Snow chains for off road use on full sized diesel truck?

Messages
42
I could use some input from other folks driving heavy diesel rigs. We are headed out on my sons first bull elk hunt here in less than two weeks. The first snow just hit the ground in our hunting area here in Nevada and we may or may not have snow on the ground during the hunt.

Our hunting rig "Bertha" is a 2001 Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 with a 5.9 24 valve Cummins engine. She has an 8' bed with a truck topper. We sleep in the back and park at the trailhead so we can get an early start. We are running Firestone Destination X/T OWL LT265/75R16 tires. Our standard practice is to deflate to 40lbs pressure front and rear and this seems to provide us with plenty of traction on dry ground and mild to moderate mud. We will be driving on non-maintained trails/roads in the foothills up to 7-8k feet elevation and then hiking a few miles into the wilderness area to our glassing points. Purchasing chains for all four tires is not cheap but neither is getting stuck. I have the following questions.

1. Do chains provide enough of an advantage to make them worthwhile to purchase and bring along?
2. How likely are chains to break during slow speed off road usage?
3. Do we need to re-inflate tires prior to installing chains?
4. Do we install chains front, back or all four tires?
5. Any particular brands or recommendations for a heavy truck like this?
 

copple2

Active Member
Messages
657
Chains are an amazing tool for traction. I chained up all 4 tires on my 1 ton last fall with a fully loaded toy hauler trailer. Got me where I needed to. I wouldn't have been able to get hardly anywhere without them on the snowy, icy roads we were hunting on.

I just leave them in the cab this time of year. Never know when you'll need them. Worth their weight in gold vs getting stuck in the woods somewhere during wintery months.
 

bonepicker

Very Active Member
Messages
1,127
I wouldn't drive around with them on full time but if you do need them, always chain up the front if you only have one set of chains. They do give you a huge advantage if you have them on but I still wouldn't go into a place (especially down into some steep canyon) relying on your chains to get you out.
I've hunted many times in the snow and mud, I have only had to chain up twice. They can really get you out of a mess but they are a pain to deal with.
Most people get into trouble by either going down a hill or turning around. Your diesel engine is pretty heavy so keep that in mind whenever you get off the hard packed road. People will often get into trouble when they decide to turn around drive their front wheels off the road (toward the downhill side) expecting to back up back onto the road. If it's sloppy, you may bury the wheels with that engine weight (and trying to put on chains in 2 feet of mud is quite a rodeo!). I always start my turnaround by backing toward the uphill side and keeping my front wheels on the road as much as possible.
Basically, as long as you keep gravity in mind as you are driving, you can avoid getting into too much trouble and not need to chain up.
Good luck!
 
Messages
42
I have always used cut down semi truck chains. No way a 3/4 ton truck is going to break those links.

Re inflating tires after putting the chains on will tighten them up considerably.

I have always chained up all four.
Makes sense to chain up and then reinstate. Thanks
 
Messages
42
I wouldn't drive around with them on full time but if you do need them, always chain up the front if you only have one set of chains. They do give you a huge advantage if you have them on but I still wouldn't go into a place (especially down into some steep canyon) relying on your chains to get you out.
I've hunted many times in the snow and mud, I have only had to chain up twice. They can really get you out of a mess but they are a pain to deal with.
Most people get into trouble by either going down a hill or turning around. Your diesel engine is pretty heavy so keep that in mind whenever you get off the hard packed road. People will often get into trouble when they decide to turn around drive their front wheels off the road (toward the downhill side) expecting to back up back onto the road. If it's sloppy, you may bury the wheels with that engine weight (and trying to put on chains in 2 feet of mud is quite a rodeo!). I always start my turnaround by backing toward the uphill side and keeping my front wheels on the road as much as possible.
Basically, as long as you keep gravity in mind as you are driving, you can avoid getting into too much trouble and not need to chain up.
Good luck!
Great advice. Thank you.
 

grizzly

Long Time Member
Messages
4,594
I carry them all the time while hunting in the winter. I don't put them on until I need them because if you get stuck with chains already on, you're really screwed.

I've been totally stuck and, having exhausted all my tricks, finally resorted to putting on chains and then been able to drive out of the trouble spot with only one chain on one tire. They're that impressive.

