Best Chain Blocks: Three Things to Consider

Capacity, power source, and lift height are three key things to consider before you purchase a chain block. Here’s what you need to know.

SUV parked in water surrounded by mountains
A good chain block is critical equipment for overlanding or off-roading where you might get stuck.Fernando Puente via Unsplash

For hoisting heavy loads of any kind, a quality chain block can be a lifesaver. Choices today span a wide array of products from beefy, chain-centric models that you suspend from the shop ceiling to lightweight portable setups that are perfect for hanging a deer in camp. There are also some medium-range, portable models that are an excellent choice for off-road enthusiasts who might need to get a bogged-down truck out of a jam. Here are three questions to ask before you make your purchase.

How Much Capacity Do You Want?

White dog rope hoist
This simple rope hoist has a 2-ton capacity and a zinc-plated housing so it won’t rust—the perfect tool for deer camp.Amazon

The first thing you need to determine is what purpose you're going to use your chain block for and how heavy your average load will be. If you're looking for a lightweight block to hoist a deer or elk in camp, a simple rope-and-pulley system will probably work fine, but you're going to need something much heavier for lifting a heavy engine block out of your truck for repairs.

Electric or Manual?

Warn corded pulley
This model can lift or pull up to 1000 pounds and it has a line speed retrieval rate of 13.8 feet per minute.Amazon

Portable electric rigs are a clever replacement for old-fashioned come-a-longs. They do require a power source, but most units can run off the power source in your truck. These setups not only lift, but they can also be used to pull should you need to use your block as a winch. And the speed at which electric models retrieve line is faster than manual models.

How Much Lift Do You Need?

Big Red chain block
This chain block will hoist 1000 pounds (larger-capacity models are available). It has a lift height of 2.5 to 3 meters.Amazon

When choosing a chain block it's important to determine how much "lift" (chain length) you'll need. This depends on how high you plan on mounting your hoist and where your load will be positioned when you lift it up. If you hang your hoist from a beam in the garage that is 20-feet high and your load will be on the floor, you'll need at least 20 feet of chain or "lift."