A step in the right direction for SUVs

The "utility" part of sport-utility vehicles may be lost in many parts of the country, but here in the Northwest, many of the rugged rigs are used by avid outdoors enthusiasts.

Dog owners love SUVs since they let us transport our pooches out to the trails without having to box the poor beast up in an open pickup bed. Hikers and skiers enjoy the high clearance and added passenger room since that means we can haul our friends, and all our gear, safely to the trailhead or ski resort.

But for all their utility, they can sometimes pose difficulties. Some of the bigger SUVs can be too tall for older or smaller dogs to jump into. And there's no good place — like a pickup's tailgate — to sit and pull on ski boots or take off muddy hiking boots. Until now.

A Seattle company developed the perfect device to increase the utility of SUVs. Twistep (pronounced "twist-step") is a hitch-mounted platform that, when not in use, hides away under the bumper of the rig. But when you want to use it, you simply push down and twist the knob at the end of the hitch and the platform pivots out and locks in place at the back of your vehicle.

The Twistep was originally designed to be an aid for the company owner's elderly dog. The dog suffered from arthritis and had trouble jumping into an SUV.

But the Twistep is an aid for humans, too. It offers a large, stable platform that makes it easier to reach the top rack of your rig. And, my favorite, it is a perfect place to sit to pull on ski boots, fishing waders, hiking boots, etc.

The Twistep can be operated with one hand, and it is available for both Class II (1-1/4-inch) and Class III (2-inch) hitch receivers. The platform measures 16 by 20 inches. The Class II model supports 300 pounds while the Class III can hold 500 pounds. The units retail for about $179 at outdoors and pet stores. For more information, see www.twistep.com.

Dan A. Nelson is a free-lance writer who lives in Puyallup.