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A portable winch is a device that can be stored and transported, and it is used to haul heavy items or otherwise lift bulky objects. The portable winch features a drum mounted in a frame; a long cable is wrapped around the drum, and a hook is affixed to the end of the cable. When the drum turns in one direction, the cable can be fed out, and when it turns in the other direction, the cable is retracted. Portable versions of this device are usually only suitable for lighter duty jobs.
In order to properly use a portable winch, it will be necessary to somehow secure it in place. This can be done using a trailer hitch receiver hook, or by bolting the unit down temporarily to a stationary object. The portable winch can be secured in other ways as well, as long as it does not run the risk of working loose from its support. The winch is only as strong as the object to which it is secured. Each winch will be labeled with a weight capacity, and the unit will not be able to haul more weight than is designated by this capacity. Exceeding the capacity can risk damage to the unit or injury to bystanders.
Many recreational ATV or motorcycle riders carry a portable winch that allows them to free the vehicle should it get stuck in mud or snow. The portable winch can also be used in conjunction with an ATV to haul logs, rocks, or other heavy objects. In some cases, the winch can be mounted permanently to the front or rear of the ATV, though portable units are usually not permanently affixed. They are small enough to be stored in bins or on racks of the ATV.
The winch may be powered by an electric or a gas-powered motor, depending on the intended application. Portable models usually won't have access to an electrical outlet or source, so many portable units are gas-powered instead; these tend to be powerful but noisy, and they will only work as long as fuel is in the gas tank. Once the tank is empty, the winch will be unpowered; some winches can be operated manually, though this can be difficult and it can limit the usefulness of the unit. Hand-operating a winch will not allow the user to haul exceptionally heavy loads.