When you take on a black diamond trail, you need the best rock crawling tire you can find. For extreme conditions, you want rock crawling tires that have aggressive lugs for solid bite in all terrains, but you also need a tire that can withstand the punishment that you put them through. As off-road enthusiasts ourselves, we know first-hand what our trail rigs need to get through tough obstacles, so we’ve put together a list of what we feel are some of the best rock crawling tires available.
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, often need to be custom ordered, and 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 allowing their massive tread blocks to mold onto unyielding hard surfaces at the same time, provide that same traction in sand or muddy terrains. Many of the best rock crawling tires also feature a 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.
If you’re thinking about getting a new set of meats for your off-road rig, our staff has hand picked some of the best rock crawler tires currently on the market.
Lead photo by Ogletree Photography/Shutterstock.com
Table of contents
1. Editor's Choice: Kanati Mud Hog
Topping our list of best rock crawling tires are the Kanati Mud Hogs. Sure the name has MUD right in it, but we’ve found that some of the best rock crawling rubber comes in the form of a good mud tire. These are some of the best tire for rock crawling because of their aggressive, angled tread pattern that provides excellent bite in some of the most treacherous off-road terrains. The rubber compound provides excellent grip on the rocks while still maintaining great wear characteristics on the road when properly maintained. A tough 3-ply sidewall resists punctures in the gnarliest off-road conditions, yet still provides enough give on the highway for a comfortable ride. A clear choice as our favorite rock climbing tires.
2. Runner Up: 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 making it one of the best rock crawling tires available.
3. Firestone Destination M/T2
Firestone’s Destination M/T2 is a durable mud terrain tire that also works well as a best rock crawling tire. The Destination M/T 2 features 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 crawling tires.
4. BFGoodrich T/A KM3
You can hardly talk about rock crawling 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 this brand. 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 to conform to uneven rocky surfaces when aired down making it one of the best rock crawling tires available. 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 for every trail rig.
5. 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.
6. 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, making it a favorite of our staff for rock crawling tires. 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.
What makes these tires, or tires like these, better than an “All Terrain” tire that I currently have on my rig?
The biggest difference is in the tread pattern. If you look at the lug pattern on mud or rock tires, the spacing is much different than what you’ll find on an all-terrain tire. This provides much more bite, but also produces more road noise, which most people don’t want in their mall crawler. All Terrain tires work fine for the most basic off-road terrains, but when pushed to the extremes, will not deliver the same performance. But they will be more acceptable for someone that has them on their daily driver.
Why do some rock specific tires cost so much more than even some of the tires on your favorite list?
You might have stumbled across specialized tires that were designed for competition use. The average consumer wants to get a great tire to perform off-road, but also wants longevity so they’re not constantly buying new tires. When you get a specialty rock crawling tire, you likely are getting a tire that features a soft compound that conforms to uneven surfaces for maximum traction in some of the gnarliest conditions. That is a great feature, but the tradeoff is that you’ll likely end up seeing them wear out three times as fast as what you’ll find at your favorite tire dealer.
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12/1/2021: Ranked products, added new product (Kanati Mud Hog) updated product descriptions, updated product links, added additional resources
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