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The best traction mat

Always bring your traction mats with you if you enjoy going off-roading. Nothing ends a fun day of four-wheel-drive fun like being stuck for hours in a mud pit.
Always bring your traction mats with you if you enjoy going off-roading. Nothing ends a fun day of four-wheel-drive fun like being stuck for hours in a mud pit. (BestReviews)

Sometimes your vehicle gets stuck in the sand or snow, and the wheels just keep on turning. If you've tried pushing to no avail, traction mats might be the answer. Traction mats are flat mats that go in front of or behind your tires to give you traction, allowing you to dig out of the spot where you're stuck.

If you're in the market for a set of traction mats, read our buying guide. Our best of the best pick, Maxsa Innovations' Escaper Buddy Traction Mats, can have you out of that hole in no time.

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Considerations when choosing traction mats

Size

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The size of your traction mats is the most important factor when choosing the right set. Mats that are too small means the tires won't be able to grip them and get the traction they need to free your vehicle. However, the smaller the mats, the easier they are to stow.

Width

To choose the right width for your traction mats, measure the width of your tires. Mats come in a number of different widths, and if you have a large car or truck, you need mats with the width to handle larger tires. The width of the mat should always be wider than the width of your tires.

Length

While you need to be sure your traction mats have enough length to get your car out of a hole, you don't necessarily want the longest available mats for every vehicle. In fact, long traction mats don't work particularly well with front-wheel drive cars and they may be difficult to place at a steep angle under the tires.

Car or truck

Cars are generally lower to the ground than trucks. As such, there's less room to work under a car than there is under a truck. Cars work best with shorter traction mats or folding mats. Trucks, on the other hand, require a larger, thicker mat in order to manage a heavier weight load.

Material

Most modern traction mats are made from industrial nylon or high-strength plastic. While some are made from galvanized steel with rubber treads, these aren't the norm. Plastic and nylon are the least expensive options and the easiest to use. Steel mats, however, are far more durable.

Features

Color

Color choice is more of a personal preference than a practical choice. Some find that having brightly colored traction mats can be helpful, because they're easier to see in muddy or snowy conditions. Nevertheless, the color of your traction mats shouldn't impact their overall effectiveness.

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Storage

Many traction mats come with their own carrying bag or box. This is useful, as they can be stowed in your vehicle after use without getting your car dirty with caked-on mud. If you get a set of traction mats that doesn't include a carrying case of some sort, you might want to purchase one separately.

Instructions

Be sure to read the instructions and test your traction mats as soon as you get them. It's best to master your traction mat technique beforehand; that way, you'll be ready for action when the need arises.

Price

Most traction mats cost between $25 and $300. $25 traction mats are short, narrow models that work best for small vehicles. For $150, you can get nylon mats in a few different sizes. If you spend up to $300, you should expect to get galvanized steel mats designed for large trucks.

FAQ

Q. Can I reuse my traction mats, or are they designed for single use?

A. You should be able to reuse your traction mats a number of times before they need to be replaced. The thicker the mat, the longer they generally last.

Q. How often should I clean my traction mats?

A. They should be cleaned after every time you use them. They can be hosed off and left out to air dry.

Traction mats we recommend

Our take: Great option for off-road vehicles of any size.

What we like: Large surface area. Works well in wet conditions. Lightweight tracks are easy to carry.

What we dislike: Can be difficult to position.

Best bang for your buck: Subzero's GripTrax

Our take: A good option for small vehicles that comes with a small price tag.

What we like: Easy to store in car due to narrow profile. Built-in traction teeth. Good for both snow and mud.

What we dislike: Not big enough for larger trucks.

Our take: Work great because of the extra-deep treads.

What we like: UV-resistant. Has a weight capacity of up to 10 tons. Extremely durable.

What we dislike: Some users reported the tops of the pads began to crack after a few uses.

Adam Reeder is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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