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Roadway Equipment

Tire Traction Mats-Which is Best For You

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Nothing can ruin a day like getting stuck somewhere you don’t want to be.  Getting your car stuck can happen at any time of year and in places, you wouldn’t expect.  Where are you traveling too?

Are driving down a gravel road or do you have the possibility of an icy commute in the morning?  Do the roads you travel have a tendency to get muddy from time to time? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions then I have the emergency tool for you.  Tire Traction Mats.

What Are Tire Traction Mats?

Tire traction mats are specially engineered plastic or metal planks, with an aggressive tread, that you place under your drive tire to give your car the traction it needs to get unstuck.

Over here  I suggested carrying a 2×4 or 2×6, as a way to get unstuck. I have used these many times to get out of sand or snow. Tire traction mats, however, are like the superhero version of my 2X4 plank.  

If I had known about these when I lived up north in Maine; I would have invested in a set or two of these.  Even living in Florida now, these would serve a useful purpose. The traction mats are designed to help you get out of snow, sand, or mud.  


For those of you in a hurry, these are the traction mats I recommend (the following links take you to Amazon):

Tire Traction Mat

Best Use

Dimensions

Weight

Foldable

Text

Subzero Grip Trax Traction 

Small Car
Light snow conditions

Size: 36” x 8”  x 1” 

4.5lbs

No

Portable Tow Truck 

Small/ Full Size Car
Small Truck

Size: 36.5 x 8 x 1.5 inches

4.49lbs
(2.25 each)

No

Maxsa Escapper Buddy

Full Size Truck or Car

Size: Size: 48” Long x 14.5” Wide

17.4lbs (set)  8.6 lbs (single)

No


After careful research, these traction mats are what I believe to be the best picks. Read through and find which traction mat is best for you.

Remember these are not just a wintertime tool. Beachgoers and off-roaders alike will find these equally valuable.

Portable Tow Truck Traction Mat

Features
Size: 36” Long x 8” Wide x 1” Thick 
Weight: 4.5 Pounds
Foldable: No
Color: Orange
Material: Polypropylene Plastic
How Many: Set of 2

Click Image to See on Amazon

Pros
  • Budget-friendly
  • Light Weight
  • Small Dimensions, for easy storage
  • Comes in a pair
  • Easy to use
Cons
  • Concerns about durability
  • Not great in mud
  • Not the best for off-road use

The Portable Tow Truck Tire Traction Mats are some of the most popular tire traction mats on the market right now.  Their budget-friendly price and relative ease of use make them a popular choice among motorists.

The ‘teeth’ on the bottom, are designed to bite into ice, sand, or snow providing a grip and the textured top gives your tires a rough surface to gain traction on.  The Portable Tow Truck Traction Mats are made from a hardened polypropylene plastic which allows the mats to bend without breaking.

These traction mats are probably best for your average commuter or if you are getting ready for a road trip.  I would not recommend these for off-road use, they simply are not built for that kind of ride. 

For most of us, that is all that we need.  

People have reported using these to get out of ditches, snowbanks, or their driveways; for a typical driver that is all that we ask for.  However, these are not for winter driving only. People have said they were able to use these to get out of beach sand they were stuck in.  

One area that people have reported not being impressed with these mats was in the mud.  The loose mud simply did not provide enough traction for these mats to work. Also, in the same vein, loose snow proved troublesome for some folks.  

The idea is that the teeth on the traction mat need something to bite.  A small amount of digging may be necessary to get the required traction. These same people also stated that these mats essentially became projectiles when they did not work properly.  So, please make sure no one is standing behind the car just in case.

Overall, for the average driver, these traction mats are the best buy.

