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6/22/2017 9:49 AM
 


When I bought my Jeep a bit over four years ago I went back and forth on a winch vs maxtrax, and ultimately decided on the maxtrax.  I typically get stuck once every two or three years.  In this case it has been over four.  For that reasons I didn’t really want to spend the money for a winch, have the extra weight of a winch, or have to mess with maintenance and upkeep on a winch for the one time every two to three years I needed one.  Other factors are that I usually get stuck in snow, which means it is a matter of maneuvering enough to chain up, and also in most cases there is no wear to hook a winch to, so I would have to also carry some kind of anchor, and space in my jeep and weigth capacity are both limited.  A bonus is that maxtrax are available in a color that closely matches my jeep which pleased me.  The result is that four years ago I bought a set and strapped them to my roof and they have been riding up there unused since.  I get asked several times a year how they work, and have always had to answer, I don’t know I haven’t gotten stuck since I got them, but they are the gold standard. 

That all changed last Friday night with a vengeance. About once a year, I get a large, undeveloped property to inspect for my day job. In this case it was over by Denver.  Company policy is that over a certain distance we are supposed to rent a car, because it is cheaper than mileage.  I don’t really mind as the biggest downfall of my jeep is highway trips.  In this case, due to several music festivals in the area no rentals where available, so I had to take the jeep.  It didn’t bother me because in this case I am more willing to drive my jeep places than I am even a rental with 4x4.  Given the short timeline and size of the property I wanted to be able to drive the whole property.  I started making bad decisions about 230-3pm. 

At that point, I had been driving the various areas of the property almost non-stop since 8am and had covered something like 90 miles.  I was down to the last section, I was hot (not running AC to keep the engine cool and it was around 97 degrees at that point), I was tired, and was wanting to finish quickly so I could try and get out of town before the worst of rush hour.  Up until then everything I had covered was bone dry except a couple of ponds and a wetlands area.  There was a section that I wanted to access and there was a dry water course to cross to get there.  Bad decision one was to not check it before trying to cross it, and assuming it was dry like everything else I had driven/checked that day.  I put it in 4 high in case it was sandy (that is how dry I expected it to be if anything), and chose an area that was narrow with the idea that I would have two wheels  on a solid back at any given time.  I started across and my passenger side front wheel climbed up and out just fine, but my drivers side wheel started spinning as did my back to two wheels.  That is when I made bad decision two, rather than getting out and assessing I put it in 4 low and locked up thinking I could just back out in my ruts.  At that point I still didn’t really quit what I was dealing with.  As soon as my front passenger wheel dropped down in the whole jeep slewed sideways and I ended up full in the water course, and parallel.  I got out at that point to assess, and still not realizing what I was dealing with tried to walk around the back of the jeep, and promptly sank into about my ankles.  The upshot is that I had to walk down course aways each time I wanted to cross and jump over it at a narrow spot.  I also discovered that my passenger side tires were buried up to the axle in muck. 

To set the stage, the water course was in the middle of a large pasture on the open prairie.  The nearest tree was a good 300 yards off, and that was also the distance to the closest fence post.  The pasture had recently been cut, and there was what appeared to be some hay stubble laying around.  About 6 tumble weeds where trapped in the mud of the water course, and that was it.  Extraction was going to have to be the result of what I had with me, or by calling a friend to come give me a tow out.  I took stock of what I had and immediately knew the shovel and maxtrax were going to come into play.  I though about the set of chains I had, and decided that in the muck they would just sink to much, and wouldn’t give me any traction and maybe be lost period.  I quickly discovered that due to how soft the water course was I had to stand on the banks and do all my work from there, or standing on a maxtrax  If I tried to stand in the course to try and shovel or place/retrieve the maxtrax I just started sinking. 

