Best Winch for Your 4WD

D22 Navara being winched out of deep mud

“Never let someone else define your adventure, or tell you how to do it. Not even us.”

This is the message we put at the beginning of each post. 

The Rough As Guts mandate is that we must always tell it like it is, regardless of popular opinion. Sometimes it may seem like we’re trying to gate keep the word “adventure” when we say things like “real four wheel driving” or “real camping”. That’s not our intent, but what we damn-sure are hell-bent on, is to make sure people are never putting their limitations on others, advising against reasonable risk and lowering the bar for people who just might have gone and done something incredible if they hadn’t been talked out of it.

Your life is your adventure. Live it however the hell you want.

Table of Contents

Best 4×4 Winches in Australia – Budget, Mid-Range and High-End

We’ve written before about how winches can be some of the best, cheap insurance for anyone going on a remote 4WD trip.

Even if you’re not doing much technical off-roading or filming a video for Youtube where you bypass a perfectly good line and deliberately get stuck in a big mud puddle, it’s worth having a winch. A winch allows you more flexibility when travelling alone and a lot more flexibility when travelling in a group that all have winches.

If you just get stuck in some snotty clay that’s not treacherous, but would leave you with a very long walk, a winch is your best friend. You don’t need to go looking for trouble, it’s just that sometimes it pops up unexpectedly. Even if you tip your car or roll, what would have been a total showstopper can be rectified with a winch.

For most people, a winch will sit unused most of the time, but when it does become necessary, they’re worth their weight in gold. And they’re bloody heavy, so it’s saying something.

As we’ve discussed in our guide to using a winch, we don’t like winches that use wires. This comparison is going to look only at winches that use synthetic winch ropes.

 

Best Winches Under $500

It might seem a bit controversial to recommend something from the 4WD Supacentre on a serious off-roading website, but there’s not too many good choices in this price range and in all honesty, the Domin8r Xtreme 12,000lb winch has impressed the hell out of us. We first used them for our Holland Track video where we knew we’d be doing a lot of salt lake driving and wanted what we thought would be a disposable winch for the film trip. We ended up doing multiple salt lake winches and a few double line pulls.

 

1. Domin8r Xtreme

domin8r xtreme winch

Update, May 2024: We recently had to tow a VW Amarok off the Canning Stock Route, due to a mechanical failure. The Amarok didn’t have recovery points and we had to rely upon the braking system of the Domin8r Xtreme winch that it had installed. We towed the Amarok over 28 sand dunes in the Little Sandy Desert and it worked a treat. As of recently, I installed my second one of these, on my new 79 series Landcruiser. It’s going strong.

The Domin8r Xtreme, despite having a stupidly spelled name, is our recommendation for the under $500 range. Even though this winch “retails” for $599, it comes on sale regularly as this is the 4WD Supacentre’s entire model, where they have an inflated retail price so that when they put it on special, they can claim a larger “you save this much” amount.

A few reasons why we think it’s the best in this range:

  • 12,000lb capacity. Most budget winches achieve higher strengths through using smaller gearing in the gearbox. The trade-off here is that they become slower. This is a slow winch.
  • Free-spool/clutch. The Domin8r Xtreme, as well as the X, both have free-spool ability so you don’t have to motor-out the winch rope which is excruciatingly slow. It is a manually activated free spool, so you do have to reach into the bulbar and twist a gear to do it. Even though there’s no remote free-spool activation like you see on more expensive winches, having this ability makes the winch so much more usable.

Here’s what we don’t like:

  • Battery isolator is temperamental. The inline isolator is a twist type that doesn’t always behave properly and sometimes your winch will be connected when you want it isolated, or not connected when you go to use it. We recommend getting an isolator from a reputable 3rd party brand and replacing it.
  • It’s very slow, but nearly every winch you find under $1,000 will be quite slow.
  • The wireless controllers stop working basically straight away. If you buy this winch, do it with the expectation that you’ll only ever be using the wired controller. My wired controller, which has seen a lot of mud and mistreatment has never skipped a beat.

 

2. Domin8r X

domin8r x winch

If you’re in a rush and want to buy a winch when the Domin8r Xtreme isn’t on sale, the Domin8r X is also a very good winch. It just has a slightly different gearbox design, cable mounting locations, no wireless controller (no loss there) and it doesn’t come with a Hawse Fairlead. You can get the Fairleads from Supacentre for about $30, so just factor that in.

