The Best Off-Road Tires

By Jacob Black

February 18, 2021

Who doesn’t like to get off the beaten track every now and then? If you own a 4x4, a truck, or even an SUV, you’ve probably passed many a muddy trail with a lustful eye. The sheer possibility of adventure is what makes off-roading so alluring. Your tires are the direct connection between you and the ground, responsible for traction and braking grip. Tires that don’t grip well will prevent you climbing that rock or crossing that mud hole. Tires that aren’t tough enough for the task at hand can leave you stranded out in the bush.

In this list of the best off-road tires, we’ll dig into the two main categories, and highlight the best all-terrain as well as the best pure off-road tire. You probably know the latter as mud tires, because of their ability to dig deep into the goop and claw their way out. Mud tires, or M/T tires, aren’t just for mud though. All-terrain tires, or A/T, usually have a rugged construction and deep grooves for off-road grip but have slightly more gentle tread patterns that make them more pavement friendly. They might have a more rigid sidewall than M/T tires as well, which helps pavement performance but can be a hindrance off road.

The tires we highlight here will all help you get to the other side of your adventure safely, easily, and with a huge dirty smile on your face.

1. Editor’s Pick: BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2

ProsCons
  • Winter rated
  • Great on-road and off-road performance
  • Winter performance drops off sooner than tread life

Key Specs

Tread Pattern: Symmetrical block
Winter Rated: Yes
Speed Ratings: S, R (170-180km/h)
Tread Wear Warranty: 80,000 km

See Price

This is a well-designed tire that mitigates the limitations of mud tires on road with clever design features that don’t hurt off-road performance.

The BF Goodrich All-Terrain off-road tire is one I run on my truck and it's my pick for best A/T tire. I like it because it’s also winter-rated and bears the “snowflake” winter tire logo. The snowflake logo makes this tire legal in places like Quebec where snow tires are mandatory during winter months. You might also be able to get a winter-tire discount from your insurance company (if they offer it).

The T/A KO2 is robust enough to handle rocky terrain, and the side blocks are aggressive for great snow and mud traction. The tread width is narrow, giving the tire a more pronounced shoulder that helps it dig into snow and mud better, as well protects the tire from damage.

The three-dimensional locking sipes allows the tread blocks to become more rigid under heavy braking or cornering loads, while still providing plenty of channels for water, mud, and snow to escape in normal use. These sipes offer up more biting edges to the road surface, which further helps grip and traction. BF Goodrich offers an 80,000 km tread life warranty on these tires and claims that the sidewall is 20 per cent tougher than the previous generation thanks to the company’s CoreGuard technology borrowed from the Baja T/A KR2 race tire.

2. Best Mud Tire: Nitto Mud Grappler M/T

ProsCons
  • Robust tire construction
  • Unbeatable mud traction
  • Average tread life
  • Poor winter and wet weather performance

Key Specs

Tread Pattern: Symmetrical lug
Winter Rated: No
Speed Ratings: P, Q (150-160km/h)
Tread Wear Warranty: None

See Price

The Nitto Mud Grappler rates as the best pure off-road tire for its sheer persistence in deep, goopy mud pits with unwavering traction and grip.

As a driver whose personally lost a shoe or two to deep mud, I can appreciate the focused grip you get from a dedicated off-road tire, and Nitto’s Mud Grappler will keep you mobile no matter how soggy the road gets.

This uncompromising off-road tire will wear quickly and make a lot of noise on pavement, but if you buy in this class, you’re not concerned with how it performs on asphalt. Off the road, three-ply polyester sidewalls and a steel-belt tread base provide resilience over rough ground, and the aggressive lug pattern with chunky sidewall lugs provides ample traction. Be aware that with a P and Q speed rating, these tires aren’t designed for high speed. The large voids between lugs do help disperse mud and snow, but the chunky lug faces make the Nittos prone to hydroplaning in wet weather.

Nitto’s unique party trick is its reversible design. Each tire comes with one heavily stylized sidewall design, in this case a snakeskin motif, and one normal, smooth design. You can choose the appearance you want on your tires by simply mounting the tires a different way.

