The Magic-number Car Tires for Overlanding


Originally published 2015 / Updated December 2018 (When we buy a new set of tires, we update this post with the latest news. The last update is about the generous gift of new overland tires in Almaty, Kazakhstan).

I hear you thinking, “What, another post on tires? You’ve got to be kidding me! There must hundreds of them on the Internet.”

Yes, you are right, another post on tires – car tires for overlanding, to be exact.

But this time I am writing it.


Because we get many emails and messages from 4×4 enthusiasts and overlanders asking us what type of tires we use, or why our Land Cruiser drives on such skinny road tires.

Like with all choices in life, a perfect one doesn’t exist. Same with car tires for overlanding. You will always have to accept certain limitations and live with that. There is no manual that will tell you what choice to make. For me, after so many years on the road, I am comfortable with the choices we make today.

I learned from my mistakes and we continue to acquire knowledge on the subject as options for overland tires are not the same everywhere on the globe, and you must plow with the oxen that you have.

Car Tires for Overlanding in a Nutshell

If your journey is less than two years and you are not racing around the globe – driving, say 30,000Ks per year – one set of tires will probably suffice. But if you do plan to buy new tires while on the road, make sure you select the right rim before you start your journey.

Find out if the rim-sized tires that you like so much are common on the continent you plan to travel on. This may save you a lot of headaches (and money).

Read More: Is 4WD a Must? – Do we Consider a Different Overland Vehicle?

Why My Fondness For a Skinny, High Tire?

I think it all started with my first car, a Citroën 2CV. They had absurdly thin, high wheels. Once, we had serious snow. When driving into town I saw big, luxurious cars swerving into problems in corners. This was mainly caused by the weight of their vehicle and the fact that it had rear-wheel drive. Meanwhile, the 2CV was cornering without a problem.

Okay, I hear you; a big-ass Land Cruiser is not the same as my ‘ugly duckling’. You are right, but the principle remains more or less the same. Stick with me and let me explain.

Some facts:

  • We are driving around 20,000 kilometers a year.
  • Roughly 95% of the time we drive in 2×4, on roads as well as (unpaved) tracks.
  • 70% of the Land Cruiser’s weight is on the rear axle.

Read More: Doing an Off-road Training, or Not?

For these conditions I look for the following when buying overland tires:

  • Good mileage.
  • As little noise as possible.
  • Affordability.
  • Availability.
  • High ply rate.
  • Little wear and tear on the axles, differentials, and gearboxes as possible.

When those tires have also the ability to:

  1. Raise clearance,
  2. go really low on tire pressure [and inherit fat tire symptoms],
  3. have absurdly strong sidewall protection,

then I am all game. Did you ever wonder why Land Rovers in the Camel Trophy drove on skinny tires? Or why Dakar cars don’t have extremely wide tires? The drivers tested and tested, and came to the same results.

So why shouldn’t this be the case with car tires for overlanding?

Our Overland Tire Choices Thus Far

During our Landcuising Adventure we have bought a variety of tires and while all those tires were different to some degree, I felt confident taking all those tires into the mud, going rock climbing, driving into the dunes, on gravel roads, and into the snow.

To a certain extend tire pattern can help you overcome the terrain, but I am convinced that tire pressure, the driver’s capacity, as well as gear choice are of greater importance.

When we arrived at Malaysia’s famous Rainforest Challenge we were laughed at with our Land Cruiser’s skinny, Indian road tires. But during the ten-day event we gained growing respect as we conquered the terrain and daily rolled into camp.

So, here we go, the car tires we have bought and used on our overland journey!

01- Security TM 718 Off-road Tires 8PR – Netherlands

Before our departure from the Netherlands (in 2003), I bought Chinese, aggressive, nylon off-road tires. They looked tough and many off-roaders asked me where to get them.

But they were noisy as hell, gave us bad mileage, were bumpy and uncomfortable although they were only 8 PR.

On the plus side, these tires were regroovable so we brought them to a shop in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. We could select a different pattern if we wanted to, but stuck with the existing pattern in order not to destroy the underlying fortifications.

You may not be familiar with regrooving tires or retreading but in Asia and South America it is not uncommon. It is a viable option to keep your tires going for just a little longer.

Read More: The Journey

Regrooving of car tires

02- JKTire Steelking Radials 14PR – India

In India the thread started to show so we had to replace the tires. There wasn’t much choice so after a day’s search we bought lovely JKTire radials with a road pattern. Those car tires gave us the most bang for our buck and, in fact, we were so content with them that I tried to get another set in Iquique (Chile) a couple of years later.

