Everything You Need to Know About Recovery Boards

Whether you are just starting out, or you are an experienced off-road enthusiast, at some point you are going to get stuck. Even with the best tires and most powerful 4×4 vehicle, mud, sand, snow, and ice can bog you down and keep your tires spinning.

This is where recovery boards can really come in handy. Recovery boards, or tire traction boards as they are sometimes known, are designed to provide traction underneath your stuck tires to get your 4×4 moving again.

Recovery Boards with Muddy Shovel

Even if you rarely have to use them, these convenient and affordable 4×4 accessories can prove to be one of the most valuable and reliable pieces of off-roading equipment you ever purchase.

If you have any questions about recovery boards, you have come to the right place. We are going to explain what recovery boards are, how you can use them to free your 4×4 vehicle, and explain what you should look for when you are shopping for a set. From there, we will go over some of our top picks for the best recovery boards on the market today.

What are Recovery Boards?

In simple terms, recovery boards are durable platforms that help provide traction for your tires when they become bogged down in difficult and slippery terrain. Whether your wheels are spinning because they cannot gain any traction on a patch of icy snow, or you are bogged down in some sticky and slippery mud, inserting recovery boards beneath your stuck wheels will give you the extra traction you need to get your vehicle moving.

In the past, off-roaders would use branches, logs, rocks, and anything else they could get their hands on to give their tires traction when they became stuck on the trails. While a recovery board might look somewhat like a plastic toboggan that a child would use to go sledding, they are actually made from extremely durable materials that can withstand the weight of a 4×4 vehicle and they feature protruding spikes and treading that grip your tires and the ground beneath the board.

While they are designed for durability, the best recovery boards are also light enough that a single person can easily use them. They also feature ergonomic handles and wedged ends, so a single person can quickly free their own vehicle, without the need for outside assistance.

black jeep wrangler stuck into sand during off roading

In simple terms, a recovery board is a relatively simple piece of equipment that is designed to give 4×4 owners the ability to recover their stranded vehicle in a safe, reliable, and simple way.

How to Use Recovery Boards

While recovery boards are fairly simple pieces of equipment, it is still worth taking the time to properly learn how you use them. Use the following steps to give your wheels traction and get your vehicle back on the road:

Step 1: Get Out of the Vehicle

If you can hear your tires spinning and you are not going anywhere, it is time to take your foot off the gas and take a look at the situation. Continuing to spin your tires usually just makes the situation worse, so you are better off getting out of the vehicle and taking a look.

Step 2: Assess the Issue

Take a look and try to determine which wheels are actually stuck. In most situations, it tends to be one side or end of the vehicle, rather than all four wheels that are stuck. You will only need to use your recovery boards on the wheels that are struggling to gain traction, so it is important to figure out which tires are actually stuck.

Step 3: Dig Underneath the Stuck Tires

To get the most out of your recovery boards, you will want to really make sure that they are wedged in underneath the tires. Some of the best recovery boards feature built-in shovels, which you can use to scrape out some of the mud, snow, sand, or dirt that is causing your tires to get stuck.

If your recovery boards do not feature a front-end shovel, use a trail shovel, or anything else you can find to try and dig out the area in front of the stuck tires.

Step 4: Position the Recovery Boards

Now that you have cleared out space in front of the stuck tires, you can set your recovery boards into position. Line the boards up with your tires as well as possible and really try to wedge the ramped end of the board underneath the tires, which will allow them to grip the boards.

Recovery boards are almost always designed in a way that one side is meant for the tires to grip and the other is meant to dig into the ground. Make sure they are facing the right direction, as this will allow your tires to properly gain traction.

multipurpose recovery board for off roading vehicles

Some recovery boards are designed in a way that they connect to one another. If a long stretch of mud or snow has you bogged down, you can line the recovery boards up to create a pathway.

Step 5: Drive Forwards

Once the boards are properly placed, you can drive forward and get back on the trail. This step is as simple as it sounds. Just accelerate slowly, which will give your tires the opportunity to gain traction and move forward.

Step 6: Recovery Your Recovery Boards

Now that your vehicle is free, you can gather your recovery boards and take them with you. Some recovery boards will also come fitted with straps, which you can use to pull the boards free. This is particularly useful if they are stuck in some really sticky mud.

It seems obvious, but remember not to leave your recovery boards behind. It is sometimes tempting to get back to the trails right away, especially if you have been stuck for a while, but your recovery boards could prove useful later on and you do not want to leave behind a piece of equipment you have spent your hard-earned money on.

How to Video

If you would like a more visual representation of how to use your recovery boards, TRED 4×4 offers a straightforward video demonstration. While the video shows the boards being used to free a vehicle from sand, the process is the exact same for mud, dirt, snow, and ice.

The Best Recovery Boards

Given how effective they and how popular they have become, the market is now flooded with recovery boards. Unfortunately, not all recovery boards are made to the same standards, which is why we have chosen to highlight some of our top picks for the best recovery boards on the market today.

Each of the following recovery boards were chosen because they offer convenient features and they are durable enough to actually last:

1. ActionTrax – AT1B Self Recovery System

actiontrax at1b pair of self recovery vehicle track system

These durable recovery boards feature 72 metal teeth, sawtooth edges, and extra-wide carrying handles to help free vehicles in all types of terrain. They are designed and made in the USA and can be quickly linked together for when your vehicle is really stuck.

2. ARB – TRED Pro Recovery Traction Boards

arb tred pro recovery boards tredprobu blue with black teeth

These low-profile recovery boards were designed for strength and convenience. They quickly stack and feature a flexible, yet durable construction. We liked how easy they are to mount and the built-in shovel and recovery leash makes them incredibly easy to use.

3. Maxtrax – MKII Vehicle Recovery Boards

maxtrax mkII desert tan vehicle recovery board

Maxtrax is one of the most well-known recovery board brands and the rugged MKIIs have some really helpful extra features, such as a lockable mounting point, a built-in shovel, comfortable handles, and underside gripping cleats.

Final Words

Given the relatively low cost and how easy they are to take with you, recovery boards are an extremely useful investment. Do yourself a favor and purchase a set of durable recovery boards from a reputable manufacturer. The next time you find yourself stuck on the trails, you certainly won’t regret the purchase!

James with daughter on the trails

About James...

Hi, I’m James. If I’m not working on this site, you can often find me outdoors roaming the trails. I’m an avid hiker, mountain biker, and overlander. I’m excited to share my passion for the outdoors with you.