You are right, the chinese ones from home depot suck royally. You have to use them properly or you are risking damage of the tool AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, YOUR OWN SAFTEY. Chinese come alongs and engine hoists where never rated to the point of dragging out a stuck vehicle. The key is to get the tension up tothe point of barely being able to crank in anymore and then give your vehicle the slightest amount of throttle to incjh forward without spinning your tires.Just wanted to add...I've had come-a-longs (the chinese made variety) shear their sprockets on me, rendering them useless. I finally bought an old american made engine hoist (3 or 4 ton) and it is great! I also got it pretty cheap. It is old, but very well made. I now use the chinese made come-a-long to maintain tension on the chain when re-setting the engine hoist. This really helps save time. It also helps when there is a great deal of pressure on the chain and re-setting is difficult (it can take some of the tesion off. also, tree saver straps are a must. they distribute the tension around the tree instead of forcing it into one spot.
I always make sure, when getting into a questionable area, that there is a tree large enough to get me out within reach. Also, if Dave didn't already mention it, if you start to spin a little, in 4x4 turning your tires right to left gently can often give you that little bit of extra grab you need.