Badlands Apex 12000 Winch Review

Harbor Freight stepped up their game with their latest winch, the Badlands Apex 12,000.

Compared to their previous winches, which weren’t quite suited for consecutive use, the new Apex model certainly has the look of something built to last. Can we trust this winch based on that, though?

When going off-road, it’s important to have great equipment you can trust.

Winches in particular need to be trustworthy. Since they quite literally carry the weight of your entire vehicle, it’s common sense to want a winch that you know won’t fail you at a crucial moment.

In terms of the debate of quality over price, however, the Badlands Apex 12000 winch seems to be an exception. The winch offers a lot more than its price would suggest, which is intriguing.

In this review, we take a look at what this winch has to offer and how well it’s built to see if it’s truly a piece of equipment worthy of your trust.

Badlands 12000 Apex Winch (Our Review)

Overall Assessment

The Badlands Apex 12000 is made for traversing rugged terrain and getting out of tough situations safely and effectively.

Harbor Freight seems to have taken a more thoughtful approach with this winch than previous Badlands models in terms of looks and general design. They also included extra hardware and mounting accessories.

At first glance, it’s easy to see that the manufacturers took special care to make sure this winch looks great. The Badlands Apex 12000 has a sleek black metal design that’s fairly well-balanced, if a little bulky. The build certainly makes it stand out from earlier Badlands winch models.

However, looks aren’t everything. When searching for winches, we favor functionality over aesthetics. This raises the question of whether or not it’s as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing.

In terms of aesthetics versus functionality, the sleek black metal design is not just there for show. The plating ensures that all the important bits are completely sealed and can remain functional under even the harshest conditions.

So we’d say the Badlands Apex winch isn’t something that just looks great. It has overall impressive specs for something in its price range. Similar winces with more or less the same features could easily come at double the price.

The warranty terms on this winch could be a bit longer. Warranties often serve to show prospective customers just how much faith the manufacturers have in their product. At only 90 days, it doesn’t offer the most positive first impression for those who don’t know much about this product.

Pros

  • Looks great
  • Easy to install
  • Extra equipment comes with no added charge
  • Easily replaceable parts
  • Remote has a wireless function

Cons

  • Limited warranty
  • Quite large, won’t fit smaller vehicles

Detailed Analysis

Specs

The Badlands Apex 12000 winch weighs about 86 pounds. It has a line speed of 31.5 feet per minute, which is slightly faster than most. It’s made to support a maximum weight capacity of 12,000 pounds.

It has a rating of IP68 and IP69K, making it resistant to water and dust. The winch can withstand high pressure, high-temperature pressure washer streams of 1450PSI (pound per square inch). It’s built for toughing it out in the mud and it makes cleaning up afterward slightly easier.

Mechanics

It has a powerful series-wound motor. The motor minimizes internal contact so the winch doesn’t overheat after extended use. It also maintains the winch’s fast line speed. 

Machined steel planetary gears ensure it has reliable pulling action that’s quick and not too loud. The free spool clutch offers smooth clutch operation and minimum drag, allowing you to manually engage or disengage from the spooling gears.

The dual-stage drum seal provides double the protection against mud, dust, and water. This ensures that the gears and motor don’t get damaged during submersion in water or mud. The Badlands Apex 12000 is well suited for dealing with any situation that nature throws at you.

An automatic cone brake system allows for higher brake capability, with composite pads made to hold the winch’s maximum weight capacity.

The Badlands Apex 1200 winch has a remote control giving you wireless operation. This is handy for staying at a safe distance from the machine while it’s at work. It comes with a built-in magnet so the wireless remote can be conveniently placed right on your vehicle.

The magnet isn’t very powerful. Although waterproof, it feels somewhat flimsy and breakable, so we’d personally keep the remote somewhere it’s not likely to get lost. You’d hate to be stuck in a ditch only to realize that your remote fell off miles back and is now hidden in some shrub.

The remote is set to switch itself off after 2 minutes of wireless use. This is great for ensuring you don’t run out of battery power at the worst possible moment.

Durability

The Badlands Apex 12000 is stocked with 80ft of UHMW (ultra-high-molecular-weight) polyethylene synthetic rope. The rope has good wear and tear resistance and is 80% lighter and 30% stronger than a standard steel rope.

UHMW synthetic rope has a low melting point, though. This can be problematic as the hot winch can cause it to deteriorate, especially if it’s being used frequently. 

While the series-wound motor works to minimize excess heat, it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of the rope being singed. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to give any winch some time to cool off between uses.

The Badland Apex 12000 has an aluminum hawse fairlead designed for synthetic rope. Its inner radius is made to relieve stress on the rope and prevent any wear.

Though it may be a bit beefy, the design is helpful when it comes to angled pulls and it prevents any friction at the base to maximize rope life. Not only does this keep you going for longer stretches of adventure without worrying that your rope could snap, but it also saves you money.

The hook is quite a bit larger than others. It’s made from high-strength forged alloy steel and has a design that makes rigging significantly easier.

Added Features

Along with the built-in features, the Apex comes with a few extra accessories perfect for any outdoor adventurer.

They’ve added 2 heat-resistant protective sleeves for the synthetic rope. Used properly, these sleeves protect the rope against abrasion as well as the heat from the winch itself. 

They’ve also added a circuit breaker. The device lies between the vehicle’s battery and the winch, connected by the extra cables that come included with the winch. It acts as a kill switch for the power flow between the battery and the winch. This allows the user to prevent any unnecessary power from being sucked from the battery while the winch is not in use.

Some people choose not to install the circuit breaker as it makes the car heavier and opens more opportunities for mechanical or electrical failure, but we highly recommend it.

The winch’s control pack can also be removed and relocated. If you have a smaller vehicle or limited bumper room, you can simply move the control pack so that it takes up less bumper space.

They also included a control pack mounting plate for this purpose.

If relocation of the control pack is necessary, there are extra earth cables available that were thrown in for just that reason. There are 3 extra earth cables in varying sizes: small, medium, and long. They are sized differently to allow you the option of placing the control pack either close to, or far from the main power source.

These are all welcomed additions. It shows the manufacturer has given considerable thought to any problem that you could face trying to use this winch.

Installation

The Badlands Apex 12000 is fairly simple to install. The box comes with easy-to-follow instructions and installation shouldn’t take more than an hour. The hardware provided is all galvanized stainless steel.

In the event that something breaks or gets damaged, the manual has a catalog of replacement parts. With a phone number to contact the manufacturers, it’s as simple as ordering replacement parts and having them delivered to you.

Badlands Apex Winch FAQs

Where are the Badlands Apex 12000 winches made?

These winches are made in China by Harbor Freight.

Is synthetic rope worth it?

Synthetic rope is perfectly fine. It should last you fairly long if you take the proper steps to care for it, like using the rope sleeve.

How do I decide which winch to get?

The safest way to go about choosing a winch is to get one with 50% more pulling power than your vehicle’s GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating).