First-Hand Reporting On The Tires We Like
We’re all a little different. Not just humankind in the worldly sense, but more specifically, the staffers at Jp. We’re three different dudes who drive differently built Jeeps in different terrains with different driving styles. So right there we’re talking about a very broad spectrum of experience in terms of what does and doesn’t work for us. Toss in the fact that part of our job is to test all the new tires that hit the market, then consider how many years each guy has been in this business, and we’re talking tons of different types of tires brutalized on scores of different Jeeps on literally hundreds of trails.
If you’re tire shopping you may gravitate towards a specific tire type, style, price point, or what the guy at the tire shop is pushing on you. If you’re smart, you’ll narrow it down to a couple of options and then hit the ol’ Google search for some answers. The only trouble is that although the Internet can be a valuable search tool, a lot of opinion out there is not based on fact and it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. That’s where we can help. We’re not going by what a friend’s buddy’s roommate once told them about a set of tires their neighbor ran on his Super Duty. Nor are we out to settle a score against some tire manufacturer that didn’t honor a road-hazard warranty after a sidewall got gashed trying to climb up a rebar-encrusted drainage pipe. We’re just here to tell you what our all-time favorite tires are in the varying terrains in which we run them.
Hazel: Many areas of the desert southwest have this superbly grippy petrified sand terrain. Because of its nature, it’s not hard to get a tire to stick to slickrock, but even still, I’ve run a number of different tires across its unique surface ranging from old-school Dick Cepeks to Boggers to Swamper TSLs to BFG A/Ts to Yokohama M/T, and many more. Although it’s a close tie between my trusty flattie shod with 35x13.50R15 BFG Krawler T/A KX tires at 3 psi, believe it or not my favorite slickrock tire to date is the Kelly Safari TSR in a 31x10.50R15 size. I drop the pressure to about 10 psi front and 8 psi rear on my 3,200lb Wrangler and the highly siped knobbies just stick like glue no matter what the angle. I’ve folded and pinched the sidewalls pretty good and they’ve proven durable. The carcass is flexible and tough, and the spacing between the treads doesn’t pack and fill with rocks, sand, or mud.
Trasborg: If you’ve never driven slickrock, you owe it to yourself to give it a whirl. If we were talking only dry and clean slickrock, my tire of choice would be racing slicks. But we don’t live in a perfect world and rain, snow, dirt, and sand happen. While there is slickrock elsewhere, Moab, Utah, is where I spend my time wheeling on it and a lot of the climbs out there have loose dirt either at the top or the bottom making the slickrock less sticky than it could be. So, to deal with the junk at either end I tend towards a mud terrain tire, but to better work on the slickrock, I look for one with lots of siping to better stick to the rock. With that in mind, my favorite tires for slickrock have been my 33x12.50R15 Mickey Thompson MTZ. On my four-cylinder Wrangler I’d air them down to 7 psi front and 5 psi in the rear, and the Jeep basically became point-and-shoot. As long as my stock-height Jeep had the clearance, it went wherever I pointed it.
Simons: Ah, slickrock. With its 60-grit sand paper profile, it’s more of a question of what doesn’t work. As Pete points out, it’s the sand, mud and, occasional ice that you may also encounter that makes this stuff unpredictable. If I had my choice of any tire, it would be a set of older Goodyear MT/Rs. Yeah, that’s right, the ones just before the asymmetrical tread and Kevlar sidewalls. Why? Well they worked well and had beefy sidewalls. Since these tires are no longer available, I’ll give my nod to the BFGoodrich M-T KM2. For a couple of years now I have been running a set of these tires on my ’49 CJ-3A, and with the 35x12.50R15 tires aired down to about 6-8 psi on a set of 15x8 inch Champion beadlocks, these tires have performed admirably everywhere I have put them.
Hazel: Hands-down, the best tire I’ve ever used in the rocks is the BFG Krawler T/A KX. I’ve beaten the same now-ragged set of 35x13.50R15 tires mounted on 15x10 OMF beadlocks at a trail pressure of 1-5 psi depending on the conditions since I originally built my flattie back in 2003. That’s ten hardcore years of rockcrawling on the same set of tires. I have gouges in the sidewalls and the tread blocks are kinda rounded off by now, but they still grab better upwards, downwards, and sideways in the rocks than any other tire I’ve driven on. They’ve survived at least a hundred trips on the tough, sharp granite of Johnson Valley, rocky trails of Moab, slick granite of the Rubicon, and many more trails in the southwestern U.S. Despite their age, the sidewalls aren’t dry-rotted, and since it’s a trail-only vehicle, I have no plans on swapping them out anytime soon.
Trasborg: While I’ve had other tires that I like in the rocks over the years, such as Boggers and Nitto Mud Grapplers, since the new Goodyear MT/R with Kevlar hit the scene it always manages to squeeze out the next closest comer. The sidewalls like being shoved into walls and I’ve climbed quite a few things by wedging them in sideways and using the sidewall as tread. I’ve got a set of 315/75R16 mounted on 16x8 Ballistic Off Road wheels under an ’01 Wrangler. Wheeling pressure varies from 8 psi to 12 psi depending on how loaded down the Jeep is at the time. To be frank, I’m not sure if it’s the tread or the rubber compound that makes ’em work, but I’ve run a few sets of various sizes and while I’ve gouged the hell out of sidewalls and chunked tread off, I haven’t popped any yet. Despite the Kevlar sidewall, I’m sorry to say I haven’t tested to see if they are bulletproof.
Simons: For heavy rock work I want something brick-simple, anvil-strong, and as close to bullet-proof as possible. Give me a set of Super Swamper TSLs mounted on beadlocks, and I am a happy rockcrawler. The big outer lugs work like little hands to grab onto rocks. I also have a way of forgetting the exact location of jagged rocks and thus like to have stout sidewalls to make up for this unintentional drive-by-Braille style.