3. Toughest Off-Road Tire: Goodyear Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar

ProsCons
  • Tough as nails
  • Rock-crawling weaponry
  • Loud
  • Uncomfortable on pavement

Key Specs

Tread Pattern: Asymmetrical block, rib, and lug
Winter Rated: No
Speed Ratings: Q (160 km/h)
Tread Wear Warranty: None

See Price

Goodyear’s Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar is a pure mud tire with unparalleled sidewall toughness thanks to Kevlar reinforcement that makes it 35 percent stronger than the previous generation MT/R.

It is easy to think that load range ratings don’t really matter off-road. They’re a measurement of how much you can inflate the tire, and how much weight the tire can hold. The MT/R with Kevlar has an “E” load range rating, meaning you can inflate it to 80 psi. The thing is that rating also indicates how tough the tire is. The sidewalls, tread blocks, and entire carcass are generally tougher when the load rating is higher. That means that tires with a higher maximum pressure, also perform better at low pressures. If you regularly decrease the air pressure in your tires for rock crawling for example, you’ll need a tire that can survive running low pressures without tearing and puncturing the rubber itself.

The Wrangler MT-R with Kevlar will take an enormous amount of pounding without giving up, letting you tackle even the gnarliest of gravel and rock pits.

4. Best Value Off-Road Tire: Cooper Evolution M/T

ProsCons
  • Excellent value
  • Good tread life
  • Average toughness
  • Moderate performance

Key Specs

Tread Pattern: Asymmetrical block, rib, and lug
Winter Rated: No
Speed Ratings: Q (160 km/h)
Tread Wear Warranty: None

See Price

If you’re looking for an M/T tire that provides consistent off-road performance at a price that won’t make you wince, this is a great off-road tire range that's well worth your attention.

US company Cooper Tires has been around for over 100 years now and has a reputation for no-nonsense performance and value for light trucks and SUVs. Cooper’s Evolution M/T line-up of tires features an aggressive alternating block tread pattern design to grip and rip on the trails.

The “Trail Grip” sidewalls feature climbing lugs that are designed to grip when you’re leaning on the sidewall to crest a rock climb or navigate boulders in close quarters. This is a busy tread design but raised barriers between the blocks help prevent rocks and stones from becoming lodged in the tires.

Worth noting, Coopers uses a two-ply sidewall construction, which is less robust than others on this list. This is a great tire for frequent off-road excursions onto soft roads and rocky trails. Honourable mention goes also to Cooper’s Discoverer STT Pro which is only about 10 per cent more expensive and features increased mud performance over the Evolution.

5. Coolest All-Terrain Tire: Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus

ProsCons
  • Mud and snow traction
  • On-road stability and grip
  • Expensive

Key Specs

Tread Pattern: Asymmetrical block
Winter Rated: Yes
Speed Ratings: S, T (180 – 190 km/h)
Tread Wear Warranty: 80,000 km

See Price

The Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus tire has the performance chops to back up its ultra-cool design and curb appeal.

It features the three-mountain peak (3PMSF) winter-tire rating, which provides incredible ice and snow performance, as well as the insurance benefits we spoke of earlier, and is legal in winter in Quebec. Aside from the staggering amount of sidewall lugs for biting side traction, the Scorpion All Terrain Plus features more sipes than the other tires on this list combined. The result? Consistent and impressive bite even for the most heavy-footed drivers.

Pirelli claims that is Next Generation compound offers unrivalled chip and tear resistance, and the tread face is supported by steel belts as well as multiple levels of nylon ply.

Drivers report that the Pirelli Scorpion is an impressively quiet tire on pavement, while offering excellent confidence on any road surface, in any condition. That, coupled with the street cred that comes with Pirelli tires in any scenario, make this a compelling option despite the high-ticket price.

6. Longest-Lasting A/T Tire: Toyo Open Country A/T III

ProsCons
  • High speed rating
  • All-round performance
  • Only average toughness

Key Specs

Tread Pattern: Symmetrical block
Winter Rated: Yes
Speed Ratings: S, T, H (180 – 210 km/h)
Tread Wear Warranty: 100,000 km

See Price

The Open Country A/T III all-terrain tire offers the best durability and treadwear life on this list thanks to a Toyo’s focus on long-lasting tire compounds and tread design.

Life the BF Goodrich KO2 above, Toyo’s Open Country tire is winter rated for great performance in ice and snow. Staggered shoulder lugs give impressive bite in deeper snow and mud, as well as grip when leaning on the sidewall. The multi-wave sipes in the blocks of the Open Country enhance the amount of bite on the road surface without hurting tire block stability.

