Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ vs Nitto Trail Grappler

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Both Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ and Nitto Trail Grappler being powerful mud-terrain tires allow you to tackle a lot of different kinds of terrains, especially mud, of course. Though there are some key factors to consider on both, and they tell you about their performance on the rest of the terrains, including pavements.

Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ
Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ

In my expert opinion as a tire engineer, the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ does a better job on softer off-road terrains, in mud and sand, and is a comparatively better tire for comfort and fuel economy. Whereas the Nitto Trail Grappler provides you with superior rocky terrain traction, and tread life. Moreover, both tires are on par when it comes to winter performance.

The Nitto Trail Grappler comes with following specs.

  • Total Sizes: 53 (15 to 26 inches rims).
  • Speed Ratings: P or Q.
  • Load Range: C up to F
  • Weight Range: 61 to 116 lbs.
  • Tread depth: 19″ to 21/32″.

For Your Info: It’s one of the heaviest tire in the mud terrain category.

On the other side, the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ offers you with 15 to 20 inches rims, with following.

  • Speed ratings: Q only.
  • Load range: C to F.
  • Weight range: 47 to 94 lbs.
  • Tread depth range: 19.5 to 22/32″.

Tread Structure

Starting off with the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ, the tire features 2 ribs in the middle, containing overlapping triangularly-shaped lugs.

Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ
Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ central lugs are more compact and interlocking, relatively.

Both these central blocks basically make mirror images with each other and with their closed up design have narrower grooves in between.

So with a compact structure, they deliver on-road stability, whereas at the same time, their sharp chamfered edges, and V shaped full depth sipes render off-road traction as well.

Though the shoulder lugs are mostly in-charge of that (off-road grip).

These blocks carry all the biters seen in the middle, and in addition to that, they also have staggered outer edges and aggressive sidewalls connecting.

They render epic traction on all terrain types, especially with lowered down air pressure.

On the other side, the Nitto Trail Grappler features an equally aggressive structure, if not more.

Nitto Trail Grappler
Nitto Trail Grappler features a more blocky structure in comparison.

It’s tread consist of 2 ribs in the middle, forming circumferential grooves, though they are not as wide in comparison to it’s shoulder voids, where you see bold stone ejectors.

The hook shaped central lugs carry deep slits in them, off-set edges and small biting notches.

And as they are closed up here, the tire offers most of the highway grip form them.

The shoulders are elongated, and give out thicker siping slits. Moreover, they carry bigger mud scoops towards their outer margins.

Furthermore, the tire also comes with dual sidewalls. So it’s up to you which side you want to show outwards.

Highway Performance

Traction, steering, and cornering ability are 3 main dimensions to consider when evaluating the dry performance of mud terrains tires.

And so I’ve examined each of these individually below.

Directional Grip

Mud terrain tires don’t can’t have ample highway performance due to their aggressive structures, that’s why they mostly come with only Q in speed ratings (also goes for these two).

Though, despite this limitation, the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ renders greater grip in comparison (seen by its shorter braking distances, on average).

It’s central leaf shaped lugs are more compacted up, (as discussed in the tread design section), and they interlock with each other in a better way. This offers superior consistency as well as connectivity with the road while moving straight.

The Nitto Trial Grappler on the other hand, comes with wider circumferential gaps instead, in it’s central most area. And since this part of the tread makes the most contact with the ground as the tire rolls directionally, you see an overall lacking performance on this tire.

Lateral Traction

The overall structure and shoulders come in to action on sides, and here both areas render Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ better.

It’s lugs are basically arranged laterally (meaning, the middle tread blocks, look like they are part of shoulders). This allows for better weight transition as the tire corners.

The Nitto Trail Grappler on the other hand, lacks due to it’s heavier weight putting more pressure on it’s lugs causing them to over and under steer more relatively.

Wet Performance

The performance of wet traction is influenced by two essential aspects, wet grip and hydroplaning resistance. So let’s take a closer look at them both.

Wet Grip

Wet grip mostly comes form sipes, and although both tires don’t have ample of that, you’d still see a superior capability on Baja MTZ, as the tire features a flexible rubber top.

Basically sipes work by expanding (and then contracting back again), to suck water particles on the surface, and spraying them out again as the tire rolls over.

And so that allows the Mickey Thompson MTZ to have a more effective water wiping abilities.

On the other side, it’s a bad news for Nitto Trail Grappler, as the tire’s rubber is pretty stiffer. In fact, that’s the reason why the tire is one of the heaviest in the mud-terrain category.


Hydroplaning also has to do with water evacuation but on major scale, that’s why it’s helped with tread voids, or grooves.

