Winter Special: Pickup Trucks Love the Snow

Raptor Ken Block II

At a time when much of the country is ankle — or even knee — deep in snow and suffering through single-digit temperatures, you'd think a pickup truck would be left behind. But that doesn't happen when you combine creativity with a great deal of desire.

As if to prove that just about any pickup can go just about anywhere when built and equipped properly, here are two examples of an amazing way to cut through snow and look good doing it.

One is a new product called Track N Go, that turns any pickup into a go-anywhere snowmobile, without changing out the tires and wheels; the other is professional rally driver Ken Block's newest Ford F-150 SVT RaptorTRAX creation from Hoonigan Racing. We expect to see a great deal more of both, especially if next winter is anything like this one. We're told this SVT Raptor has a new blower, full rollcage, snowboard racks and several other custom-performance modifications. We can't wait to see where Block takes this.




Just saw the Track N Go system yesterday and it looks pretty cool. Only problem is a set runs you about $25k.

Track N Go is brilliant

Neato, but I don't know if they're 25Gs of neato...

My goodness that is sweet. Never seen that before. 25 big ones is spendy but the further North you go the more it seems like a no brainer.

If you want to spend thousands of dollars making it so your truck can go anywhere, have fun. The two systems listed are great as both toys and for critical-purpose devices for those that just HAVE to have access under every condition. However...

Most of us don't have the kind of money to spend for these things. As such, we need to find less expensive ways to find our way out onto the roads even when un-plowed. A good set of tires is a strong contender in place of these tracks. The Top Gear (UK) crew did fairly well with a Toyota pickup truck wearing 42" mud and snow tires in driving to the north pole. Of course, their truck was equipped with quite a few other things to help it over some serious terrain and they still needed their shovels on occasion. But even good tires are not enough.

The Top Gear team had the bed of their truck packed with a fair amount of gear that added up to weight in the bed. Even with 4x4, a pickup truck with an unloaded bed rides at a disadvantage. Just like RWD cars (and honestly even FWD cars need this), a little extra weight in the back helps to balance the weight of the vehicle. Sure, some cars are designed with a near 50/50 weight ratio for everyday driving, but pickup trucks and most sedans simply don't qualify; they're designed to carry more passengers or cargo and as such are very nose-heavy by comparison. Sure, some cars are rear-engine/RWD so have an advantage, but the old Beetle's advantage was that those skinny front tires acted more like rudders in the snow and didn't care about traction--except on ice. So putting 300-500 pounds in the bed of your truck is certainly helpful.

I've driven in many different climactic conditions with 4x4 (my Jeep) and RWD (NOT, my current F-150, but my much prior Mitsubishi) and even loading the bed of the pickup with snow shoveled from driveway/sidewalks gave the tail enough weight to handle Denver's winter snowstorms and still make my daily commutes. This doesn't even consider the many trips to Vail and Durango I made during the course of several winters, in every case driving anything BUT a 4x4. I never once slid off the road or crashed into another vehicle simply because I drove within the vehicle's limits--which I tested even before leaving the parking lot.

Just don't put these on a Chevrolet. Those Ugly piles of crap will fall apart!! Nothing like what they once were.

The only potential problem (under certain situations) is that the weight of the track system hangs from the wheel studs.

Just don't put these on a Chevrolet. Those Ugly piles of crap will fall apart!! Nothing like what they once were.

- LOLOL!!!! GovtMoCo piles of crap. GMC SUCKS. NO COMPANY NEEDS TWO TRUCKS! NOT on the American Taxpayers dime. Chevy is a SHADOW of it's former self!! NO Class, NO off road capabitity! No luxury! NO ANYTHING. Just a THIRD RATE piece of Junk. LOL@GovtMotors! Old Chevrolet's is where it's at IF you're a Chevy idiot.

LOLOL!!!! RAMMoCo piles of crap. RAM SUCKS. NO COMPANY NEEDS TWO BAIL OUTS! NOT on the American Taxpayers dime. RAM is a SHADOW of it's former self!! NO Class, NO off road capabitity! No luxury! NO ANYTHING. Just a THIRD RATE SELLING piece of Junk. LOL@RAMFAILMotors! No Ram is where it's at IF you're a RAM idiot.

