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Off-road Recovery Boards

A Guide to Recovery Boards

Anyone who has spent time off-road can attest that the first time you lose traction, whether in the dunes, heavy snow or thick mud, it can be a true anxiety-inducing event.

Your wheels are spinning yet forward progress is slowly grinding down. Or even completely stops. You can try increasing the speed, rocking back and forth, or even using lockers and traction control, but once you’re stuck, you’re stuck.

Whatever the case may be, you’ve lost your footing. Maybe not by much, but spinning your tires will only dig the hole deeper and make recovery more difficult.

Sure, you might have all the latest recovery gear, but most require specific circumstances, such as another vehicle to provide pull or a firm anchor point to use with your winch. However, sometimes all you need is a few feet of good grip to get you back on the go.

That’s why recovery boards are an excellent self-recovery tool to add to your must-have list of Overlanding gear. When correctly positioned, they can even prevent you from becoming stuck in the first place.

The principle is straightforward: you toss a few feet of traction onto a slick surface. It can save you a lot of time if you’re nowhere near another vehicle, need to go in a direction where a winch can’t help or aren’t near a large tree. Also, your tires may become so encrusted with mud that they are unable to give the necessary grip needed to launch you forward.

Recovery boards with built-in handles can be used as shovels to move snow, debris, or mud out of the way of your tires, in addition to giving important supplementary traction. If you have a lot of hands but not enough digging tools at the beach, this can save your rig – especially if the tide is coming in.

Depending on how much traction distance you need, recovery boards can be utilized alone or in groups of two to four. If necessary, the ActionTrax recovery boards can be linked together using the ActionTrax Extreme Zip Tie Links.

While these are one-time use links, they can be invaluable if they help get you out and back on the route.

Metal studs on the ActionTrax AT-20 boost traction and decrease heat damage from tire spin.

There are multiple brands and kinds of recovery tracks made by ActionTrax, ARB, Rugged Ridge, MAXTRAX, Overland Vehicle Systems, and Smittybilt in various lengths, features, and colors depending on your budget (and how much damage you intend to throw at them).

The ARB TRED Pro models have computer-designed patterns that help dislodge traction inhibitors (slippery stuff) and strategically positioned dual compound spikes establish traction with the tires but can withstand the friction and heat caused by wheelspin. Each pair includes a leash that can be used to rapidly draw them out if they have to venture far under a vehicle.

Leashes (helpful for swiftly hauling them back out of the deep dirt), storage bags, and rack mounts are also available for several of these recovery boards.

How Do You Use Recovery Boards?

Depending on what you’re stuck in you’ll have different techniques to extract yourself.


First, dig just in front of and beneath the tire. You’ll need to get the board’s tip down low and almost jam it under the tire. Remove any sand that is touching the underbody as well. Then it’s slow, first-gear low-range till you’re on the boards, then a smidgeon of acceleration to get up and away. If you want to lower tire pressures even more (which is always a good idea), do it after the board has been pushed under the tire and the tire has expanded onto the board.

Although they may work at an angle of up to 40 degrees, try to keep the board as level as possible. If you have four boards, a shovel, time, and a tire pressure gauge, you’ll have no trouble with any sand issue.


Similar to sand, however digging down is frequently more difficult. Consider jacking up a wheel and placing a board beneath it. Unlike sand, you’re frequently cross-axled, and that’s when a board or two under the wheel with the least weight on it comes in handy. You may need to track-build before placing the board on top, or you may need to stack two or more boards on top of each other. In mud, you can utilize the boards to keep the automobile from sinking into soft ground, other times for traction, and still other times to get out of bog holes. It’s sometimes best to use all of your boards on one side of the car rather than splitting them.


Snow is simpler to dig out than mud, so use the same procedure. Because snow is slick and you don’t want the boards or vehicle sliding sideways, make snow ruts and put the boards in them as well. In soft snow, boards can also help support your vehicle, but be careful not to get yourself into additional problems.


Yes, you may use recovery boards in rocks for gaining clearance and bridging. To acquire clearance and support the vehicle’s weight, stack them two or more high, and if used for bridges or boards, place some boulders or logs under the board to help support the vehicle’s weight. Because soft ground is unpredictable, the possibility of the board shifting is significant; consider ways to prevent this. Boards can provide better traction than rocks, especially when the rocks are wet, therefore they can be useful even if there are no clearance issues.


Simply stack them two or more high in the ruts for extra clearance, and support underneath as needed. Then drive across without spinning your wheels. If necessary, add more track-building material. If you must dig, do so in the center of the track and place the result in the ruts, lowering the center and rising the ruts at the same time. Do not dig the outside of the track, which will make it excessively wider.

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