Winches are devices that use a cable wrapped around a pulley to lift or otherwise pull heavy objects. The size of the winch can vary according to the user's needs, so the first step in choosing a small winch is deciding how you are most likely to use the device. The term "small winch" can be interpreted differently: some of the largest winches are capable of hauling extremely heavy objects, while some smaller models may be appropriate for towing automobiles. Even smaller models may be mounted to ATVs, and the smallest models may be used simply for securing items in a truck bed instead of for hauling or lifting.
Some common uses for a small winch include automotive hauling or sail feeding on certain types of boats. When choosing a winch, think about how much weight will be moved by the device, where it will be mounted, and how you are likely to operate it. You will also need to think about whether you want a motorized winch or a manually operated one. A manually operated winch will feature a hand crank that you will need to turn in order to feed out the cable or retract it. A motorized version will have an electric motor to accomplish this task. Heavier duty applications usually require a motor; if you will be using the small winch on the front of an off-road vehicle, for example, you will need a motor.
Hand-powered winches are appropriate for light-duty applications as well as for boat use. A winch can be used to load a boat onto a trailer — a motorized or hand-powered version may be used, depending on the size of the vessel — or to feed the sails. A hand-powered winch is best for feeding sails because these devices are easy to use and reliable, and no electrical supply will be necessary to use the device.
Motorized winches often feature hand control units that allow a user to feed out line or retract it. The controller is often hardwired to the winch unit, though in some cases, a wireless hand controller is used instead. The wireless unit is likely to be more expensive, but it will allow you to move freely around the unit and ensure items being hauled are safely secured throughout the process. It will also allow you to stay away from the winch pulley, which can be dangerous if clothing or hands get caught in the system.