I decided to that the thing to do was keep placing the maxtrax for the front wheels and try to drive out at an angle.  I chose the front instead of rear as they gave me steering, and I could look out the window and make sure I was hitting them square.  I proceeded to do that for quit awhile probably an hour and a half, and while I was making progress it was very slow.  The biggest issue was that after each placement I had to cut the maxtraxs out of the muck, haul them out, and then hand clean the mud off.  All that was done from a higher angle, and due to how wet and clingy it was every time I pulled them out they were an extra 50+ pounds.  The muck was so wet that I frequently got water squelching out when I used the shovel and it was so clingy that it was all I could do to break free the shovel with just a little of bit of the blade full. 

Eventually, I got on the phone an called a couple of guys I know in the Denver area to see if they would come give me a pull.  Both said they would but one was about 40 minutes closer than the other, and he was 40 minutes out.  I then took a few minutes to drink fluids and sit there, and decided to call Evan to see if he had any ideas.  I explained that at that point I had two wheels on the driver’s side on the back, but they were still spinning and sinking in about 4 inches for placement, and both the passenger tires were buried to the axles in muck, which I continuously had to cut off.  He asked about chains and I explained why I wasn’t using them, and he suggested that I try them under the tires on the back since they were on firmer ground, and use the maxtrax under the passenger tires, which made sense to me so I went back to work.  Place the chains and maxtrax drive forward at an angle, retrieve and replace, and repeat.  After the 3rd placement I suddenly had both front tires on solid ground, and momentum, the bad thing was when my front tires grabbed, my rear end slewed around and both back tires were in the muck, but I had momentum, which I kept.  Basically, I drove sideways down the water course for about 10 yards before one of my rear tires grabbed and I popped up and out.  Just to be safe I drove about 30 yards away from the water course before stopping.  I then commenced to get the chains, shovel, and maxtrax and carried them to the jeep and started trying to clean as much muck off them as I could.

All in all I think it took me about two hours from getting stuck to getting out.  My buddy who was on the way was close enough by the time I got out he just came on out to say hello.  He also pointed out that my wheels, suspension, and such were completely coated in muck.  I used the shovel to clean as much off as I could, but knew that from there I had to visit a self wash, which I did after I finished up.  On the way there if I tried to go much over 20 miles an hour I got a terrible wobble.  Needless to say I made some good friends who where on their way home from work once I got back on the beaten path.  It then took me a bit over an hour with the pressure washer to get all the muck off, or at least as much as I could fine.  I ended up cleaning a bit more off later that night and in the morning that I had missed. 

Lessons learned/decisions I should have made:

  • Don’t let the end of the day, or being hot and tired make you lazy, check things before trying to cross, don’t assume that because everything else has been dry it will be. 
  • Don’t discount what your eyes are seeing process all the data.  I could see coyote tracks in the water course.  They were the only tracks of that kind I had seen all day and where defined.  That meant at one point it was wet, I just didn’t stop to think it might still be.
  • As soon as you are stuck stop and assess.  What I should have done right off the bat was put chains under the front tires and maxtraxs under the rear and probably would have popped right out the other side. Sure I would have been on the wrong side, but I could have found a different spot to cross, even if I had to use the maxtrax to bridge at a narrow spot.  Basically, my immediate decision to try and back across cost me about 1.5 hours of work to get back to where I was to start.
  • Don’t discount an item you have with you just because it doesn’t work to start.  I assessed chains and then decided against them.  Until Evan mentioned them I never thought of them again.  I still feel my original decision was right, but once my situation changed, it shouldn't have taken Evan to get me thinking about using them again.
  • Don’t be two proud or embarrassed to call for advice or help.  It took talking to Evan to get me thinking and that is what got me out. 
  • For this case a winch would have been useless without an anchor to go with it.  If you have a winch have an anchor. 
  • I like to think that I would not have tried to cross that with a rental 4x4, but it looked so benign and everything else had been dry I just don’t know.  Without a properly outfitted rig I would have been screwed.  Heck neither of the guys that I called had tow straps in their trucks.  They were at home, so if I ended up having to get towed out I would have had to use what I had with me. Again not something the rental rig would have had. 

I am pretty convinced at this point, that there must be some spring or springs in that area or a shallow perched layer, because by the time I was leaving water was pooling in my tracks. 

I was very impressed with how well the maxtraxs worked and how much twisting and torqueing they stood up to.  As soon as I got them under the tire, it had traction for the lenght of the trax. If I had four I think I would have been out pretty quickly by just placing and walking. As it is, with only two I basically was just able to move the jeep using two wheels. Ultimately, it got me out, but it was a lot more work.  One change I will probably make is to carry some kind of stake or something that I can use to clean them during use.  Having to force my finger down the groves and clean around the stakes, left my hands coated in wet stick mud, which made some tasks more difficult. 

At this point I am not sure I will get another set or not.  In four years, I have only had to use them once, and one set was enough for the worst I have ever been stuck.  They aren’t cheap, but having one pair is worth the cost in my opinion. I am not sure about two sets though.


Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
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6/22/2017 2:46 PM
 

Sounds like quite the adventure.  At least now you know they work.  Thanks for posting.  I'll look into getting a set of these Maxtrax things.  Spendy but a little youtubing suggests "accept no substitutes".

 
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6/22/2017 8:24 PM
 

One thing I'll add....and I end up saying this often to folks:  Air down.  It makes a BIG difference in floatation and traction.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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6/22/2017 8:55 PM
 
Thought about that, but Evan borrowed the compressure I keep in my jeep awhile back, and I haven't gotten it back in.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
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6/23/2017 2:41 AM
 
Great post. Sure is nice to have a brother to call! Appreciate the fact that others are willing to share their experiences so we can all learn.
 
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6/23/2017 6:50 AM
 
scothill wrote:
Thought about that, but Evan borrowed the compressure I keep in my jeep awhile back, and I haven't gotten it back in.

 

Once I get moved out that way for good, I have a Powertank PT-10 and a Superflow MV-90 that I'll be able to lend out when needed.  The Powertank is the faster of the two, and even faster since I upgraded it with the Monster gauge / airchuck.  Mighty handy equipment.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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6/23/2017 5:50 PM
 
I think of airing down as my last secret weapon if I can't get out elsewise. And in that case, I can worry about getting aired back up once I get unstuck... in the absence of a compressor. Better of course to have a compressor if you have space / budget for one.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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6/24/2017 12:54 PM
 
evanhill wrote:
I think of airing down as my last secret weapon if I can't get out elsewise. And in that case, I can worry about getting aired back up once I get unstuck... in the absence of a compressor. Better of course to have a compressor if you have space / budget for one.

 

All of the different off-road schools and events I've been to always advised airing down right at the trailhead, or at the very least as soon as anything looks even remotely sketchy.  Which of course helps a lot with not getting into a stuck in the first place.  Can't always foresee what conditions will be ahead....but sometimes going ahead and airing down becomes one of those anti-Murphy things.  Meaning...if you covered down on that contingency, you take cards out of Murphy's deck and stack those odds in your own favor.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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6/24/2017 2:07 PM
 
alpendrms wrote:
evanhill wrote:
I think of airing down as my last secret weapon if I can't get out elsewise. And in that case, I can worry about getting aired back up once I get unstuck... in the absence of a compressor. Better of course to have a compressor if you have space / budget for one.

 

All of the different off-road schools and events I've been to always advised airing down right at the trailhead, or at the very least as soon as anything looks even remotely sketchy.  

 

Okay, what would be a target PSI to air down to, with say a 31x10x15 tire, standard 7or 8in rim (non-beadlock) assuming you had access to air on the trail?

I assume the top speed you anticipate driving would be a consideration..

 

 
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6/24/2017 5:02 PM
 
Take-a-knee wrote:
alpendrms wrote:
evanhill wrote:
I think of airing down as my last secret weapon if I can't get out elsewise. And in that case, I can worry about getting aired back up once I get unstuck... in the absence of a compressor. Better of course to have a compressor if you have space / budget for one.

 

All of the different off-road schools and events I've been to always advised airing down right at the trailhead, or at the very least as soon as anything looks even remotely sketchy.  

 

Okay, what would be a target PSI to air down to, with say a 31x10x15 tire, standard 7or 8in rim (non-beadlock) assuming you had access to air on the trail?

I assume the top speed you anticipate driving would be a consideration..

Yes...you have to go slow....less than 10mph mostly.  Getting a bit of wheel spin going in muck or mud is okay, and move the steering wheel back and forth to create a bit of swimming motion to find traction across.  It's a rhythm thing and art, really.  If your standard pressure is somewhere around 35 PSi...which I think is close for a 31 x 10 x 15, you could go down to around 15-18 PSi and not be be too close to de-beading the tire.  That's why a lot of guys that off-road a lot run beadlock rims.  They can go down to 10 or even single digit psi to get the maximum amount of traction and floatation without ripping the tire off the bead.

 

 


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6/24/2017 5:02 PM
 
Take-a-Knee

I have a 2008 Rubicon and use 285-70-17 tires. They are about 33 tall.

On the asphalt I run 35-36 PSI.

If I'm traveling with a group at say 35-40 MPH I air down to 15 PSI as soon as we leave the pavement.
If I'm traveling on snow roads (off pavement of course) I always air down to 10 PSI, if there is snow drifts I will go down to 8 PSI. I always have an air compressor on board. That is how I got started and works for me.
 
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6/24/2017 5:08 PM
 
Alpendrms, TAK
I have not ripped a tire off the rim so far. I have been airing down as stated since 2009 or so.

Just to add: When driving thru snow drifts I'm not traveling faster then say 20 MPH @ 8 PSI. Actually I go over the drifts.
 
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6/24/2017 5:12 PM
 
Alpendrums, TAK

I have never been to a outdoor driving school. Mostly just coped friends and relatives. I'm kind of easy on equipment, not as rowdy as some.

I would agree with all on this post. Be safe first.
 
New Post
6/25/2017 7:03 AM
 
Boy Wonder wrote:
Alpendrms, TAK
I have not ripped a tire off the rim so far.
 
If you do, this might be helpful:
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0emi48dx_4&list=PLrv60HPO4jJRHHiKo9z61GJ5dXNllpUjW&index=8
 
Great thread all, many thanks.

 

 
New Post
6/25/2017 8:29 AM
 

Good video.  I've done this procedure during courses and also out wheeling before.  I've never had a valve core blow out, but that is a good step to do to remove it.  I carry extra valve stem cores in my kit.  Also have a pair of tire spoons in my rig to help work the bead into position, as well.  Another thing that can help push the bead into position is a big heavy duty (2") ratchet strap that is attached around the circumference of the tire of the tread and ratcheted tight.  It then assists the tire bead to pop into position during the starter fluid / ether combustion technique.  This can be especially helpful if the tire is a big 10 ply, thick sidewall model.  The ratchet strap can be used by itself without starter fluid, but that is a pretty labor-intensive method and doesn't always pop the bead back on.  The starter fluid technique works well...but be careful!  Running the tail of fluid out to the ground several inches is important.  Another way is to at least run it out onto the sidewall and then throw a lit match at it from a safe distance. If the tire is off the bead on both the inner and outer aspects of the rim, it's a lot tougher to get it to re-seat on the beads.  The ratchet strap helps in that case, too.  Packing the tire with a whole bunch of leaves, loose dirt, or sand as a last resort can work to limp back out, but the tire does need to get back onto the bead as best you can, because otherwise it will just keep slipping on the rim.  

If successful with the starter fluid to re-seat the bead, having a compressor, Power Tank, or some means of delivering pressured air back into the tire is really important as well.  Also worth having (a must, really) is a Safety Seal Kit or similar plug and patch kit.  I carry bailing wire or trip wire along, as well.  It can be used to stitch a sidewall tear back together along with plugs and epoxy forced into the tear.  Tire manufacturers say that can't work, but I've seen it done and it does work.  The tire is trashed and needs to be replaced, but it'll hold long enough to get back to civilization or the closest help, as long as it's stitched and plugged correctly.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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6/25/2017 11:30 AM
 
I think one difference in emphasis for us is that there is almost no such thing as "now I'm at the trailhead ready to go off-roading". Neither of us is particularly into running trails for the sake of running trails. We're just looking to get somewhere, usually a walking off point. And that happens multiple times per week that we are off pavement.

