these safe winching techniques from WARN Industries.

From 2000-6000 lbs winch capacity, UTV Canada has a lot of great premium and affordable options at your disposal from the following brands:

  • EMP
  • WARN Industries
  • KFI
  • DragonFire
  • Moto Alliance
  • SuperATV

We’ve got mounts, replacement steel cables and synthetic ropes, roller fairleads, hawse fairleads, snatch blocks, and hooks—and we confidently use everything we sell on our own machines, too.

Don’t forget to check out our winch accessory kit and our wireless remote kit, they make great gifts and greatly improve your riding experience.

Make your adventures enjoyable with the right winch set-up. We’re sure you’ll thank us later.

*Cue the Jurassic Park theme song.

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