Remember that time you ended up nose-first in a ten-foot ditch, the sun setting in the East, the cool wind of incipient rain blowing in from the South? Do you remember thinking, “Man, if only I had a winch to get myself out of this predicament?” If you do, you might have looked at Badlands for your answer.
In this Badland winch review, we pick apart everything about Harbor Freight’s line of popular winches. We cover everything about the brand, what we love about it, and what we wish could be better.
These winches come in different weight capacities and there’s a model for practically any situation, whether it’s an emergency or for general usage.
Stick around and we’ll have you hooked up with information that’s surely going to get you on the right trail.
Badland Winch Brand Review
Harbor Freight Tools are doing their best to solidify themselves as a serious competitor with their Badland winch series, despite being fairly new to the winch scene.
Usually, you don’t want to buy cheap tools, but with Badlands, that’s most of the point. For the price they offer and the quality you receive, we’d say it’s a fair bargain. Even their smallest winch is more than capable of satisfying your heavy-lifting needs.
We’ve found that the performance of Badland winches is often on par with their competitors. In some cases, Badland is the better choice purely because of the price difference. This could make all the difference when you’re on a budget.
Some of the drawbacks, or at least the main drawback of the Badland winches is that they are slow. It has its reasons for being slow but for many people, this isn’t what they’re after.
The Badland ZXR 3500, for example, has a line speed based on different weights that it can pull to its maximum capacity. At 3,500 lbs the line speed is 5.4 feet per minute. It’s quicker at lighter weights, but it’s limited when pulling heavier stuff.
Another drawback is the duty cycle ratio. This is the ratio between the amount of time your winch can spend working and how long it needs to rest. The Badland winches can operate for a minute, more or less, before it has to come to a halt for over ten minutes. So, you’re going to stand there awhile.
If you buy a Badland Winch you can expect it to last a good few years. The company behind it, Harbor Freight Tools, has been producing quality tools since it was established in Los Angeles in 1977.
They’re known for selling tools at reasonable prices while still giving customers the quality they deserve. The Badland winch is a relatively new range of products that Harbor Freight has been putting out in the last couple of years.
These winches are straightforward to install. Their products come with detailed manuals and clear instructions so you can set everything up yourself, which is something many of their competitors can’t claim. This saves you the time and hassle of getting a professional to install it for you.
Badland winches are priced anywhere between $60 and $400, although their latest models can cost over $500. Other companies’ cheapest winches could easily go above $200.
Out of Harbor Freight’s line-up, the Badland 3500 is the most affordable and widely used. They also offer a range of ancillary products like remotes, hooks, dampeners, and cables. Their impressive range of products makes them a one-stop-shop for most winching needs, and their products are affordable enough to get you completely set up for well under $500.
Badland has a variety of models to choose from and each serves a different adventuring niche. Like the ZXP 12000, which is meant for trucks, SUVs, and Jeeps when off-roading. The heavy-duty stuff, right?
If you want to go quad-biking, the Badland 1500 winch is a good match. It’s lightweight, can pull 1,500lbs, and is easily mounted. Additionally, it utilizes a permanent magnet motor that doesn’t draw a lot of power, so it’s not going to drain your battery.
Then there’s the Badland 3500 which is the popular choice for many because of its broad application. Whether it’s pulling a car onto a flatbed trailer or pulling your quad-bike over a steep river bank.
General-use tools are made by Harbor Freight in Calabasas, California but their winches are made in China. There is no marked difference in build quality and many users have reported that their winches have lasted several years.
The Badland winches are made from durable materials. The wire on the Badland 3500, for example, is made from aircraft-grade wire rope.
The same goes for the winches with an IP 66 water-resistant rating. The ZXR 12000, for example, has that same rating which means that it’s dust-tight and is protected against powerful jets of water. Other IP ratings like 67 and 68 are for continuous or partial submersion.
As for their ropes, you have the option of wire, steel, or synthetic ropes. The wire rope can generally be found on most of the newer models, from the ZXR 2500 up to the ZXR 12000.
