MAXTRAX vs Smittybilt Element traction devices

LaOutbackTrail

Adventure Photographer
#1
The results are in.
The great debate started in this thread: Smittybilt Element Ramps

Today, I set out with Nigel Caffiene and TheIceCreamPeople to hopefully settle the debate found in the thread. However, I'm afraid we may add to the debate/discussion. The bottom line is, both products performed very similarly. The results are inconclusive yet should settle some of the more basic areas of argument: traction, flexibility, durability, and use as bridging ladders when double stacked.



Notice: The original version of the MAXTRAX devices were used.

Traction Testing:

Mud- In my Montero, I found a muddy rut which allowed me to get slightly high centered on the rear axle. Stuck. We then simply placed the traction devices in front of the tires. Neither the MT or the SB-E caught traction. We were specifically testing the "knobs" at the end of each ramp. Upon further testing, we dug a small amount of mud out from in front of the tires using the devices as shovels. The devices were then placed further under the tires, assuming they would allow for more traction. Simply not the case with either brand. In order to utilize the devices, one must DIG with a SHOVEL to place the ramps at least a few inches under the tire.

Sand- The sand results were very similar to mud.Using both my Montero and Nigel's Jeep, we found a small sandy strip to get stuck in two wheel drive. We maintained our two wheel drive testing, to see if the devices allowed self extraction. Both vehicles were purposefully bogged down with the rear axles resting on the sand. The devices were then used as shovels to dig out from in front of the tires, however we could not extract ourselves. After being unable to successfully extract either vehicle in two wheel drive, we then put the vehicles in 4wheel drive (again, with traction devices only in front of rear tires) the trucks were able to pull themselves out successfully. But as mentioned in the "mud" section, the devices must be placed well under the tires in order to work properly. The bottom line is, both brands allowed for extraction once vehicle was placed in four wheel drive allowing for enough traction to pull the vehicle out of the stuck situation.

Bridging- The way we tested the devices allowed for more conclusive results. In the previous discussion, flexibility and durability was a point of debate. Firstly, both devices flexed under the weight of the vehicles, neither showing signs of breaking or wear after repeated uses (all three vehicles over multiple runs). Both brands returned back to their factory state after maximum flexing. However, the MT devices showed slightly more rigidity than the SB-E.

OTHER NOTES
-
-It is worth saying (see photo) that the SB-E showed signs of less physical traction with the ground (slipping).
-On both brands, the "knobs" on the end of the ramps were ripped off, more so on the SB-E. This was due to excessive spinning of the tires.
-The edges around whole, but particularly the handles, SB-E devices were very sharp. MT devices were rounded and ergonomical.

Results: I will go out on the brittle branch (limb) and say that you honestly can not go wrong with either brand for the use of sand or mud extraction. I would not rely on the these devices as a sole means of vehicle extraction, but a compliment to your other equally important recovery items. With these traction devices, I strongly recommend pairing them with a shovel. A High-Lift style jack is also highly recommended. For bridging duties, dedicated bridging ladders would be more appropriate. With every item comes the pros and cons of trying to weigh and balance the duties of their implied design. When a piece of equipment is designed to be utilized in such a broad spectrum, there will be trade offs. Both the MAXTRAX and the Smittybilt Element are designed as aids of traction in loose substrates and perform adequately for that intended purpose.

Disclaimer: I purchased neither brand, as these were owned by the attendees of the test. As the tester of these products, I tested as equally as possible as conditions allowed and had no previous expectations of either product. In saying this, I hold no brand loyalties. Both products should be used as intended by the manufacturer, risk of damage or injury may occur if used improperly. Purchase and use at your own risk.



















Photo showing the slippage of the SB-E.


After multiple runs at our bridging test location.
 
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Mr. Leary

Glamping Excursionaire
#4
Good job Scott, Nigel, and Jason.

I'm expected the Maxtrax ladders to perform better for bridging, so I was a little surprised that both of them had so much deflection.

Wish I could have stayed for the testing, looks like you guys had fun!
 
#5
scott great write up and so quick ...sorry was busy looking at the radar and did not talk much about the testing last nite ..lol..wussy cali boy ,hate tex storms ..anyway ...we did hard testing on both maxxtrax and the smitties ..in most situations you would not be as stuck when breaking them out for use ,i feel if you think you may need them and put them under your tires they both will keep you from getting stuck ,but getting you un- stuck like we were ?,dont think they were the best way like you said dont rely on them alone ..but as a aid to not get stuck feel they would work good ..i bought the smittys for a trip to padre island national seashore ,pins,were we will be on a beach camping trip ...i feel they will be good but not what i thought they would be good at ,like getting you out of every situation in sand ,but will be great to not let you get stuck when you get that oknow feeling ..lol..the maxxtrax were higher quality for sure but smittys did what they said ?for the price still happy with the smittys ,but think carpet etc and shovel work in the end is the true ticket,my views...bridging well would not rely on either for rock crawaling to flexable ,but getting you up a sand step they worked good ..ok rambling on now ....my thoughts you dont need to spend the money on either one ..you can get yourself out many other ways than spending 150 -300 for just a aid ?but will still take mine to pins ..
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#7
The shovel is the one thing I hardly ever see someone break out around my parts, mainly parking lot warriors out for the weekend on the water. They will have the big truck with big tires etc. maybe a tow strap from wal mart, SOME will actually have a recovery strap. They will beat the hell out of both vehicles to get the stuck vehicle out, yet no one bothers to dig. Saw it two weeks ago at the lake. People breaking chains cause they were trying to "get a run at it". Lot of pain and suffering could have been saved with a shovel. I mention this because it was noted in the write-up about needed to at least dig out a little bit to get the ramps under the tires.

