Whenever a newbie overlander asks me what they should do to their vehicle first, I always tell them that tyres and suspension are the most important pieces of equipment on your 4×4 when it comes to overlanding travel in remote areas.
It really defeats the object of having all the best camping gear fitted to your vehicle, if you can’t make it through the first sandy tweespoor track or mud puddle because you have standard road tyres on your vehicle. Therefore, when starting out in this expensive journey of kitting your vehicle out to be the ultimate overlanding rig, make sure you fit a decent set of off-road tyres. It is the best investment you can make and will save you many headaches and punctures in your overlanding future.
One of the tyre brands often used by our guests is Hankook and I always wondered how it would fare with us. So when Chris Farrar from Tiger Wheel and Tyre offered to fit a set of Hankook DynaPro Mud Terrains to my 200 Series Land Cruiser, I was glad to accept and see if the praise he was bestowing on these tyres lived up to expectations.
The offer had come at the perfect time as we were just about to leave on two back-to-back tours to the Kalahari and Kaokoland in northern Namibia. Over the next 7 000 kilometres, we would be travelling on nearly every type of terrain you can think of, giving the Hankooks a baptism of fire on their first outing.
Before I get into how the tyre performed in the bush, let’s discuss the technical stuff first. A side protection block from the tread pattern to the centre of the sidewall has an appealing rugged look and shields against impacts from sharp objects. Those ribs also improve traction in soft sand and protect against pothole damage. The zig-zag shoulder pattern delivers excellent on- and off-road traction. Additionally, Hankook Tyres have added a unique undergroove protector to prevent impact damage and soften external shock for greater driving safety.
Having used mud terrain tyres on a few of my other 4x4s in the past, I knew that one of their biggest downfalls was the lack of grip on wet tar.
So, when I left TWT and started heading north back home to Modimolle and saw the storm brewing over Pretoria, my palms began to sweat as I had visions of the Cruiser skating over the N1 North like a giraffe on a frozen lake. For the next 45 minutes, the heavens opened and turned the highway into a flowing river with vehicles pulling over under bridges and any bushes they could find to shelter from the hail and sit it out until the rain eased off.
I was very impressed with how the Dynapros handled, and not once did I feel that I was losing grip on the slippery tarmac. On the contrary, they felt solid on the road as I ploughed along at around 90 km/h through the sheets of rain and hail, feeling as safe as could be.
The other thing that puts some people off mud terrain tyres is the road noise as some of them you can hear coming down a tar road from a different time zone away. The noise inside the vehicle is just as bad, making conversations on long roads trips very loud affairs. The road noise from the Hankooks is still apparent but not as loud as some other MTs on the market.
The first off-road test for the Hankooks was the sandy tracks of the Central Kalahari and Mabuasehube, which formed part of our Ultimate Kalahari trip. We tow a pretty heavy kitchen trailer on our tours, so it can become a bit challenging pulling an anchor through the thick sand. Due to the weight of our rig, I tend to err on the side of caution and stick to a pressure of around 1.4 bar in the front and 1.7 bar in the back, which is about 40% of my normal tar driving pressures. I wanted to get a good comparison with previous tyres I had used on the same tracks so I deflated the Hankooks to the same pressures and they were fantastic in the sand.
Not once did I feel that they needed to be deflated more, but in really thick sand, you could take them down even more if required. In my opinion, mud terrain tyres give you a bit of an edge in thick sand as even though you want to “float” on top of the sand, sometimes you need that extra bit of grip to plough your way through thick tracks. The aggressive tread and sidewall tread on the Hankooks certainly give you that in abundance.
One thing that mud-terrain tyres normally do not stand up to very well is rocks. I have done a trip through the Kaokoveld with a set of mud terrains from a well-known brand and halfway through the trip I had whole chunks of tread breaking off the tyres. As such, I was interested to see how these stood up to the test of Van Zyl’s Pass and the rocky gravel roads of Kaokoland. On rocky terrain, I prefer to keep my tyres a little bit harder to limit the sidewall exposure to the sharp rocks found on places such as Van Zyl’s Pass, so I deflated the front to 1.8 bar and the back to 2.4 bar for this part of our Kaokoland tour.
The grip on the rocky climbs was as good as any other tyre I had used before, and upon inspection after the trip, the rubber had stood up very well to the beating that the Kaokoland gives any set of tyres. There was slight damage to the edges of some of the tread blocks, but nowhere could I see any substantial chips or sidewall grazes which certainly impressed me. So far, the Hankook DynaPro MTs were standing up to every test I had put them through, which had been everything except what they were really designed for… MUD!
As I sit here in the middle of the Okavango Delta, writing this article, I can tell you that the mud is where they truly come to life. On one of the morning game drives, as we tackled some muddy tracks along the Khwai River, the call came over the radio, “Simon I’m stuck!”. It’s never a good idea to deviate from the existing tracks in the mud as that is usually when you get severely stuck, so I continued through the mud until I could find a spot of dry land to turn around. When I reached the mud-stricken victim I saw at least two wheels were spinning aimlessly as their ATs (All-Terrains) were completely clogged up. After assessing the situation and determining how severely stuck the Prado was, I decided that a gentle tug with a pull strap would be sufficient. So with straps attached to the front of my Cruiser and both bonnets up for safety, I engaged low-range reverse gear and slowly started to take up the slack on the pull strap. For a second, it felt like I was going to sink myself into the mud, but just then the Hankooks took charge, and together we slowly pulled the Prado to safety. The next vehicle to come through suffered the same fate as the Prado, and, once again, I managed to pull them out with ease. At no point did the tread ever clog up with mud; the tyres just kept digging in and doing their thing.
I guess the ultimate test will be how many kilometres of service they deliver in the long run, as I have managed to get around 100 000 kilometres from previous sets of mud terrains. To date, I have done almost 20 000 km on them and you can colour me impressed. I would definitely recommend this brand to anyone who spends enough time in the bush to justify using a Mud Terrain tyre over an All-Terrain.