Published Jun 21, 2022 10:36 AM
The number one upgrade ATV riders add to their machines is a set of mud tires, followed closely by a winch. There’s a good reason for this, too: Getting stuck sucks, and you’ll have to employ a winch to get out. The right rubber can make a huge difference in how your ATV handles in the sloppy stuff, as well as on other terrain.
Things to Consider Before Buying ATV Mud Tires
Each ATV model is different to some extent, and that means that a mud tire that might work for your buddy’s ATV may not be the best mud tire for yours. Here are the factors to consider when it comes to picking the best tires for your ride.
Many ATV riders want to swap out to a bigger size mud tire. You need to exercise some caution here, because going big or going home can quickly turn into going big and walking home. Here’s why.
- Floatation: A bigger, wider tire can cause the tire to ride on top of mud due to the air in the tire and the increased footprint. It may stay near the surface of the mud, which tends to be lighter and more fluid than what’s beneath it. What you want is a tire that digs into the mud and gets grip to pull you through. If you ever watch serious mud bogging, you’ll notice that most of the top ATV drivers use a skinnier tire to help cut through to the traction underneath.
- Gearing: Your ATV comes with tires in a size that’s optimal for the machine’s gearing. Even though most ATVs have a CVT transmission, going to a bigger tire can lead to clutching issues, burning belts and serious mechanical breakdowns. You can often swap up to a two-inch taller tire without issues, but beyond that, you should check with the manufacturer, or the dealership.
Obviously, going to a taller tire will increase the weight, but the tread pattern on a mud tire requires more rubber than a knobby tire, which adds to the overall weight of the tire. That can affect your machine’s throttle response and put added strain on your motor. There are some other aspects of weight to consider, too.
- Ply Rating: Most standard ATV tires have 4-6 plies of rubber making up the main tire body. The ply is the layer of rubber outside of the inner layer, which is often belted with some type of heavy-duty material like steel cable or nylon cording, to help give the tire shape. The more plies you add, the better your resistance to punctures, but at the cost of additional weight. Most ATV mud tires are 6-8 ply, with a few running at high as 10.
- Tread Depth: The majority of common ATV mud tires have a 1 to 1-1/2 inch tread depth. Serious mud tires hit the 2-inch depth and beyond. Extreme mud tires may look cool, but there is a cost in how they handle when not in the mud, and the damage they do to the ground. Trust me—you won’t want to drive across your lawn with heavy-duty mud tires.
- Performance: Every ATV is designed to handle a certain amount of weight. That weight includes the weight of the machine, the weight of the rider along with any passengers, the fluids required to operate the machine, and the potential cargo. When you exceed this weight, it affects the machine’s performance and causes strain on the motor. Going to an aggressive, taller mud tire can add 10 pounds or more to each tire. If you go this route, adjust your payloads accordingly, or have the engine adjusted to accommodate them.
Why It Made the Cut
The deer hoof prints used as center lugs may seem gimmicky until you actually ride on the tires. They gain traction very well, and the deep side lugs and antler sidewall tread make these tires excellent mud tires that do well in all terrain types.
- Deer themed and perfect for outdoor enthusiasts
- 6-ply design with New Tech carcass
- Available as a 25-inch tire for 12-inch rims, or a 27-inch tire for 14-inch rims
- Side lugs have sipes for traction and durability
- Thick rim guard helps protect your wheels
- Sidewall traction is very good
- Great in mud, but also has good trail manners
The Buck Snort tire from Sedona barely edged out the Sedona Mud Rebel RT tire as our pick from Sedona. I have these tires on my Honda Rubicon ATV and love how they function as well as how they look. The tread is fun, but extremely functional for use year round in mud, as well as in sand, dirt and snow. These 6-ply tires have proven to be very durable, as they have taken a lot of abuse from me, especially during hunting season and when I’m making food plots in the spring. I’ve used the Sedona Mud Rebel tires before and really like them, but feel the Buck Snort tires are a little better all-around. Sedona’s New Tech carcass design helps make these tires durable and balanced. I wish they came in a few more size options, and I think eventually the company will do that.
Best 12-inch ATV Mud Tires
Why It Made the Cut
The Bear Claw is one of the best-selling ATV mud tires of all time. Is it the least expensive option? No, but it’s close, and it’s hard to beat the legendary durability of these tires.
- Angled lugs with center knobs
- 6-ply carcass
- Long-wearing rubber compound
- Rim guard
- Legendary durability
- Solid performance
- Wide size range with smaller ATV sizes
- Shallower tread depth
- Has a lot of flotation
The Kenda Bear Claw is extremely well known, and many ATV riders choose them for replacement tires. They aren’t the top performing tires in the mud, but they do well on other terrain types. What sets Kenda tires apart is the durability compared to the price. When you want to swap out four tires, and can get ones that will last and perform well while saving $100 compared to many other models, that makes a tire worthy of consideration. You can get them for 8, 10, 12 and 14 inch wheels.
Most Aggressive ATV Mud Tires
Why It Made the Cut
I will temper this by saying that the STI Out & Back Max tire is the most aggressive mud tire that will still work for other terrain types. You can get other tires that are meaner, but unless you’re in the swamp 100 percent of the time, you’re not going to like driving on them.