I wonder if I could put these on my civic?

All of that unsuspended weight.

I wonder what areas are strengthened? I can see problems with the wheel bearings/axles, suspension components and chassis.

The rear end would handle the load better, but with a light car like suspension many pickups have, this could lead to disaster.

It will cost more to modify the pickup than it's worth.

I would look at other avenues first that would suit the engineering of the vehicle.

The link is a far better option for a vehicle designed like a pickup.

dumbest thing ever

I see the CHILDREN are posting again.

Expensive toys for people with deep pockets. These systems may also work where one would need a LGP (low ground pressure)vehicle.

I haven't seen this stuff on any pickup in my part of the world.
Smaller versions of this stuff I see on quads and UTV's. Play toys.
One can get ski and "sled" kits for dirt bikes.

@RoadWhale™ - it is a common misconception that the Arctic is a "snowbelt". It is in fact an ecosystem comparable to that of a desert. 6-10 inches fall in a year.
The biggest danger to travelling to the North Pole by vehicle is shifting ice and crevasses.
Any deep snow whould be more likely be due to drifting which is no different than sand dunes.

@Lou_BC: How about watching the program before you comment on it? You might sound more educated about it then.

I never stated a word about "snow belt" but instead reported on how a crew took a pickup truck to the North Pole--without the benefit of tracks. For the typical use of a pickup truck, the gadgets above are essentially overkill. I acknowledge that there are some uses which make them a valid tool--specifically when it comes to line repair in remote locations--but for almost all others a snowmobile or purpose-built Sno-Cat is the better choice.

Lou BC I disagree I think the Track N Go is going to prove quite handy to many. I wonder if it would work in mud. Many farmers around here are beginning to use tracks on combines and large tractors and even Polaris Rangers in the rice fields. The idea of being able to use the wheel to drive the track as opposed to replacing the wheel with a track device is very smart. The tracks that mount on the axles of tractors combines etc are just as if not more expensive but take hours to change out yet are no more effective. These guys had a aha! moment when they thought of this.

@RoadWhale™ - I have seen most of the Top Gear episodes. Take that same Hilux into a snowbelt and see how it would fare. This would get stuck in 5 feet of snow let alone 20.

@ UncleBud - I think that this sort of set up would work anywhere low ground pressure is required. Mud might drastically shorten the life of track system. Snow isn't very abrasive.

I do see LGP machinery used in logging. Environmental regulations has shifted most logging of sensitive wet sites to winter.

@Lou_BC: So you've seen the one where they drove one up to the Icelandic volcano, the one where they drove up the Norwegian (I think) peninsula and the one where they drove to the north pole. In fact, I think they've made five different arctic journeys using wheel-equipped Toyotas rather than anything with tracks and frequently through some pretty soft snow. That said, the wheels in nearly every case were at least as large as the Track 'n Go, but not as large as the gear under the Raptor. Low air pressure on large tires can offer as much traction as those tracks in most cases, and as I said, the crew still had to use shovels and a support truck to get out of one hole they dug themselves into.

Honestly, I wouldn't drive the Track 'n Go in that 20-foot snowbank any more than I'd drive the pickup on tires. I MIGHT consider the other rig simply because it has a significantly larger footprint at each wheel location. On the other hand, a Sno-Cat is almost all track with about 18" wide x 36"-48" long at each corner or a minimum of 648 square inches or more than 4 sq.ft. per corner. At least, I wouldn't until I developed a lot more confidence that they could support the weight of my truck with a working load. You will notice that in the video they typically sank about 3"-4" into the snow, but we also saw that the snow itself was only 6"-8" deep. How would it do in deep powder?

@RoadWhale™ - yes.

@@RoadWhale™ - deep powder? not so good.

Mountain sleds get stuck frequently and they are a hell of a lot lighter than these pickups.

One of the most impressive video's I've seen is not of a Hilux but of a Icelandic Ford SuperDuty with portal axles. It was running much larger tires than what a modified Hilux could fit or even power.
IIRC, the truck was featured on PUTC but the video was not.

