Deadman Off-Road Earth Anchor: Complete Review on a Snow Recovery Attempt 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
- Deadman Earth Anchor: Check Price
Specs & Features
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!
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
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.
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.
I laid out the Deadman and marked the edges with my shovel to get an outline for the hole.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I didn’t realize how stuck I was until we got under the rig and started digging.
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.
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!
The MaxTrax remained buried and it took a bit more digging to set them free.
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?