Good mileage, no noise and very comfortable. They brought us to the finish of the Rainforest Challenge and got us rock-climbing on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.

JKTire Steelking Radials 14PR

Check it out: the Classic Landcruising Adventure T-shirt Collection

03- Pirelli AS22 12PR – Paraguay

We obtained our third set of overland tires in Paraguay, the tax-free haven of South America. We made a strange but good choice buying Brazilian-made Nylon Pirellis, as we knew we were in for two years of rípio in Patagonia, and no matter what tires we would buy, they were going to be discarded after those two years.

A salient detail is that these car tires were 50% cheaper in Paraguay than in their production country of Brazil. Thanks to a 14-ply rate we had no sidewall punctures. They were a bit noisy on asphalt and affected a little on the mileage. For a nylon tire this one had a pretty good comfort. But we decided that from then on we would stick to radials.

Read More: Don’t Skip Paraguay on Your South America Trip – Here’s Why

Pirelli AS22 12PR

04- Apollo Dura-Mile LT 14PR – Chile

Next up: Iquique (Chile). Here I tried to get my hands on some JKTires but couldn’t find them. However, I stuck with the Indian thought and got a nice set of Apollo radials. I had the choice between a high miler [highway pattern] and a dura miler [mixed pattern]. We opted for the last.

I think this has been a solid choice with good comfort and mileage and no noise. Only downer: a few weeks later we discovered could have gotten genuine French made Michelins ZXY for 80 U$D in La Paz, Bolivia!

Read More: The Best Workshop in South America – Ernesto, in La Paz

Apollo Dura-Mile LT 14PR
Roadstone Radial A/T 10PR

05- Roadstone Radial A/T 10PR – Brazil

Two years later, just before we set out to cross the infamous BR319 and the Transamazônica in Brazil, we needed new tires and found ourselves in Manaus.

Strangely we couldn’t find our magic numbers so we set out to find the best next thing, a 235/85R16.

Many say these have the same height and width of the 7.50R16, but I beg to differ. These tires might look the same but are actually a tad wider and give less mileage and more wear [tie rod ends and center arm wore prematurely].

Also, the 235/85R16 generally come with less sidewall protection and a lower ply rating, resulting in more sidewall punctures when aired down.

On the plus side they are very comfortable. One thing that really annoyed us was the many rubbing punctures we got during their second and last year. I don’t know whether this was due to the fact that we used tubes while it said tubeless, or not.

We had been using tubes in tubeless tires before with no problem. Then I thought it was due to the fact that the tubes were more than nine years old and replaced them all. But the rubbing punctures kept on happening and drove us nuts.

Selecting the right tire.
Tire pattern close-up.

06- Roadshine RS604 14PR – Colombia

Time to get our sixth set of car tires. Initially the idea was to get new tires in Venezuela where they should be cheaper than in Colombia. But after checking various sources we concluded that it would be difficult to get tires in Venezuela (due to political situation) and pulled the trigger on getting them in Bogotá.

This gave me the choice between the excellent Japanese Sumitomo highway pattern or a Chinese B brand with a bit more Mud + Snow pattern. Prices were almost the same as the Chinese being a bit cheaper.

We are very happy with that decision. Although we have seen our magic-numbers-tires in Venezuela for bargain prices, the old tires wouldn’t have made it across Los Llanos in Colombia.

Do you see the regroovable marking on the side of the tire? This means these tires have plenty of rubber on them and when they are becoming worn and slick you just go at them with a gauge and you are good to go.

Roadshine RS604 14PR

07- Bridgestone Blizzak 12PR – Japan

We found ourselves heading into some really cold temperatures and our Japanese friends told us flat out not to head out onto the icy and snowy roads of Hokkaido without proper winter tires. Masa helped us out and found a great deal on these 7.50R16 Blizzak tires.

Unbelievable how these tires kept us on the roads throughout the harsh winter in sub-zero temperatures. Anything cold we put under these tires, it handled without a hick-up. Really impressive how we could climb narrow mountain roads that were completely iced over.

Read More: Wildlife on Hokkaido in Winter

Super grip on the icy road surface.

Recommended Books on Preparing your Overland Journey

(click on the images to look inside)

Overlanders’ Handbook

Motorcar Overland Camper Manual

Motorhome Self Build and Optimisation

Products from Amazon

08 BFGoodridge All Terrain KO2 10PR – Kazakhstan

We arrived in Almaty Kazakhstan with our Blizzaks in serious trouble. From Siberia’s snow-covered winter roads we had nothing to fear. However, the threads had been destroyed by the stones of Mongolia’s rough tracks and a couple of stones had wedged in between the siped tires. This resulted in broken steel threads inside the tire, which played havoc with the tubes.

