Photo: Scott Brady

Here’s an interesting article by Overland Journal publisher, Scott Brady, from his Expedition West days. The article, called Tire Selection for Expedition Travel, argues that narrower tires are a better choice for mixed-terrain, off-road use than wider tires.

Narrower tires provide greater contact pressure than wider ones since they support the load of the vehicle on less surface area. Greater contact pressure means that the tire will do a better job of molding itself to the terrain, thereby providing more grip.

Narrower tires also offer less rolling resistance, hence improved fuel economy, and less frontal resistance when driving through mud, snow, or sand. If the mud and sand get really deep, you’re better off with a wider tire. For mixed use driving, however, Scott argues that a narrow tire is the way to go.

Read more for his chart of recommended tire sizes.

Here’s a chart from the article showing what he recommends:

Recommended Section Width: (Represented in typically available tire sizes)

This chart represents the recommended tire width, based on the vehicles weight (GVWR).

Vehicle GVWR Mixed Terrain Typical Soft Surfaces Typical
3,000-4,000 8.5-9.5” (215-245mm) 9.5-10.5” (245-265mm)
4,000-5,000 9.0-10.0 (225-255) 10.0-11.0 (255-285)
5,000-7,000 9.5-10.5 (235-265) 10.5-11.5 (265-295)
7,000-9,000 10.0-11.0 (225-285) 11.0-12.0 (285-305)
9,000-12,000 10.0-11.5 (255-295) 11.0-12.5 (285-315)
12,000- 10.5-12.5 (265-315) 12.5-14.0 (315-355)