Large surface area can handle a variety of wheel and vehicle sizes without buckling or slipping in wet conditions. Tracks are light enough to carry around when necessary.
The larger traction pad bulk can be difficult to position correctly under trapped tires.
Traction mats have a smaller, narrower profile for storing in smaller vehicle trunks and cargo spaces. Built-in traction teeth grip slippery snow and mud better than tires alone.
The smaller size of the traction pad may not be adequate for larger truck and SUV tires.
Made of heavy-duty nylon, these pads have a 10-ton capacity on level ground. Handles on both ends and either side allow for easy maneuvering and positioning. Lightweight and durable. Available in 4 colors.
They don’t come with any kind of storage bag or box.
Extremely lightweight. Folds up to fit small spaces, like under truck seats. Easily manages up to 3.5 tons. High-friction honeycomb design. Fairly affordable.
They only work when oriented in a certain direction.
If you’ve ever gotten your car stuck in the mud, snow, sand, or wet grass, you know it’s easier to get out if you can get someone in to help you. But help isn’t always at hand and shoveling gravel under the tires doesn’t always do the trick. This is where a traction mat comes in.
Waiting for a tow truck in cold weather can be a thoroughly miserable experience, but much of the time, a pair of traction mats can get you out of a tough situation even when you’re driving solo. Traction mats vary in size and length, and these specs determine their compatibility with different vehicles. The mats also come in a range of materials that vary in grip and durability.
There is more to buying traction mats than simply picking any old mat and hoping it works. Choosing the right traction mat means considering your vehicle and your needs. Keep reading to learn more about their designs and variations.
The most important factor when comparing traction mats is the size of the mat. If the mats are too small for your tires, they are unlikely to get enough traction to pull your vehicle free.
Get a tape measure and go outside. Measure the width of your tires, and then come back inside. All done? Good — you’ve taken the most important step toward finding the perfect traction mats.
Traction mats come in different sizes, and the bigger your vehicle, the wider your tires are likely to be. Getting mats that are too small is a waste of your time and money. Read the descriptions of the available mats to make sure you get the right size. The mat should be as wide as, or wider than, your tires. When in doubt, too wide is better than too narrow.
The length of a traction mat is not quite as critical as the width. Most of the time, you only need enough length for your tires to get out of the hole they’ve dug themselves into. In fact, with front-wheel drive cars, long traction mats will be a liability because you won’t be able to position them at a steep enough angle to get them under the tires.
The type of vehicle you drive should inform your decision when determining the length and sturdiness of your traction mats.
Cars are usually set closer to the ground than trucks, which means you’ve got less room to work when you’re trying to get a traction mat under the tires. If you’re driving a car, you’ll probably be better off with a shorter traction mat or one that folds or unrolls.
If you’re driving a truck, you’ll need a stronger, thicker mat to withstand the heavier weight of your vehicle.
The majority of traction mats today are made from high-strength plastic or industrial nylon. Some are made from galvanized steel covered with rubber tread. For long-term durability, steel is the material of choice, but it’s also the most expensive option. For low weight and ease of use, plastic or nylon is the way to go. The right material for you depends on your vehicle type and how often you anticipate needing some extra traction.
Many manufacturers offer traction mats in several bright, eye-catching colors. You want something that has a high contrast to whatever you’re stuck in. If you’re stuck in mud, a black or brown traction mat could get lost in the mud after it does its job. White, orange, or red would be best for you.
However, if most of your problems occur in the snow, then black or blue would be good choices. Pick the color that is opposite whatever you’re most likely to get stuck in, while keeping in mind that a vibrant color increases your visibility when you are stuck on the side of a busy road.
Traction mats should have a carrying bag or box of some kind. This is especially important after you’ve used them the first time. Who wants to put mud-caked traction mats in the trunk of their car? It’s a sure bet you won’t have any place to rinse them off next to where you got stuck.
Make sure your traction mats come with a carrying case or box of some kind. If they don’t, consider picking one up separately.
Some traction mats can fold or roll up, which can make the easier to fit into a small space — but you’ll still want something to store them in to protect your car from dirt, mud, and snow.
When you get your traction mats, be sure to read the instructions and perhaps even test your mats so you’ll know what to do when you get into a situation where you need them to work desperately.
Carrying case: INFANZIA 45-Inch Zipper Duffel Travel Sports Equipment Bag
If your chosen traction mat doesn’t come with a carrying case or box, this 45-inch sports equipment bag from INFANZIA will do nicely as a substitute. It will also keep the mud and crud out of your car or truck after the mats have been used.
Hand pick: V&B Mfg Co 16" Mini Pick
When space is tight and you need to dig down deep, a miniature hand pick is the perfect complement to your shovel. This one from V&B Mfg Co. has a hardwood hickory handle and a flat blade on one side and a tapered blade on the other.
Leather gloves: StoneBreaker Gloves Rancher Large Work Glove
A reliable pair of gloves can save you from pain and frustration when you’re working hard to get your car out of a snow bank. These leather gloves from StoneBreaker Gloves come in a variety of sizes and will protect your hands while you’re digging out and using your traction mats.
Inexpensive: For under $25 are short, somewhat narrow traction pads, mainly useful for owners of small cars. These mats may work in a pinch, or they may leave you stuck in a ditch.
Mid-range: From $25 to around $150 are mid-range traction mats. These are generally durable and rugged, and they are available in a variety of sizes.
Expensive: Highly durable traction mats cost from $150 to $300 or above. While these mats often boast tougher materials, this is not always the case despite their price. Be wary and read the manufacturer’s description carefully to find out what you’re paying extra for.
If you didn’t find anything that met your needs in our top picks, we have a few more recommendations to consider.
We like the Maxtrax MKII Vehicle Recovery and Extraction Device in spite of the highfalutin name. They have three handles on either side for ease of use and maneuvering, and they are available in eight different colors, so you won't lose sight of them in the mud and crud. They have large, aggressive cleats that dig into the ground as well as your tire. However, we're not sure why they're so expensive.
We also recommend the BUNKERWALL Recovery Track Mat. This is a roll-up track, almost like the tracks on an Army tank. There is a galvanized steel core in each "rung," and all of it is covered in high-strength rubber tread. It is over 31 inches long and rolls up so it can be carried in a handy nylon bag. They are sold individually however, so you'll have to buy a minimum of two.
Q. Are traction mats reusable?
A. Yes. If they break after one use, you may have purchased a defective product or used it incorrectly.
Q. How often should traction mats be cleaned?
A. You should clean them after every use to prevent the inside of your vehicle from becoming dirty. Hose them off, then let them air dry.
Q. Are folding mats better than mats that don’t fold?
A. They are easier to store between uses but otherwise function similarly.
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