Off-roading resurged in popularity in the past decade largely thanks to the fact that SUVs and trucks are everywhere today. The best thing about off-roading is that you have several different surfaces to cover, all of which bring their own challenges. And, when it comes to that, rock crawling is probably the most difficult, tricky, and complicated out of any other off-road terrain.
For that reason, you will see people using only the best off-road SUVs and trucks for these purposes. For successful rock crawling, you’ll need a vehicle with a 4x4 system with 50:50 distribution, and a low range gearbox. Furthermore, your vehicle must be equipped with a raised suspension that has a lot of travel – that’s crucial for good performance over large rocks.
That being said, not even the best off-road SUV in the world can be successful at rock crawling without the right tires. There is nothing more important than having great rock crawler tires for maximum traction, not even the suspension or the powertrain.
The thing is, though, the market today is flooded with many different off-road tires. Some of them are more focused on street and highway driving, others are focused on slippery surfaces, such as mud. That makes finding the right tire a bit difficult, especially if this is the first time you purchase tires for rock crawling.
Yes, there are some specialized rock crawling tires and yes, they will give you by far the best performance. However, those tires can be expensive, especially when you consider the fact that they are unusable for other surfaces, such as driving on the road. This means that you will probably need to replace them often or use your vehicle only for rock crawling purposes.
Fortunately, you can have a great rock crawler experience with a set of widely-available all-terrain, mud-terrain, and maximum traction off-road tires. You just need to know what to look out for. Experienced rock crawling enthusiasts already know if a said tire is good for rock crawling just by looking at it.
Now, you can also learn how to recognize great rock crawler tires just by looking at the tread pattern and the spec sheet. To help you, we prepared a detailed buying guide on off-road tires, where we will explain all the differences between various types of tires viable for rock crawling.
Before the buying guide, though, we will give you our curated selection of the best rock crawling tires available on the market right now. In that list, we will include specialized rock crawling tires, maximum traction off-road tires, mud-terrain tires, and all-terrain tires. That way, we will cover the needs of most off-road enthusiasts, including rock crawling professionals and amateurs.
Just a quick note: you can help our website when buying tires directly from our links. That way, we can continue to write articles like these and give you helpful tips about tires for all types of vehicles. So, without further ado, let’s see which tires are the best for rock crawling.
- The 10 Best Rock Crawling Tires for Off-Roading Available in 2021
- 1. BFGoodrich Krawler TA KX
- 2. Mickey Thompson Baja Claw
- 3. Goodyear Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar
- 4. BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM3
- 5. Cooper Discoverer STT Pro
- 6. Dick Cepek Extreme Country
- 7. Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar
- 8. BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2
- 9. Mickey Thompson Baja ATZ P3
- 10. Falken Wildpeak AT3W
- What to Look for When Buying the Best Rock Crawling Tires
- 1. How to Recognize Good Rock Crawling Tires
- 2. Specialized Rock Crawling Tires are By Far the Best Choice, but They Have Some Disadvantages
- 3. Maximum Traction Off-Road Tires are the Best Alternative
- 4. Mud-Terrain Tires are Excellent for Rock Crawling as Well
- 5. Some All-Terrain Tires Might be a Good Option for Amateur Rock Crawlers
- 6. How to Prepare for Rock Crawling
- Final Words
The 10 Best Rock Crawling Tires for Off-Roading Available in 2021
Best Specialized Rock Crawling Tires
The BF Goodrich Krawler TA KX (Key feature: eXtreme traction) is one of the few specialized rock-crawling tires available on the market.
This tire is by far the best for rock crawling. For that reason, many professionals use the Krawler for rock-crawling events and specialized rock crawlers.
From its outstandingly tough construction to the large and strong tread blocks, this tire is a champion in providing the driver with high levels of traction over rocks.
That being said, the Krawler suffers on the highway – stability and grip aren’t very high. Also, BF Goodrich asks a significant amount of money for the tire. Nevertheless, we certainly didn’t expect such an excellent rock-crawling product to be cheap.
The Baja Claw is another tire that’s designed with rock crawling in mind. Mickey Thompson even used a bias-belted construction in this tire, which makes it super-tough and strong.
Suffice to say, the Baja Claw provides the driver with outstanding traction for rock crawling, almost on par with the BF Goodrich Krawler.
The Mickey Thompson rock-crawling tire works over other surfaces as well, including mud, dirt, and gravel. The directional tread also helps for driving over snow, which is certainly welcome.
That being said, the Mickey Thompson Baja Claw is even worse on the road than the BF Goodrich Krawler, and that’s especially true on the highway.
Best Maximum Traction Off-Road and Mud-Terrain Tires for Rock Crawling
The Wrangler MT/R is by far the best off-road tire for rock crawling, primarily thanks to the super-tough construction with Kevlar. As a result of that, this tire can’t be easily punctured, even if driven over very large rocks.
Moreover, the large and stiff tread blocks will provide you with excellent traction, almost on the level of the first two tires on this list. As a bonus, the Wrangler MT/R works outstandingly well over any off-road surface, and it is even usable on the road.