Good write up. I like these ramps, just wish the price was a little cheaper, albeit the SB prices aren't too bad at all. With the weight of my pig, I try to avoid the serious stuck factor. The ramps wouldn't get too much use, but I am a gear whore and like to have and not need.
 
#8
Thank you for the review. With one being half the price of the other, which one would you purchase?
as for me ,i purchased the smitties and will bring them as i have them now ..you really dont need them lots of other ways to get out of the sand etc than spend the money ..now the true bridging ladders etc you see on the camel trophey rigs must really work ,true tested ,etc ..will post up after my trip to pins ...the maxxtrax were better quality and worked a bit better ,but not that much ?hope this helps ....scott or nigil may have different thoughts
 

LaOutbackTrail

Adventure Photographer
#10
The shovel is the one thing I hardly ever see someone break out around my parts, mainly parking lot warriors out for the weekend on the water. They will have the big truck with big tires etc. maybe a tow strap from wal mart, SOME will actually have a recovery strap. They will beat the hell out of both vehicles to get the stuck vehicle out, yet no one bothers to dig. Saw it two weeks ago at the lake. People breaking chains cause they were trying to "get a run at it". Lot of pain and suffering could have been saved with a shovel. I mention this because it was noted in the write-up about needed to at least dig out a little bit to get the ramps under the tires.

Good write up. I like these ramps, just wish the price was a little cheaper, albeit the SB prices aren't too bad at all. With the weight of my pig, I try to avoid the serious stuck factor. The ramps wouldn't get too much use, but I am a gear whore and like to have and not need.
Excellent point TreeTop. It is very important to know how to extract yourself safely and with the correct tools.

The recovery straps were brought out this weekend too. We had a potential issue with Nigel's Jeep which warranted us pulling the vehicle out without hogging it.



This is also a good time to quickly mention the use of a static tow strap versus a kinetic recovery strap. In the first photo above you see a yellow-ish strap. That is Nigel's tow strap. It was used in an attempt to simply pull the Jeep, but once after two gentle tries, I pulled out the ARB kinetic. One decent go had the jeep pulled out successfully.

I failed to mention another use of the traction devices. I stretched the recovery strap to where the vehicle's tires would land while yanking the jeep and we then placed all four devices on the ground in the tires' tracks. This gave extra traction to the vehicle, allowing further forward progress at the precise moment where the load of Nigel's Jeep would cause a break in traction. The performed great.
 
#11
Thanks for posting your review findings ! It seems the usefulness of the ramps is limited when the vehicle is high centered... I guess it's better to break them out before that happens ! I'm also suprised to see them flex so much when used for bridging... Perhaps the 45 degree angle (or so) has to do with it... If they were flat on the ground covering a hole of some type, it might be different ... Now we need to do a comparison in snow !

At least neither product broke under load ...
 

LaOutbackTrail

Adventure Photographer
#12
Thanks for posting your review findings ! It seems the usefulness of the ramps is limited when the vehicle is high centered... I guess it's better to break them out before that happens ! I'm also suprised to see them flex so much when used for bridging... Perhaps the 45 degree angle (or so) has to do with it... If they were flat on the ground covering a hole of some type, it might be different ... Now we need to do a comparison in snow !

At least neither product broke under load ...
It was far less than a 45% angle, due to the vehicle going up hill and the hill did slant from the 'flat spot' at the top to the hill below it. It is safe for me to assume that the extent usefulness of bridging to be done with one of these products is very limited, and that limit is due to their length. The 40 some odd inches that these ramps span should be easily traversed in a vehicle, otherwise, you will require TRUE bridging ladders specifically designed to support the load of the vehicle.

We tested the ramps in as close to real world conditions as possible. Lets face it, most of us do not have the kind of self restraint needed to not get the vehicle stuck in the first place. The vehicles being high centered had little to not effect on the effectiveness of the tracks. In order for them to work, regardless of being high centered, they would need to be "sucked" under the tire (forward progress). It was obvious that this was a problem with both products during the sand and mud tests, which is why I suggested digging under the tires to place the mats.
 
#13
Are there "sides" to the ramps ? Meaning, front vs rear and top vs bottom ? With steel traction aids it is sometimes helpfull to try another side ...
 
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