Steel and synthetic ropes are stronger but more expensive and heavier. This adds to your fuel consumption, particularly on long-haul drives, so you should consider carefully whether you’ll get the full usage from them before you commit to one.
Not only does a winch have to pull weight around, but it also has to have fail-safes in place so that no one gets hurt. Safety, above all else.
Thankfully, Badland has safety features on all of its models.
Their winches come with automatic load-holding brakes. These keep the winch load stationary after power has been cut from the motor. This makes sure that everything sits tight while you give your winch time to cool or adjust the winch hook without fear that the load will start rolling away.
Cable tensioners are included to keep the cable from getting tangled. Also known as a winch tensioner, it pushes the rope down toward the drum so that the cable rolls up one layer at a time. This prevents cable jams, tangles, and wear caused by bends or angled pulls.
The build includes a roller fairlead. This guides the cable as it spools from the winch, reducing some of the strain on the rope. The fairlead protects the cable from sharp corners which can wear it out and shorten its lifespan. It’s common to see roller fairleads paired with steel cables as you’ll find on the Badlands winches.
The exception is the Badland Apex winch that uses a Hawse fairlead. Often used for the synthetic ropes, this fairlead guides them straight out of the front of the winch.
Best Badland Models
What makes this model stand out is that it comes with a remote. The wireless remote can be used from a distance of 20ft, keeping you well out of the way of whatever you’re winching.
Even if the remote’s batteries die, you can still operate the winch through the wired controller that comes included. It’s a minor detail, but we appreciated the attention that Harbor Freight paid to keep you covered in any eventuality
Badland ZXR 3500
The ZXR 3500 is a good model to use on a UTV. Although most UTVs, particularly 2-seaters, weigh around 1,400lbs, it’s good to have a winch that can do more than that. The 3,500lb pull capacity can keep you in action when faced with most obstacles.
It’s also rated IP 67 which means you can temporarily submerge it in water – like going through a creek or shallow river. IP 67 will keep the machine safe in anything less than around 3ft of water, so it’s functional but still limited.
Badland ZXR 12000
Being able to pull a whopping 12,000 lbs, surely the ZXR doesn’t have anything else to offer? We thought so, too, until we found that the ZXR 12000 has a removable control pack and relocation cables. This allows for several mounting positions to be made possible.
If that’s not ticking any of your boxes, you should know that it’s also built to withstand water pressures up to 1450psi.
Even though this is a pre-ZXR model, the Badland 1500 still holds up pretty well. It’s ideal for shop work and pulling a disabled vehicle into a loading bay, frame straightener, or lift.
It also has a tethered controller with big buttons to control it easily while leaving you able to move around and keep your distance from the machine.
The Badland 5000 has a three-stage planetary gear system, which we think sounds cool enough to be a bonus in its own right. Essentially the winch’s gear system is put together like a solar system
The gear at the center is called the “sun gear” while the other gears are “planet gears.” These gears are then encircled by a ring-gear. The planet gears revolve around the sun gear. This design achieves high reduction ratios in a compact space.
This system is used to reduce speed and increase torque, allowing you to pull heavy loads without putting your winch, vehicle, or self in danger.
The Badland 2000’s key selling points are its weight and simple installation. While it’s the smallest model from the Badland series, it’s ideal for loading ATVs, UTVs, and other equipment onto the back of a trailer.
In a way, it’s like a smartphone – small, portable, and yet it can do most of the things a regular-sized computer can do.
Badland 2000 Marine
This is Badland’s marine-oriented winch. It’s small, portable, and can be mounted to your trailer. It’s made especially for loading your boat or other watercraft. It’s still useful for other heavy lifting duties, though.
The appealing features of the Badland 2000 Marine winch include being able to permanently mount it to your trailer, bumper, and even truck bed. It also comes with an adapter plate that anchors the winch to the trailer ball. The design of the model’s housing is weather-resistant and high-impact.
If you’re the type of person to go fishing every once in a while, then this is a suitable winch for you to get your boat onto your trailer and get you out in the water.