Maxsa Escaper Buddies

Click Image to See on Amazon

Features
Size: 48” Long x 14.5” Wide   (121.92 cm x 36.83
Weight: 17.4lbs (set)  8.6 lbs (single)
Foldable: No
Color: Brown, Orange, Olive
Material: Polypropylene Plastic
How Many: Set of 2
Pros
  • Connectable and Extra Long Models
  • Constructed of Strong Material
  • Designed for off-road use
  • Great for sand
Cons
  • Large and may be difficult to store for smaller vehicles
  • Reports of cracking

The MAXSA Escaper Buddies are another hugely popular model of traction mats not name MaxTrax.   These traction mats boast a raised track innovative design that digs into snow, mud, or sand and also grips the tires on the top so that the vehicle gets the traction that it needs.

These are the largest and heaviest set of traction mats that are reviewed here, measuring 48” long and 14.5” wide.  The MAXSA Escaper buddies are really designed for off-road use. While suitable for all types of conditions, most people had success with these in the sand. It should be noted that the manufacturer does not recommend these for bridging purposes. 

Jeeps and pickup trucks alike had no problem getting unstuck when driving on beaches or in the desert with these traction mats.  The long length gives you some extra room to get yourself out of sticky situations, and the wide base will accommodate most tire sizes.  The manufacturers recommended weight in mud and sand is three (3) tons. 

Options not included in other traction mats are a connectable set of traction mats and an extra-long set of mats.  The connectable set of mats extends up to 90”. Each mat individually is 45” long and can be used by itself. It should be noted that these do not have the same design as the standard Escaper Buddy.  

The XL Version of the Escaper Buddy is 59” long and looks similar to the standard model.  It is made of the same material, just a bit longer.

As far as storage goes, these stack on top of one another and total around 5.5” stacked; which makes them ideal for the roof or pickup bed.

As with all traction mats. the MAXSA Escaper Buddies are not without their detractors.  Some people reported cracking after use. Also, some complained of melting the grips on the traction mat. When used improperly this can happen with all traction mats.

According to reviews, these may be the most reliable traction mats at this price point.  But I do not think they are for everyone. If you are most concerned with getting to work and back, unless you work in the woods, these may not be for you.

Overall, people have been very pleased with this product.


Stalwart Deep Groove Traction Mat

Click Image to See at Amazon

Features
Size: 16” Long x 6.5” Wide x .75” Thick 
Weight: 2.4 lbs.
Foldable: No
Color: Black
Material: Polypropylene Plastic
How Many: Set of 2
Pros
  • Budget Price point
  • Great for light snow conditions
  • Small size for easy storage
  • Comes in set of two
  • Angles ends that can be used as snow scrapper or shovel
Cons
  • Concerns about quality issues
  • May not be suitable for heavier trucks or cars
  • Questionable in heavy snow conditions or ice

The Stalwart Deep Groove traction mats are an affordable solution if you do not anticipate severe snow or ice conditions. Their small size and price point make them an affordable solution for an emergency situation.

These traction mats are on par with the Subzero Griptraxx. They are small and inexpensive. This makes for easy storage in small vehicles and is light on the wallet. Even if they work only once they will have done their job.

The feature that I find most interesting on the Stalwart traction mats is the beveled end. Most times before you can use a set of traction mats there will be some shoveling first. With these traction mats you get a built in shovel and you have one less piece of equipment to carry around.

The manufacturer claims you can use it as an ice scrapper too. But I would be cautious before I started dragging this across my windshield.

The biggest complaint with these traction mats is the durability. Several people complained that after the first use they cracked.

Given the size and material these may not be best for heavy trucks or cars. Especially since these have cracked with lesser cars like a Honda Fit.

For the price, if you want an emergency backup and you are not going to be in severe winter conditions these may be just right for you.


Snow Joe TrackAssist ATJ 651 Non-Slip Traction

Click Image to See at Amazon

Features
Size: 24.5” Long x 8.5” Wide
Weight: 5.5 lbs.
Foldable: Rolls
Color: Black
Material: Thermoplastic Rubber
How Many: 1 Track

Pros
  • Heavy Duty Thermoplastic Rubber
  • Rolls up, includes bag for easy storage
  • Affordable
Cons
  • You only get one

The SnowJoe Trackassist ATJ651 Traction Mat is the next generation after the ATJ 650. While the ATJ651 maintains the same dimensions as its predecessor, it is made from Thermoplastic rubber instead of PVC.

