Overland trailer in the snow?

Cascade Wanderer

I'm fairly new to using an overlanding-type trailer. All was well during the spring and summer, but, I've had trouble in the snow, both last winter and this past weekend.

The trailer tows very nicely on flat lands and up mild grades. It has trailer brakes, so it hasn't been a problem on snowy downhill sections either.

Where it gives me problems, is when I'm heading up a fairly steep grade, and there's a fair bit of snow or very slick conditions. A grade that my 2-door Wrangler normally scampers up well, gives me problems when I'm towing the trailer. I think it's just dragging that extra 1500 pounds or so, uphill, with poor traction.

Once I air down to about 10 or 11 psi, or chain up, I've got the situation handled. Any other techniques that people are using when towing in the snow?

Vehicle is a 2012 Jeep Wrangler with 4.10 gears, manual transmission, air lockers front & rear, and 285/75 BFG All Terrains on 16" rims. Several of the photos show my old Toyo mud tires on the Jeep. Trailer is a nice Jackwagon, that works great, except when it's playing the role of anchor in the snow...

Thanks for any tips!



Hillbilly of Leisure
I am also interested in this. Will be pulling around a Chaser with a 2-door JK this fall in the snow, but the thought makes me nervous. Would it be useful to have beadlocks and KM2s on a trailer to air down?

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New member
I've had the best luck by airing down, most traction and floatation. You're correct you are dragging an anchor, Ron.


This is a big drawback to a trailer for sure. I have wondered why no one has explored using something like a hydraulic or electric assist on the trailer wheels that could be used to get that little extra boost now and then. It actually would not need to be much. It could be done using golf cart drive parts. In snow and ice, sometimes just a light push will get you moving again. It could have a ratcheting engagement, so that once the vehicle starts gaining speed, the drive mechanism would be overridden. It would only push when the vehicle bogs down. Using electronic controls, it could be made even more sophisticated.


Hill & Gully Rider
One thing that you might not know is that mud treads are next to useless for traction on icy or snow packed roads. Even aired down they're a handicap. ATs are better, but what you really need are "snow treads" and I call them that just as a group because it's a general term. Think winter traction tires....soft rubber....studs are great if legal....not a lot of voids....siped really helps; you need a good footprint or contact patch - that's where mud treads & ATs suffer. Also, lockers engaged after you have momentum can throw you out of control on icy corners. Remember the physics: outside & inside wheels don't turn at the same rate in a turn, so one side or the other is going to drag in the corners. With the 1500 lb anchor, you need all the help you can get on a slippery surface to maintain control. That means all tires turning not skidding or dragging - so each tire can contribute to your steering, braking or power input. All this pertains to snow on hard surfaces such as pavement or gravel. Off pavement or deep snow base, for traction - chains are your best friend. But the handling after you have momentum concepts are the same.
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Expedition Leader
Chaining up the trailer can help keep it from attempting to pass you which is generally a good thing. One thing I learned pretty quick short trailers like the iff road 4x6 rigs can be a real pain on slick stuff, vs longer trailers are more stable. Same sort of deal with longer wheel base rigs vs shorter wheel base rigs etc.

Cascade Wanderer

Good discussion all, thanks.

Ya, I'm very familiar with driving in the snow and ice - just new to towing an overlanding type trailer in it.

YES - absolutely about the mud terrain tires not usually being a good choice for the snow & ice. I've gone back to all-terrains, and that's one of the reasons.

YES - about the lockers. Best thing I like about lockers in winter is that I can leave 'em turned OFF.

Looks to me like I just need to think carefully about when and where I take my trailer, and remember that it's going to be difficult in the winter.

Thanks, Guy


Doesn't Get Out Enough
Don't forget you can air down the trailer tires as well to enhance flotation for pulling the trailer over the snow as opposed to pulling it through the snow.


Having the trailer's track width the same of the towing vehicle will allow it to follow in the tracks and not need to create its own.

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Meandering Idaho
Food for thought...

Swap the tires you have on now for a snowmobile trailer tire. I have pulled two sleeds and a thousand pounds of trailer no problem with my 4 cyl 4x4 tacoma. Mind you I was running studded tires on my truck, but... I still find that those type of tires are great for towing in the snow.

Another thought, I would assume that the tonuge weight on your trailer is not super high, Consinder getting a hitch extended ( think what you see on the back of a full size truck pulling a trailer with a full size cab over camper in the bed) It will put your little trailer back a bit further and make it a smidge easier to handle in the snow. Makes back up easier too. The biggest thing you can do is swap the tires on your jeep to dedicatd studded winter snow tires. They wear just fine on lighter rigs even pulling light trailers.

The Nokian Happakalittas are the best snow tire out there hands down.
If you want to save a bit of Money the Hankook I pike R w 11 winter studded tires is a close second
The general Antimax Artics are also very very good.

I have run all three and many others but these are the brands to beat for studded tires that seem to last more then two winters.


I don't have a lot to add here however a tunable brake controller would be nice so that you can tune or reduce the amount of braking force on the trailer. I towed my M101 out of elk camp this year on a mountain road with compact snow/ice and found the only nuisance to be the normally OK (mine actually work very smooth) in forward hydraulic surge brakes. They would lock and skid the trailer downhill sometimes pulling the jeep sideways as well. I will be swapping to electric brakes and anticipate turning the brakes down in snow, then if added braking is needed you have the manual lever.

It was mentioned above to lengthen the tongue but I personally like a shorter tongue as IMO it tracks closer in turns and is more responsive-maneuverable. Personal preference I suppose. For me keeping the tires in the already made ruts from the tow rig will help keep it from sliding off the side of a hill.