Tires for occasional dirt/mud roads

Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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Curious to hear any experiences and recommendations for tires for the occasional dirt or spotty mud roads. I know that nothing makes you invincible and I'm not looking to start doing extensive chasing on sketchy roads, but would like to be equipped to get through unexpected hairy situations that are always a risk when going off of the paved grid.

In doing so I don't want to compromise on wet road performance (I see that as the priority with chasing tires).

Will be driving an Outback in 2020.
 
Jan 6, 2019
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Tyler
I put a set BF Goodrich Advantage T/A Sport LT on my Ford Explorer XLT 4x4.
Haven't got stuck yet and have been on county mud where i was sliding all over the road.
Went down this one county road that turned out to be just a double track through a flooded rice patty.
Had back out for about 1/2 mile.
The key up there would have been to have more aggressive tread.
I actually wishing i have tire chains with me to put on.

Problem there is the trade off between what tire will do for you and road noise the tire generates.

What most people with 4x4 don't know is that putting on a set of snow chains (F/R) will help more than anything.
Put'em on when u first notice/see what your fixin to go through.

I learned that lesson from and old man back in the 80s.
That Dodge Power Wagon of his seemed to climb straight the bank from the river.
Even though the DPW was a 4x4 with over size tires. Still had to put the chains on because of pulling that big Boston Whaler up the bank at the same time. The path had been made with a bulldozer. Can't even start to describe the slope of that bank.

So my opinion would be to go with a tire like above and carry tire chains with you.
 
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B. Dean Berry

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May 25, 2014
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I've had some luck in the past with Goodyear All-Terrain T/A's, as well as some very aggressive Cooper Discoverers.

Not sure if they make either in a size that will fit an Outback without significant modification of the vehicle.
 
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Dan Robinson

Staff member
Jan 14, 2011
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St. Louis
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From what I can tell, the issue with mud/AT tires vs all-seasons is similar to winter tires vs all seasons. There aren't really any tires that do a good job at both. You have to compromise on something. I think for chasers, good wet-road performance in a tire is the most important safety consideration. Any tire that does well on mud might require sacrificing some of the surefootedness in the rain, particularly with heavier rain when ponding begins. The chains option wasn't something I had considered before for mud, but it makes sense for something to help with getting unstuck.

Again, I usually avoid dirt roads and don't plan on changing that strategy much. But after last year's getting stuck incident on a road that turned into soft sand suddenly, I was hoping for something that gives a better chance of powering through a similar ordeal and/or backing out. The AWD and higher ground clearance will help with that, but with those types of situations, the tires are as important.

Definitely looking for something I can put on on the stock 18" wheels.
 
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B. Dean Berry

Moderator
May 25, 2014
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Mud terrains are usually decent all around. I drove lifted SUVs with aggressive mud tires for years that did about as well as can be expected all around.

I guess if you consider winter weather, some chains might help.
 
I've never had an issue with ATs on wet surfaces myself, and I have a ton of miles under my belt. If you add together every vehicle I've had ATs on over the years, it's probably over half a million miles. Because of the large tread valleys, they do a very good job of keeping water off the contract surfaces. The main tradeoff in some cases is road noise and fuel economy, because there's more rolling resistance. Road tires are designed more to be quiet and maximize fuel economy, and often don't have as much rubber actually contacting the road surface, in addition to having narrower treads that can be clogged and overwhelmed more easily.
 

B. Dean Berry

Moderator
May 25, 2014
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With the MT's I've had, the road noise is definitely something to be considered. I had a 98 Mountaineer that was FT-AWD and had been lifted 3 inches, and put a new set of Bart black steelies with Dick Cepek Extreme Country 33x10.50R15s on it. I had to trim about 2 inches of plastic off of the bottom of the bumpers on both sides to get them to clear in a turn, and the road noise was incredible. Just a constant low-frequency roar that made conversations in the cab almost impossible. The only way to tune out the noise was to turn the stereo up, and then the scanners and two-way radios had to be turned up a little louder to be heard.
 
Sep 7, 2013
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Strasburg, CO
You're probably not going to find many options for "all terrain" to fit an 18" wheel and maintain your rolling circumference. I hunted for a long time to decide what to do on my Sorento for better tires for both chasing and camping on BLM land/unimproved roads. I ended up going down to 18's from the OEM 19's, but after much deliberation, the commute took precedence for quiet/comfort/mpg and I went with all seasons.

Still havent gotten stuck and I used to chase in my Subaru on Ultra High Performance All Seasons. Sorento has General all seasons, but also a "diff lock" so, so far so good.

IIRC, the tires I was considering were the Yokohama Geolander AT2 which are generally known to be a pretty good btu not top tier all terrain. I believe it's quite popular with the Subaru folks.

Also, to help with options, consider, if possible, dropping down to a 17 or 16" wheel. These can be found ad nauseum on craigslist.
 
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Jun 4, 2018
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San Angelo, TX
I chase in a 2004 Subaru Forester. There are a ton of facebook groups dedicated to offroading and over landing Subarus that could have some tips. I'm an enthusiast and I don't know how far you are willing to go, but I have a small 2" lift on mine and went with smaller wheels to open up options for A/T tires. I use General Grabber AT2 tires and never have had any issues. Plus it does great on some serious trails that are much worse than anything you'd encounter on your typical unpaved road. Feel free to PM if you have any other questions.
 
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