Sometimes due to rain, something that would have been great for a sedan the day before requires traction aids on the day we happen to get there. Sometimes we poke off down a new side road that suddenly gets dicey. Often times the right answer is to park there and start walking because the road is only going to go another quarter mile anyway. And in the desert there is also a lot of really good (35mph plus) road punctuated by occasional "crux moves", usually at arroyos where water has blown things out. Even trails I'd like to do for trail's sake (the Alpine Loop down in the San Juans) tend to be good traveling punctuated by crux moves. So it's hard to say exactly when or if we would ever air down in the course of normal off roading. That's why I think of it as a way to get out of trouble more than a normal practice. And also why the emphasis on not carrying too much gear -- whatever it is is *always* going to be in the rig. There's no way to anticipate when off pavement is going to become dicey off road. Just like when Scot got stuck. He wasn't at all planning on an off road adventure that day.

Once you've arrived at carrying a compressor, there are quite a few other small / inexpensive items that it is a no-brainer to add -- tire plug kit, valve cores, quick deflators, etc. Just like you say. And an interesting question -- if you're carrying all that stuff, how important is a spare at all? I've heard that it is way quicker and easier to plug a tire than it is to change one.

FWIW - no direct experience but when I was researching airing down a few years ago (and running 31s) I decided that I could air down to 20 psi if need be which would give me a big advantage getting unstuck, zero danger of popping a bead, and the ability to go 45 mph back on the pavement until such time as I ran across an air compressor. Plus it's an easy number to remember.

I pulled somebody out again yesterday morning. Ford expedition had pulled off onto the shoulder and sunk up to the axles in soft sand. He had street tires and no straps but he did have tow hooks so it took less time to hook up and pull him out than it did to write this post.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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6/25/2017 12:08 PM
 

It's all a gamble.....whether to carry recovery equipment or not, whether to air down or not, along with several other related things.  Parallels can be drawn to alpine climbing....either go super light and run the risk of getting into a bad mountain epic if you planned it wrong or some objective hazard rears up, or carry a reasonable amount of equipment along to handle most contingencies.  We flip the coin and sometimes everything works out, and other times when it does not.  Me?  Whether I am at a trailhead or just happen upon a bad section, I will stop and air down.  I have a way to reinflate with me, so I don't even think twice about it.  I'd rather take the few moments to stay unstuck, rather than get into a spot and then having to deal with something that I could have prevented, most of the time.  Certainly, there is absolutely no way to predict every thing out there...so once again...it's a gamble one way or the other.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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6/25/2017 12:24 PM
 
The alpine parallel is exactly right, and backpacking is no different. You have to balance preparedness against mobility. More preparedness means less mobility. With vehicles, you can cheat a little bit by having a bigger and more powerful vehicle so weight and space is less of an issue. But then bigger vehicles can't go all the places that smaller vehicles can. There's no perfect setup and no free lunch, just a series of trade off decisions that you must live with the consequences of.

We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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6/25/2017 12:46 PM
 

Staun deflators. What say y'all?

https://www.quadratec.com/products/95203_100.htm?gclid=CjwKEAjwvr3KBRD_i_Lz6cihrDASJADUkGCaeiaV_Y16hh0UuElwPoGb_gZFPxbmdHqjouW00OiaqBoC0t_w_wcB

 
New Post
6/25/2017 12:59 PM
 
Take-a-knee wrote:

Staun deflators. What say y'all?

https://www.quadratec.com/products/95203_100.htm?gclid=CjwKEAjwvr3KBRD_i_Lz6cihrDASJADUkGCaeiaV_Y16hh0UuElwPoGb_gZFPxbmdHqjouW00OiaqBoC0t_w_wcB

TAK...those are what I've been using for years.  They work just fine for me.  There is a review of the Stauns and a few other models in the newest issue of Overland Journal.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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