4 Key Steps To Using Off Road Recovery Boards
Carrying recovery tools while off-roading is like carrying a firearm. You hope you don’t need one, but it’s good to have if you do. Now, regarding off-road vehicle recovery, the essentials are as follows: shovel, deflator & air compressor, recovery boards, and big guns such as kinetic ropes.
And in today’s article, we shall focus on the recovery boards or the off-road traction pads. We discuss the recovery boards, what they’re, how to use them, tips for maximizing their efficiency, and suggest some popular recovery board brands.
What are Recovery Off-Road Boards?
Recovery boards are exactly as their name suggests; they’re handy contraptions created to recover when stuck in a sticky situation.
They’re simply boards that dig into the ground and then grip onto your tires, thus providing the much-needed traction to bail you out. They’re simply a step-up version of the DIY logs or stones off-roaders use when stuck. Picture them as big, sturdy planks with some serious grip.
But they’re more convenient than the traditional planks and make it easier to get yourself unstuck without needing someone to yank you out.
The recovery boards aren’t necessarily a must-have for off-roaders, but if you fuck up and get stuck, they can mean the difference between getting out and having to call a rescue team. So, if you plan to head into risky terrain where the possibility of getting stuck is high, I suggest you get a pair.
Recovery boards are usually an intermediate step before getting my winch. The boards are easier to set and handy when I’ve nothing to winch to.
Recovery traction boards are generally categorized into rigid boards and roll-up traction mats.
The rigid boards are usually constructed from plastic or metal and are semi-flexible. They’re usually characterized by knobs on top or added grip. Plus, most are modular, allowing you to stack them up like Legos. It also makes storage much easier.
Roll-up Traction Mats
The roll-up traction mats are constructed from plastic or rubber. They’re more flexible than rigid pads and can effortlessly roll into the size of a sleeping bag.
Their flexibility means they effortlessly conform better to any terrain and are easier to store. Unfortunately, they can’t be used to bridge or level a ditch.
Other Traction Board Uses
Traditionally, recovery boards are primarily used for recovering a stuck off-road vehicle. But outside the recovery role, traction boards are also handy in other situations.
For example, traction boards can bridge a ditch and reduce clearance (approach angle). The traction boards are also handy when climbing a slightly large boulder. I’ve also used them to cross a washout in the road.
If you have a 2WD off-roader, you may find the traction boards much easier to use than having 4WD. It’s particularly true if your differential is open and not limited to slip and lacks computer control. You only need to push or pull the parking brake a few clicks and then add some pressure to the spinning wheel. This action sends power to the other side and will get you out of any situation.
The rigid recovery boards are also handy for leveling, which greatly benefits RVers and van dwellers. They double as leveling blocks and allow you to dial in the height you want.
How to Properly Use Traction Boards
Traction boards are among the most straightforward recovery tools. They can get you unstuck from different situations and are invaluable, especially for solo adventurers, since they don’t need a second vehicle to get unstuck.
However, you shouldn’t consider the traction boards a get-out-of-jail-free card. There’s usually much more work to use the recovery boards effectively than people assume. It’s more than just shoving the board under your wheels. You’ll also need to do a lot of digging to free the wheels and undercarriage, and then the boards will be useful to pull you back on top of whatever you’re stuck in.
Again, if you’re high-centered, the wheels are likely to suck the boards under and out the other side. A shovel, traction board, and patience are enough to get you out of many binds.
Here’s a breakdown of how to effectively use a traction pad to get yourself out of a sticky situation:
Step 1: Ease on the Gas
In case you get stuck in any type of deep terrains, such as snow, sand, or mud, the first step is to ease on the gas. Even better, stop pressing the acceleration if you don’t have any traction on the wheels.
See, when you’re stuck, every bit of wheel spin will dig you deeper into a hole-literally. Therefore, rather than gassing yourself in the hopes of getting out of the sticky situation, simply let go of the gas pedal, get out of your vehicle, and assess the situation.
Step 2: Start Digging
In 9/10 times, off-road vehicles usually get stuck when their tires are stuck deep into the terrain. So, the next step after assessing the conditions is to start digging. You could start with the front or back wheels, depending on whichever way you plan to drive out.
Also, it could make sense not to proceed further, depending on the situation. You could choose to back up and pick another line.
Step 3: Slip your Traction Board
Slip the traction board underneath once you establish sufficient space in front or behind your tires. Ensure the traction boards are firmly and tightly against the ground and in contact with the tires.
Step 4: Drive
Slowly drive over the boards. The boards will create a tight grip and eliminate slipperiness to help you get out.
*Tip: You must ensure your tires aren’t spinning when driving over the traction boards. Spinning tires are likely to wear out the traction boards, making them lose their gripping efficiency and be less efficient in the future. Instead, slowly gas your vehicle for a smooth and quick recovery.
When it comes to recovery boards made from plastic material, there are several manufacturers that are well-regarded in the market. While the term “recovery boards” typically refers to off-road vehicle recovery boards used for traction, the same plastic materials are often used in other applications like surfboard fins, bodyboards, etc.
I see recovery boards the same way with other off-road equipment- spend more money if you see yourself in numerous recovery situations. Generally, the more expensive recovery boards have their material formula dialed in.