With that said, they can do damage to your truck if they come apart or hit fenders or brake lines, especially on front ends with small clearances, so use with caution.

Also, don't only chain up the front if you're descending... you don't want the front to stop and the rear to whip around on an icy road.

I keep a bucket with all my chains and a roll of rebar tie-wire and needle nose pliers. The tie wire works great to tie off the end so it doesn't whip around. Stop regularly and check the tighteners, it picks up a lot of slack as you drive. Mine are the cam version, but I still put the elastic rubber tighteners on there as a backup. I bought 4 chains long ago and then have bought various extensions over the years to fit different truck tires. It's been great.

PS. @bonepicker is right about how you turn around. Don't get the motor below the road and try and back up. Keep gravity in your favor.
 
Last edited:

hossblur

Long Time Member
Messages
5,075
I carry them all the time while hunting in the winter. I don't put them on until I need them because if you get stuck with chains already on, you're really screwed.

I've been totally stuck and, having exhausted all my tricks, finally resorted to putting on chains and then been able to drive out of the trouble spot with only one chain on one tire. They're that impressive.

With that said, they can do damage to your truck if they come apart or hit fenders or brake lines, especially on front ends with small clearances, so use with caution.

Also, don't only chain up the front if you're descending... you don't want the front to stop and the rear to whip around on an icy road.

I keep a bucket with all my chains and a roll of rebar tie-wire and needle nose pliers. The tie wire works great to tie off the end so it doesn't whip around. Stop regularly and check the tighteners, it picks up a lot of slack as you drive. Mine are the cam version, but I still put the elastic rubber tighteners on there as a backup. I bought 4 chains long ago and then have bought various extensions over the years to fit different truck tires. It's been great.

PS. @bonepicker is right about how you turn around. Don't get the motor below the road and try and back up. Keep gravity in your favor.

Maybe your best post in MM, ever😉

Only thing i add is put some a small tarp in the bucket, rolling around in the cold mud SUCKS.!!
 

hossblur

Long Time Member
Messages
5,075
I have always used cut down semi truck chains. No way a 3/4 ton truck is going to break those links.

Re inflating tires after putting the chains on will tighten them up considerably.

I have always chained up all four.


We had a set of 4 "deuce and a half" chains for our 48 willys.

We got those chains taken away, seems rebuilding front ends got tiresome😃
 
Messages
42
I carry them all the time while hunting in the winter. I don't put them on until I need them because if you get stuck with chains already on, you're really screwed.

I've been totally stuck and, having exhausted all my tricks, finally resorted to putting on chains and then been able to drive out of the trouble spot with only one chain on one tire. They're that impressive.

With that said, they can do damage to your truck if they come apart or hit fenders or brake lines, especially on front ends with small clearances, so use with caution.

Also, don't only chain up the front if you're descending... you don't want the front to stop and the rear to whip around on an icy road.

I keep a bucket with all my chains and a roll of rebar tie-wire and needle nose pliers. The tie wire works great to tie off the end so it doesn't whip around. Stop regularly and check the tighteners, it picks up a lot of slack as you drive. Mine are the cam version, but I still put the elastic rubber tighteners on there as a backup. I bought 4 chains long ago and then have bought various extensions over the years to fit different truck tires. It's been great.

PS. @bonepicker is right about how you turn around. Don't get the motor below the road and try and back up. Keep gravity in your favor.
Thank you. I really appreciate the counsel. Getting stuck out in the middle of nowhere without cell service when it is below freezing is more than just an inconvenience. It can be a matter of life and death.
 

grizzly

Long Time Member
Messages
4,594
Maybe your best post in MM, ever😉

Only thing i add is put some a small tarp in the bucket, rolling around in the cold mud SUCKS.!!
Yeah, I have a square of house wrap in there for that reason. I also keep some paracord to use to help get the chains on. Basically we thread it through the last link and then spin the tire while keeping tension on the cord and it picks up the slack to get those extra few links tightened. Way safer than getting your hands near a spinning chain too.

We all know how it seems like you can't get it any tighter and then you drive a few feet and it's loose and flopping around. That takes care of that issue on the first try. Way easier!

Frozen fingers and snow and mud are no fun!
 

