Off-roading is resurging in popularity lately, with off-road-capable vehicles becoming the norm. Just look at the latest pickup trucks and SUVs – seemingly, each one of them comes with an adventure-focused trim that includes lifted suspension, advanced AWD, and all-terrain tires.
But despite the fact that manufacturers raised their game when it comes to off-roading, the aftermarket still reigns supreme. This is especially true for rock crawling, which requires some significant changes to any truck or SUV.
For starters, you'll need to raise the suspension and make some body modifications to increase the attack/departure angles, but crucially, you'll need a new set of tires.
Your truck/SUV tires will be the single most important thing on your next rock-crawling adventure. Without a capable set, you won't be able to climb any rock, even if your truck has the most advanced AWD system or an off-road-capable suspension with a lot of travel.
But choosing a set of tires that will provide you with good traction on large rocks is no easy task. Apart from the tire model, other parameters are also in play.
For instance, the size of the tire is very important here – low-profile models are out of the question, for instance. Oh, and if you are really into rock crawling, you might want to invest in better wheels.
Preparing your truck for an adventure in the wilderness is admittedly not cheap, but you can cut the expenses by purchasing equipment that lasts.
I can help here, after many years of conducting various tests – the models included in my "best rock crawling tires" list all come from reputable manufacturers and should be more than sturdy enough.
Besides, I divided the list into two categories – mud-terrain and all-terrain tires. I know rock-crawling enthusiasts don't consider all-terrain tires worthy, but in my testing, some newer models perform very well on some lighter terrains and will work well for most people.
With that said, let's dig into the matter and find a set of tires that will accompany you on your next rock-crawling adventure!
- In-Depth Reviews of the Best Rock Crawling Tires Available in 2023
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
In-Depth Reviews of the Best Rock Crawling Tires Available in 2023
Best Mud-Terrain Tires for Rock Crawling
1. General Grabber X3
Best for Overall
The Grabber X3 is one of the most popular options among off-road enthusiasts in North America, and for numerous reasons. General's most aggressive tire is a real beast that can overcome any obstacle, including some very large rocks.
Thanks to the grippy compound and large tread blocks, the Grabber X3 is a rock-crawling monster, especially in the 35-inch size I tried. Moreover, the casing seems very sturdy, which is important when you drive over sharp rocks.
But the Grabber X3 isn't only good for rock-crawling – it will also provide you with outstanding traction in deep mud and can easily overcome dirt, gravel, and turf.
On public roads, the Grabber X3 is a relatively good performer, particularly for the category. I found that the steering was a bit dull when driving on a twisty road, but other than that, the tire is almost faultless.
Notably, there is enough traction on dry and wet surfaces for a safe drive, and the tire performs predictably at the limit.
What surprised me the most, though, was the low noise on the highway, which is not something you can say for other mud-terrain tires. It's also very comfortable over bumps and helpful for long off-roading sessions.
Although it's not designed for wintry conditions, the Grabber X3 still provides solid traction on packed snow.
Meanwhile, like every other mud-terrain tire, it provides outstanding traction on unpacked snow – the type you encounter on off-road trails that weren't touched by other SUVs or trucks.
2. Firestone Destination M/T2
Best for Responsive Steering (For a mud-terrain tire)
The Destination M/T2 is another rugged off-road tire that can take you places few other models can.
Firestone is no stranger to creating capable off-road tires, and that showed in my testing – I had no issues with traction over large rocks, and the casing seemed very tough and durable.
Furthermore, you can attack muddy terrains without worrying about getting stuck, while hardpacked surfaces like dirt and gravel are no challenge for this beast.
Now, the first thing I noticed on the street is that this tire is loud, even at lower speeds, although the ride is smooth on most surfaces.
Most off-road enthusiasts I know don't have any issue with some added noise, particularly because the Destination M/T2 is so good on the trail. However, if you are bothered by that, I suggest some other tires from this list.
As for traction, Firestone's off-road tire works excellently on dry tarmac and is also a joy to steer. However, you might experience a loss of traction on wet roads, particularly when accelerating hard.
Snow traction and handling are excellent, though, both over packed and unpacked snow.
3. BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM3
Best for Off-Road
The T/A KM3 is one of the most popular off-road tires on the market, and that's no coincidence, as it was developed in various racing series across the world.
