It may be the hardest decision that any true off-road enthusiast faces. Do you go with an all-terrain or mud-terrain tire? While pavement-pounders won’t have to worry about jagged rocks, rough two-tracks, and muddy passes, anyone who spends time on the road-less traveled will tell you that the right tire can be the difference between fond memories on the trail and an outdoor nightmare. The two biggest camps when it comes to off-road oriented tires are mud-terrain (M/T) and all-terrain (A/T).
While both are commonly built with a radial construction, the tread pattern, sizing, and performance characteristics of each can vary wildly between the two. Given that many of the modern mud-terrain tires carry more refined pavement manners than those of the past, the traditional mud-terrain stereotypes of poor longevity and loud road noise no longer ring as true. In that same notion, the modern all-terrain tire is much more dynamic off-road and thankfully has more of an aggressive look than the milder all-terrains of old.
So, which is the best fit for your daily driver? To help guide you on your tire buying journey, we’re going to break down the most common areas of use. From rock crawling to road noise, we’ll examine which is best suited for each environment. To narrow down this potentially endless array of tire options, we’ll be reference two of the most prominent all-terrain and mud-terrain tires on the market—the Nitto Terra Grappler G2 and the Nitto Trail Grappler. Given that both are comparable in weight and side-wall strength, it allows us to focus on the tire’s performance attributes. Since both tires have been around for years, we can also speak to the longevity potential of each.
Mud is the great equalizer off-road. No matter how much horsepower, ground clearance, and articulation you have, if your 4×4 can’t clean out the mud between the tread blocks, you’ll quite literally find yourself spinning in place. This is why mud-terrain tires have larger voids between the tread and special features such as kick-out bars that help dispel anything that gets lodged between the cleats. The tighter the tread voids, the faster you’ll need to spin the tire to clean it out. This can be hard on parts and equates to a less controlled approach to wheeling. This is why the mud-terrain has its own tire category. If you frequently see mud, there’s no real replacement for a quality mud-terrain tire.