10 Clever Ways to Move Heavy Loads

No matter who you are and where you live at some point in your life you have probably had to move something heavy, or several heavy somethings.

couple moving sofa

Depending on your job and lifestyle, you might be moving heavy loads on the regular with or without the assistance of machines to help you.

You are not alone in your struggles, and you never have been; although mankind is far from the strongest of mammals we have nonetheless been forced to move back-breaking loads from place to place since time immemorial.

It might be your job or it might not, but the chances are extremely high that you’ll be forced to move something heavy, really heavy, in a survival situation if you want to keep yourself and yours alive and on the right track.

Disasters of all kinds are notorious for the widespread destruction they wreak, and aside from this, you’ll never know what you might need to lift, move or carry if you want to improve your own position.

Even outside of a survival situation there are innumerable heavy-lifting tasks that are just part of life and all kinds of settings, and a smart prepper will be prepared for both contingencies, in an emergency or an everyday life.

To help you with this difficult task we are here with 10 clever methods that will help you move heavy loads no matter the setting.

7 Ways to Move Heavy Tools and Equipment

Lift With Your Brain, Not Your Back

Lifting a heavy load is always going to require a certain amount of power, whether you are providing it or a machine.

But even if you are the primary power source for the lifting operation it does not have to be a matter of sheer, brute force.

Throughout history and right up till today mankind has been relying on a variety of machines, simple machines and complex machines, to make our work easier, safer, and quicker. Lifting is no different.

When the time comes to perform a heavy lift, most guys I know immediately start zeroing in on the basics: how can we grab it, what path we can take, how long we can hold it up, etc.

What I would have you do instead is take a moment to assess your environment, the thing being moved and see what other, better options present themselves besides “let’s throw sprained discs at this thing until we get it from here to there!”

When you are in a rush and just need to get things done, the last thing you will want to do is tap the brakes and engage your brain to see if there is a better way to take care of business.

I’m willing to bet that in most circumstances that little extra time you spend thinking clearly will not only save you a tremendous amount of effort but will also save you quite a bit of time in the end.

It is worth mentioning that not every technique will be viable, owing to terrain considerations, time constraints or even manpower limitations but that is why you are going to learn more than one method, right?

With that out of the way, let’s move on to our 10 methods.

10 Clever Ways to Move Heavy Loads

1. Break it Down

Before looking at a more complex and involved method of moving a heavy load, let us consider the load itself.

What are you moving? If you are moving a large, heavy, and priceless piece of furniture you’ll need to take pains to ensure you get it from the departure location to its final destination intact and, hopefully, undamaged.

But if you are moving junk, refuse or any other object with the intention of simply getting it out of the way then all bets are off.

If the item you’re moving fits into this latter category why wouldn’t you just break it down into smaller and more manageable chunks or pieces? Do you need to move some fallen trees out of the way, knocked down by a recent storm?

Well, you could spend all day and a lot of cursing trying to move the massive trunks off the road or you could just chop them up with a saw or ax.

Maybe you’re trying to clear some rubble from a structure that was damaged or demolished under the same circumstances, or trying to relocate some boulders on your property. If you don’t need to keep it intact then don’t keep it intact!

Obviously, the overall amount of effort that you might need to invest in demolition could well exceed the amount of energy you put purely into moving something that is heavy.

But for the largest objects that are impossible to move intact or just too dangerous to move using manpower alone, this is a great option. Grab your hammer and get to swinging!

2. Take it Apart

This is more of a corollary to method number one than its own method, but it is definitely worth mentioning.

If you are moving something that you want to keep intact or must be kept intact, that has many moving parts or is otherwise assembled from many components consider disassembling it to make moving it far easier.

This is a great way to transport heavy machinery, certain pieces of furniture, and even small vehicles with far less effort and headache.

Obviously, you will need to have some skill and the appropriate tools to accomplish this, and the additional time investment both for disassembly and subsequent reassembly will be substantial.

Most importantly, you must know what you’re doing so that you do not damage the item in question and to ensure that it can be reassembled properly and made to function once again.

Another prime consideration for employing this method is making sure that all parts, fasteners, and other doodads are kept securely packed and don’t get lost during the move.

We have all been through that bout of aggravation when trying to put our things back together with a few parts missing.

3. Shift it with a Lever

The humble lever is one of the most effective and elementary of the simple machines, but one that makes many other complex machines possible.

