There’s a lot to do when you take your truck off the road, but aftermarket off road parts are not a collection of one size fits all improvements. For most upgrades, including tires, the best choice you can make is a compromise between features you want to see upgraded and ones that you can afford to trade off. To navigate a trail or overlanding build you need to alternate your improvements to compensate for these trade-offs. For example, if an upgrade adds power and off-trail capability at the cost of fine handling, then upgrading brakes or another part that improves handling afterward gives you a net improvement in both categories. In the end, though, you have to choose a direction for your build that emphasizes some types of performance at the cost of others, and changing direction means changing out key build components.
All Terrain Tires
When it comes to tires and wheels, the trade off is generally that what works on one terrain doesn’t always work on others. There are all terrain tire builds, but they offer features that are adequate almost anywhere and specialized to nothing, so when the mud gets deep or the snowdrifts powder up just so much, they reach a point of diminishing performance before fully specialized tires.
These designs are the best option for multi-terrain trails and conditions, but if you’re taking on a single-terrain activity then you’re better off swapping to the rims and tires that suit your needs. The beauty of an all terrain option is that it can handle a lot more mud than your standard street tire, it navigates sand and powdery snow fairly well until things get too heavy, and it still performs like a street tire on pavement. As a result you don’t have to worry about losing gas mileage or putting extra wear on the tire. That means you can still get the improved mileage benefits of tonneau covers and other aerodynamic upgrades as well.
With deep depressions and large, knobby tread patterns that are spaced widely to provide extra channels for liquid and semi-solid matter, mud tires are designed for all your swampy, mucky, muddy, or slushy conditions. They also tend to work well in sand if they’re designed with a high volume of smaller knobs providing those deep channels for mud or loose material.
Sand and mud tires are often labeled as such, and other mud-only designs that rely on relatively few high mass protrusions do not perform quite as well on sand or loose snow. If you’re looking to keep gear high and dry while you’re out mudding, you may want to consider a deluxe bed cover upgrade like the bakflip MX4 to secure your gear whenever you hit the trails after a heavy rain.
This option is partway between an all-terrain build and a mud tire. It’s great when trails you normally run during the dry season get wet, but it’s not going to give your truck the edge you need in competitive mud events or truly hairy outback adventures. The advantage is that a hybrid design is still functional on dry pavement even if it’s not as ideal as an all-terrain tire, and it is better than the all-terrain option if the road gets a few inches of water due to heavy rains or low level flooding in the area. As always, know the depth before you go into standing water. Vapor lock is still a problem even with aftermarket off road parts buffing up your truck.