And when it comes to rock crawling, it's probably the best tire out there, providing exceptional traction and unrivaled durability.
But the KM3 is also a great performer on other terrains – it's one of the best tires in its category in deep mud and also works very well on dirt, gravel, turf, and even sand.
On the street, BFGoodrich's mud tire isn't as good as some of its rivals, particularly when it comes to noise, as it can become loud on the highway. The ride is very smooth, though, which can be helpful when you drive on rocky terrains.
As for the driving experience, the KM3 works very well on dry and wet roads, providing solid traction and pretty responsive steering. Packed-snow traction isn't as impressive, though, so this is not the best option for harsh wintry conditions.
That said, it works very well on unpacked snow – the type you'll encounter when off-roading, thanks to the digging action of those large tread blocks.
4. Yokohama Geolandar M/T G003
Best for Smooth and Quiet Ride
Yokohama launched some really good off-road tires in the Geolandar family lately, with the M/T G003 being the most aggressive of the lot.
This tire is no joke – it can grip any loose surface, including large and sharp rocks, making it excellent for rock crawling. It's also very capable in deep mud, and it won't break a sweat on dirt, gravel, or turf.
In my testing, the G003 also performed well on the street. The thing that stood out to me was how quiet it is – while it does produce noise, it's nowhere near as loud as its main competitors.
The ride is also reasonably smooth over most surfaces, with fewer vibrations than I expected from such a tire.
Another great thing about the Geolandar M/T G003 is that it works well in rainy conditions. The handling is very balanced on wet tarmac, accompanied by reasonably high traction levels and predictable behavior at the limit.
That said, this is not the best tire for the winter, as it lacks the packed-snow traction for a safe drive. It's good on unpacked snow, though.
5. Cooper Discoverer STT Pro
Best Off-Road Tires for Daily Driving
The Discoverer STT Pro is a tire that many of my friends love, particularly because it's a heavy-duty model that can withstand some real off-road abuse.
However, there is no question that the Discoverer STT Pro is a capable rock-crawling tire. In my testing, it's one of the best available on the market for driving over large rocks and cliffs, maybe even the best.
It's also superior in terms of durability, with long treadlife and rugged casing. Oh, and you won't need to worry about hitting deep mud, as this tire has enough digging action to get you out of trouble.
Apart from the noisy demeanor, the STT Pro is well-behaved on the street, with a smooth ride and reasonably responsive steering.
The dry/wet traction is very good, too, accompanied by balanced handling and good behavior at the limit.
Best All-Terrain Tires for Rock Crawling
6. Falken Wildpeak A/T3W
Best for Winter
The Wildpeak A/T3W is the closest thing to a real off-road tire you can get in the all-terrain category. Thanks to the aggressive tread pattern and deep grooves, this monster works well on rocks, as well as mud, dirt, gravel, and turf. It's a well-rounded tire that's good for 95% of the trails.
Falken's all-terrain tire is also a good on-road performer, with high levels of grip and traction in dry and wet conditions. If I had to nitpick, I'm not a big fan of the steering, but this shouldn't be a big deal for most truck/SUV drivers.
Crucially, the Wildpeak A/T3W is a beast in the winter, thanks to the excellent longitudinal and lateral traction on packed and unpacked snow. I drove a Tacoma with these tires through 8 inches of snow in New Jersey, and it digs through the snow and moves forward with ease.
It's also very tough, so you won't need to worry about punctures when off-roading.
7. BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2
Best for Durability (For All-terrain Tires)
The KO2 is by far the most famous all-terrain tire, particularly among Jeep rock-crawling enthusiasts. BFGoodrich actually developed this tire in the desert, and that showed in my testing – there is ample traction on rocks, dirt, and gravel.
The tire is also usable in mud, though I would avoid sections with very deep mud.
On the road, the KO2 feels a bit cumbersome to drive and can become noisy at speed, though I don't hear many owners complain about that.
As for traction, it works excellently on dry tarmac and snow-covered roads, though it misses the mark in rainy conditions, particularly when compared to its rivals.
On a more positive note, the KO2 has proven to be one of the most durable all-terrain tires out there.
8. Mickey Thompson Baja Boss A/T
Best All-terrain Tire for Off-road-capable
Mickey Thompson is an off-road-tire specialist, and its Baja Boss A/T is my favorite all-terrain tire currently on the market.