@Lou BC, funny, in our part of the world the easier time to log is the summer.

Anyways, changing out wheels for tracks in equipment is an undertaking especially in big equipment where the track units are 6 ft tall. We use tracks like these daily down here. They go straight on the hubs but damn, it's not easy. A separate unit that simply hooks up is genius. We don't get the snow you do, but I could also imagine a scenario where a company that covers a lot of ground would have a heated shop and, depending on the conditions, could slap on the tracks and take care of business.

Who would need this? Unless you work at a ski resort.

@Joe: How about electric utility linemen? Especially out in more rural locations having tracks instead of tires could offer a benefit in the snow. Phone companies too could see the benefit. Something like the Track 'n Go would be a relatively inexpensive way to keep their summer fleet effective year-round.

Today's world has changed a lot for us Americans and few of us with high-speed internet realize there are others that still rely on two-wire phone service for all their communications right here within our borders. There are some who have little to NO electrical service due to their remote locations--not counting those who choose to live without even where it's available. Having an inexpensive way to keep a limited fleet running under extreme conditions can be a significant savings over having limited-use purpose-built vehicles.

@RoadWhale™ - It is highly unlikely that companies that work in areas with heavy snowfall will buy these. In the long run it is cheaper and mort reliable to have dedicated snow vehicles.
Most lines follow roads therefore off-road access is minimal.

High Voltage Transmission lines are a totally different animal and requires heavy equipment and specialized techniques.

A better way to spend $25K on snow:

Here is that Icelandic F350 I was talking about:

If they can get the prices down a bit, I think these will be a (relatively) big hit around here. We have a ton of track-equipped vans around for use as snow coaches, and a large number of snowcats as well. Being able to drive on wheels to a remote area then being able to convert over to tracks to go over snow would be very useful as it's often 50-60 miles on pavement then 30-40 over snow to get to some of the ranches around here. Even $25k is a bargain considering how much even a small snowcat is, and the tracks that replace the wheel/tire assembly which are common here are not cheap or easy to install/remove. I'd love a set of these for my Discovery.

@Lou BC

I know it's been a long time since I worked in the snow, doing land development work in the midwest back in the 1970s. When conditions got really bad we simply killed time in the big barn maintaining equipment and upgrading the barn itself. There were months during the winter when it didn't make much sense to try and get any construction or land clearing done.

We had some highly specialized equipment for dealing with less than ideal conditions but ultimately we came to the conclusion that the equipment did little to accelerate our progress on project deadlines, and added a LOT of overhead to the cost of completing the project. I imagine that the summer in BC is so short that retreating to the barn once the weather socks in is not practical, eh?

Looking at that made me think of something! I bet those tracks are giving that truck terrible gas mileage. If the truck makers are finding every way to increase gas mileage with reduced weight, different engine and transmission design one important thing they are forgetting is the size and width of the tires. In the 1970's the biggest tires were 15-16" all with a narrow tread design and when someone installed the big 31" monster tires it took their gas mileage down.
New modern trucks have 18" to 20" tires with a 65 width , if you want to save gas, go back to the 15" with the 75 width!

That raptor appears to have a setup from Mattracks. Believe it or not, the idea came from an 11 year old.


Gas mileage goes down when you aren't in high gear--big time. Tracks, 4wd, lower gears, cold engines, they all diminish FE.

So, do you need to get work done, or do you want to get nervous about FE?

I've never seen such an obsession about mileage anywhere else. This is a website dedicated to guys who drive huge heavy trucks, and everybody's blue in the face over FE. Sheesh!

@papa jim: " This is a website dedicated to guys who drive huge heavy trucks," no, it's not. This is a web side dedicated to people who drive or plan to drive pickup trucks--no size or load limit excepted. Many of us now use our pickup trucks as daily drivers (admittedly, I'm NOT one of them) so fuel economy is a consideration.