And since both tires have plenty of that, they both supply a lot of real estate for water to withdraw out rapidly, without any issues.

Though still if you have to pick one, you can say, the Mickey Thompson MTZ shows a little bit of faster float speeds in comparison.

Fuel Consumption

As the tire rolls, the flexing of the tread generates additional heat and friction (between the tire and the road’s surface), which causes majority of energy loses form the fuel.

That’s why the Nitto Trail Grappler, being heavier and having deeper tread, enforces its lugs to bend more, leading to greater energy wastage.

Whereas, with superior stability on Mickey Baja MTZ, the tire comes out with lower rolling resistance values, and better fuel economy, as a result.


Rolling resistance also contributes a lot to tread life, though here, there are two other factors to keep in mind as well. They include the overall tread composition, and depth.

And considering both, it makes seen why both tires offer similar tread mileage.

The Mickey Thompson MTZ although has a softer tread compound which burns faster, rubbing against the road, the tire is saved by its greater tread depth. So it still takes a long enough time to wear down to 2/32″ of legal limit.

Whereas the Nitto Trail Grappler offers similar capabilities with it’s stiffer compound, even though its much heavier weight puts more pressure on the lugs.

Snow Performance

Both tires are although not 3 peak mountain snowflake rated, but that does not mean they can’t perform on snow.

Sure with limited sipes on the tread, the traction on snowy tracks gets compromised, and yes there’s absolutely no gripping with them on icy terrains, but these tires are pretty capable on deeper snow, where their thick blocks scoop up the ground and create forward momentum with it.

Traction Off-Road

Off road has a lot of different challenges lined up. And it’s best if we evaluate these tires by the terrain type. See below.

Rocky Trails

On rocks you need a combination of lateral and longitudinal traction, and that is seen better on Nitto Trail Grappler.

Although both tires have elongated shoulders, the Nitto Trail also offers wider lateral tread voids as well, and these combined with it’s angled L shaped blocks you get greater g forces in all directions.

Moreover, it’s dual sidewall lugs further add to that (mostly seen with lowered air pressure).

The Mickey MTZ on the other hand, can’t offer as much gripping, and its sidewall lugs aren’t as aggressive either, comparatively.

Muddy Tracks

On muddy terrains, both boys have their good and bad. But at the end of day (after testing), you have to put Nitto Trail Grappler on top.

The tire comes with a more voided structure overall, where you see straight forward 3 longitudinal grooves, connecting lateral channels with them. And these escape the mud out with better efficacy.

Moreover it’s chunkier dual sidewall lugs throw a great deal of mud, (backwards, yielding forward momentum).

On the other hand, the Mickey Thompson MTZ can’t evacuate as much mud in a given time. It’s central lugs are more packed up, and they restrict the mud-flow especially through sideways, even though it’s shoulder lugs are equally aggressive in comparison.

Sandy Dunes

On sand you need to avoid as much digging as possible as that is the worst thing for traction.

And so with heavier weight the Nitto Trail Grappler lacks overall, and you really feel it on slopes.

The Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ on the other side, provides softer edges and with comparatively lighter weight, it floats better.

Moreover, although its counterpart offers thicker lugs on sidewalls, the one on MTZ still offers greater footprint, rendering it better here overall.

Ride Quality

Two critical considerations impact the overall ride quality – tread noise, and tire’s ability to soak up road bumps.

I’ll explore each of these elements in further detail.

Tread Noise

Noise is just produced by air particles which come in and out of the tread (from the shoulders mostly). And they create two different types of sounds.

  • One is whistling like, which you hear as humming.
  • While other is hear as wobbling (which is made when air particles hit the tread walls).

In case of humming both tires are equally noisy. I mean you would hear them out after 30 mph clearly, even with windows closed and radio on.

Though still out of both, the Mickey MTZ does a greater job, as it’s softer compound is slightly better at absorbing a good deal of noise.

Trail Grappler on the other end, although features variable pitch technology, its relatively balder structure (especially from the middle), produces a lot more wobbling in comparison.

Impact Comfort

Comfort is required on both on and off road and here with a softer built tread, Mickey Thompson MTZ render superior efficacy.

This is because its inner construction offers softer cap plies and with that, and like already mentioned, it’s rubber is relatively more pliable as well.

The Nitto Trail Grappler on the other side, feels a little more jittery on pavements, though it subjectively cushions the bumps in a similar manner off-roads.

What’s The Verdict?

In the end it all comes down to this.

The Nitto Trail Grappler is a tougher tire out of two, and so it makes sense why it offers superior tread life and rocky terrain traction.

On the other side, the Mickey MTZ does a great job on mud and sand, and is a relatively better tire for pavements.

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