This is very much Toyo’s one-stop solution for more buyers and will give you year-round performance for your truck or SUV in all conditions. As an A/T tire, it’s not as compromised off-road as you might expect, and yet maintains road quietness. Part of that is in the tread design, with an even spread of blocks across the width of the tire. The gap between blocks is known as the void – and tires with a high void ratio are traditionally louder than tires without.

One last point of interest, the Toyo Open Country is rated for higher speeds than any other tire on this list.

Matching Wheels and Tires

In a world where 20 and 22-inch rims have become standard fit on all sorts of trucks and 4x4s, we’ve all become used to the concept that bigger is better when it comes to wheels. Still, a bigger rim limits the size of the sidewall you’re able to have on your vehicle. Bigger wheels and shorter sidewalls are great for cornering stability and grip, while bigger sidewalls offer more comfort, more capability, and more ruggedness.

If you want to buy a tire with a larger sidewall, you should consider downgrading to a smaller rim to suit. The total diameter of your wheels and tires includes the rim and the sidewall — if you increase that diameter too much it can impact gearing and handling. You might even run out of clearance for your bodywork, causing the tires to strike it, especially when turning.

How to Calculate Total Wheel and Tire Diameter

You can calculate the total diameter of your wheel/tire combination using the tire size stamped on the tire’s sidewall. For example, a 235/75R15 has a total section width — that is, the width of the tire — of 235 mm. The “75” in this example is the ratio of sidewall height, to sidewall width. So, you multiply that number (235) by the percentage (75) to get the height of the tire in mm: 235 x 0.75 = 176.25.

If you want, you can convert that to inches (176.25 mm = 6.9 in). That gives you the height of the sidewall. You have to double that to account for both sides of the wheel, top and bottom, and add it to the wheel size, in this case, 15 inches. So, a 235/75R15 tire has a total diameter of 28.8 inches because 6.9 + 6.9 + 15 = 28.8.

Once you know how to figure out the total diameter of your tires, you can match the best off-road tire combination more closely to your original spec wheel and tire set.

What the Specs in this List Mean

We always try to compare apples to apples in our buying guides. Where possible, we provide key specs that can be compared across products. In this list, we use tread pattern, winter rating status, speed patterns, and tread-wear warranty.

Tread pattern is the shape of the tread. Blocks are separate, distinct shapes, while lugs are like blocks, but feature consistent islands of rubber that begin at the edge of the tread face and taper in towards the centre. They may have raised or lowered sections, but each lug is contiguous. Tread patterns may also come in rib, where the tire has one or more continuous grooves around the circumference of the tire. Most of the tires on this list feature a block pattern, while some contain a mix of many different patterns. Asymmetrical tread patterns look difference across the width of the tire, while directional tread patterns must be mounted in the direction of rotation.

Winter rated means a tire is awarded the snowflake or three-mountain peak endorsement for excellent winter performance. An A/T or M/T tire with this symbol is better in winter than one without, but it’s worth highlighting that a dedicated winter tire is still better in colder conditions than winter-rated all-terrain or mud-terrain rubber.

Speed ratings for road vehicles begin at L, for tires rated to 120 km/h or less, and end at Z, for tires with no speed limit rating, such as high-performance tires. One quirk of this scale is that “H” falls in between U and V on this otherwise alphabetical scale. The scale climbs by 10 km/h increments through L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, and H, before jumping to 30 km/h increments for V (240 km/h), W, Y (300 km/h), and Z.

Lastly, tread-wear warranty is the guaranteed tread wear life offered by the tire company in certain conditions. The M/T tires on this list have no tread wear warranty because they are expected to slip and spin in off-road conditions, as well as suffer rougher treatment that accelerate wear. The A/T tires in this list mostly have warranty of between 80,000 and 100,000 km. Regardless of the wear life claimed, always replace your tires as soon as they reach the wear indicators on your tread.

RedFlagDeals.com is reader-supported. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and other similar affiliate advertising programs. These programs are designed to provide a way for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to them. This means that RedFlagDeals.com will sometimes get a small commission if you make a purchase through our links.

Comments

There are currently no comments. Login and start the discussion!