Thermoplastic rubber, according to Abtech Inc., is lightweight, has good tear strength, and is weather resistant. All good qualities in a tire traction mat and an apparent upgrade from the ATJ 650 pvc.

A very handy feature of this traction mat is the fact that it rolls up.  Unlike the hardened plastic mats, these will stow nicely away in your trunk or back of your truck.  The handles make it easy to maneuver underneath your tires so that you can get adequate traction. Some recommended having a shovel with you so that proper placement can be made.  One reported having the mat fly out from underneath the tire because it wasn’t set properly.

Probably the biggest drawback to this item is that you only get one.  Fortunately, the price point is very reasonable; so picking up two is advised.  Many complained of a strong petroleum smell from a new traction mat; think new tire smell.  Airing them out for a bit before storing them in your car is recommended.  

These are not recommended for off-road use.  They’re primary function, again, is for your average driver who gets stuck in a bad spot.  

Overall a solid buy for a reasonable price.

JOJOMARK Tire Traction Mat

Click Image to See at Amazon

Features
Size: 24.5” Long x 8.5” Wide
Weight: 5.9 lbs.
Foldable: Rolls
Color: Black
Material: High Strength Rubber w/ Galvanized Steel Core
How Many: 1 Track


Bunkerwall Recovery Track Mat

Click Image to See at Amazon

Features
Size: 24.5” Long x 8.5” Wide
Weight: 5.9 lbs.
Foldable: Rolls
Color: Black
Material: High Strength Rubber w/ Galvanized Steel Core
How Many: 1 Track

Pros
  • High strength rubber
  • rolls up with case for easy storage
  • Handles for easy positioning
Cons
  • May not be effective in deep mud
  • Expensive for single track

Another in our inventory that comes as a single track.  The Bunkerwall One Recovery track is a little pricier than our other options that offer only one track, but with the reinforced steel core it is worth the money.  

These mats are about 2 feet long by 8 inches wide and weigh about 6 pounds. This is a tool that is completely easy to handle if you find yourself in a situation where you need it.  Although, at least one reviewer felt that it could be a little bit longer.  

The stand out feature of this item is the rubber track with the galvanized steel core, you don’t get much more heavy duty than that.  The rubber coating means that it can be used in just about any situation and the steel core will give you the strength you need for any vehicle.

Many people felt that the Bunkerwall Track Mat was up to just about any task that it was needed for.  From minibusses, pick up trucks, to sedans people have had success with sand, mud, snow, and ice. As with many traction mats, people seemed to have difficulty in deeper snow and mud.  But overall people have been very satisfied with this product.


SubZero 12501 GripTrax Traction Tool

Click Image to See at Amazon

Features
Size: 25” Long x 8” Wide X 2″ High
Weight: 1.55 lbs.
Foldable: No
Color: Yellow
Material: Plastic
How Many: Set of 2

Pros
  • Light weight
  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to use
  • Very Popular
  • Good for light conditions
Cons
  • Complaints about quality
  • Many reports of not working
  • May not be good for severe situations

The Subzero 12501 Grip Trax is perhaps the most divisive set of traction mats on our list.  You really either love them or hate them. Let’s look at the specs.

These traction mats are the smallest and lightest on our list.  This has several advantages, they are easy to store and easy to maneuver into place.  These are pluses when you are in a bad situation. 

The plastic material is easy to clean and lightweight.  These are a very basic set of traction mats that many people have had success with; in all sorts of terrain.  You can’t argue with what people have claimed to pull themselves out of.

There were many complaints that this product just doesn’t work.  Many people were also stuck in sand, snow, and ice and the traction mats did not get folks out of their situation.  People claimed that the plastic broke or melted as they were trying to get unstuck.

So for an inexpensive set of traction mats, they are highly praised and highly vilified.  You could have peace of mind cheaply, but if they don’t work you could be in for a world of hurt.  

