A visit to my grandmother’s house a few hours away in southern New Hampshire almost always included a ride in her early ’80s Jeep Wagoneer. Not with my grandmother, mind you, but with my father, who—in retrospect—was looking for any excuse he could fabricate to part company with his mother-in-law. Roaming the backroads in search of peace, quiet, and nag-free solitude seemed to be the goal, but, unfortunately for him, there’d be none of that with me tagging along.
Not wanting to bring gram’s Wagoneer back with clumps of mud dropping out of the framerails, we stuck mostly to dirt roads. In an effort to shut me up (and to keep me from spotting the actual 4WD trails that littered this part of the state), dad expertly sold these scenic and impeccably maintained backroads to me as challenging off-road expeditions—or so he thought. Even at an unsuspecting 6 or 7 years of age, I never did fall for his bait-n-switch attempts and mostly spent these rides wondering where all the fun-looking trails led to that we kept rolling on past. As a lingering consequence, to this day I still want to explore anything that even remotely resembles a passable trail, especially if there’s the possibility of mud on the menu.
Older now, my dirty habits are still proving tough to kick. Besides, if you’re wheelin’ in mud country, you might as well settle in and enjoy the slop—there’s no avoiding it. With a magnetic-draw to unexplored backcountry, you tend to learn what works well and what characteristics make for a good mud tire. The super-aggressive offerings are obvious, but almost always carry horrible street manners as a drawback. Finding a tire that doesn’t punish you on the pavement, but does what the sidewall lettering says it will off-road, is what it’s all about for most people, and this is the ultra-competitive segment that tires like the Dick Cepek Mud Country is fighting for a spot in.
Honestly, never having tried them before, we weren’t expecting anything better than average performance from the 35x12.50R15 Dick Cepek Mud Country you see here. However, after a few off-road outings and a little over 10,000 on-road miles, we are favorably impressed. This particular Jeep has seen a total of three other brands of radial mud-terrains over the past 140,000 miles or so, all in the same 35-inch size. Not only have the Mud Country tires proven the quietest rolling, best riding, and best handling tire of the bunch on road, they’ve also been the best-performing tire off-road to boot. A bold statement for sure, but while measurable, these performance differences were not vast. Nevertheless, they were measurable.
As is typical among manufacturers, our 35-inch tire measured a little less than advertised at just over 34-inches in diameter. Being a load-range “C” tire, they were a good match to our Wrangler’s weight and offered good shock absorption on small compression bumps. Sidewalls are three-ply; two of which are running vertically, and the third cross-ways in an effort aimed at stability. The Mud Country tread layout features stepped, asymmetrical tread blocks with no shortage of biting edges, and these highly varied lug shapes all but ensure you’ve got the right biting-edge for the job. Cepek claims that the lug’s stepped “ledges” assist in self-cleaning, and we can verify those claims. As soon as the tires were spun up to the appropriate velocity, they ejected the stickiest mud we could find with relative ease. Of course, the gaping voids between the lugs (less in the center, more on the outer edges) didn’t detract from these efforts either. The tread’s contact patch is also siped for a little extra grab on smooth surfaces, and more importantly for us northerners, snow- and ice-covered roads over the winter.
Good off-road performance is oftentimes met with sometimes-significant compromises in on-road performance, but this didn’t happen to be the case with the Mud Country. Even with their gaping tread voids, these tires rolled smooth and quiet at all speeds. Mid-corner bumps were handled in a smooth and predictable fashion, and unlike some of the other tires we’ve tried on this Jeep, you always felt in control of steering input. For a mud-terrain, they get an A+ for their pavement performance. After 10,000 miles, tire wear is noticeable (as to be expected) but not uneven.
For testing, we mounted our new tires up on a set of aluminum 15x8 Summit Racing Nomad Diamond Cut Wheels with 33⁄4-inches of backspacing. The wheels look great and strike an even balance between bling and utility in the aesthetics department. They’re also pretty reasonably priced, at just over $100 per wheel.
In the end, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the superfluous advertising campaigns of some of the top tire manufactures to the point where some of the less-loudly-spoken manufacturers are relegated to the shadows of your purchasing decisions. If nothing else, our experiences here with the Dick Cepek tires have reminded us that thinking outside of the rock-star-endorsed product-category box can sometimes have you stumbling across outstanding products. This tire is one of those products.
Tire: Dick Cepek Mud Country
Load range: C
Max load (lbs): 2,535
Sidewall construction: Three-ply polyester
Tread construction: One-ply nylon, two-ply steel, three-ply polyester
Approved rim width (in): 8.5-10
Tread depth (in): 19.5⁄32
Tread width (in): 10
Section width (in): 12.2
Overall diameter (in): 34.8
Maximum psi: 35
Weight (lbs): 66