However, the argument by Tom#3 simply does not make sense for this thread. Everybody here already knows that driving in foul conditions tends to hurt fuel economy. That said, for most of these trucks they'll get MUCH better economy at 50mph than they do at 80mph. These tracks are--as has been pointed out many times--good for short-term use over snowy conditions where stock tires would only get you stuck. Multiple sources show that specially-built trucks might handle snow and ice far better than stock and maybe even better than these tracks, but if you can't afford a fleet of snow-cats as well as your basic truck fleet, these things might just let you have the ability to keep moving rather than waiting for spring.

I could see farmers and ranchers especially finding something like this useful. If they need to get a load of hay out to a stranded herd of horses or cattle, a track-equipped truck would do so more reliably than one on tires alone and carry more than the smaller utility quads or even a snowmobile with a sled behind it.

The whole purpose is to keep the truck on top of the snow and the larger the 'contact patch', the less weight per square inch is put on the snow itself. This is why snow cats and other tracked vehicles work so well in their given tasks. It doesn't mean they can't get stuck, but they're less likely than a wheeled vehicle under the same conditions.

@papa jim - it depends on what is being built.

Once the frost sets in the ground excavation usually shuts down. Bridge footings often get built in the winter since rivers are at their shallowest. Pouring cement is another thing that gets shut down by cold weather. Highway construction/repairs is more of a summer thing.

The logging industry moves most of the timber in the winter. Environmental rules limit the amount of silt one causes to run off roads. More "soft" areas get logged in the winter on "winter" roads. Seasonal roads get built of the frost making it cheap and easy to get into some areas.

It all depends on the part of British Columbia one lives in. I'm in the Northern interior.
If I head into the mountains to the East of me they get massive amounts of snow that can limit access and logging. My brother emailed me pics of snow banks twice as tall as his pickup. The often have to use D8's just to clear roads and skid trails. The same region is wet in the summer.
South of me it is more dry and pine forests dominate or what's left of the pine forest. Mountain Pine beetle has decimated millions of acres of land.

I am slowly going broke spending $3.59/gal. The new Engineers tend to forget the old basics about the size and weight of the tires greatly effect the gas mileage of the truck. Wider tread gives poorer gas mileage and traction than the narrow tread, they simply oversize the tires for better handling. Back in the 70's President Jimmy Carter reduced the national speed limit to 55 to save gas and it worked, everybody got better mileage! I CAN'T go at 55 mph even if I wanted too cause I would be forced off the road or cause traffic jams. I need a full size truck for hauling and towing, plus I have a side business that I need my truck to depend on.
If it was possible I would install smaller and narrow tires and drive 55, but I can't. But one small advantage is my full size F-150 is getting 1 MPG better than my former Toyota Tacoma


You were drinking some killer koolaid there dude!

NOBODY, except for my uncle, drove 55 back in the Carter years. I can barely drive 55 in a school zone!

Carter's energy policy was a disaster. The price of regular gas DOUBLED!!! during his pathetic presidency.

Tom3, why can't you put narrower tires on your truck? I put wider ones on mine, even though it hurts fuel economy. If I spent all my time on road or drove it more than 2000 miles/year, I'd consider going back to a smaller tire, nothing says you can't.

@papa jim
Pickups aren't huge heavy trucks. They tend to be light in weight in comparison to a semi or road train. Pickups are heavy in comparison to a car.

So, it appears you view a pickup as a car.

FE is significant to most.

I live in the Arctic at the very top of Alaska . Last week I used a set of these on a retrieval mission fifty miles down the coast. The FE was terrible, less than two miles a gallon at $7 per gal in my town. About thirty miles out the lock nut on the bolt that holds the hold down link to the front left tire came off and the whole unit went under the truck causing damage.It would have been easy to have a hole in the bolt for a hairpin to ensure the nut doesn't come off. I was going slow and sustained vehicle damage and was in minus thirty or more below weather on the Arctic Ocean . If I had been going max speed(40mph) it may have been deadly. My employers bought these, not me.They do not handle the compacted drifts well at all and in my opinion are not well engineered. Bottom line is not worth the money and could be deadly and/ or cause severe vehicle damage! You have been warned, BEWARE

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