For my own self, I would invest in a little sturdier set of traction mats. But you can read all the reviews here on Amazon and decide for yourself


X-Bull Recovery Traction Tracks

Click Image to See at Amazon

Features
Size: 43” Long x 13” Wide X 2.5″ High
Weight: 13.2 lbs. (set) 6.6lbs (single)
Foldable: No
Color: Black, Red, Green, Olive, Orange
Material: Reinforced Nylon
How Many: Set of 2

Pros
  • Stong Material
  • U- Shape design
  • 10 Ton Capacity
  • Designed for off-road
  • Many colors
Cons
  • Some complain about the quality
  • Reports of cracking on upon use

The X-Bull Recovery traction mats are another set of beefy traction mats, maybe a bit too much for your casual commuter or road tripper.  But if you believe that bigger is better than this may be the traction mats for you.

The X-Bull Recovery mats boast a 43-inch length and 13-inch wide track, that is impressive and should accommodate most tire sizes.  People with sedans, full-size pick-ups (F250), to Ford Ecoline Vans have reported success in using the X-Bull Traction Mats in extricating themselves.  Also, the X-Bull sports a unique U-Shaped design, to enable side traction. The X-Bull Traction Mats are constructed with reinforced nylon, which gives them versatility in all types of terrain.

Another unique feature of these traction mats is the variety of colors. While the colors do offer you the opportunity to express your own style; the colors also have led to some confusion.  Apparently, in earlier generations, the colors indicated different weight capacities. That is no longer the case. All colors have a 10-ton weight limit.

Storage is another selling point for these traction mats.  You may not be able to store them in your trunk, but they stack nicely and would fit in the back of a pick up well. On longer journeys, they stack nicely on your roof.

Another item that X-Bull has stopped including is a storage bag for the traction mats.  This may be a deal-breaker for some, but it is what it is.  

Finally, the bad news.  Many people reported these mats cracking on the first use.  Now, while these are not the most expensive units out there, they still are a significant investment.  It is discouraging to read so many reports of these breaking on the first attempt.

The X-Bull Traction Mats are some of the most popular traction mats out there.  They do not match the quality of MaxTraxx traction mats, but at a third of the cost, people are willing to take a chance on them.  While many people reported disappointing results with these, MUCH more thought they were well worth the money.


What to look for in the best tire traction mats…

  • Size
  • Material and Durability
  • What are you going to use them for
  • Portability
  • Style

There are many types of traction mats available on the market. Here are a few that would be perfect for ‘normal’ driving conditions.

Why size matters.

This one is pretty obvious; if you purchase a set of these you are going to have to store them in your car.  This means being able to have good access to them, while not having them be an inconvenience. So depending on what type of vehicle you drive, storage will be a consideration.

I will highlight the smallest set of traction mats that I found; the Subzero GripTrax Traction Tool.  These I thought would be ideal for a smaller sedan or truck. They measure only 8” x 25” and weigh 1.5 pounds for the set. Even with the two of them, they will easily store in your trunk or pickup toolbox. 

Overwhelmingly, most people were really pleased with their set of GripTrax.  It should be noted that those who had the best success, did some digging before they tried to use these.  They dug the snow or sand away from their tires before they attempted to use these to get out.

Material and Durability

    As with the number of traction mats out in the market, so it is with the materials they are made of.  Traction mats come made of steel, aluminum, plastic, rubber, and fiberglass. The type of material that these are made of ties in directly with what you are going to be using them for.

For instance, for the serious off-roader (which I am not), a set of traction mats made of metal may be more appropriate because they may need them for bridging a small gap.  These mats would need to be able to support the weight of a vehicle on their own.  

 Since most of us for our daily commute will not be going off-road.  A plastic or rubber set of traction mats would be sufficient. As they are lighter and would be easier to use.

 For general all-around usefulness, the Portable Tire Traction Mats by Portable Tow Truck would appear to be the best bet.  These mats weigh in at 2.5 pounds each, making them heavier than the Gripp Traxx.

