If you’re taking your RV out on the roads this winter, you’ve probably considered packing a set of snow chains or snow socks… smart decision! After all, some provinces and U.S. states require some vehicles to use traction devices during the winter months.
But if you’re like many RVers, you might have some questions about these winter driving accessories. What’s the difference between the two options? Are snow chains or snow socks a better choice? Do weather or road conditions come into play?
Read on to learn about the differences between snow chains and snow socks for your RV, and when you should use each.
Snow Chains vs Snow Socks: What’s the Difference?
Let’s start with a familiar traction device that’s been around for decades: Snow chains. Also known as tire or drag chains, snow chains attached to the drive tires of your vehicle. Chains create traction by compressing snow and ice, increasing tire grip on the road and reducing the chances of skidding or slipping.
Chains are made from strong materials, such as steel, and may include polyurethane or rubber elements. Most are designed to fit specific tire sizes, though some are adjustable to fit a range of tires.
Tire chains are available in a variety of patterns, depending on different road conditions and different vehicle specifications, including:
- Diamond: For vehicles with anti-lock braking systems (ABS)
- Diagonal: For snowy, ivy conditions and vehicles with ABS and traction control
- Ladder: For snow and ice, or off-road driving
- Square: More durable with better traction
In contrast, snow socks — also known as tire or auto socks — are made from woven fabric. The textile is designed to wrap around the tire, with a strong band of elastomer to keep it in place.
The fabric is woven from synthetic fibres that, all together, create dry friction on the surface of snow or ice. This helps tires connect with the surface layer and increases vehicle traction.
Snow Chain and Snow Sock Pros and Cons
Both traction devices offer pros and cons. Let’s start with snow chains.
Snow Chain Pros:
- Better at creating traction
- Last longer/more durable
- Can install without moving vehicle
- Work well in heavy snow or wet conditions
Snow Chain Cons:
- Ill-fitting chains can damage your vehicle
- Can be difficult to untangle
- Can be difficult to install
Now, let’s compare snow socks:
Snow Sock Pros:
- Foldable and easier to bring along
- Easy to install
- May fit better on low-clearance vehicles
- Work well in dry, light snow conditions
Snow Sock Cons:
- Provide less traction
- Less durable
- Not all types are legally accepted as a chain substitute
- Not as effective in wet or icy conditions
How to Choose Between Snow Chains and Snow Socks for an RV
When you’re driving your RV in winter, it’s likely that you’ll need more traction through icy or snowy conditions. Some provinces and U.S. states actually require that you carry traction devices.
Before you hit the road, check the laws in your destination. Some areas may accept snow socks in lieu of chains, while others may not.
You should also check your RV owners’ manual. While snow socks may work on some models, others may be too heavy or large for socks. In such cases, you should carry a set of chains with you.
As a general rule, the larger the RV, the longer the trip, and the more ice on the road means you should lean toward carrying snow chains with you. Snow chains are heavier, more durable and offer better traction. Either way, be sure to remove your chains or socks once you reach a cleared road surface or if you notice any damage.
Before you head out through the snow and ice, check that you have the winter driving accessories you need to create traction on slick roads. With a bit of extra planning, your winter adventure can be both exciting and safe.