The Best Tires For Overlanding
If you use your vehicle as a base camp and to traverse mild trails, congratulations. You are part of the fastest growing subset in the off-road community, otherwise known as overlanders. While roof top tents, plug-in coolers, and cargo pants are all status quo, none are required to be an experienced overlander. All you really need is a sense of adventure, some off-road basics, and a reliable vehicle that can haul you and your gear safely from the grips of modern civilization.
Depending on your geographic region, the type of terrain you’ll encounter can vary greatly. Given so much of the overland hobby is built around traveling far from home, creating a versatile rig to perform well in a variety of terrains is paramount. While the best vehicle for overlanding is generally the one you already own, there are certain parts that will help ensure your travel will go smoothly. Maybe the most important upgrade you can make to your adventure machine is equipping it with the right set of tires.
In this article, we’re breaking down the tires that best serve the overland community, along with critical information you need to know before swapping out your vehicle’s treads.
Light Truck Tires
Many modern midsized trucks and SUVs (along with some ½-ton platforms) come with a Hard Metric tire from the factory. Also referred to as P-Metric or Passenger tire, the Hard Metric tire has become the go to for vehicle manufacturers. These tires help with fuel efficiency and ride quality on-road, but generally are not as durable off-road as a Light Truck tire equivalent. For this reason, we highly recommend moving to an LT tire. While the LT series tire will be a little heavier than a comparably sized Hard Metric, gaining a heavy-duty sidewall, along with a higher load rating, is well worth the tradeoff. You’ll typically also get deeper tread and more puncture resistance over a Hard Metric as well.
Getting a more durable tire for the trail doesn’t mean you’ll need to sacrifice longevity. Overlanding is all about traveling far from civilization and that usually equates to high mileage trips. If you want to get the most mileage out of a more durable set of treads, look for companies offering tread warranties. Modern all-terrain tires have made serious strides in performance and longevity. A great example of this can be found with the Terra Grappler G2 from Nitto Tire. Offering up to a 65K mile tread-wear warranty, the Terra Grappler G2, is a great option for those looking to get the most mileage and all-season performance.
Sipes & Weather Ratings
You can’t always plan for inclement weather, but one way you can ensure your vehicle will be better prepared is by ensuring your next set of treads have plenty of sipes. These are the small cuts you see running throughout the tread. They help grip the wet road more effectively and are more commonly found on all-terrain and hybrid style tires. If you predict a mix of snow in your future, be sure to look for the three-peak mountain snowflake rating on the tire. Many of the three-peak tires come ready to stud, which can be especially helpful. The only downside to the three-peak rating is that these tires are often comprised of a softer tread compound, which results in better all-season performance, but a shorter tread life.
The two most common Light Truck tire categories are all-terrain and mud-terrain. However, there is a fairly new category that has grown tremendously over the past few years—the hybrid tire. This is essentially the overlander’s dream tire. The concept is simple. Merge the all-season handling and grip of an all-terrain tire with the off-road prowess and durability of a mud-terrain. Maybe the best example of this can be found with the Nitto Ridge Grappler. Fit with massive tread blocks and large spacing, you get the footprint more often reserved for a mud-terrain. However, a unique tread design coupled with sipings throughout means you have a tire that can be versatile on-road as well. An added bonus we’ve found from real-world testing is that these tires are extremely quiet.
If there’s one thing that ties nearly all overland adventures together it’s gravel. It may be the most common terrain you encounter. While a gravel road doesn’t seem like something that can harm your tire, it truly can. One of the ways this happens is that small pieces of rock get lodged between the tread. As you continue to make your way down the trail at speed, these small rocks are getting hammered farther and farther into the tread cap. If your tire isn’t built to withstand this type of abuse, you’ll encounter a flat in no time. Mud-terrain tires have larger tread block spacing, which will help keep the rocks clear of the tread better than an all-terrain tire. This same large spacing can be found in hybrid terrain tires as well, which would be our pick for gravel two-tracks.
The Great Equalizer: Mud
Understanding the terrain you are getting ready to venture on will save you a lot of trouble. If muddy backroads are going to be a consistent theme in your overland adventure book, then opt for a mud-terrain tire. Most modern mud-terrain radials will have enough on-road manners than you won’t regret the investment. Sure, you’re not going to get the mileage out of them like you would an all-terrain, but we’ve tested ones that have netted us over 45k! A great option here would be the Nitto Trail Grappler, with the Mud Grappler running a close second.
There are plenty of factors to consider when you are purchasing a new set of treads for your overland rig. While the question of mud-terrain versus all-terrain still rages on in many sectors of the off-road world, for the overland community, the hybrid tire is by far the best fit. In this category, the lead tire by a good margin is the Nitto Ridge Grappler. We’ve personally tested and witnessed these tires traverse everywhere from the wilds of Alaska to the red rocks in Moab. If you are looking for a tire that is built for serious adventure, without the drawbacks of the traditional tire categories, it’s hard to beat the Ridge Grappler.
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- Want to weigh in on a classic debate? Let’s look at All-Terrain Vs. Mud Terrain tires.