This model can bring you places no other all-terrain tire can, as it works outstandingly well on most surfaces. It's also very good for rock crawling, particularly if you purchase a flotation size set.
According to my street test, the Baja Boss isn't very responsive, and the overall traction on dry and wet tarmac is lower than what the competition offers. However, I don't have issues with that – I just drive a tad slower, and in return, I enjoy the uptake in off-road traction.
Crucially, the Baja Boss A/T is very quiet on the road, which is surprising for such an aggressive tire. Also, the treadlife is excellent, and the casing seems very sturdy and durable.
9. Toyo Open Country A/T III
Best for Camping and Overlanding
Toyo's aggressive all-terrain tire performed very well in my limited rock-crawling test. The surface wasn't the most challenging, but that's as far as I'd go on any other all-terrain tire, anyway.
And the Open Country A/T III is also good on other off-road surfaces – I didn't encounter any issues on the dirt tracks.
On the street, the Open Country A/T III is quite noisy, though, even at lower speeds. It's also only average in rainy conditions; however, the dry traction is excellent for the category, and the ride is very smooth over most surfaces.
I was also impressed with the wintertime traction – the Open Country A/T III works well on packed and unpacked snow.
Finally, Toyo offers an excellent treadwear warranty for the price, and the tire seems very sturdy and durable.
10. Kumho Road Venture AT51
Best for Budget
The Road Venture AT51 is not the best all-terrain tire in the rain, and you can feel that when driving a tad faster.
However, what it lacks on wet tarmac, it makes up for on the trail – this is a tire that provides excellent traction on most off-road surfaces I tried, including large rocks and shallow mud.
Besides, with a lower price than competitors, the AT51 still performs very well on dry roads, and it's also one of the most capable snow tires in its category.
I was also impressed by the lack of noise – the AT51 remains very quiet on the highway. It also rides well over bumps – it's the complete package in terms of comfort!
However, Kumho doesn't provide a treadwear warranty on LT-metric sizes, which is a pretty big blow.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- How to prepare my tires for rock crawling?
The main thing you should do is lower the pressure – the less your tires are inflated, the better they would cling onto sharp rocks. This increases traction significantly and can get you places you couldn't even imagine.
But you should never go below the manufacturer-recommended tire pressure. Go too low, and you risk punctures, and your tires might also deflate because the metal ring wouldn't cling onto the wheel and won't create a suction.
- What are the best tire sizes for rock crawling?
For most people, LT-metric tires will be more than good enough for rock crawling. These tires have stiffer sidewalls, which enables them to work at lower pressures, and also gives additional toughness and durability.
However, if you are serious about climbing some serious boulders, then I recommend going for flotation sizes, i.e., 31-inch, 33-inch, 35-inch, or 37-inch models. These tires have much larger sidewalls than LT-metric sizes and require much smaller wheels to work.
Thanks to the significantly larger volume, flotation tires can work exceptionally well at lower pressures and give you much better traction. Moreover, they are more durable and can withstand a lot of abuse.
As for regular Euro-metric or P-metric tires, they can also work for rock-crawling, but only on some not-so-challenging tracks. These tires don't have the necessary sidewall reinforcement, meaning you can't use them at lower pressures, or you'll risk damage.
- Do I need to change my wheels for rock crawling?
If you are serious about rock crawling, then you should definitely go for a set of bead-lock wheels. These rims have a mechanical bead that locks the tire onto the wheel.
Hence, you can drive at really low pressures without worrying about deflation or the tire being displaced from the wheel.
Bead-lock wheels usually come in sizes that fit flotation tires, making it the best combo for rock crawling!
Rock crawling has resurged in popularity lately, and with it, the demand for off-road-specific tires and wheels. Fortunately, the market is well-saturated with high-quality off-road tires, both mud-terrain, and all-terrain.
However, not every model is good for rock crawling, as this is by far the most demanding terrain you'll encounter, and that includes mud.
But you shouldn't have an issue finding a set of tires that can bring you faraway places. Just make sure that you list your priorities, then read through my reviews, and you should quickly find a model that suits your particular needs.
One final thing – if you purchase the tires through our links, you'll help us further build our website, and it won't cost you a cent!