Most people who first get in to off roading will have a dual purpose truck. This means that they might have a truck which is a 4×4, but have never really taken it off road before. This is how I started out, I bought a 1989 Chevy Blazer as my first 4×4. It was already lifted 6 inches, and had 35 inch BFG All Terrains on it. These tires were great for street driving, minor trails, and occasionally some rock obstacles. I had no idea what went in to selecting a good all around tire for both daily driving, and light wheeling.
Radial or Bias Ply?
There are two major types of tires, radial and bias ply. Radial tires have a symmetrical radial pattern for the base tire ply’s. This provides the radial tire with more stability, less rolling resistance, and slower wear. This also translates in to improved handling and better traction on things like ice, snow, and loose gravel. Bias ply tires are usually a bit more flexible, which is great for hard core offroading. This comes at a cost of wear and street manors. If you plan on driving the majority of the time on streets, you’ll want to find a nice radial all terrain tire, if you’re more concerned with pure off road capability, then bias ply is the way to go. For the rest of this article, I’ll focus on radial tires since all terrain tires usually see a lot of street time.
What are your needs?
The first thing you have to ask yourself is really, how often you’ll be offroading vs street driving. The more often you offroad, the more aggressive your tire should be. The more street driving you do, the less aggressive tire you should buy. If you don’t know the difference between an aggressive tire, have a look at the image below.
A quick and simple way to differentiate between all terrain and a more aggressive tires is now many spaces you see in the tread. The more spaces or voids, and the more knobby the edges of the tread is, the more aggressive that tire is. The more aggressive a tire is, the louder it might be while driving streets, and the less stability it can provide. The reason an all terrain provides better stability is due to the fact that more rubber is touching the road, both while going in a straight line, and also while cornering. This can also help with stopping distance and wet traction. The hardness or softness of the rubber which is used also plays a major role in tire wear, and grip.
Something to take into consideration is the tires load capacity. If you have a large, heavy truck, you’ll want to be sure the tires will support the truck, and anything you might decide to haul or tow. You don’t want to risk getting a blowout with large tires while towing a trailer!
Load capacity is closely related to the number of plys a tire has. Here is a great article (Ply Rating) explaining the different ply counts and how they are rated. A good rule of thumb for larger trucks is 8 ply tires. 10 seems a bit extreme which is great, and 6 is OK for a standard truck.
Some All Terrain Recommendations
I know for me, when ever anyone mentions an all terrain tire, I always picture the old BFG All Terrain tire which was on my first truck. They are GREAT all terrain tires. They have a very wide foot print, which makes them handle better than stock tires (I believe mine were 12.5 inches wide). They are quiet on streets, and the rubber is not too soft, so they will last a long time (for an off road type tire).
BFG All Terrain T/A KO Features:
- Distinctive sidewall styling for a bold look
- ShoulderLock technology with 40% wider shoulder grooves to increase traction
- TriGard 3-ply polyester carcass guards against punctures and bruises
- Two full-width steel belts for increased durability
- Rim protector protects against road hazards
The Hankook DynaPro is a good part street/part trail tire. It has more surface tread than the BFG, so it’s aimed more at the 90% pavement pounder and 10% wheeler. It would be great for standard trails, where you have to go over small logs, rocks, or rivers. If the shores of the rivers are steep muddy ledges, you might have trouble pulling yourself up though, as the sidewall tread is mildly agressive.
Hankook DynaPro ATM RF10 Features:
- Wraparound tread gives a rugged look and increases puncture resistance
- Deep two-step sipes extend tread life and increase performance on wet roads
- Tiered side grooves for more predictable cornering
- 7-8% wider footprint than the competition for increased road contact and grip
The Falken Wild Peak A/T has received only 2 reviews so far on amazon, but both reviews are 5 stars. These tires can be a little stiff feeling at times, but are more suited for a true all terrain than the above mentioned Hankook tires. These would be a great choice for a work trick which sees weekend trail runs.
Falken Wild Peak A/T Features:
- A perfect alternative tire for today’s popular light truck and SUV market
- Square shoulder profile, offering an aggressive stance and maximum traction
- Joint-less nylon band, provides first class ride comfort
- A hard bead apex provides sidewall stability
- Aggressive sidewall treatment, computer-designed tread pattern and a durable rubber compound
I’ve only covered three specific all terrain tires here, and very briefly. If there is a tire that you think should be added to this list, send me tweet and let me know about it. I’ll do the research and if it fits this post, I’ll add it. Also if you see any information that might not be accurate, please click the “Report Incorrect Content” link at the top of the page.