Talk to a group of off-roaders and each one will tell you the tire he or she is currently running on their vehicle is the best. My question is the best at what? No tire can do everything. Hence why there are so many different types of tires and tread designs.
When it comes to preparing a vehicle for overland travel, the tire selection should be different than if you are building a jeep to run on the rocks or a full-sized truck to blast through the mud. Historically for myself, I have always leaned toward a more aggressive mud terrain tire based on the premise that here on the east coast when you leave pavement, there is mud. But as my travels take me farther from home, meaning more highway miles, I needed to find a more road friendly tire.
The latest truck build is a 2013 Toyota Tacoma access cab. The mantra for the build is everything I need and nothing I don’t. The plan was to assemble a truck to fit my needs of traveling long distances in search for the best hunting and fishing locations or just to explore some cool out of the way places. In my investigation of tires for this build, I ended up mounting a set of 255/80R17 Cooper Discoverer S/T Maxx tires on the Tacoma.
Over the last few months I have tested the Coopers on rutted wet clay trails to my favorite fishing hole, climbed steep loose gravel washed out hills trail riding in Ohio, slowly worked along rocky trails scouting for a place to bear hunt, wiggled through tight backwoods trails to my favorite remote campsite, and have driven 10 hours on the highway to hang out at a honky tonk.
I could go into the details of the Cooper Discoverer S/T Maxx design and construction, but what exactly the Armor-Tek3 carcass construction is, or why they designed the tread pattern with the alternating 4-5 rib pattern with the enhanced buttress design using a blended natural rubber and silica base, is above my head. What I do know is that the tires have worked how I need them.
The road noise is minimal. Are the tires on my kids Scion TC quieter, sure, but the S/T Maxxs are a whole lot quieter than a set of mud terrain tires. More importantly the Coopers safely handle the road. Unlike a more aggressive mud tire, cornering, stopping and driving on wet pavement are not compromised.
A few times while on the trail, I have pushed the tires to grip wet clay attempting to keep the truck out of deep ruts. To my surprise, the S/T Maxxs cut and dug, keeping on the track instead of sliding into the ruts. They performed better than I had expected an all terrain tire would given the situation.
Is there a perfect tire that will perform perfectly in all situations? Of course not. When it comes time to install a new set of tires on your vehicle, it is important to honestly access what you want and need out of the tire. If you are looking for a tire that has excellent road manners but still performs well in most off roading situation, like that what most overlanders experience, I have found the Cooper S/T Maxx to be that tire.