MaxTrax, are they worth it?

rnArmy

Adventurer
People have been putting some sort of traction boards or mats under their tires for decades (think aircraft landing strip aluminum planks in WWII), so the concept isn't new.

Winch & winch line: Warn M8000 winch with Winchline.com synthetic cable (just switched it over from the steel cable which got a kink in it). I wasn't going to go cheap on a winch (bought the winch about ten years ago).
Tires: ******** Cepek Fun Country II (which are wearing faster than I'd like). They weren't the cheapest or the most expensive. Traction wise they're excellent.
Traction boards: X-Bull. Got four of them; final cost about $150 vs. $600 for four Maxtrax. Have used them once so far (in the snow). They did fine. If Maxtrax were more reasonably priced I'd get them, but this is a $450 dollar difference.
Dry suit (going to drive to the Arctic Ocean in August and will do a little kayaking): cost almost $600 for the dry suit (my most recent big purchase related to Overlanding). They have them much more expensive, but for the limited time I'll be using this thing, this'll do just fine (it will keep me dry if I take a dunk in the Arctic Ocean, just like the more expensive ones).
Vehicle: 1998 Jeep TJ (heavily modified).
Trailer: Modified HF trailer frame with custom tub.
High-Lift Jack: an actual High-Lift jack (the knock-offs aren't really any cheaper, so why go there?)

Not everyone can buy the expensive stuff (and just because something is more expensive it doesn't mean it is better). And not every Overlander has an unlimited budget. Many of us have to pick-and-choose our purchases, and it can't be "All or Nothing" (as in "I buy the most expensive thing, or I don't get it anything all"). It is called making compromises. And for me and these traction boards, $150 vs. $600 ($450 difference - that would buy an entry level AR-15) is a big deal, especially for what they are (plastic boards with nubs - no moving parts). And I've already got a good winch, so this is in addition.

I still don't have an electric fridge (some day - till then still using a cooler that takes ice), nor an expensive RTT (I'm using a double sized tent-cot on my homemade trailer), or an off-road teardrop (the one I want is "only" $18,000). A lot of my hand tools are from Harbor Freight (don't by their electric hand tools though). I'm not complaining - one step at a time.

I also have to budget and pick-and-choose for other things like my guns, furniture (go figure - my wife isn't into Jeeps and guns or Overlanding near as much as I am), fixing up the house (need to replace some windows upstairs), vacations/trips, etc.
 

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67cj5

Man On a Mission
People have been putting some sort of traction boards or mats under their tires for decades (think aircraft landing strip aluminum planks in WWII), so the concept isn't new.

Winch & winch line: Warn M8000 winch with Winchline.com synthetic cable (just switched it over from the steel cable which got a kink in it). I wasn't going to go cheap on a winch (bought the winch about ten years ago).
Tires: ******** Cepek Fun Country II (which are wearing faster than I'd like). They weren't the cheapest or the most expensive. Traction wise they're excellent.
Traction boards: X-Bull. Got four of them; final cost about $150 vs. $600 for four Maxtrax. Have used them once so far (in the snow). They did fine. If Maxtrax were more reasonably prices I'd get them, but this is a $450 dollar difference.
Dry suit (going to drive to the Arctic Ocean in August and will do a little kayaking): cost almost $600 for the dry suit (my most recent big purchase related to Overlanding). They have them much more expensive, but for the limited time I'll be using this thing, this'll do just fine (it will keep me dry if I take a dunk in the Arctic Ocean, just like the more expensive ones).
Vehicle: 1998 Jeep TJ (heavily modified).
Trailer: Modified HF trailer frame with custom tub.
High-Lift Jack: an actual High-Lift jack (the knock-offs aren't really any cheaper, so why go there?)

Not everyone can buy the expensive stuff (and just because something is more expensive it doesn't mean it is better). And not every Overlander has an unlimited budget. Many of us have to pick-and-choose our purchases, and it can't be "All or Nothing" (as in "I buy the most expensive thing, or I don't get it anything all"). It is called making compromises. And for me and these traction boards, $150 vs. $600 ($450 difference - that would buy and entry level AR-15) is a big deal, especially for what they are (plastic boards with nubs - no moving parts).

I still don't have an electric fridge (some day - till then still using a cooler that takes ice), nor an expensive RTT (I'm using a double sized tent-cot on my homemade trailer), or an off-road teardrop (the one I want is "only" $18,000). A lot of my hand tools are from Harbor Freight (don't by their electric hand tools though). I'm not complaining - one step at a time.

I also have to budget and pick-and-choose for other things like my guns, furniture (go figure - my wife isn't into Jeeps and guns or Overlanding near as much as I am), fixing up the house (need to replace some windows upstairs), vacations/trips, etc.
I agree, Sounds very well thought out, Compressors and Fridges are some things that require serious thought and again buy the best you can afford but on less serious items save the money and spend it where it needs to be spent,

I did buy top of the range Fridge's and Compressors, and my Hi-Lift's but the rest of my gear is nothing flash, I bought the same Brand Winch as fitted to SAS Vehicles cost me about $450.00 where as the warn version of it costs about 2.5 to 3K and in a recent winch shoot out the model I bought fared better, So I'm not buying in to all the Hype, I also have hand Winches for lesser problems.
 

Ray_G

Explorer
So no doubt traction aids are far from new; having used PSP and fiberglass boards for some time long before MT I won't argue that. Nor would I say there is much to contest that the imitations of MT are just that, imitations. The beauty of the MT is they take the concept and put it into a much more elegant package than their historical predecessors.