Most importantly for us, the lever can be employed in virtually any setting using natural or man-made materials alike to accomplish work.

And practical use, a lever is usually a component of a more complex lift, allowing us to gain better purchase on the item being moved or allowing us to get it set on another object for transport.

A lever can though be used to shift or topple extremely heavy objects out of our way or across a short distance.

To function, a lever needs only a few prerequisites: a fulcrum, situated somewhere beneath the length of the lever, one end attached to or situated under the load to be lifted, and then the far end where power will be input.

Chances are you and your friends will be the ones supplying the power. Depending on what is being moved, you might need to reposition the fulcrum a couple of times to hit the “sweet spot.”

Also, keep in mind that a lever expected to move a very heavy load will be undergoing proportionally heavy stresses, and if you’ve chosen a poor lever it could break or shatter with injurious results.

Always ensure that you have chosen the strongest lever possible under the circumstances and take care to minimize the risk of injury if there is a failure.

Moving a shed with PVC pipes

4. Roll it on Pipes or Logs

A rarely encountered but highly effective method of moving a heavy load over a relatively smooth and level surface is done by employing rollers.

Rollers for our purposes could be any sturdy, tubular item of uniform size. This could be logs or branches, steel piping, or even ABS piping.

Whatever you use, it need only be capable of rolling across the surface and supporting the load being moved.

In operation, utilizing a series of rollers is basically like laying a road that you will slide the item across before recycling the rollers left behind to lay a new section of road ahead.

Though it involves much stepping and fetching, this is one method that can allow even a single person to easily and safely move a large object by themselves in a pinch.

All you’ll need to do to get started is lay down a short series of your rollers ahead of the object being moved before coaxing or otherwise placing the object on the first roller.

When you start to push the item across the rollers you’ll notice that it will move easily while the rollers pass under it.

Once you run out of rollers ahead, you should have some emerging on the back side of the object being moved from beneath.

At this time, you halt forward progress, pick up the rollers ejected from behind and replace them ahead of the object being moved, slowly but surely guiding it towards its destination.

5. Go Up or Down a Ramp

The ramp is another simple machine that is so simple that it is effectively invisible in use day to day.

Correctly proportioned, a ramp allows a load to be moved under control up or down with far less effort than would be required to physically raise the object itself.

Ramps also have the advantage of being relatively easy to construct pretty much anywhere you might need one so long as you have access to loose soil, small stones or even sand in a pinch.

More substantial and durable ramps can be created from wood, concrete, brick, etc.

A ramp can also be creatively used in conjunction with other methods and machines on this list to further decrease the amount of effort required to get your load from point A to point B.

You can use lifting straps or the slide method mentioned elsewhere on this list in conjunction with a ramp to make your life really easy.

One thing you must be extra cautious about when using a ramp is to make sure that anyone who is below the load, that is, on the down slope of the ramp, can maintain full control of the load or at the very least can bail out if control is lost.

It is an easy thing to get crushed by an out-of-control item careening down a ramp, and this is especially hazardous when working on a field improvised version.

Why Snatch Blocks are AWESOME (How Pulleys Work) - Smarter Every Day 228

6. Lift it with Pulleys

A pulley is another simple machine, nothing more than a wheel on an axle or shaft that is designed to guide the movement of a rope or belt.

Pulleys can be used singularly or in conjunction with additional sets to provide an ever-increasing mechanical advantage over the load being hoisted, or pulled.

Pulleys are so simple and comparatively portable that you can always make use of them no matter where you are.

You might be able to hang or otherwise fix a pulley to any firm point such as a sturdy branch, trunk of a tree, or anything else to give you a helping hand wherever you might have to hoist a heavy load.

As always, keep in mind the object or terrain feature you are affixing the pulley to must be capable of handling the applied stress or it could fail with disastrous results.

It is also worth noting that pulleys, while comparatively simple in design and operation, assembling multiple blocks and other components to further increase the power you can apply takes a little bit of know-how and prior planning to implement successfully.

If you plan on going the distance with pulleys some practice and study are definitely worthwhile.

7. Slide it

Why lift something when you don’t have to? Why carry it when you can slide it?

So long as the terrain is favorable and you have a piece of material that you can place beneath the load to reduce friction between it and the surface it is much easier to slide an item than it is to pick it up and haul it.