Portable Tire Traction Mats are also considerably larger measuring 40”x8.5”x 1.5”, but they are flat and easily stored, they will just take up a little more space.  They cannot be rolled up or folded so keep that in mind when purchasing them.  People have had success in using these in all types of conditions.

What Are You Going to be using them for?

 This is perhaps the most important question that you need to answer.  Why? Well, there is a community of people that use these things for off-roading.  The hobbyist who travel the backwoods and all-terrain trails for fun, and who will most likely get stuck at some point.  

These individuals are more prone to using the heavy-duty metal traction mats made of metal.  These traction mats not only help you get out of a sticky situation, but they can also act as temporary bridges.  Pretty cool, but since most of us don’t do offroading, I am not going to recommend any here.

Then there is the more casual driver.  The one who has to battle the snow and ice on your way to and from work if living up north.  Or perhaps takes a casual drive down the beach in the south. Or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle, where trails and drives are not all paved and can get muddy.

The point is, what are YOU going to be driving in? 

What do you need to be prepared for?  As I mentioned, if I had known about these when I lived in Maine I would have bought a set for my wife’s car and my car.  I got stuck in a patch of ice on a level driveway and couldn’t move.

If I had one of these I would have slapped it down and been on my way.  Even here in Florida some of the roads are nothing but sugar sand; if I spent more time on them you better believe I would get a set of these things.

Consider what you will be driving in and then make your decision accordingly.

Again for general all-around usefulness, the Portable Tire Traction Mats by Portable Tow Truck would appear to be the best bet.  They are fairly lightweight and don’t take up too much room in storage.  

 People have had success in using these in all types of conditions.  They are made of solid polypropylene, which should be very hard to break. They have very nice grip traction for both your tires and whatever you happen to be needing to get out of.  

 Now for the beefiest set of traction mats, I am looking at the Maxsa Escaper Buddy (click here for Amazon).  These by far have the best reputation out there for traction mat sets. These weigh in at a hefty 8.6 pounds for the pair of them and measure 48”x14.4”x5”. 

These bad boys are no joke. The Escaper Buddies are made of the same polypropylene material that the Portable Tow Truck mats are made of. An added bonus is that this Maxsa set comes in orange, black, or grey an option you don’t get other traction mats.  

Most people won’t need a set of traction mats like these.  Per the manufacturer, these are ideal for off-road use, but they are #1 sellers on Amazon for a reason.  These are more expensive than the rest, but people overall have had a very positive experience with these.

Do Traction Mats Fold or Roll-Up?

 Well, this really depends on which traction mat you purchase.  Most of them do not fold or roll-up. They are a piece of rigid plastic, wood or metal.  However, there are a few on the market that does fold up into a compact unit. 

A popular set of these that fold up are the WaWaAuto All-Weather Foldable Auto Traction Mat (click here for link to Amazon). For those of us who may need a little more storage space, these are nice.  They are a reasonable price on Amazon and a best seller of the fold up the type of traction mats. The fold up size is 11 inches, which is pretty nice if you have limited storage.

 The two major complaints with this particular set of traction mats are one, they are smaller than they appear.  Several people complained about this and were worried that they would not be big enough for their vehicle.

While this was the case it didn’t seem to affect the performance of the traction mats.  However, if you have a large vehicle, just be aware that they are smaller than what they seem.

 Something to be aware of is that the WaWa Auto Traction Mats are directional.  Incorrectly placed, traction mats will be shot out from underneath your car. The small tab has a stamp that says “This Side Up” that is difficult to see. However, once positioned correctly, most people have had good success with these.

So, if your storage space is limited and you want a little peace of mind, the WaWaAuto All-Weather Foldable Traction Mat is a fine choice.  There are other foldable traction mats available, but this one is clearly a top choice among Amazon customers.

How do you use Traction Mats or Recovery Boards?

The wonderful thing about tire traction mats is their simplicity.  If you get stuck, shove the taction mat underneath your drive wheel. Obviously, you want to make sure that all obstructions are out of the way before you attempt to get unstuck.  