NECALI

Active Member
Messages
723
The heavy truck chains work great, I have a set for all 4 of the tires on my 14 Ram diesel. I also broke down and bought a pair of Les Schwab quick fit. They are my go to chains when I only need one axle chained up. They ride way smoother and have lasted extremely well. As others have said don’t put them on all 4 unless you need to get out of a mess. If you put them on going into one, your going to be in bad shape if they don’t get you out. I always put them on the fronts only unless I’m going to be pulling a trailer downhill, or as said before going down a steep grade on icy roads. Oh, and there are times when even chains on all four wont get you out of a bad situation. Be careful of snowstorms that are windy. We got stuck after one when we only had about 6” on the flat where we were, but up the road it drifted in on us about 2 1/2 feet. We spent the day and part of the night digging out of that mess.
 

Comules

Active Member
Messages
746
Chains are an amazing tool for traction. I chained up all 4 tires on my 1 ton last fall with a fully loaded toy hauler trailer. Got me where I needed to. I wouldn't have been able to get hardly anywhere without them on the snowy, icy roads we were hunting on.

I just leave them in the cab this time of year. Never know when you'll need them. Worth their weight in gold vs getting stuck in the woods somewhere during wintery months.
Also a chainsaw and tow chain is also a handy thing to take along.
Never know when a tree will blow down across the road, have had that happen
 

Focoelkman

Active Member
Messages
316
Maybe your best post in MM, ever😉

Only thing i add is put some a small tarp in the bucket, rolling around in the cold mud SUCKS.!!
These two know what they are talking about. I have an old milk crate with: tow strap, 4 chains and tighteners in the truck always during hunting season and early spring fishing season. A hunter should always be prepared with a tarp, period. Leather gloves too >>>cold chains and sticky mud will zap ya quick.
 

gburk

Member
Messages
43
I wouldn't drive around with them on full time but if you do need them, always chain up the front if you only have one set of chains. They do give you a huge advantage if you have them on but I still wouldn't go into a place (especially down into some steep canyon) relying on your chains to get you out.
I've hunted many times in the snow and mud, I have only had to chain up twice. They can really get you out of a mess but they are a pain to deal with.
Most people get into trouble by either going down a hill or turning around. Your diesel engine is pretty heavy so keep that in mind whenever you get off the hard packed road. People will often get into trouble when they decide to turn around drive their front wheels off the road (toward the downhill side) expecting to back up back onto the road. If it's sloppy, you may bury the wheels with that engine weight (and trying to put on chains in 2 feet of mud is quite a rodeo!). I always start my turnaround by backing toward the uphill side and keeping my front wheels on the road as much as possible.
Basically, as long as you keep gravity in mind as you are driving, you can avoid getting into too much trouble and not need to chain up.
Good luck!
Good post regarding turning around going downhill, we did exactly that this week and found the side of the road was thawed and hiding a little stream that turned the shoulder into quicksand. Had to do a fair amount of excavating to recover since the front end just didn’t want to go uphill. We were in a 2wd truck with rears chained so didn’t have any business attempting a turnaround at all, frontwards or back, until the road widened.
Anyways the chains were awesome in mud and ice and we couldn’t have traveled without them.
 
Messages
42
Also a chainsaw and tow chain is also a handy thing to take along.
Never know when a tree will blow down across the road, have had that happen
I grew up in Washington and this is good advice. Here in Nevada we don't have too many trees and the ones we do have can usually be picked up and tossed aside by hand.
 

mtmuley

Long Time Member
Messages
5,330
Get the v-bars. Get the cam locks. Carry tie wire and zip ties if you need to tie up extra links. Chaining front is best. Experience will tell you when or when not to. I chain before I am stuck. Read the road. I have an old set of coveralls I throw on to chain. Nothing worse than being wet or muddy to hunt. Been chaining my rig for over 30 years. A necessary evil sometimes. mtmuley
 

Phantom Hunter

Very Active Member
Messages
1,602
Have any of you had problems chaining up the front end of pickups that state in owners manuals not to put chains on front end? I can’t figure out why anyone would not want to chain up the front axle on a 4x4. My 2006 Chevy 3500 owners manual says no chains on front end??
 

customweld

Active Member
Messages
543
There is no substitute for having iron when you need it. Put them on as tight as you can get them, drive a few hundred yards and pull the slack out of them if you need to. If I leave my truck at a trailhead (certain trails anyway) for a few days and I know weather is coming in, I'll chain up before I leave.
 