On the other hand, the cheaper traction boards are just that, “cheaper.” They’re handy for the “just in case” scenario.
When selecting a recovery board, it’s essential to consider factors such as material quality, durability, flexibility, and user reviews. Additionally, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines for proper usage and maintenance to ensure the longevity and effectiveness of the recovery boards.
Storing Recovery Boards
Traditionally, recovery boards are usually thrown or stored on the outside of the vehicle. It helps to keep the vehicle clean and save on space.
But one thing most off-roaders do pay attention to is that when the recovery boards are mounted outside their vehicle, the UV rays degrade the plastic and drastically shorten their life (even the most expensive boards).
The best way to store the recovery boards is first, to give them a nice cleaning. Then, spray them with plastic adhesion promoter and some spray paint of color. Of course, the color and adhesion will degrade over time, but it’ll have protected the tracks from UV.
Popular Traction Board Brands
Plenty of traction board brands are in the market, so choosing the right one can be difficult. However, established traction board brands are synonymous with quality and performance.
And in this section, I’ll share my impressions with Maxtrax. My review might be anecdotal, but it holds in most use cases.
The Maxtrax is at the pinnacle of the traction board space. The traction board from this brand has great stacking and mounting capabilities. They also feel solid but have a good flex, so they can mold to the existing terrain while clinging onto your tires.
Generally, if you need a traction board that has it all, I’d recommend Maxtrax. We are also always inclined to carry these boards because of their superior performance.
However, Traction Jacks boards are also handy, especially if you need a compact traction board, while the Tred 4×4 and Maxsa Innovations are great budget alternatives to Maxtrax.
Chains or Mats?
Chains and mats are indispensable in an off-roader’s gear, and it wouldn’t hurt to have both. However, the difference between the two is the purpose; a traction board is used as a recovery tool, while a chain promotes traction on the wheels and allows for forward momentum.
Q: Can recovery boards be used in all types of terrain?
A: Recovery boards can be used in a variety of terrains, but their effectiveness may vary depending on the specific conditions. Generally, recovery boards are most commonly used in soft terrains such as sand, mud, or snow. The design of recovery boards allows them to create traction and provide a solid surface for the vehicle’s tires to gain grip and regain momentum. However, in harder terrains like rocky surfaces or icy conditions, recovery boards may not be as effective. It’s important to assess the terrain and consider alternative recovery methods if necessary.
Q: How should recovery boards be positioned for optimal effectiveness?
A: For optimal effectiveness, it is important to position recovery boards correctly during vehicle recovery. First, assess the situation and determine the appropriate use of recovery boards. Clear the area around the stuck vehicle of any debris or obstructions to create a clear path for recovery.
Next, position the recovery boards in front of the tires that need assistance. Place two recovery boards, one for each tire, aligned parallel to each other and perpendicular to the direction of the vehicle’s travel. Carefully insert the recovery boards under the tires, ensuring they are fully engaged and making contact with the tire tread.
Once the boards are securely in place, slowly and steadily drive the vehicle onto the recovery boards, maintaining a consistent speed and avoiding sudden acceleration. As the tires make contact with the recovery boards, they should gain traction and provide the necessary momentum to move the vehicle out of the stuck position. Once the vehicle is successfully out, carefully remove the recovery boards from beneath the tires.
Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines specific to your recovery boards for the best results and to ensure your safety during the recovery process.
This video has been included for its clarification of the topic matter. Credit goes to Adventure Built
Recovery boards are valuable tools for off-road vehicle recovery, especially in soft terrains like sand, mud, and snow. They are designed to provide traction and help vehicles regain momentum.
Recovery boards are typically made of durable materials such as high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or reinforced composite materials. These materials offer strength, resilience, and resistance to weather and environmental conditions.
For the best recovery board, look for specifications such as sufficient width and length to accommodate your vehicle’s tires. Opt for boards with aggressive traction patterns and deep cleats, as they can provide better grip in challenging conditions. Consider the load capacity of the boards to ensure they can handle the weight of your vehicle.
To achieve optimal traction, position recovery boards in front of the tires that need assistance, align them parallel to each other, and perpendicular to the vehicle’s direction of travel. Insert them fully under the tires, ensuring good contact with the tire tread. Drive onto the boards steadily, maintaining a consistent speed without sudden acceleration.
To maintain recovery boards, regularly inspect them for any signs of damage or wear. Clean them after each use, removing dirt, mud, or debris that may affect their performance. Avoid exposure to harsh chemicals or extreme temperatures that could degrade the material. Store them in a dry and secure place, protecting them from UV radiation and physical damage.
By following proper maintenance practices and using recovery boards correctly, you can ensure their longevity, reliability, and effectiveness when you need them most during off-road recoveries.
Recovery off-road boards aren’t a must for off-roading, but they can help with a few things. The most obvious is recovering when you’re stuck. Plus, the boards are handy for leveling your vehicle for a good night’s sleep. And depending on their strength, they can double as bridges/ramps to get over a rough bit of road.
I usually see traction boards are one of the things you wonder why you purchased them until you need them. They’re a lot more useful outside the recovery context, making them an invaluable gizmo for off-road enthusiasts.