Now you’ve done it. That little line on the GPS through the hills was going to cut 40 minutes off your travel time to that amazing camp spot, but despite your burly 37s backed by 372 horsepower, you’re now up to your axles in deep, wet spring snow and the tires are just digging a deeper hole. Forward progress has pretty much ended.
But the road resumes just a few dozen tantalizing yards away, so it’s time to break out the traction or “recovery” boards, those last-ditch planks that conquer slick surfaces when all else fails. Resorting to traction/recovery boards means some hard work lies ahead, including a lot of shoveling, positioning the boards repeatedly, and very slow progress, but it’s progress nonetheless. No one said overlanding was going to be easy, but the right gear can make a big difference, and that even applies to the lowly traction board.
Prices range from below $100 to upwards of $500 per pair. Which one is right for you depends on your budget, how often you’ll use them, features, and the manufacturer’s warranty. Avoid going the cheap route: flimsier boards can shatter under the weight of your rig, and teeth can fall off or wear down too quickly, rendering them useless for the most part. Some will weaken over time as they are exposed to UV light in sunlight. Some brands offer a no-questions-asked replacement policy which can prove valuable. Factor all of these variables into your purchasing decision. We are of the opinion that one should “buy once, cry once.” If you pay for a better quality product, you usually don’t have to replace faulty products in the future – or are left stranded if it fails in the field.
Our list consists of boards we’ve tested personally and reviewed in the field. Beneath that are ones we may not have necessarily tested but rather just approve of.
MAXTRAX — MKII
MAXTRAX recovery boards might be expensive. But they are the cheapest, easiest way to get your rig unstuck. The trick to using them, though, is to mount them in an easily accessible spot. That way, you don’t have to dig for them when you’re in a pinch. Also, though it may be tempting to match the color of your rig, buy the orange ones; you don’t want to lose a $330 pair of MAXTRAX in the mud. Read our full review here.
MSRP: $330 per pair
ARB 4×4 Accessories — TRED Pro Traction Boards
TRED Pro is a highly-engineered all-in-one off-road vehicle recovery device designed to get your four-wheel drive out of trouble when traction is lost in sand, mud, or snow. TRED Pro is engineered, manufactured, and tested on some of the toughest terrain on the planet in Australia. A set of TRED Pro will allow you to explore with confidence without letting traction issues disrupt your journey.
MSRP $299.00 per pair
Rough Country — Traction Boards
Distinguishing themselves from the rest of the field, the Rough Country boards come with their own handy black tote bag, which is nice. They measure 45 inches long by 13 inches wide. They’re made from high-density material with a deep studded design for increased traction. The ends of the boards are ramped for easy entry. They’re not the snazziest looking traction boards, nor are they backed by a lifetime warranty. But they are the cheapest. So there’s that.
MSRP: $129.95 per pair
Rugged Ridge — Traction Recovery Kit
If you pick the Rugged Ridge traction boards, they come with a little shovel, so you don’t have to use the backs of the boards to shovel snow, mud, or sand from under your rig.
That’s not the only way in which the Rugged boards are different than the rest. They’re rated for use on vehicles up to 20,000 pounds — more than double that of the ARB TREDs. Plus, they’re backed by a five-year limited warranty. Again, it’s not clear what use would violate the warranty. So, recover carefully.
Smittybilt — All Element Ramps Traction Aids
Lastly, we have the Smittybilt and their straightforward named ‘all element ramps traction aids.’ It’s not branding that rolls off the tongue. But for the mid-level pricing, you may be willing to look past the weird name to their bona fides.
Each Smittybilt ramp can support up to 7,700 pounds. They’re made from heavy-duty nylon-reinforced plastic construction. Carrying handles and sloped entry make for easy carrying and extraction. Like virtually all the others, they’re stackable. And they come with a nylon carrying bag. No word on the warranty, though, so tread lightly.
MSRP: $172.99 per pair