As rock crawling has grown in popularity over the past decade, rock crawling tires have evolved substantially to meet the new, heightened demands of off-roading enthusiasts. Some of these tires are highly specialized equipment, designed to do one thing and one thing only: provide maximum traction and puncture-resistance over rocky terrain, to the exclusion of all else. But those tires are relatively scarce, they often need to be custom ordered, and they are virtually unusable on the road. Still, their hallmark features – big, widely-spaced tread blocks with lots of variability, soft rubber compounds, and hard biting edges – have made their way onto plenty of off-the-shelf off-road tires.
The best rock crawling tires have plenty of give, their sizable tread blocks bending and deflecting with ease to grip onto unyielding hard surfaces. At the same time, their highly asymmetrical tread block patterns increase the chances of finding traction on terrain with a high degree of variability; throw enough criss-crossing vertical edges out there and surely, one of them is bound to bite. Many of the best rock crawling tires also use bias-ply construction instead of a radial design, giving them greater sidewall strength, puncture-resistance, and greater durability under high loads, at the expense of on-road manners.
Thinking about getting a new set of meats for your off-road rig? Here are our picks for the best rock crawler tires currently on the market:
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Goodyear Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar
The Goodyear Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar is everything a good rock crawling tire should be. It’s tough as nails, thanks to Kevlar-reinforced sidewalls that provide superior puncture and load resistance, and offers an abundance of biting edges with staggered directionality and large void areas. Those void areas, along with special stone-ejecting ribs, help keep the tread clear of rocks so that they don’t threaten the tire’s ability to connect with the terrain. At the same time, this Goodyear tire is just fine with a little road use, thanks again to those Kevlar-reinforced sidewalls. We call that a win-win.
Firestone Destination M/T2
Firestone’s Destination M/T2 is a durable mud terrain tire with a reinforced dual steel belt construction, allowing it to hold up to high loads without getting bent out of shape. Just as important, its rubber compound is resistant to chips and tears, with a casing designed to prevent puncture damage. All of that equates to a tire engineered to withstand the abuses commonly inflicted in off-road driving. Add to that the Destination M/T2’s large, staggered tread blocks, which provide plenty of hard biting, and you wind up with a potent combination for rock crawler tires.
BFGoodrich T/A KM3
You can hardly talk about off-road tires without mentioning BFGoodrich; the company makes some of the best off-roading rubber around, and the T/A KM3 features everything we’d expect from a good set of rock crawling tires. They’re made using an advanced Krawl-TEK compound formulated to promote excellent grip over rock and slick surfaces, while a flex zone designed into the tire allows it the compliance necessary to conform to uneven rocky surfaces when aired down. A thick “shield” engineered into the tire’s sidewall works with the compound to defend against puncture hazards, making the T/A KM3 a strong, durable rock crawling companion.
Super Swamper IROK Bias Ply
Super Swamper isn’t a name you’re likely to hear from too many drivers, and that’s because it’s a niche manufacturer primarily serving diehard enthusiasts and genuine pros. The company’s IROK Bias Ply is among the most well-regarded all-around rock crawling tires among those in-the-know, thanks to its famous Three Stage Lug directional tread design, super-tough cord, and abrasion-resistant compounds. Its bias-ply construction gives it superior sidewall strength and durability, and there’s tons of void area between tread blocks for excellent self-cleaning and off-road traction – exactly what you are looking for in rock crawler tires.
Nitto Mud Grappler Extreme Terrain
The Nitto Mud Grappler Extreme Terrain is popular among rock crawling enthusiasts, and it’s easy to see why: its highly variable computer-designed tread pattern provides hard biting edges in all different directions for traction on nearly any surface, and big 15mm side lugs deliver some much needed sidewall puncture resistance. If that’s not enough, the sidewalls are also made of strong, triple-ply polyester for extra durability, and the large void areas enhance the Mud Grappler’s self-cleaning abilities, helping maintain traction no matter the conditions.
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