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The 6 Best Traction Boards to Free Your Vehicle From Snow, Mud, and Anything Else

The best way to get out of any slippery situation

traction boards
Staff, Courtesy of X-BULL

Taking a vehicle off-road or driving through snowy and icy conditions presents the risk of getting stuck. And when that happens, few devices can top the power and efficacy of a great set of traction boards, which you can slip in front of or behind your spinning wheels to get purchase in slippery conditions. These lightweight, easy-to-use recovery devices come in different shapes and sizes, but the end goal remains giving your tires something to grab onto, whether you're days into an overland journey, 'wheeling with friends, or just trying to get to work on a snowy day.

What to Consider

Traction boards might look like rectangular bits of plastic that drivers jam under their wheels, but there is plenty of tech hidden in the materials and cleat design.

The materials used have the most impact on the traction boards' durability. If you're a regular off-roader and expect to use your boards often, consider models made with more robust construction using advanced resins and polymers. But even the best options are still plastic devices that can break under hard use. If you expect to use traction boards to recover your vehicle regularly, go with a set with a multi-year or lifetime warranty. Mostly only cover defects, but it's a reliable indicator of the board's durability. If you are buying these as an emergency device that will only rarely get used, a cheaper model with a shorter warranty should meet your needs.

Also consider the cleats or lugs on the boards. Some premium models made for off-roading have reinforced spikes that will give your tires better purchase in the worst conditions. Typically, these are made of a softer material for extra traction, but they wear faster and can even melt if you spin your tires too much. While that's a reasonable tradeoff for drivers who need to rescue their vehicles in extreme conditions, everyday road users who want to save some money can go with less expensive options with firmer, yet less grippy, cleats made from harder plastic.

Lastly, consider where you want to carry your traction boards. Most are made to attach to the outside of dedicated off-road vehicles to a factory or aftermarket rack, or to a truck-mounted spare tire. But if you're buying these for a daily driver, you'll likely need to store them in the truck. Folding models that double over, like the GoTreads below, may be a better option.

How We Selected

I'm a lifelong automotive enthusiast and the autos editor for Popular Mechanics, where I test and reviews cars, trucks, and automotive accessories. For this piece, I interviewed several manufacturers, including some during the annual Overland Expo, to get the most up-to-date insight on the development and design of traction boards. I also read through hundreds of customer reviews on sites like Amazon to get a better sense of what customers liked and disliked about many of the top models. Based on my research and experience with similar products, these are the best boards you can buy now that will save your bacon when your wheels start spinning.

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Best Overall
Maxtrax MKII Vehicle Recovery Board

 Material(s): Fiber-reinforced engineering-grade nylon

Warranty: Lifetime

Dimensions: 46 x 13-in (8 pounds)

Maxtrax is one of the original makers of traction boards and its models are among the best premium traction boards for off-roading or deep snow use. This version of their popular (but expensive) recovery board uses a system of softer cleats on the bottom to help hold to the ground while the topside offers purchase to your tire. They come in seven colors to match your vehicle and feature six glove-friendly handles as well as a shovel at each end to help clear snow and sand in your way.

  • Easy to mount
  • Easy to stack

  • Expensive
Folding Design
GoTreads Professional Traction Tool

 Material(s): Polypropylene copolymer

Warranty: Lifetime

Dimensions: 46 x 9-in (8.3 pounds)

First developed in 1975, GoTreads offer a unique design. Unlike most other traction boards, the Professional Traction Tool folds up into a package that's small enough to fit in the trunk for frunk of any vehicle—it's just 12-inches long by 9-inches wide. Instead of the traditional array of spikes you see on most boards, these use a self-centering tread that offers a nice mix of traction and durability made to withstand light to moderate use. 

  • Folds to fit smaller spaces
  • Trusted brand

  • Narrower than other boards on the list
Best Value
X-BULL Traction Tracks

 Material(s): Reinforced nylon

Warranty: 1-year return or replacement

Dimensions: 41.7 x 12.2-in (5.5 pounds)

X-Bull's Traction Tracks come at a low price without much compromise in performance or design. The stackable boards can be mounted outside your vehicle or stored in their lightweight bag.  Like Maxtrax, they come in seven colors. While many users appreciate how well these boards work, we don't recommend them for frequent use—they can crack and wear faster than some more expensive models here.  

  • The kit allows for different mounting options

  • Tough to find
Grippy, Durable Teeth
ARB Tred Pro Recovery Boards

 Material(s): Nylon (teeth are glass-filled resin nylon)

Warranty: Lifetime

Dimensions: 47 x 14-in

Much like the Maxtrax offering, ARB's Tred Pros are packed to the gills with grippy cleats. Thanks to their composite construction, these boards can last longer and are more flexible than most, so they won't crack or break as easily. The glass-filled resin cleats are burly enough to provide gobs of traction but can stand up to the high heat of spinning wheels, so they won't melt or wear as fast as some others.

  • Durable glass-filled resin teeth
  • Tons of color options

  • Expensive
Burly Construction
Smittybilt Element Ramps

 Material(s): Nylon-reinforced plastic

Warranty: Lifetime

Dimensions: 40 x 18-in (10 pounds)

These traction boards from Smittybilt offer a lot of performance for their middle-of-the-road price, making them a great value. They have six carrying handles, shovels at both ends, and a maximum weight rating of 7,700 pounds—everything you need for off-roading or just getting unstuck on a snowy winter drive. 

  • Widest board on the list

  • Ambiguous warranty policy
Extra Tools
Rugged Ridge Traction Recovery Kit
$149.99 (11% off)

 Material(s): Reinforced Nylon

Warranty: Five-year repair or replacement

Dimensions: 49 x 16-in (4.98 pounds)

While the ends of most traction boards double as shovels, Rugged Ridge makes no mention of that with its recovery kit. Instead, RR includes a tri-fold shovel alongside the two traction boards. We like that these are also some of the toughest boards you can buy—each can hold up to 20,000 pounds. Despite that robust build, they are also incredibly light, weighing just 5 pounds each.  

  • Highest maximum weight rating
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