In the Holland Track video we were running an Xtreme on the D22 Navara and an X on the Amarok. Both have performed equally.

 

Best 4×4 Winch Under $750

XTM 12,000lb Winch

XTM winch

I think this is one of the best value winches available in Australia, typically retailing at $699.

XTM’s 12,000lb/7.2hp winch is very similar to the Domin8r Xtreme in specifications and appearance, but is that level up in terms of quality and robustness.

While still a budget product, it seems that XTM focus less on gimmicks compared to the 4WD Supacentre, which is evident by the fact that it comes without a crappy wireless dongle but what it does come with seems to work better.

If you can’t afford the XTM, the Domin8r is still a good option, but if your budget can extend a bit further, this is a better winch.

What we like about the XTM winch:

  • 12,000lb rated pulling power. Vehicle weight shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re in an actual truck.
  • Free spool/clutch.
  • Jase Andrews runs XTM winches on all his vehicles for All 4 Adventure. While I’m certain that sponsorship is a huge part of his business and he appears to have a big deal with BCF who own XTM, he also has his own brand (Camp Boss) and appears to be more independent than other well-known channels. This guy could get any winch brand in the world to sponsor him and winches aren’t the product you’d be willing to compromise on when the success of your show depends on getting to remote places.

What we don’t like:

  • No isolator. Make sure you buy one and add it close to the battery.
  • No wireless control. This is not much of a big deal.

 

Best Winch Under $1,200

Is Runva the Best Winch Manufacturer?

If you’re familiar with most of the well-known 4WD Youtubers, you’re probably expecting to see Runva Winches on this list.

As mentioned in the XTM section above, I believe that the fact that All 4 Adventure use XTM, is an endorsement that means something. The fact that 4WD 24/7 use Runva, is in my opinion, far less valid an indicator of quality. They’re run by a marketing company and as far as I can tell, product endorsement is one of their biggest revenue sources.

You also see a lot of their sponsors change much faster than other channels, which gives me a sense that their recommendations change based on who has the best budget at the time. I’ve even seen their UHF recommendations change from video to video, depending on which presenter was in which car. For example, their “Off-Grid” series was using Uniden for product placement on Grahams Y62 Patrol at the same time that any content showing Shauno’s Dirty 30 or Sooty was pushing GME all while they were promoting Oricom for sale on their website. Do yourself a favour, use GME and avoid Oricom and Uniden.

Being that we don’t run on a sponsorship model the same way that a lot of these guys do, you’ll find that we recommend the brands that we like, not the brands that have the biggest sponsorship budget.

 

The Best Winch for 99% of Four Wheel Drivers: Ultra Winch PDX Mk 4

PDX Mk4 winch

Beating out the Runva 11xp for title of best winch is the PDX Mk 4 from Ultra Winch.

When we say “best winch”, what we’re looking for is the best winch to suit most circumstances. We’re including 4WD touring, hard wheeling and showing off to your mates, but nothing specialised like winch truck racing.

Having played around with both the 11xp and the PDX, we prefer the PDX. They’re almost the same price and it’s just an added bonus that Runva is owned by the same multinational behind brands like Repco and Napa, while Ultra Winch is owned by Australians and that we get to support local. If it wasn’t the best winch though, we’d recommend the Runva regardless of ownership.

What we like about the Ultra Winch PDX Mk 4:

  • It’s a sexy winch. There’s no denying that it’s a good looking winch.
  • Battery isolator.
  • True wireless control up to 50 metres. It doesn’t require an external dongle.
    • This also allows for the control box to be mounted in an out of the way location such as behind the bulbar.
  • 50mm2 wiring with protective sheathing. Allows enough current draw for optimal operation and enough mechanical protection.
  • The Hawse Fairlead comes with multiple holes allowing for standard or offset.
  • In-cab control. Operate it from a button in the dash instead of finding your remote.
  • Simultaneous, multiple connectivity. You can use the wired controller, the in cab controller or the wireless controller.
  • Free-spool.
  • Adjustable clutch orientation. You can change the free-spool controller to be facing forwards, rear, down or up so that you have access no matter what model of car or bulbar you’re running.
  • Lifetime warranty on mechanical, 7 years on electrical, 7 years on water ingress.

As you can see, there’s a lot to like about the PDX and so far there’s nothing that we’ve disliked.

Freedom does not come automatically, it is achieved. And it is not gained in a single bound; it must be achieved each day”

– Rollo May, Man’s Search for Himself

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