Getting Unstuck With Maxtrax - Self-recovery Using Traction Boards
The desert is full of great trails to explore, but it is also full of terrain that can get you stuck in the blink of an eye. We usually go prepared on our adventures with a load of recovery gear such as straps, a jack, a shovel, a winch, and even a land anchor, but there was one piece of gear we hadn’t tried before: traction boards. Traction boards are boards with a grippy surface usually made from nylon or aluminum. The surface lends traction in situations such as sand, mud, and snow.
Maxtrax traction and recovery boards were developed in Australia as a simple solution to self-recover on a sandy beach. Further testing and refinements in the Australian Outback has led to the Maxtrax MKII boards, which we loaded up a set to take with us out to the desert.
We found a sand dune and a deep, sandy wash that we got stuck in to test out just how well the boards worked in sand. We left most of our heavy recovery gear at home this time and relied on the Maxtrax to get us unstuck and back to civilization.
The verdict? The Maxtrax worked great and now has us reevaluating just how much recovery gear we take with us. One thing we know for sure: The Maxtrax is now a permanent addition to our vehicle for backcountry exploring.
The Maxtrax board has three rows of tire-gripping teeth and ramped ends that allow the tire to easily climb up on the board. More teeth on the underside bite into the terrain so the board doesn’t slip. Each one is made of flexible, UV-stabilized, reinforced nylon. It is very important not to spin the tires while climbing onto the board or else the teeth could be damaged. A clear reminder is imprinted on each board.
We took our recovery boards on a trip to the desert where we got stuck a few times on a sand dune and in a sandy wash. At one point we got our Jeep buried to the axle with the gas tank skidplate sitting on the ground. When this happened, the weight was no longer on the tires and forward traction disappeared. With no easy winch point nearby or another vehicle to provide a tug, we got out the Maxtrax and got to work
The underside of the board is designed as a scoop to shovel away sand from the tires. Either end can be used along with the handgrips along the edge to move a fair amount of sand in no time. We dug out the sand in front of each rear tire enough to get the boards in place for a recovery.
Once we had shoveled the sand out from in front of the tire, we inserted each Maxtrax at an angle to let the vehicle rise out of the sand as it moved forward. We shifted into low range for more control, allowing smooth and slow movement up onto the boards. Once the tires gripped, we kept moving up and out of the sand. The boards worked just as advertised without too much effort on our part. Recovery in mud or snow is similar; however, we did not encounter either of those conditions on our trip.
After the recovery, the boards were left partially buried in the fine sand. The bright orange color helps them to be seen in sand, mud, and snow. To further assist in locating and removing the boards, each one comes with a long leash, which we attached before the extraction. A tug of the leash quickly pulled the boards out of the sand.
Maxtrax traction boards are lightweight and compact, making them easy to store inside of our Jeep with the rest of the adventure gear. Each board measures 13 inches wide and 3.77 feet long. When stacked in a pair, they measure only 3.3 inches tall. Roof rack mounts as well as a spare tire mount are also available.