After two extensive repairs on the road, these tires were not to be trusted anymore, which resulted in an Escape-From-Kazakhstan-Alive action plan. We bought two ridiculously small, second-hand 215/70R16 tires to make the last push to Almaty – a mere 300 kms. Here we would have to shop around and find our magic overland tires for the 8th time in our journey.

But alas, where in South America we could more or less buy whatever we fancied, here in Central Asia it is a bit more complicated. The weather conditions are much more extremes and thus choosing either winter or summer tires is a big risk either way.

The challenge was to find something that would fit both seasons to some extent.

The tire guys had a nice Chinese option in stock. Yes, the magic numbers indeed: 7.50R16 with the above par of 14PR. However, it came with a nasty street pattern and we definitely needed something more sturdy for the coming years. They offered to cut any pattern we wanted for next to nothing and had we had no other option, this would have been our purchase.

Fortunately, there was another, much better option: the much-hyped-and-coveted BFGoodridge KO2s. They were on the high-end of our budget and available only in 235/85R16. This meant we needed to risk putting tubes into tubeless tires and take care not to get sand and debris between the tube and the tire. It could work – after all, we had done this before, in Brazil (see #5).

The big pro for these tires was that they fit the picture other overlanders painted us of the region and what we could expect for the coming years in terms of road conditions. The only thing was, not unimportantly, freeing up the budget. Maybe we could ask for a discount?

Totally unexpected, Santa Clause in disguise stepped up to the plate. Who knew Santa Claus existed? He does, and his real name is Ben Steiner. He sent us an Instagram message that same evening.

He follows our adventures and reacted to our stories in true Christmas spirit.

“When you arrive in Almaty and find a tire store, pick out a pair of tires and let me know what the total cost is of the tires installation is. Hopeful to travel the world soon.

I believe in Karma and someday I will be in need no doubt. I have the means to help you know and hope when I am in need I will have someone willing to help.

Let me know the total and have a happy holiday.”

Karin-Marijke and I needed to pinch each other a few time, but then reality sat in and we were blown away by this fantastic offer. Thank you, Ben!

The following day we drove out of the tire workshop with a big smile.

Let’s see how these tires fare in the future. We know that we need to take extra care because we opted to keep the splits, which means looking for ways to keep out the debris. We already came across an idea that talks about sealing the ring opening and valve hole with silicone.

How that works, we’ll let you know in an update.

Stay tuned.

Shopping for Overland Tires

Once you know where the tire shops are, be prepared to bargain and look beyond the obvious. My criteria, after 12 years, has boiled down to the following:

  • Size 7.50R16 [note the R and not a -] so not 7.50-16 [that would be nylon].
  • Radial.
  • Ply rating of 12 and above [due to the weight of the car]. 14 ply is indestructible.
  • Pattern [everything a bit more blocked than straight highway lines].
  • Cheapest.

Let me know in the comments below what your criteria are for your overland tires.

Tips for Keeping your Tires in Shape

Once you have found your favorite tire, you want to keep that tire in perfect condition. One of the most important things is to keep track of its pressure. Keeping your tires on the right pressure, will save fuel, avoid excessive heat that will lead to increased wear and could even lead to a blowout and thus you having to buy new tires.

I use a simple Tire Pressure Gauge to check the pressure. Even if a service station—or anyone else who is providing me with air to inflate the tire—has an integrated pressure gauge, I still check the final pressure with my own gauge, to avoid calibration errors between devices.

Remember: always check the pressure when your car tires are cold. Before setting out in the morning is best.

Another option is to install a more automated Tire Pressure Monitor System, that allows you to monitor your tire pressure and temperature while driving, and even put out a warning signal before things go wrong.

Because every overland vehicle is different in weight and size and most of us drive around in a modified car, it could be difficult to find out the perfect tire pressure for your set-up.

There are numerous methods but I prefer the one that is called the Chalk Test. I’m not going to write about it here, as there are good explanations on some fora and even a few YT’s – Google is your friend.

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35 thoughts on “The Magic-number Car Tires for Overlanding”

  1. It’s very interesting seeing the different patterns that aren’t available here in the US. The bias ply sizing is also practically non-existent here. Here, tires keep getting wider and lower-profile (and less off-roadable). It’s a good thing the rest of the world has good availability of tires that are made for work.

