Nitto Nomad Grappler Review

Leave a comment

The Nitto Nomad Grappler emerges as a versatile all-terrain tire, blending off-road capability with on-road manners. Its unique design caters to a range of driving conditions, from city streets to challenging off-road trails. Let’s check out this tire in greater details.

Nitto Nomad Grappler
Nitto Nomad Grappler on Tacoma.

Key Takeaway

Overall, the Nitto Nomad Grappler excels in:

  • Cornering and overall handling.
  • Winter performance with superior ice and snow traction.
  • Durability and extended tread life.

However, it needs improvements in:

  • