Tall and Skinny v. Big and fat

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate
links, including eBay, Amazon, Skimlinks, and others.

Mar 27, 2003
Frederick, MD
I've noticed a rather heated debate between folks on the subject of tire width. Some say that fatter tires give you better "flotation" and provide a larger footprint for better traction. Others say that skinny tires get down through the mud to grab something firm and they tuck up under fenders better. I thought it would be interesting to bring up this subject to the often opinionated wise ones and wise guys on this forum.

CJ (who is already trying to decide on his next set of meats)
Well, the straight answer is: It depends.

Since I don't do a whole lot of deep sand or deep mud (> 12") I prefer skinny tires, 10.5 width max. For snow the skinny tires cut through to hardpack better where there's about 12" or less on the ground.

If you're doing a lot of sand, you'll probably want more float. Same goes for deep snow (eg. Iceland cruisers).

Big fat meaty tires look better... and thats all that really matters isn't it? :G
personally, I'm a tall skinny kinda guy versus short fat, but now I'll talk tires....hehehe

tall skinny is great for soft snow....picture a cross-country ski. Also works in soupier mud situations, find the bottom and the mud gives way.

Sticky snow likes a wider tire for flotation, same with thicker mud. Higher horsepower = wider tire too, since you can better throttle the added rotational mass.

Rocks are dependant....IMO, the higher contact pressure from a 12.5'ish tire is an advantage in many situations, but not all.

I've run 38.5x14.5 SX's for the past 2 years and find them a great compromise between the width and height issues for a wide variety of terrains. Others I run with have the 35x15.5 SX's and have similar results.

(BTW: just measured them on my truck at 5psi....height was 34.5"....ouch!!)
It would also depend on the weight of your vehicle. If your running a lot of "iron" your psi of ground (or whatever) pressure would be different than someone running light, so you could have wider tires and have the same amount of ground pressure.
They're like women.....

Tall/Skinny, Short/Fat - It doesn't matter, as long as they do what they are told :D
I've always tended to prefer the tall skinny route but that is more due to the uses that I'd been using my truck for. This is what I've found.

In deep mud, or really gummy mud they claw right down to the good stuff and push the slop to either side. Even traveling really really slow, like I do when I wheel, the lugs seem to get good purchase. On snow they've been great too. On highway encouters with the white stuff, and we get alot where I live, the skinnies cut right through the crud without any pulling from the wheel caused from dragging into choppy tracked up loose snow on the road. In wheeling situations I've had great luck right up to the depth at which I start having clearance problems, then I think flotation would be better in order to pack down and ride more on top of the snow. My 9.50's didn't give me too much of a footprint for flotation. Sand, was a miserable thing, the truck really had to work, and if the sand was soft, then the risk of getting buried was always there. On the highway in dry conditions, the skinnier tires also give a bit more sidewall flex then comparative wider ones. Not that big of a deal if you don't mind viewing the world on a slant through you windshield a bit.

With that said, overall I was happy with my skinnier tires, but I just moved up to 12.50's, which I'm hoping in the long run, will work better with a little better handling and some flotation.
I've had this discussion so many times in the pub....

The argument goes that skinny tyres get down to something you can grip on. That's a good theory but in my experience by the time the tyre reaches the hard mud (if there is any) it's wet and slippy - making the hard mud wet and slippy. + you then have deep tracks which you have to push your way through.

No, go for a wide tyre. Wide = more surface area. More surface area = more grip.

The biggest determining factor is tread. Get yourself a decent set of Mud tyres and it won't matter whether they are skinny or fat.

When all else fails put some chains on your tyres. Chains work just as well in mud or snow..

Like I said - I've had this discussion many times - I don't seem to be able to convince the tall and skinny brigade.

Cheers, Jim :beer:
I personally want a set of nice fat swampers.
Is the tall and skinny brigade Rover drivers?

Spot on! Their argument goes as follows: 'The army drives Landrovers (because they're the best) and they have skinny tyres - don't you think they would have fat tyres if they were better?'

No - they drive Landrovers because they are (were) British (and cheaper than Landcruisers)


:G :beer:
I knew it! My buddy is a Rover guy and I've gotten the skinny tire thing from him. All I can say is I can't remember seeing a 110 not being pushed my 10 or so guys when they are in the soup. He even pointed out all the Rovers and lack of LCs down in Beleize, a British state obligated to purchase British products. 8)

Users who are viewing this thread

Top Bottom