  2. BF Goodrich AT are my favorites. 50% off road 50% hiway. Not so expensives as Michelin tires. Good mileage, too good I’d said. I’d used in Jeeps, Cherokee& Wrangler, Daihatsu Feroza (Rocky) and Chevy Luv pickup. Different sizes, 215/75R15, 235/75R15, 225/70R16 , excellent when aired down, acceptable noisy.
    Worse experience Bridgestone MT, too noisy.
    Althought I realize there are excellent and very affordable chinese AT tires like WestLake, good mileage, my son recommends them for desertic and salted terrains.

  3. Worst tire decision I ever made was buying Chinese tires. Lasted about 30,000kms. Switched to Michelins now. Picked them up in Bogota for a price similar to in the US.

    I agree 100% with the narrow tire rational and your other criterion. But on price/quality I’m a convert to the top brand name tires.

  4. Coen I don’t think tubes have an impact on tire life or performance, other than when punctured. The advantage of a tubeless tire is the air can only escape through the hole created whereas a tube allows escape from around the tube. This is where the term “blowout” comes from. The only way to get a blow out with a tubeless tire is a rip rather than a puncture. There is a huge difference in tube and tire manufacture. Cheap is usually what you get, cheap. Use of which is usually followed by multiples of curse words:). Then again I’m more of a motorcyclist. My research indicates the Hankook MT tire preferred over the Goodrich. I agree with your assessment regarding tall/skinny tires. The vehicle weighs X, the tires are Y wide. The wider the tire the less pounds per square inch on the contact patch. Fat tires work great on pavement on race cars that need the friction.

  5. Hello! I really love your post. Your blog title is the most interesting itself. I didn’t know so much about the vehicle tires, in fact I never notice for these things. After getting through this blog, I understand how much dumb I’m. There are lots of things to know about the vehicle but we people just using its primary function and that’s it. It’s shocking to know that there are so many types of tires and each having their own specialties. Thanks for updating me.

    • Olivia, I (Karin-Marijke) find that shocking too… I also continue to find it shocking how guys can FOREVER discuss car tires and simply can’t agree on the issue (well, good for business, I suppose…). After 12+ years I am very content to leave the subject entirely to Coen. I still don’t have a clue about tires, lol.

  6. Im running a set of BF Goodrich ATs and a set of Toyo open country MTs depending on my destination. Both of are in a 285/75 x 16 and that was the best tyre for where I lived and travelled to. Now Ive moved, and am looking at going back to standard 7.50 r16 hence reading this article for the second time haha. Im also looking at crossing the Madigan Line in the Simpson Desert here in Australia. I ran my ATs across that desert in 2013 but it was on a formed track and they performed great at 16PSI but the Madigan is a different story. you need tough tyres for that trip. Love the article and your Instagram, im Carrangarra who you have replied to more than once on there.

    • Heya Steve, tanks for chiming in. Well I’m all ears what you come up with for your crossing of the Madigan Line. In my mind tough tires mean plenty of plies, so if you can find have a look at 12 or 14 ply tires.

    • Hi Steve,
      Interested in your opinion 4 years later. I ran Toyo AT2 265/75R16 on a land cruiser 76 on the Madigan line year. I started at around 20PSI which made theatres bag out a lot. Early on I suffered a sidewall fracture which almost ended my trip. After that I increased pressure to about 26PSI and lowered my vehicle speed and fortunately completed the trip without any more punctures. I am looking at MT tires now for my next expedition.

  7. I’m also a big fan of skinny tyres. Love a 7.50×16. Currently on my HJ60 I’m running 235/85/16 BFG as I happened to have a set! They are a good 4+cm wider than 7.50s. I ran 7.50s driving to the Gambia on steel split rims like your and found the number of punctures just ridiculous, 12 in total while the other vehicle on tubeless had none. I ran split rims assuming it would make DiY tyre changing easier, but the reality was I just got plenty of practice changing wheels and left the tyre changing to the numerous tyre shops along the way! If you move away from splitties to a standard steel rim you’ll save loads of hassle on punctures, and a massive load on your unsprung weight, which in turn will pay off in savings on wear and tear on other components like wheel bearings etc

    • Thanks Andrew, I think that you cannot relate the number of punctures to having split rims or not. It will depend on the tyres and the PLY rate as well. What kind of punctures did you get? Rubbing inside, sand inside, nails, cuts or rocks? I will agree with you on the weight.

  8. I have an ex Australian army land rover currently fitted with good year hi miller in the magic 750 16 size split rims currently have a few spare of the good year and some Michelin xzl at home but with neither available on the Australian market anymore the search for new tyres continues most tyre shops hate me when I tell them I’m sticking with that size running tubes and keeping my split rims

  9. Hello,

    Firstly thanks to you for nice post that’s help to us i think so.
    I used Westlake SL369 for Off-Road Radial 20.000 km, this is polyester cord body helps in enriching strength and durability. No “breaking the bank” as it’s cheapo.

