Getting Unstuck The Easy Way
Story And Photos By: Brandon Bunch
Once upon a time, I became stuck. Very, very stuck. I was alone while attempting to explore some desolate sand dunes on the way home from a race, and I buried my Toyota 4Runner to the frame driving across what turned out to be some extraordinarily soft sand flats leading up to the dunes. I was in 4WD-High, but it was like someone hooked a boat anchor to my back end and I slowed to a stop due to the traction control intervening. Shifting into 4WD-Low, and the only direction I moved was down.
I spent hours digging out the sand. Luckily I had a sheet of plywood U-bolted to my roof rack that was used as a shooting platform. Several minutes of grunting later, I broke the plywood sheet in half and had a set of makeshift traction boards. But, even after digging out and jacking up the rear axle to get the boards underneath the tires, I didn’t have enough traction to get moving. I was lucky enough to finally have some people ride by on dirtbikes, and they were able to give me a solid shove to get me moving. It was in the mid 90’s on a Sunday afternoon and I ran out of water while digging. Without those people, I would have been walking two miles back to the highway in hopes of waving someone down. I was lucky.
Situations like this remind you how very important it is to be prepared, especially when venturing out with only one vehicle or exploring solo. Extra water, tools and basic spare parts are often talked about as being absolute necessities and they definitely are. But, having real tools to get yourself unstuck when alone is just as important. A good winch and straps can certainly do the trick, but if there’s nothing to tie off to as with my situation in the dunes, proper traction boards and a shovel would have been my only saving grace.
As far as I’m concerned MaxTrax is like the Kleenex of traction boards. I’ve seen them put through tortuous use out in Johnson Valley during King Of The Hammers so I know they work and I know the fiber-reinforced “engineering-grade” nylon construction is tough. When they sent us this set of MaxTrax Minis, I was beyond excited to put them to work myself. I bolted up the Axia Alloys mounting hardware with MaxTrax mounting pins to the cage of our Honda Talon 1000X-4, and the 25 inch long traction boards filled the space at the back of the UTV perfectly. With all the confidence in the world, I headed for the sand dunes alone.
Obviously the Honda Talon is a hell of a lot more capable when compared to my 4Runner, but I was able to make quick work of getting it stuck by pulling up the soft side of our small dunes, and held it wide open in 4WD until the momentum went away and I had nothing but wheel spin. I threw it in reverse and the wheels began spinning without touching the throttle. Once again I was completely stuck and alone. This time the temperature was climbing up over 105 degrees, and I was running around like a fool setting up my camera and tripod in different locations to shoot this review Survivorman style.
The MaxTrax Minis are quick to remove from the padlock-lockable mounting pins and I immediately began digging with the boards. Space is always a premium, so being able to use the boards as a shovel is definitely a plus, although digging is not as easy as with a real shovel. Nonetheless I was able to dig out the sand behind the rear tires enough to barely get the edges of the boards underneath, and I decided to give it a shot without digging at the front. It took me longer than expected to dig with sand pouring down the hill back into the holes, and I was feeling a bit overheated, so I was really hoping they’d work on the first go.
I had the Talon in 4WD and in Low Range, and (hooray!) it took just a small bump of the throttle for the tires to grip the boards and pop me up out of the holes. Thankfully I had attached the leashes to the boards making it easy to pull them out of the sand after being buried, and I returned them to the mounts like nothing happened.
The MaxTrax Mini + JaxBase combo we have here with the Axia Alloys mounts adds up to $409.93 before tax so they aren’t cheap, but it’s a small price to pay for the security of being able to get yourself unstuck in an emergency. Having to call in a tow truck to some remote destination would be double or triple that price if not more, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to have cell service. In the worst cases, they could save your life. Check them out at maxtraxus.com.