But you may not even have to perform the rocking maneuver in order to get out.  The whole idea with the rocking maneuver is to gain traction so you can get your car out.  By placing the traction mats under the drive wheels; you are supplying your car with the traction it needs to get out.

There are no guarantees. You may get yourself in a situation that even the traction mats don’t work.  But for the price, I would carry a set around just in case. It’s a lot cheaper than having to call a tow truck.

Also, some people complained about the traction mats slipping.  That kind of defeats the whole purpose of having traction mats, doesn’t it?  Be mindful of how you put them down.  

On some models you can place them upside down; if this is the case they won’t grip the sand, mud, or snow that you are trying to get out of.  If at first, they don’t work, check and make sure that they are placed properly.

 It is also possible to spin your tires on the traction mats.  “What is the point of having traction mats, if you can spin your tires on them?”, you may ask.  That is an excellent question. Again, familiarize yourself with how they work and how they need to be placed.  People have complained about melting plastic and wheel spin, most likely these individuals are not using the mats correctly and the people are not getting the desired result.

Can you use Traction Mats for a Class A Motorhome?

I do not have a Class A motorhome in which to try traction mats out on.  However, in my research, it does not appear to be recommended. The beefiest mats that I recommend, the Maxsa Escaper Buddy Traction Mat, which has a very aggressive tread pattern and made of rigid plastic, does not endorse being used on a Class A motorhome.  The maximum suggested weight is three tons.  

That is not to say there are no traction mats that can be used for a large recreational vehicle. You may want to consult an RV dealer to find such a product.  I will keep my eyes open to see if I come across any in my future research.

Can Traction Mats be Used on a Large Pickup?

 What good would traction maybe if it didn’t work on all vehicles?  Especially vehicles that would most likely be off-road, like a pickup truck.  Will traction mats be suitable for a large pickup? The short answer is ‘yes’.

People have reported using them on everything from a Ford F-150 to a Ram 3500 and have been very happy with them.  Individuals have used them on many different types of terrain. From beaches on San Padre to off-roading in the backwoods; people have got themselves stuck in various situations and have been able to extract themselves. 

The fella driving on San Padre island found a soft spot in the sand and his truck quickly sank on the beach. Using the Maxsa Escaper Buddy Traction Mat, he was able to get his truck out.

There are several considerations if you are going to be using the recovery boards for your pick up.  One is the weight of the pickup.

As mentioned the recommended weight, by the manufacturer for the Escaper Buddy is 3 tons, which is a respectable weight.  The heaviest weight I have found is a 5000 pound Land Cruiser which used the Escaper Buddy with no problems.

Another consideration is the width of the tire.  For someone with a wide tire with an aggressive tread, there may be no need for a traction mat.  But you want to make sure that your tire actually fits on the mat. The fold-up mats that I reference earlier would be no good for a large pickup.  They are simply too small for a big tire.

 Finally, learn how to use a traction mat on a large pickup.  The number one complaint that people had about these traction mats, especially people with trucks; is that the plastic on the traction mat would melt.  What causes this?

Improper use. The traction mats are a tool and just like any tool it needs to be used correctly.   I mentioned earlier not to spin your tires on the mats and this is what was happening.  People would give their vehicles to much gas, spin the tires and destroy their mat.

Many people have had success using traction mats on their large pickup trucks.  From the beaches of Florida to the mountains of Alaska reviewers have used traction mats to free themselves from mud, sand, and snow. 

Conversely, some have not had good success. Either, they didn’t know how to use the mats or they were simply to stick for the mats to be effective.  Overwhelming, though, people have had good success when using the mats.

Final Thoughts

You never know when you are going to get stuck. It could be on your snowy driveway or an ill-fated beach drive. Whatever the case, a pair of tire traction mats could be the difference in being stuck for minutes rather than hours.

Evaluate your needs and driving habits to see what would be the best choice for you. If I had known about these when I lived in Maine; I would have invested in a set.

You know better than anyone what you will need them for.

Safe travels…


Source:

https://www.maxsainnovations.com/

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