That said, the Wrangler MT/R suffers a bit in rainy and snowy conditions.
The BFGoodrich KM3 is by far the best mud-terrain tire on the market, but it also works for rock crawling.
The tough construction and large tread blocks make this product very useful for driving over large rocks. Moreover, the tire will provide you with outstanding traction on other off-road surfaces.
On the street and highway, the KM3 performs admirably when it comes to handling and braking, but it can be noisy on the highway.
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The Discoverer STT Pro is a super-tough off-road tire that has a radial construction with a third ply that runs at an 8-degree angle. Because of that, this tire can easily withstand even the sharpest rocks without getting damaged.
Moreover, the large tread blocks provide excellent traction over rocks, but also other off-road surfaces. Unlike many rock-crawling tires, the STT Pro handles the street duties outstandingly well. The only area we would like to see improvement is snow traction.
Dick Cepek is a name that’s well known inside the rock-crawling community, largely thanks to the excellent Extreme Country tire.
This product will provide you with excellent traction over smaller and larger rocks. Moreover, the tough carcass resists punctures, cuts, and chipping extremely well.
Thanks to the aggressive tread compound, the Dick Cepek Extreme Country works excellently on other off-road surfaces.
We were also impressed with the on-road handling and braking. Sadly, though, the Extreme Country is noisy and uncomfortable on the highway.
Best All-Terrain Tires for Rock Crawling
Just like its off-road brother, the All-Terrain Wrangler and its Kevlar construction are a great fit for rock crawling. This tire can be driven at very low pressures, while also resisting punctures, cuts, and chipping.
The aggressive tread compound will provide you with excellent traction over rocks, but also over other off-road surfaces, including mud. That said, performance on sand suffers a bit.
On the street, this is one of the safest all-terrain tires, but noise is still an issue on the highway. On the positive side, the 60,000-mile treadwear warranty is outstanding for an all-terrain tire.
For a long time, the BFGoodrich KO2 was the best all-terrain tire on the market, bar none. Now, most competitors have caught up, but still, the KO2 is an excellent product.
That’s especially true for rock crawling, where the super-tough construction and aggressive tread pattern help immensely.
The KO2 works very well over other surfaces, including dirt, gravel, and mud. Also, the tire is very safe on the street and highway and comes with an excellent 50,000-mile treadwear warranty.
That said, you can easily hear the KO2 on the highway.
Mickey Thompson is no stranger to producing excellent all-terrain tires as well. Their Baja ATZ P3 model is especially well-suited to rock crawling, courtesy of the super-tough construction and aggressive tread pattern.
The Baja ATZ P3 is also extremely useful for driving over sand, mud, dirt, and gravel. Moreover, the tire performs admirably on the road, both over dry and wet surfaces.
That said, despite the deep tread grooves, the Baja ATZ P3 isn’t the best choice for driving over snow.
The Falken Wildpeak AT3W is one of the best all-terrain tires for off-road driving, thanks to the deep and aggressive tread pattern.
Paired with the tough construction, the aggressive tread pattern provides reliable traction for rock crawling.
Moreover, the tire works outstandingly well over other surfaces, such as dirt and mud, and it also handles street duties with aplomb.
That said, you will still experience more noise than some road-focused all-terrain tires.
What to Look for When Buying the Best Rock Crawling Tires
1. How to Recognize Good Rock Crawling Tires
The single most important thing when purchasing rock crawling tires is to look for toughness. Sharp rocks can easily cut through rubber and having tires that can withstand that is of utmost importance.
But, how to see if a tire is tough? Well, you can have a look at the spec sheet and the load rating of the tire. Most manufacturers will tell you if the carcass of the tire is puncture-resistant, and cut- and -chip-resistant, qualities that you should seek in rock crawler tires.
Then, tires with higher load ratings can easily take much more beating before being punctured. Usually, tires with higher load ratings have stiffer sidewalls and tougher construction. Sharp rocks, for example, can test the load rating capability of any tire, so the higher you go, the better.
Furthermore, you should look for large and stiff blocks on the tread pattern of the tires for maximum traction. Off-road tires with smaller tread blocks don’t work for rock crawling and will slip regularly. Moreover, tires with large tread blocks have stone-retention properties, which are very important for rock crawling.
Skinny vs. Wide Tires
Both skinny and wide tires can work well for rock crawling. With skinny tires, your vehicle will be much nimbler and you can position it where you want on the track. With wide tires, on the other hand, you will lose on agility but gain traction.
In this case, we can’t really tell you what’s the best choice, as it differentiates from one driver to another. It’s best to try both options to see which one fits your driving style better and then decide on the size.
Radial vs. Bias-Ply Tires
To give you maximum reliability while driving over large rocks, some manufacturers offer bias-ply tires. This basic tire design is outdated for on-road use – radials are much better in that regard. Nevertheless, bias-ply tires are still much tougher, which can help when driving over large and sharp rocks.
