Deadman Off-Road Earth Anchor Review

Deadman Earth Anchor

Deadman Snow Recovery in a 5th Gen Toyota 4Runner

Venturing into the unknown isn’t something to take lightly. Whether it’s venturing solo in extreme weather, like summer in the desert, or in my case, winter in the Pacific Northwest, you can never be too prepared. That’s why I’m focusing less on modding my rig with fancy gizmos and more on fleshing out my recovery kit and tool bag for unforeseen conditions on the trail. Don’t get me wrong, LED light bars look hot, but they won’t melt the snow around your rig when your wheels are dug in and you’re high centered.

Speaking of digging… I recently added the Deadman Earth Anchor to my recovery kit and got to test it out on the trails. I set out with @madebysirgado in another rig to find a trail with some deep snow… but not too deep! This is a rare scenario where I wanted to get stuck, but I didn’t want to get stranded.

We headed out at dawn so we’d have a full day to get things sorted out before losing sunlight. I’m equipped with my iKamper, food, gas firepit, and all sorts of other creature comforts. Getting stuck and stranded in the middle of nowhere in the mountains during the winter still doesn’t seem like a good thing to me. So, we also kept things within walking distance of main roads. If this sounds like “fear” talking, that’s because it kind of is. Snow is no joke. I’d prefer there only be one “Deadman” on this trip and not a “dead man”.

The goal was to test the Deadman as a “snow anchor” the same way that it works in sand and dirt. Originally, Brenan had asked me to try the Deadman as a tree saver. But, he went out and got himself all stuck in the snow in Northern California, and decided I should give the snow anchor option a try. So, I did both, and the results are as follows…

Find It Online

Specs & Features

Deadman Earth Anchor Snow

On the Deadman site, you’ll quickly see that their flagship product is one that will “create a safe winch anchor point in the ground, around rocks or trees!

The product itself is super versatile and is built to be a recovery anchor that can wrap around, under, or behind solid objects to help get you out of almost any pickle on the trail. It’s lightweight and easy to pack/unpack from the provided bag. Many products give you a nice little bag, but you spend more time wrangling the item in and out of the bag than actually using it. Deadman does a nice job here. The “body bag” is made from industrial grade PVC vinyl, has a MOLLE system for attaching additional gear, and a velcro patch front to add patches if you like. It also has a bit more room for soft shackles or other items.

The full package is about the size of a small tent. It’s not tiny, but it’s not large by any means. Considering that it can replace your tree saver, it really only takes up half the space it physically does. Think about that for a second and it will make sense!

Deadman Earth Anchor MBS

The Deadman has a MBS (minimum breaking strength) ranging from 33,200lbs – 66,400lbs after assembly (depending on its configuration). They claim the “Deadman will be the strongest member of your recovery kit. We’ve gone to great lengths to ensure we get every last ounce of strength out of these American-made, Class VII polyester industrial slings.”

Putting the Deadman to the Test

MGM 4Runners Snow Trail MORREflate

When I headed out on the snow, I made sure to go with a buddy. @Madebysirgado was happy to be stuck with me for the morning. I also made sure to air down so we could get out and find a good spot to test and shoot without getting stuck. And so the odds wouldn’t be unfairly stacked against the Deadman once we did.

We quickly found a spot and I tried to pull off to the side of the road so we wouldn’t block anyone else trying to get through. But, rather than get too far off the road, I got stuck pretty much immediately as the snow was loose and wet. I spun trying to get out, and dug myself in deeper to where I was completely high centered, tires spinning with zero grip.

MGM 4Runner Stuck in Snow

Out came the Deadman, and I looked for a spot as directly in front of the rig as possible without any trees in the way. The spot I found was across the road that was at a slight angle.

Deadman Snow Recovery

I laid out the Deadman and marked the edges with my shovel to get an outline for the hole.