BLooDTRaCKeR

Very Active Member
Messages
1,637
Have the same truck as you....2001 cummins. I have chained up several times in that truck to get me off the mountain in three feet of snow pulling a camp trailer. That cummins will perform flawlessly with a set of chains in deep snow!

Heavy front end and plenty of torque keeps those chained up tires from spinning on that rig and it will just lug through all that crap mother nature throws at you!

I was coming off the mountain in 2 feet of snow one time pulling my camp trailer. Had all 4 tires chained and going down a road that pitched the trailer toward the cliff edge of road. I could see the side trailer door from my side mirror! Trailer wanted to go down and off the road but truck wouldn’t let it! The ole’ cummins just lugged along and dragged that thing out of there like it was dry ground! Never worried about that truck with chains on it!

like was said, get the heavy duty chains for it!

None of that walmart garbage!
 

customweld

Active Member
Messages
543
Have the same truck as you....2001 cummins. I have chained up several times in that truck to get me off the mountain in three feet of snow pulling a camp trailer. That cummins will perform flawlessly with a set of chains in deep snow!

Heavy front end and plenty of torque keeps those chained up tires from spinning on that rig and it will just lug through all that crap mother nature throws at you!

I was coming off the mountain in 2 feet of snow one time pulling my camp trailer. Had all 4 tires chained and going down a road that pitched the trailer toward the cliff edge of road. I could see the side trailer door from my side mirror! Trailer wanted to go down and off the road but truck wouldn’t let it! The ole’ cummins just lugged along and dragged that thing out of there like it was dry ground! Never worried about that truck with chains on it!

like was said, get the heavy duty chains for it!

None of that walmart garbage!
If I’m pulling a trailer, I’ll throw a chain on one of the axles. It helps keep that trailer “honest”.
 

Colfax_Hunter

Member
Messages
50
What do you guys wear for gloves? I've had a hell of a time keeping my hands from freezing the last couple years in Colorado. Putting on chains in below freezing temps, leather gloves never seem to keep my fingers warm enough and insulated gloves always seem to be to thick to get everything hooked up.
 

toolmann

Active Member
Messages
148
I'll add my 2 cents by agreeing with the posts above. I carry them for my 2017 Ram 2500 diesel now for all 4 tires. Why not? I've only put them on twice, and only on one axle when I did, but I'm prepared if needed. I will throw in this tip from an almost bad experience. When you put them on at home to make sure they fit and figure them out (this is a must, which I did), look at how many chain links you have left hanging off the end (after the connection). Either remove these or bring some zip ties to "tie them off" so they aren't flopping around. On my Montana deer hunt this year I had to chain the rears. Made this decision after getting buried to the frame in a snow drift (oops, but part of the adventure). On my rear left side the tag end was swinging around. When I pulled the chains off a few ours later I realized it had been hitting my brake line. Another hour or so and I would have had zero rear brakes. I will be wrapping them in some thin flexible metal to protect them, but always keep that tag end out of the way.
 

BeanMan

Long Time Member
Messages
6,268
Have any of you had problems chaining up the front end of pickups that state in owners manuals not to put chains on front end? I can’t figure out why anyone would not want to chain up the front axle on a 4x4. My 2006 Chevy 3500 owners manual says no chains on front end??
Many of the modern trucks have very little clearance on the inside between the tire, chains, and things like brake lines that you don’t Want to tear off. That's the issue the owners manual is trying to avoid. Be very aware of it before you try it.
 

Zeke

Long Time Member
Messages
9,274
I endorse all the above and will add this: keep your fuel tank as full as you practically can. I've spent a couple night on the mountain and it's sure nice to have enough fuel to run the truck periodically.
Keep warm clothes, water and food too!
Sometimes self-rescue isn't an option or the prudent thing to do and you might have to wait on arriving help.
My buddy just spent a cold 17 degree night in Wyoming when his truck broke down and he only had a light jacket. He knew better than to go that light!

"Be prepared"

Zeke
 

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