    Now i would like to replace another tries but i couldn’t deiced which one would be good me my SUV. would happy if you suggested here.

    William M. Jackson

  10. In 2005 i started my Landy with Michelin XZY 14-ply 7,5R16
    Bought a new set in 2012 in the Netherlands. They still made a few sets each year.
    Last year i asked if they still made them. Unfortunately, not anymore..
    Still running on these lovely tires and have not yet had a puncture.
    Now running around in Patagonia again with my Landy.
    Cheers, Louis

    • Heya Louis, that is indeed a very nice tire. Hope you can keep it for a little bit longer. How long have you been running with it?

  11. the first set 2005-2012. the 2nd set since 2012. (i have 6, i switch 2 tires every 20k)
    with the 2nd set i have only done 50k sofar. west-africa tour, and now in the mercosur countries. i especially like the side-wall protection. in mud they are pretty much useless, and in rain it’s not the best, but overall i’m very happy with them.

  12. I’d like to trust the skinnes and split rims that I have, I always think Toyota knew what they were doing. But the 7.50 16 Hi Milers I have have no tread, just concentric grooves that give no grip. They are great for the road and dry rough track, but for mud they just slip.

    I think the puncture problem you’ve experienced using a tubeless tire with a tube on splits is inevitable as the inerior surface of a tubeless tire is not designed for tubes. Hence the friction. I can’t find a wider tube tire to fit the 5.5 splits here in Peru so I would have to run tubless with tubes and I don’t want to suffer friction blow outs. So I can only think I’ll have to change to tubeless and ditch the split rims.
    Unless some one knows of a fool proof way to stop friction punctures when using tubeless tires with tubes????

    • I have found that using baby or talken powder helps prevent friction. But we also sealed the valve and the opening in the split to prevent dust and sand from entering between the tube and the rim.

  13. I’ve seen that is a good way to seal the gaps. You know the tricks! My problem is that the tires that came with the truck are smooth with no tread across the width. So I believe I need to change the tires for all terrain. I can’t find wide all terrain tires that use tubes here in Lima. And I’m weak and I’m listening to the discussion on using wide tires by people who do allot of dune driving. As I am an engineer I understand and prefer the split rims. Using splits I would have one spare wheel and one spare tire without a rim. I understand the issues of using a tubeless tire with tubes and don’t want those problems. So if I have to change all the tires then my dilemma is do I go tubeless and buy new rims at the same time.
    Perhaps I need to try harder to find all terrain 7.50 x 16 in Lima so I can buy 4 and use my existing smooth treads as spares. After all I’m not planing on bashing the dunes. Maybe I’ve answered my own question!
    I appreciate the response. We’re only touring South America for a few months so my dilemma is minimal, good luck on your journey.

  14. Regarding the above comment, I found prices of all terrain 7.5 x 16 at approximately $250 to $300 each in Peru. So they are available, but expensive…….but it would be a shame not to use the splits!

      • Coen, had the same problem with tubes/continuous flat tyres few years ago until a tyre shop worked out my tubes were originally from a skinny tyre which made them way to thin when inflated were like a balloon with no flex so rubbed through inside from normal movement.. Lesson learned, matched tubes to tyre size after that. Lou

        • Heya Lou, yes that makes sense. When we were looking for a replacement tube recently in rural Kazakhstan, the only thing they could find my were used tractor tubes and they were way too big 😉 Luckily we always carry two spares.

  15. Nice Blog!! The content you have shared is very elaborative and informative. Thanks a lot for sharing such a great piece of knowledge with us.

  16. Very informative, thanks!

    I’ve recently got the Roadshine RS604 only done a few miles on them but struggling to find the correct PSI to set them at as even at 60psi all round there is a bulge which tells me they are underinflated?

    The car is a Nissan Patrol Cab Chassis UTE and I normally don’t have load at the back, mix of tarmac and corrugated/mud 70/30% driving.

    Any advice would be appreciated

    • Heya Kash,
      Great. As every size and weight of vehicles are different, and also tire sizes matter, it is very difficult to give you a right straight up answer about the pressure you should run. The best advice I can give you is to do a Chalk-Test. Let me know if you need more info. Good luck.

      • Do you recall what pressure you had them at? I’ve got them up at 55psi, handles well and goes nicely on tarmac but very jarring on rough roads.

        • On tarmac I had them set to 30psi on the front and 60psi on the rear. Off road the idea is to drop the pressure significantly. At least 20psi front and 40psi in the rear, or even more.


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