Even for hardcore gear geeks, it's tough to get excited about tire chains – they're merely a set of metal shackles you affix to tires to gain better grip in turbulent winter driving conditions. But for as simple as they are, most models are frustrating to equip, and we've been waiting for someone to build a set that slide on quickly, perform well, slip off quickly, and store in a minimal amount of space. Thankfully, the Easy Fit CU-9 hit all targets. In fact, installation is so quick, the tire chains recently earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, when a crew installed a slew of them while averaging less than nine seconds per wheel.
Installation is quick because it's a simple, three-step process: Pop the claw-like chain open, fit it on the tire, and use the foot pedal to apply pressure. After 10 minutes of practice, mere mortals like us were able to install each chain in about 15 seconds. And if you need a little refresher on the instructions, they're printed on the inside of the carrying case, which also doubles as a dry knee rest during the entire operation.
On-road, the CU-9's performed admirably on multiple early-season trips to Mammoth Mountain in California. Getting out of our icy driveway in Mammoth Lakes was also decidedly simple, as was removing the chains at the drive's end. As is the case when driving with most chains, you'll have to slow down a bit on the road, because the maximum suggested speed is 30 mph. But in conditions that require the use of chains, you shouldn't go faster than that anyway. Sure, the CU-9s are pricier than chains from the auto store, but they'll help keep you out of harm's way for less than the cost of the average car insurance deductible. [$450; thule.com]