How Off-Road Terrain Affects Your Tire Choice (and How to Choose Wisely!)

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offroad-tires-profile Whether you’re on the trail or on the road, having the right tire can mean the difference between getting home yourself or on the back of a tow truck. While you probably understand the basics of choosing the right tire for driving on the road, picking the right off-road tire can be a little trickier, since it all depends on what you’ll be doing with it, and home much on vs. off-road driving the tires will see. Tires aren’t the only things that give you traction, but they are definitely important. If you’re looking to stop tire spin, your best bet is to focus on locking differentials, but if you need to handle mud, sand, dirt, and just about every other off-road surface you can think of, then the right set of tires will definitely help. The first question you need to ask yourself is what terrain will you be off-roading on most of the time? Tires meant for rocks won’t do you too much good in heavy mud, and vice versa. While there are quite a few tires out there that run the gamut of basic conditions, if you know you’re doing one major type of terrain most of the time, but a set of tires that are specific to that purpose.

Mud and Snow

If you’re driving in mud and snow the most, you want to choose a tire that has high void areas as well as a self-cleaning design. In other words, the tire needs a place to put all that material and good way to get rid of it quickly. Jeepin' If your tire gets clogged with mud or snow, you’ll lose traction, which will make you lose momentum. While speed isn’t too important in mud and snow, momentum is. Once you lose it, there’s a good chance that a tow rope is in your near future.


A high resistance to puncture as well as biting lugs in the sidewall and shoulder are all important factors in a solid rocky-terrain tire. You might even want to invest in a set of bead lock wheels and tires. Remember, rock climbing requires a lot of surface area and traction while having enough height to easily pass over large rocks that want to get up close and personal with your undercarriage, so choosing the right tire for rocks can be one of the most difficult choices.


As we’ve talked about before, sand is a very tricky terrain to drive on, but the right set of tires can really help. For sandy terrain you want to look for a tire that has a round shoulder and a wider surface area. Both of these will help keep your tires from biting into the sand, which will get you dug in and pretty well stuck in a hurry. If sand driving is all you do look for a paddle tire. These are mostly without traditional grooves but instead have large, sweeping paddles that really help with traction in the sand.

Gravel and Other Loose Material

If you’re driving on gravel or hard pack you want to steer clear of aggressive tread designs and instead opt for tires that focus on puncture resistance and stone ejection technology. offroad-wheels-gravel Hard pan and gravel on a flat grade can attract things that like to puncture tires, and by their nature have small rocks that love to get stuck in treads, neither of which you want.


Depending on the part of the country you live in, and where you plan to off-road, grade is a serious concern. If you’re on flat land all the time a tire with less aggressive tread is great, as the extra tread isn’t necessary while in hilly regions you want all the tread you can get so you stay glued to the trail as much as possible. Along with that aggressive tread for hilly terrains, you want a lot of tread on the edge of the tire so you can bite into turns and hill climbs. These might not look like much but they can really help.

On-Road Driving Considerations

offroad wheels highway choices Finally, you need to consider how you plan on driving your truck when you’re not on the trail. If you split your time 50/50 between on and off-road driving, getting a set of sand paddles to run all the time would be a pretty terrible idea. Some people will use a second set of wheels for their off-road tires, but if this isn’t possible for you, make sure you pick a tire that works well both on and off road, especially if you’re talking about your daily driver.

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