For producers who want to expand the capabilities of their on-farm ATV or UTV, Can Am thinks it has the perfect solution: tracks. Not too long ago the brand introduced its “four season” Apache 360 and longer-track version the 360LT line of all-season track modules, which will work on its Outlander ATVs and Defender UTV. They are designed to contend with all types of soft and hard surfaces where tires won’t get the job done.
And while the 360 modules will offer greatly enhanced floatation and performance in deep snow as well, Can Am recently introduced yet another track module option that is designed specifically for the white powder, The Apache Backcountry and long-track Backcountry LT systems.
A couple of months ago Can Am sent us a Defender for an extended on-farm winter test, and we reported on our findings of that a couple of issues back. But that Defender only had wheels. To really challenge the track systems, Can Am suggested we go to northern Quebec where the snow cover is crazy deep. We accepted the invitation and met with product marketing reps in the mountains north of Quebec City.
We were able to run two comparable Outlander ATVs over the same terrain. One was equipped with the Apache 360 LT tracks, the other with the new Backcountry LT version.
The two systems are designed quite differently. To start with, the 360 LTs aren’t as wide and their lugs have a lower one-inch height. The modules have an internal sprocket drive, unlike the Backcountry models that use an external, exposed type. All the moving components are inside the 360 tracks are protected, and idler wheels keep the 360 track planted on the ground. The Backcountry, on the other hand, uses a slider rail like a snowmobile track for that and needs to have snow to lubricate it.
The 360 tracks, “Are really a package for somebody that’s going to be working in various conditions,” says Johnathan Asselin Frenette, product coordinator for Can Am. “The track is specifically made for the Outlanders and all the Can Am vehicles. We’re the only company in the market providing a long track for ATVs. Usually these tracks are reserved for side-by-sides.”
The Backcountry tracks use a two-inch lug, which really bites into soft snow to provide even better traction in snow than the 360.
“It offers no compromises (in snow),” Asselin Frenette adds. “The bigger lugs and bigger space between the lugs is to grab more snow when you’re riding. The external sprocket allows you to have less tension in the track and makes it so much easier to turn. The rails reduce resistance in the track and keeps the track straight, always grabbing that snow to make sure you keep on going forward.”
Once the mounting brackets are installed, changing back and forth between tracks and tires is exactly like changing a tire.
“If you’re not going into rocky conditions where you risk hitting them, you can leave those mounting plates there the whole year long,” he adds.
When used on the Defender, the Backcountry LT tracks will allow it to keep its payload rating.
“That’s why we have the tracks at the back are really specific to that machine,” Asselin Frenette continues. “We want to be able to keep that feature of having the payload in the bed, making sure you’re able to use the full machine in all conditions.”
What did we think?
To put it bluntly, we were impressed. We operated the two Outlanders and Defender over extremely deep snow. We used some out-of-season logging roads for testing. In several instances with the Outlander equipped with the Backcountry LTs, we left the trails and headed into virgin powder in waist deep snow following a snowmobile. Some of the operators managed to get the Outlander stuck when they got far too daring, but we kept ours going without any trouble in conditions we thought we’d never get through.
The Defender, too, was able to make tracks in virgin powder, even though it’s designed to be workhorse, its Rotax engine had ample power to keep the tracks turning in difficult conditions.
Which brings up a point. Running the tracks draws noticeably more power from the engine than tires do. But none of the machines we used suffered from a lack of muscle. They all ran well in the toughest snow we found.
The Apache 360LT tracks did pretty well in soft snow too, but they clearly were not as capable as the Backcountry system. As we ran over the trails with several machines in a convoy, we kept the Outlander quipped with the 360s at the back of the pack to take advantage of the trail packing created by the machines ahead. When we used it that way, the 360s easily kept up to the other machines.
To make steering easier, the track control modules plug directly into the electric power steering function on the Outlanders and Defender, and the operator needs to set the machine’s steering function for the tracks, but that’s just a matter of pressing a button on the dash as the steering options roll across the small screen. Without that power assist, steering an ATV or UTV with tracks would likely be a bit of a challenge and leave you with pretty tired arms at the end of the day.
All in all, I’d have to say our first experience with the Can Am tracks showed they actually performed as well as the company reps originally led us to believe, which was pretty impressive.