Why we don't run mud tyres

December 2019 | Words by Daniel

In the world of overland travel and off roading the topic of tyres comes up all the time, and rightly so. Tyres play an important part in your vehicle setup and tend to make a big dent in your wallet when it’s time to replace them, which makes getting it right even more important.

One of the most common questions we get is about tyres - what is the best brand? Should I get all terrains or mud tyres? What size do you run? It’s always a tricky question to answer, there are so many variables that come into it. I always ask people what they’re prepared to compromise on and go from there. No tyre is perfect, no tyre will work the same for everyone, and different people expect different things out of their tyres. Price, noise, life, handling, wet weather performance, fuel usage are all important factors and you will end up comprising somewhere.

We’ve toured the country extensively over the last couple of years, exploring some of the most remote and tough areas of New Zealand and we’ve always run all terrain tyres. I learned very early on that I prefer offroad touring and that mud tyres didn’t actually offer many advantages over all terrains for overland styled travel. For a long time we ran a fairly standard all terrain tyre and had very few issues, though their comparative lack of strength did destroy them a little sooner than I was hoping for.

Our Surf with all terrains during our South Island trip in 2016

When we bought the Prado it came on a set of mud tyres - we lasted one short trip before the noise and vibrations drove us both crazy. Knowing we had multiple 12 hour days behind the wheel coming up, we decided that the mud tyres had to go. The particular brand was also known to have poor handling in the wet and a short life, not ideal for the big kilometers we rack up on the road.

I went into the buying process with a list - our new tyres need to be quiet, offer decent fuel economy, last a long time and be strong enough to tackle the terrains we head into. This was right at the time ‘hybrid’ tyres were hitting the market - the theory being they offer the best of both worlds - I decided to take a punt as they seemed like the perfect fit.

I settled on the Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs in the end - everyone seemed to rate them highly, they were on special at my local tyre store and looked pretty cool and let’s be honest, that’s a big part of tyres, right? They’re definitely not as quiet as ‘normal’ all terrain tyres, but they’re no way near as loud as mud tyres. When we sold the Prado, I swapped them to the Hilux as they still have a lot of life left. Between the two vehicles we’ve put around 50,000kms on them and they’re wearing pretty well with only minor chipping and cuts.

Chunkier tread than all terrains, not as chunky as mud tyres - they work better in the mud than any mud tyre I've ever used too

The range of hybrid tyres on the market has grown rather quickly in the last few years and unless you’re into tackling muddy terrain I’m not sure there are too many reasons to run a full on mud tyre these days - the benefits of a good hybrid tyre outweigh the downsides in my opinion. We’re up for new tyres in the next few months and I’m struggling to decide which route to go down, what are your thoughts?

Our tyre buying tips

Figure out what you really need

A set of mud tyres does look cool, but if you’re just cruising to and from work on the road and only head to the beach for a fish, maybe a good set of all terrains makes more sense. Obviously if you’re into finding super tricky muddy tracks a mud tyre is a smart choice.

Don’t buy into the hype that you “need” a mud tyre.

Buy the best brand you can afford

Tyres are the only thing keeping you connected to the road, safety should always be number one. The better quality the tyre, the longer it’ll last and the safer it’ll be. Cheap tyres may not be so cheap if they need replacing more often or give you grief in the middle of nowhere.

Keep your wheels balanced, rotated and aligned

Nothing kills tyres as fast as your wheels being out of alignment. When you’ve spent $1500+ on tyres you want them to last as long as possible. In New Zealand on vehicles with solid front or rear axles you will wear out your passengers outer tread quicker due to the camber of our roads - keeping your tyres rotated will give you maximum life.