Deadman Each Anchor Unfolded in Snow

I moved the Deadman out of the way and began to dig. I probably should have timed myself, but I didn’t. I’m guessing it took me about 15 to 20 minutes to dig the hole. Deadman recommends digging at least two feet deep in sand or soil. So, I figured I’d dig until I hit dirt, which was just shy of 3-feet deep.

Deadman Snow Recovery Hole Dug Out

I laid the Deadman in the bottom completely flat with the arms and legs extended from each corner making sure not to let them fall into the hole as I filled it in.

Deadman Off-Road Earth Anchor Snow Recovery

4Runner Snow Recovery with Winch

Deadman Off-Road Earth Anchor Buried in Snow

I packed the snow on top of the Deadman until it was flat, stomping down the snow and compressing it as much as possible. I then brought the legs and arms together at the center.

Deadman Off-Road Snow Recovery Anchor Buried Arms and Legs Secured Factor55 Shackle

MGM 4Runner Snow Recovery with Winch

I used two soft shackles to hold it all together. One holds the legs and center loops. The other soft shackle attaches the arms (two closest straps) to the closed system hole in the Factor 55 Ultrahook on my winch.

Without any digging or traction boards, I used the winch, and in 4Lo tried to work my way out of the situation. The rig shifted slightly but did not move forward. Slowly the arms and legs of the Deadman dug into the snow. I’ve read that it “seats” itself in the ground and for a few moments, seems like it’s going to come out, but then it hooks up and pulls you out. I kept at the winch, but the Deadman kept moving and eventually pulled out of the snow.

Deadman Earth Anchor Snow Recovery

In hindsight, I think I expected way too much. I was in deep with zero traction. I think this would have even been a tough job had I just used a tree saver. Snow isn’t sand or dirt. It’s obviously much softer and not as dense or heavy. I wish I had another shot to do this after digging around the rig and putting traction boards under the tires. But, I’d already been stuck in the snow for about 45-minutes, and I wanted a certain shot at succeeding with the next attempt. We decided to dig around the rig, use the traction boards and hook up the Deadman as a tree saver.

MGM 4Runner Snow Recovery

Both of us went to work and dug all the way around the rig removing the compacted snow against the undercarriage and in front of the wheels. Then, we kicked the MaxTrax in under the rear wheels as far as possible.

Pro-Tip: When getting out into the wild (especially snow), always take a shovel. In this case I had my trusty Razorback as well as a telescoping snow shovel.

MGM 4Runner MaxTrax Recovery

I didn’t realize how stuck I was until we got under the rig and started digging.

Deadman Off-Road Earth Anchor Tree Saver Recovery in Snow

Deadman Off-Road Earth Anchor Tree Saver Recovery in Snow

The Deadman works just like any tree saver but hugs the tree in two spots; my assumption is that the anchor spreads the force over a larger area vs. a single tree saver strap. This tree wasn’t huge, but the Deadman snuggled nicely against it and the tree didn’t give.

Factor55 Ultrahook with Deadman Off-Road Earth Anchor

It was a pretty simple setup with a soft shackle holding the arms and legs of the Deadman to the Ultrahook.

With a little throttle and a big tug from the winch, the rig popped out easily and landed in a great spot for a #sideshotsaturday photo worthy of the ‘Gram!

MGM 4Runner iKamper Snow Trail

The MaxTrax remained buried and it took a bit more digging to set them free.

Final Thoughts

Deadman Off-Road Earth Anchor in Snow

While the Deadman Earth Anchor didn’t work in this instance as a “Snow Anchor”, I’m pretty sure it could. I was incredibly stuck, wheels spinning freely, and high-centered. I think I expected too much. That said, if I was in the situation again and had a tree to snuggle with, I’d go that route for sure. Instead of taking the time to dig a hole, I’d spend the time digging around the rig.

If there were no trees within winching distance, I’d make sure to have the rig dug out as much as possible, use traction boards, and bury the Deadman in the snow as far as possible to give it the best chance of succeeding.

As a tree-saver, the Deadman worked famously, especially after removing the snow and ice from around the tires and under the rig, and adding traction boards. Exiting my predicament was simple with this combination of tools and setup.