I do find it interesting that people will buy into the marketing for Warn when there is certainly quite a few substitutes that cost significantly less-although Superwinch declaring bankruptcy doesn't help my argument.

The AR angle is an interesting one too; I have plenty of cheap plinkers-but the one I would count on is an LMT Mk18 upper and a BCM lower. To me an appropriate balance of being affordable and dependable.

Where MT fall out on that spectrum is definitely an 11pg debate that I doubt we'll all reconcile but the discussion is good for the sake of drawing it all out.
r-
Ray
 

Ray_G

Explorer
So I finally got around to not just ordering a set of Xbulls, but also finding some time to test them. Here's a visual of the findings:
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Thus I continue to say they probably are not a suitable substitute for anything more than automotive/expolicious jewlery.

We'd planned on doing a full test, and thus a full write up, but they didn't make it past the second evolution. (Four tests: simple drive over, simple test for stuck traction, drop test, bridge test). In truth they started to break just being driven over...but first, here's the overall field:
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As you can see we had an offroad gokart, a beater Subaru, Range Rover Classic, LR3, and a Unimog as our test vehicles.
The staff and the test subjects:
511439
On hand devices included Maxtrax (multicam bag), Actiontrax (black bag), Traction Jack (cardboard box), Xbulls (black bag) and fiberglass waffle boards. Conditions were a beautiful spring day in WV, temps in the 60's with no precip.

Test 1, drive over the subjects with each of the vehicles in weight order.
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Already showing some signs of issue (this happened with the RRC drive over, not the LR3 nor the Mog):
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Could be worse...don't buy these.
511442

Right... on to test two. Use the devices for extraction from a stuck situation.
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No issues!
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No issues again.
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Issues.

Mind you we changed test areas for the RRC compared to the smaller vehicles, essentially necessary in order to achieve stuck. Was the mud unduly adversarial? Maybe. I'd just call it WV. I'd also note that it is the same conditions that the Maxtrax have worked in for years (with no issues beyond minor wear of the nubs if we're truly doing dumb things). 2nd Gen Actiontrax have performed equally well in the same conditions. The Xbulls died in a single pass where we had to use them 3x to get the RRC from beginning to end of the mud.
511447
I have more pics of course, and can write up more if desired. At this point we ceased the test because of how bad both Xbulls were. We've used the MTs and ATs in the same pit for years so those were essentially controls. For many the Xbulls are good enough for that infrequent stuck I suppose. I just found them to be utterly unsuitable for anything more than a one time use.

That said, the test was fun, the kids enjoyed wearing the lab coats, and for the owner of Twin Mountain now he has some more display items when people ask about traction aids.

I fully accept this wasn't a scientific test-nor was that the intention (despite the lab coats, the controls, the repeatability, etc). It was just for fun to eventually be able to post up here and other places of the interwebs.
r-
Ray
 

67cj5

Man On a Mission
Well I would expect any brand to break putting them on hard ground with rocks underneath, That would not happen on soft sand snow and mud, but even so they should not have broken like that, I would of expected them to get stretch marks in the plastic but not split.
 

Ray_G

Explorer
Not exactly hard ground, and to your point-the MTs and ATs (not to mention the fiberglass waffleboards)-haven't broken despite years of use and going through that exact same trial.
 

bozwell13

Observer
That's interesting, is that a new design? My Xbulls don't look anything like that, have far more plastic in them. Mine have served me well on snow and ice but are starting to show some wear. Those look fragile, a one time use thing, not good...
 

Ray_G

Explorer
They could be imitation xbulls I suppose...ironic in and of itself. Ordered them off eBay, cost the usual ~$85-90 you can find them for there.




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rnArmy

Adventurer
These are the X-Bulls that I have (pictured below). If I remember right, they had a previous version (2nd generation?) that were rated at 5-tons; the one I have are rated at 10-tons (called 3rd generation). I think the ones tested a few posts above (loved it by the way - Thanks!) are the previous 5-ton models. I don't know how scientific they were when X-Bull rated them (or if an outside testing lab did the rating), but the implication is the newer "10-ton" boards are stronger than the previous 5-ton boards. I would have enjoyed seeing you testing these 3rd Generation boards from X-Bull.
511506
 
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rnArmy

Adventurer
The "X-Bulls" used in the test above look like these (and thank-you again for posting your test):

511509
Maybe Rough Country is selling a previous generation of the earlier X-Bulls - I don't know. But doing a quick Amazon search for the ones used in the testing above identified as X-Bulls was not successful. But I did find these pictured above that look like the ones used in the testing.

I also found other vendors selling traction boards that look exactly like the 3rd Gen X-Bulls like I have but under a different name with a wide price range.
 
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67cj5

Man On a Mission
Not exactly hard ground, and to your point-the MTs and ATs (not to mention the fiberglass waffleboards)-haven't broken despite years of use and going through that exact same trial.
Yeah that should not of happened, I have seen videos of Max-trax and copies both perform well even when bridging So I agree with what your saying, these ones have serious problems, Thanks for taking the time to do the test, (y)
 

roving1

Well-known member
but I was willing to pay that to have a product that would reliably work without breaking every time I used them.
There is copious evidence that some of the other products don't break every time you use them and for a lot of people would not break in a lifetime of use. Nothing wrong with an opinion but you sound like you are trying to justify an already sunk expense.
 
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