We all have a little bit of experience with this method even if it is just scooting furniture around to vacuum behind it during our weekly chores.

Chalk it up to laziness if you want, but I call it efficiency, and there is no reason you shouldn’t do the same thing with far heavier and far more important items.

The trick, as you might imagine, is getting your slider beneath the load in the first place.

Depending upon the weight of the item and the surface you are moving it across this could be a piece of cardboard, a soft blanket, a heavy piece of plastic paneling or screen, or something else. Use your imagination.

It should also be noted that this technique works best when moving something heavy over a uniform surface across a reasonably short distance.

The moment you have to start going up or downhill or across a regular, uneven terrain you’ll need to try a replacement technique.

How it Works: Chain Hoist

8. Use a Chain Hoist

A chain hoist is similar to a pulley system, only it uses a system of gears to greatly increase mechanical advantage and raise and lower a lifting chain and hook. This gearing system is driven by user input through another chain or rope.

A common fixture in automotive garages, warehouses, and anywhere else that heavy loads need to be lifted and lowered under great control, a chain hoist can do the same thing for you, either at a fixed location or attached to a boom mounted on a vehicle.

Compared to a pulley system, a chain hoist is significantly more complex internally and will require maintenance in the form of lubrication and inspection from time to time.

Practically your biggest consideration is that whatever the hoist is attached to must be capable of supporting the load and the weight of the hoist itself which is not insubstantial.

The biggest risk is with structural failure, particularly when you mount the hoist to an overhead wooden member in a garage or other structure.

But when you use a chain hoist it is easy to forget how much weight it might be bearing because it makes the lifting so easy!

Make sure you thoroughly understand the limitations of your chain hoist and what you can expect it to do, and never exceed those limits.

Shoulder Dolly Heavy Duty Furniture Lifting Straps Gadget Review

9. Try Lifting Straps

Lifting straps, also called movers straps or forearm forklifts, are a seldom used but incredibly efficient method for moving heavier weight than two people might be able to safely hoist or control normally.

These straps are quite simple, being nothing more than heavy-duty nylon straps stitched in such a way that they will loop over the arms and sometimes the shoulders of the people using them after being slung beneath the object being carried.

In operation, these straps provide a significant mechanical advantage over a normal team lift because they use the elbows as a fulcrum, transferring the majority of the load being carried to the far stronger muscles of the core and legs.

This can make it a cinch to move heavy furniture or anything else that presents a relatively uniform profile that can be safely cradled by the straps.

Lightweight, compact, and utterly portable, these have a place in everybody’s arsenal and are especially good for hasty, field expedient carries.

They aren’t without their drawbacks, however, as moving up and down steps or a relatively steep incline will disproportionately load the lower partner with the majority of the weight.

These devices also fare poorly when carrying any awkward or irregularly shaped load that cannot be securely cradled. Nonetheless, an excellent option all around.

10. Use More People

Sometimes, there is no other option, or at least no other expedient option, than to throw more bodies at the problem.

When it comes to lifting a heavy load, if you and a partner can’t get it done you need to recruit one, two or a handful more people to assist you. With enough manpower, you can move almost anything!

However, this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Depending upon the item being moved you must ensure that all people can get a meaningful grip on the item and apply appropriate force in lifting and moving effectively with it.

This is an easy thing to screw up and wind up “rimrocked,” with the load in the air but the team is unable to move effectively with it.

You must also take care that you won’t be inviting disaster if the grip of one person gives way or if somebody stumbles or falters.

If everybody is at the bleeding edge of their work capacity and even one person screws up, the result could be injury or even death.

Don’t be afraid to go for the gusto, but be smart and always have a plan for what you’ll do if you need to slam on the brakes!


Just because you have a heavy load to haul does not mean you’ll need to break your back in the bargain so long as you know what you are doing.

A clever prepper will approach the problem with the same diligence that they would any other, and by using the right technique for the right terrain and the right object you can turn what was sure to be a laborious and grueling exercise into a simple, quick and efficient chore.

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1 thought on “10 Clever Ways to Move Heavy Loads”

  1. Good suggestions, but I am missing two:…..
    1. Consider the option of not moving the item and live with what it is an where it is…….
    2. Before moving the item (with limited resources), consider what may go wrong, what the consequences might be, and how to limit these. Sure this may take some time, but to me it usually is time well spend.


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