Packing up the Deadman was quick as it fits nicely into the high-quality vinyl bag. I wish more companies took their bags and containers as seriously as Deadman does.

Overall, I’m psyched to have the Deadman in my recovery kit. I’ll primarily use it as an earth/sand anchor, but also may take my tree-saver out of the rig and save a little space since the Deadman can do that job as well. In that case, I can throw some other equipment including my soft shackles into the bag.  I can also see all sorts of uses for it that don’t involve winching. I think I heard someone use it as a stretcher. I hope I don’t need to, but isn’t it good to know you could?

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2 years ago

Its a good piece of kit for sure. Always running an 8 series on 37s I never really used any recovery gear or my 16k red winch, Im guessing that will change with a 4runner on 35s we shall see.

Daniel (with Deadman)
Daniel (with Deadman)
2 years ago

Great article, Dustin, and thanks for taking the time to review in such detail! I’m one of the co-founders of Deadman and just happen to be the one with the most snow recovery experience on the team. You’re right that snow can be more difficult than other environments, especially when you’re hi-centered as it requires quite a lot of force to drag a big rig across the snow like that. I’ve found that being hi-centered in the snow is also a particularly challenging recovery for traction boards, too, because you really can’t get traction on the boards when the suspension is fully extended as it is in that situation. So what I’ve found to be really effective is to use both together. By placing the traction boards under/in front of the tires AND using the Deadman as a snow anchor, you reduce the load on the winch anchor point and get the benefit of traction on the boards as the winch pulls you into them (we call this a vehicle-assisted recovery as you give it just a little throttle while winching). I’ve personally been stuck solo at high altitude, hi-centered in a snowfield with no trees or rocks, and used these two tools together to cross it. What’s cool is that I only had to bury the Deadman once. I placed it about 180′ away from the vehicle–almost all the way across the snowfield–and used that same buried Deadman more than once as I crossed (sink, recover, drive a few yards, sink, repeat…).

Anyway, great write up, and thanks for sharing your experience! Hope to see you on the trails sometime. Cheers!

2 years ago

Thanks, Daniel! I totally agree. With trees nearby, I’d personally go the “tree snuggler” route to save time. If I was in a situation without trees nearby, I’d definitely dig around the rig, use traction boards, and bury the Deadman (all at the same time). Great product! Psyched to have it in my recovery arsenal!

Ben Kim
Ben Kim
2 years ago

Nice write up. Yes snow is now joke! It has a mind of it’s own sometimes, very unpredictable when driving in it. I have a Deadman too and it’s in the rig full-time. I travel solo mostly so the more self-recovery options the better. It also makes a great ground mat if you need to work under the rig.

2 years ago
Reply to  Ben Kim

Thanks, Ben! Great idea to use it as a ground mat. Hadn’t thought of that.

2 years ago

Good article! when trying to create a snow anchor the snow needs time to set (or sinter) to get a really solid hold. about 30 mins should be a minimum to get enough strength to pull out a vehicle.

in addition you could increase the surface area by tossing a couple of tree branches that stick out the sides into the snow when covered up.

2 years ago
Reply to  jon

Thanks Jon! Great suggestions. As with anything, practice makes perfect. And it always helps to have other peoples’ thoughts to keep in mind for the next go round.

Brenan Greene
2 years ago
Reply to  jon

What about throwing some water over the top of the snowpack and then letting it sit to “ice over”… Or, is that overkill to the point where you can’t even get the anchor out at all?

2 years ago
Reply to  Brenan Greene

Great idea! I was in a situation where I kept getting stuck and I was looking for the quickest ways to get out because I was pretty sure I’d get stuck again, and again. If it was a one-shot deal, or if I didn’t have a choice, this seems like a great way to solidify the anchor. Personally, I think you could get the anchor out by just unhooking two of the legs and pulling with the winch. I don’t think some frozen bits on top would hinder that.

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