Are recovery tracks essential, or just another marketing scheme

A lot of people have recovery tracks in, or mounted to their 4WD. The thing is though, are recovery tracks essential, or are they just the newest fad in 4WDing accessories and gear? In this post, we look at what recovery tracks are, when you’d use them, how they can be useful and ultimately, whether they are essential or not.

I read something the other day that said the vast majority of recovery tracks have never been used, and I have to wonder if there’s some truth in it!

Maxtrax being used twice
Do you really need recovery tracks? Are they essential?

What are recovery tracks?

We’ll start right at the beginning; recovery tracks are generally plastic traction aids that you slide under the tyres of a 4WD when stuck, and when you accelerate they are pushed under the tyres further and pop you out. 

As the name goes, they are tracks that are designed to aid in recovery. The most common brand names are Maxtrax, and Treds, then Xbull, XTM and a heap of other random copies. I’ve seen people using bits of timber with tek screws in them, FRP grating, aluminium sand ladders and on the rare occasion, anything you can jam under the wheel that will give you traction.

Maxtrax side mount
Maxtrax are the most well known recovery tracks

When would you use recovery tracks?

Recovery tracks are primarily used on vehicles that are stuck. Sand is the ultimate terrain to use them on, but they also work in snow and mud. You can use them in rocky situations, but you’ll risk doing more damage and they are much less effective.

Bogged in the sand
Recovery tracks work amazingly well in sand
Rear locker
They also do a really good job in mud, but become very messy to deal with after

Recovery tracks are also used from time to time to create an easier track; if you had a number of vehicles that had to get out of a steep, difficult beach access you could lay several pairs along the track and use them to drive up without risking sinking into the sand.

The better quality units can also be used as bridges, within reason. If you have to hop over a hole or gully, you can use them stacked together to drive over, and they work quite well. Of course, if you use cheap ones or don’t stack them, they will bend, and possibly break. We’ve never used ours like this, but the option is there.

What’s our experience been with recovery tracks?

We purchased a set of the original Maxtrax about 12 years ago, and still own them. A few years later I was sent a new set of the Maxtrax MK2’s, and we also have them. Both sets travel with us full time, in the back of our Isuzu Dmax canopy as we travel around Australia.

Dmax loaded
We carry 4 Maxtrax (2 different sets) full time, around Australia

Initially, we found the only time we were using Maxtrax was to recover other people, and it was always a pleasure seeing peoples reactions when their bogged vehicle pops out with such ease, time and time again.

However, as time went on, the recovery tracks saved our bacon more than a handful of times. When we got seriously bogged in a salt lake there was no way we’d have gotten out without them.

Once we moved to our Isuzu Dmax and Hybrid Camper, we found ourselves struggling in sand on more than a few occasions, and they were responsible for our easy, self recovery at Emu Creek Station, Perlubie Beach, and most recently on our way to Black Springs Camp Ground in Coffin Bay National Park.

Maxtrax to get us out
When we’re towing they get used a lot more

In between all this, they’ve been used extensively to recover other people, with our most recent experience out at Point Brown, where we fairly easily got a new Toyota Hilux that was bogged to the chassis out with nothing more than a bit of shovelling and 4 Maxtrax.

Are recovery track essential?

You don’t need Recovery Tracks; there are a heap of people who head out 4WDing without them, and there are other ways to recover yourself if you get stuck. That said, if you do get stuck, I don’t think there is an easier, safer and quicker way of getting unstuck again than using a good set of Recovery Tracks, and you don’t need a second vehicle to help you out.

Going even further though, if you are an experienced 4WD owner, with a capable 4WD and you aren’t towing anything I reckon you could comfortably decide not to buy, or have them.

If you get stuck, and you are sensible in stopping before your chassis rails hit the deck, you can usually let your tyres out and get going again. In mud this doesn’t always work and Recovery Tracks make a recovery much easier, but you can do it in other ways.

For us, they are 100% essential, as we often travel solo, and are towing a heavy trailer with a vehicle that doesn’t have a huge amount of power. Any sand driving we do has a high risk of getting stuck, and without Recovery Tracks self recovery would be extremely difficult.

If you’re thinking about towing a caravan on the beach though, you’d be mad not to carry a set.

I love the fact that when we do get stuck, we can pull the Maxtrax out in about 2 minutes, and have 4 of them under the wheels in another 2 minutes, and usually drive straight out with zero risk to anyone, no second vehicle around and no excessive strain on your 4WD.

Using Maxtrax
We feel they are essential, but not everyone needs them

Do you carry Recovery Tracks? Do you think Recovery Tracks are essential?

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  1. Hey Gary,

    Yep, you don’t need them until you do, and there really is no other alternative that works as well.

    I guess we could carry two for our camper as well, which would come in handy.

    Cheers for your story; sounds like a good end to an entertaining predicament!

    Take care

  2. G’day Aaron,
    I have 6 recovery tracks, for that just in case moment, 4 for the car & 2 for the trailer. I had an occasion recently on a trip to Lucky Bay Kalbarri.
    It’s not a great feeling getting bogged at the crest of a sand hill with the camper trailer in tow. We managed to “recover” ourselves, even declining the offer of a tow (too proud possibly). 200 series LC & a Signature Deluxe 2 camper, probably around the 4 ton mark, soft wind blown sand. Good fun!
    We won’t go anywhere off-road without them.
    Safe Travels.