- Stepped lug construction
- Tapered tread depth
- Excellent self-cleaning
- Good ride quality
- Tread goes from 1.5 inches at the center, out to 2 inches depth at the edge
- Center tread design lets you ride on hard-packed surfaces without losing handling
- Available as a tall, yet narrow tire
- Wide range of sizes
- Heavy tire
- Can damage lawns
The STI Out & Back Max, sometimes called the Outback Max, is a highly aggressive ATV mud tire and if you’re serious about mud, it’s a great tire. It is available as a 6-ply tire in the smaller sizes, and an 8-ply in the larger sizes ( up to 32 inches). The tread is 1.5-inches tall at the center of the tire, and graduates out to 2-inches tall at the sidewall. This makes the tire have a flat profile that helps propel your machine in the mud. It is also available as a narrower tire, giving you more bite in the mud and less floatation. These are heavy tires—the tallest tire weighs around 53 pounds—so keep that in mind as you research.
Best Budget ATV Mud Tires: SunF A050
Best Budget ATV Mud Tires
Why It Made the Cut
SunF tires are gaining in popularity, thanks in part to the company selling tires in value-packed sets, as well as in pairs and individually. You can get a matched set of four for under $400, depending upon the size, and that makes them a sweet deal for four solid ATV mud tires.
- 1.5-inch deep directional tread
- 6-ply rating
- Great deal for tires
- Decent tread depth for all-around riding and mud
- 6-ply rating for puncture resistance
- Higher grade rubber than some other “cheap” tires
- Not a lot of sidewall tread
- Odd sizing
The SunF A050 tires have good tread depth and a directional pattern that digs into the mud decently. They’re very reasonably priced and can be bought as a matching set of four tires. Like many mud tires, they have a V-shaped tread pattern that guides the mud away from the center of the tire, and off the contact patch, making them self-cleaning. They offer some odd sizing, including an option for an 11-inch wide rim size, which would add floatation—something you might want on snow, but not on mud.
Best ATV Tires for Trail and Mud
Why It Made the Cut
The original ITP Blackwater tire achieved legendary status for use as a mud tire on performance ATVs, as well as for utility machines. The Blackwater Evolution is the next step in design for a tire that handles the muck well, but also has outstanding trail manners, as well as rocks and hard surfaces.
- Non-directional tread
- 8-ply rated
- Made in the USA
- Widest range of sizes
- Radial design
- Big, deep knobs grab traction anywhere
- Extremely tough and durable
- Lightweight tire for size
- Outstanding trail manners
The ITP Blackwater is named after the famed mud motocross ATV race that was held in West Virginia a couple decades ago. The extreme race hasn’t been held in a long time, but the name lives on, and that should tell you how tough it really was. A tire has to provide excellent traction and be extremely durable to wear that name, and this tire does that. Non-direction “Ninja star” tread blocks dig in, and ample sidewall tread helps with ruts and other traction needs. Being a radial, the tire has excellent manners out of the muck. The size range goes up to a whopping 34-inch tall tire, yet even the largest size weighs in at 42 pounds. That’s a nice feature for an ATV mud tire.
I got my first ATV, a 1983 Yamaha Tri-Moto 200 three-wheeler, when I was 11 years old. Within a couple of hours I had that thing buried in a nasty mudhole on our family’s farm. Some kids never outgrow playing in the mud, and I am one of them. Much of what helped me select the tires on this list has been experience with them doing exactly what they were designed to do.
I also leaned on some good friends who also write about ATVs and ATV accessories, and I picked their brains for what they look for in ATV mud tires. That’s important, because there are different types of mud depending on where you’re riding, and that’s a factor in how a tire performs. The sloppier the mud, especially mud with a lot of clay in it, the more aggressive tread pattern you’re going to need.
We also looked at tread patterns. Tread patterns can be directional or not, and can have different traction characteristics. This can affect how the tires perform on various machines.
No matter what type of tire you pick, ride your machine within your comfort level, especially in the mud. Also:
- If you know you’re going to hit some mud, have a recovery plan in case you get stuck. An ATV winch is a must, along with a tow strap and snatch block.
- Be prepared. Check every mudhole before you enter it with your machine. Find a stick and probe the bottom, as a mudhole can be deceptively deep.
- Always tell someone where you’re going and have a back-up plan.
Q: What is the most aggressive ATV mud tire?
The High Lifter Outlaw 3 is probably the most aggressive ATV mud tire out there. These monsters have three-inch deep tread and can claw through the nastiest slop, but they aren’t meant for riding on any terrain other than mud.
Q: Are ATV mud tires good in the sand?
When thinking about whether ATV mud tires are good in sand, consider if the tire is wide enough, and is one of the lighter variations, because with sand you want more floatation and less air pressure. Most of the aggressive ATV mud tires are heavier and narrower to dig into the mud, which is not what you want in sand.
Q: When should I change my ATV tires?
There are a couple of factors to consider when deciding if it is a good time to change your ATV tires. If the tread is worn down considerably, then do it. The same goes for if the tires are having a harder time holding air. ATV tires run on very low air pressures anyway, so if the tires are going flat, it may be time to change. Also, if you’re not happy with the performance of the tire, definitely swap them out. Your ATV is supposed to bring you happiness, and if you’re getting stuck a lot, that’s not fun.
When looking for traction, you really want the best ATV mud tires you can get for your machine. However, what makes a tire the best for you is entirely up to you. If budget isn’t a concern, then you have a wide range of possibilities. That number decreases along with your available funds, but you can get respectable ATV mud tires on a budget, so if you need to save some green, you’re still going to get a decent ride and some good traction. I have been really happy with the Sedona Buck Snort tires that I mounted to my Honda Rubicon, and while I happily recommend them, there isn’t a tire on this list that I wouldn’t recommend. Every one of them will give you better traction in mud and loose terrain compared to the stock tires on your machine.