Opting for bias-ply tires brings with itself many disadvantages, though. These tires are almost useless on the road, especially at higher speeds. Moreover, they tend to be very loud and uncomfortable over bumps. There is no denying the fact that they’re much more useful for rock crawling, though.
As a result of that, we recommend bias-ply tires only to real rock-crawling enthusiasts, or anyone that can spend money on two sets of tires.
2. Specialized Rock Crawling Tires are By Far the Best Choice, but They Have Some Disadvantages
Most specialized rock crawling tires have a bias-ply construction, which in itself brings several disadvantages. The largest one is the on-road performance, which is downright bad. Bias-ply rock crawling tires have dangerously low levels of grip and traction, especially at higher speeds.
That being said, some manufacturers, like BF Goodrich for example, opted for a radial construction on their crawling models. By doing that, the company ensures that the tire can be used on the street and highway.
However, radial crawling tires have additional sidewall plies and steel belts for increased durability over rough terrain. That still makes them worse for driving on the road than comparable mud-terrain or maximum traction off-road tires.
To sum things up, if you use your SUV or truck for other purposes rather than rock crawling, it’s best to stay away from these tires. On the contrary, if you want to make the best possible rock-crawling machine, these tires are by far the best choice.
3. Maximum Traction Off-Road Tires are the Best Alternative
Maximum traction off-road tires are designed for every type of surface, including hardpacked surfaces, mud, sand, and large rocks. Moreover, these tires have a radial construction that makes them useful for driving on the street and highway.
These tires have very tough construction and most of them are puncture-resistant, and cut- and -chip-resistant. Also, these tires have large tread blocks, which can give you extra traction for driving over very large rocks.
The best thing about these tires is that they are widely available and that they don’t cost a fortune. Sure, they aren’t cheap, but they can be the only tires you need on your SUV, especially because they work in warm conditions, but also in freezing weather and over snow.
4. Mud-Terrain Tires are Excellent for Rock Crawling as Well
Mud-terrain tires are in many ways similar to maximum traction off-road tires. They have very large tread blocks for increased traction in mud, tough construction, resistance to punctures, and resistant to cuts and chipping.
Overall, they might not be as good as maximum traction off-road tires, but there are still some models that will do a great job for rock crawling. We included those models in our list of the best tires above.
The best thing about mud-terrain tires is that they will also work tremendously well over other types of surfaces, and especially in mud. Mud-terrain tires also work very well on the road, providing the driver with a safe and stable ride.
5. Some All-Terrain Tires Might be a Good Option for Amateur Rock Crawlers
All-terrain tires aren’t the best choice for rock crawling, but some exceptional models can still do a good job over rocks. Just be sure to look for tires with a more aggressive tread pattern and larger tread blocks. Also, check if the tires have cut- and -chip-resistant tread, and if they are puncture resistant.
All-terrain tires will work excellently over hardpacked surfaces, and very well over mud or sand. Moreover, these tires are the best for on-road use, providing the driver with high grip and traction levels, responsive handling, and a good ride.
6. How to Prepare for Rock Crawling
Good preparation is crucial for making your rock crawling experience better. In other words, not even the best rock crawler tires will give you good traction without the right preparation. Moreover, if you don’t set up your vehicle right, you risk damaging the tires.
When it comes to tires, you should always drive with lower pressures over large rocks. That way, the tire will be able to adapt over the rocks, using the elasticity of the rubber. If you use too much pressure, you risk puncturing the tires. That said, you shouldn’t use very low pressure, as then you risk the tire completely slipping off the rim bead. We recommend pressures ranging from 10 psi to 14 psi.
Apart from the tires, here are some other useful tips that will help you better prepare for the next adventure:
- Maintain your vehicle properly – you certainly wouldn’t want to be stranded in the middle of the desert!
- Bring a high-quality air compressor and gauge. That way, you can properly measure the pressure inside your tires, but also re-inflate them to their operating pressure when you hit the road.
- Having a friend on-board is certainly recommended. A buddy can give you another set of eyes for spotting sharp rocks, especially from the outside. Rock crawling isn’t a sport that you should do alone, that’s for sure.
- Always bring enough food and drinks with you. You might also want to bring phone chargers and external batteries in case you get stranded somewhere.
The last piece of advice we have is to drive slowly. Unlike other motorsports, the whole purpose of rock crawling is to drive very, very slow. And, even if you want to press on the gas pedal very hard, it won’t get you anywhere. Actually, driving recklessly over large rocks is dangerous. Be gentle and you will achieve more than you thought you could have!
Rock crawling is a sport that attracts more enthusiasts seemingly every year. As a result of that, tire manufacturers launched many products to meet the requirements of rock crawlers around the world.
That being said, we recommend sticking to well-known and reputable manufacturers. Some cheap (often Chinese) off-road tires might seem like a good option on paper, but in reality, they are far from the pace.
Moreover, they won’t last nearly as long, which might make them more expensive in the long run. Also, these tires might get easily punctured during rock crawling, which is not something you’d like to happen in the middle of nowhere.
Finally, be sure that you prepare yourself well for the next adventure – safety should always come first. And, of course, have a good time!