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Do I really need chains?

Dave N

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Feb 20, 2013
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Planning a winter road trip with the wife this year during the Christmas holiday. Headed from Illinois through Colorado and beyond to the Grand Canyon then swinging up to spend a couple of days in Jackson, Wyoming before heading back home. I'll be driving a 2010 Ford Explorer 4x4 that just got new tires put on it. Wondering if I would really need to have a set of chains for all the mountain driving we'll be doing. Can't use them here, and just want to know if I need to spend the money for one trip or not. I'll have the usual stuff like a shovel, tow strap, jumper cables, etc. Thoughts?
 

smarandr

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With 4 wheel drive I've yet to encounter a highway situation where chains were needed. If it's bad enough to need chains I'd just hole up for the night.

Hunting roads are a different story though. Plenty of times chains have come in handy.
 

RLS

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Chains are cheap insurance. Just like your shovel, tow strap and jumper cables are. Some survival gear is also a good idea.
 

HighDesertSage

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Sage Brush to Corn Fields
Planning a winter road trip with the wife this year during the Christmas holiday. Headed from Illinois through Colorado and beyond to the Grand Canyon then swinging up to spend a couple of days in Jackson, Wyoming before heading back home. I'll be driving a 2010 Ford Explorer 4x4 that just got new tires put on it. Wondering if I would really need to have a set of chains for all the mountain driving we'll be doing. Can't use them here, and just want to know if I need to spend the money for one trip or not. I'll have the usual stuff like a shovel, tow strap, jumper cables, etc. Thoughts?

Yes.

Mine go in the 4Runner in October and stay through May.
 

elkantlers

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UT
With 4 wheel drive I've yet to encounter a highway situation where chains were needed. If it's bad enough to need chains I'd just hole up for the night.
.

^^^ Sounds like you will be on the interstate for most of the trip so if the roads are that bad I would pull over and wait it out. The roads probably won't get you, it's the other drivers you need to watch out for.
 

LCH

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Southern Indiana
All I know is I just bought a full set of chains for my Wyoming hunt next week, and although I probably won't need them, feel a lot better knowing they're there.

Like others have said, cheap insurance.
 

BuzzH

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Laramie, WY
You don't need chains until you do...

There have been several times I would have been screwed without them.

Mine never leave the truck, ever.
 

JLS

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Where the Wild Things Are
You don't need chains until you do...

There have been several times I would have been screwed without them.

Mine never leave the truck, ever.

My thoughts exactly. I've carried mine many miles and never needed them, but the times I did I was darned glad to have them.
 

Sawtooth

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Many places that sell chains will let you return them at the end of your trip if you don't use them. Extra blanket, bottled water, and a couple power bars are a good idea if you do find yourself waiting for a tow truck to pull you back onto the road. Remember, four wheels will slide on black ice almost as easy as two.
 

npaden

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Lubbock, Texas
Interesting to see this as the first post I see when I just got back from my trip.

I've always just thought chains were to get you out of a jam if you got stuck, but I came about the closest I have ever come to totaling a 4 wheeled vehicle on Thursday because I didn't have a set of chains. (I have totaled a few 2 wheeled vehicles in my life). There was just a couple of inches of snow, but a nice layer of ice under the snow.

It wasn't going up the hills that I needed the chains, it was going down the hills with a steep grade on one side of the road with the road sloping that direction that I needed the chains.

Not a good feeling to be in 4 low in reverse with all tires spinning backwards but still sliding forward toward the edge of the cliff. A come a long and then a winch saved the truck but it was very touch and go for a few seconds.

I don't ever plan on heading north in the winter time without a set of chains in my vehicle again.
 
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Pinecricker

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North Idaho
It can snow like heck in that country. Pretty cheap insurance, and there is no substitute for them. Mine have saved my butt on numerous occasion.
 

St52v

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Jul 11, 2012
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My brother drives tractor trailer for UPS from terminal to terminal in Wyoming. He never saw a plow truck working the highways after dark only during daylight hours. They just don't have the tax base to afford it. Remember if it gets bad enough they will close the highways and you will have to find a room anyway. Make sure you have a few extra days to burn if needed.
 

Dave N

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Illinois
Alrighty, I'm convinced. Guess I'll pick up a set for the trip. Not planning on going anywhere extreme, and if the weather would happen to slow us down I can call off a stop or two and head to another destination. Only have a room booked in Jackson, so we have to be there in time. We'll only be traveling at night if we really have to because the wife has never been though there and wants to see more than trees going past in the dark! I figured crossing the mountains in Colorado and going up into the Tetons would be the worst part of the drive. Cold weather gear and food will be making the trip! We'll be ready to spend the night somewhere if we HAVE to but hope we don't need to make that choice. Thanks for the input.
 

Rooster52

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I have been to the elk refuge in winter a few times and have never needed chains,have never needed to use 4wheel drive. The main roads have always been pretty good . they can get there storms but usually a day or two and the roads are in good shape for travel.
 

hank4elk

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SW NM
Chains,come-a-long,tow straps/chains ,survival bag,tools are always in my truck.
I have not had to use them for years,but am getting a set for the new truck and I probably not need them either..............til I do.
 

sbhooper

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Jul 7, 2012
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North Platte, Nebraska
Chains are a wonderful thing when you are off-road in tough country. If you use chains on the interstate, or regular highway, you will be moving super slow, as chains don't allow for any speed. You cannot compare highway travel to off-road, hunting-type travel. If it gets that bad, do as others have said and hole up for a bit. The main roads get cleared pretty quickly and the ice becomes the biggest problem.

The survival gear should always go along in the winter, but with the sure-footed vehicle that you have, I would say that you won't need chains. If you decide to get some, look at tirechains.com. They have chains for anything and you can get some fairly cheaply. All you need is a set for the front end of your explorer.

I have never even considered using them on main roads, as they are a pain to deal with on pavement. I have used them on the front end of my Tundra in deep snow and they were a game changer. Putting them on the front of your vehicle allows them to be under the weight of engine and they really grab.
 

Wapiti Warrior

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Feb 24, 2011
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Billings, Montana
I agree with sbhooper. I travel all over Montana and the only time I take chains is if I am going into the back country. The highways are usually good. And it isn't like you are going where there are no other vehicles. Heck you will probably be passed by an old lady driving a pontiac on the same roads. Common sense is what is needed for winter driving. I do take extra blankets, water and some food though.
John
 
Yeti

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