Winch Handle Review: A look at 5 different handles by Harken, Anderson, Ronstan and Sea Dog
Those beautiful thousand dollar winches don’t mean much without the right winch handle. Here is an in-depth look at 5 winch handles by 4 manufacturers.
Here are the factors we are looking at:
Length --Winch handles typically come in either 8 or 10in models. All of these winch handles are the 10in models, but everything still applies for the shorter ones. We usually recommend 10in models, as giving the extra power for a longer turns is usually advantageous. However, if you have limited space, or strong and want or need to winch in quickly, the 8in ones will be better. Basically, you are sacrificing 20% more power for 20% smaller rotation.
Weight – All of these winch handles are within a few ounces of each other, so while something to consider, it should be a lower priority to ergonomics.
Grip – Single handed, double grip or the palm/speed grip. Single handed is the classic look and grip. We prefer the palm or speed grips. This allows for easy singled handed operation, but when you need to go fast or hard, the ability to put your other hand on the handle is a big benefit. The cost difference between the two styles is usually only a few dollars, so for that versatility we recommend the palm or speed grip options. The Double grip is really only necessary when you have consistent high load grinding.
Material – In this review of winch handles we are looking at aluminum, stainless steel, composite and plastic winch handles. For the most part material matter outside of look. All the materials are strong enough(outside of the Sea Dog handle, which should only be used on smaller lower load winches), and thus comes down to preference of look and feel.
Locking Mechanism – All of these are locking winch handles. You can find ones without locks for quicker insertion and removal, but we ask why? With the Harken Carbo or the Ronstan Quick release, you can easily insert or remove the handle with one hand and you run a much smaller risk of losing your 100 dollar winch handle.
Release mechanism – This is the more important for racers who need the ability to quickly and efficiently switch the winch handle from one location to another.
Price - Obviously price is important, most of these handles are within the same price range
9.76oz| Single Handed|Fiberglass|Plastic Square|Top Knob|$23.50
This light weight winch handle has a few good things going for it: It floats and it is cheap. If you have low load operations and frequently drop your winch handle overboard, this is the handle for you.
The plastic lock-in mechanism seems like it will easily break if not careful. The release has a fairly low turn weight, so it is easy for a thumb to switch it. The grip does have ball bearings so does rotate easily. Another nice feature is the release knob does go either way, so it is easier for lefties to use.
Who it is for: Looking for a low cost, handle that isn't worried about performance and works under low loads.
Buy it here: Sea Dog Winch Handle - 10in
Anderson Stainless Steel Winch Handle - 4th Place
15.8oz|Single Handed|Polished Stainless Steel|Metal Square|Top Knob|$70.00
This handle is for those cruisers that want their handle to match their nice chrome winches. It is low profile and fairly light weight. The locking mechanism is robust, so we don't think it would wear down easily.
The release knob on the top is quite small. It also only swings one way, so lefties will have a bit more trouble with releasing the winch handle. The grip doesn't have ball bearings, so it doesn't spin as easily as the other options in this head to head.
Who it is for:For the cruiser who is looking to match their chrome winches.
Buy it here: Anderson Stainless Winch Handle
Harken Aluminum Winch Handle - 3rd Place
17.6oz|Single Handed|Aluminum|Metal Square|Top Knob|$94.44
This is a good all around winch handle. The release knob is larger than the Anderson handle, but a bit smaller than the Sea Dog. It does go both ways, so lefties will be able to more easily release the lock. It has the most robust lock on it, but the knob is harder to turn than the other handles, so if you have weaker grip, this may not be the best option. This model is the single handed grip(they do make one that is a speed grip, that we think would be a better option). It has ball bearings so the handle spins freely.
Who it is for: Not sure. If you are brand loyal to Harken, go with the (linked here)B10ASG, which is the speed grip version of this. Otherwise go with the Ronstan Quick-lock.
Buy it here: Harken Aluminum Winch Handle
Harken Carbo OneTouch Lock-in Winch Handle - 2nd Place
20.8oz|Palm Grip|Composite|Locking Pin|Full Grip|$90.00
This is our 2nd favorite handle, and possibly, depending on use could be our #1 choice. If you always have to quickly move the handle from place to place and 1 handed operation is paramount, then this is the handle for you. It is bulkier than all the other handles, partially because the release button covers the entire length of the handle, but also we suspect is that Harken had to incorporate more material to make the composite material as strong as metal. This means that it doesn't fit in all winch handle bags.
The Harken Speed Grip is probably the best in the business. The palm portion is independent of the rest of the handle which is nice. It also has a rubber palm grip compared to the all plastic on the Ronstan.
The locking mechanism is the weak point on this winch handle. The 2 detents provide a looser fit compared to other winch handles. The small size of them, and the way they go in and out make us slightly concerned that they will wear our faster than the other locking mechanisms.
Who it is for: The racer or person that needs to quickly move their winch handle from one location to another.
Buy it here: Harken Carbo OneTouch Winch Handle
Ronstan Quick-Lock Winch Handle - Winner
18.5oz|Palm Grip|Aluminum|Auto Latch|Half Grip|$107.91
This is our favorite winch handle. It is the best all-around handle in this showdown. The quick release is 2nd easiest to use behind the Harken carbo, with easy 1 handed operation. The easiest way to release the handle is via the thumb pressing down on the release(which covers about half the handle). The latch mechanism works really well in that you don't have to push the button or turn the knob to insert it into the winch, this makes it faster and easier to do.
Its lower profile means that it fits into any handle storage container, the latch mechanism is more robust than the Harken.
We do wish that the palm grip portion had independent ball bearings and rather than a smooth plastic grip, a textured or rubber grip. Still this is our favorite.
Who it is for:A person looking for a good all around winch handle.
Buy it here: Ronstan Quick-Lock Winch Handle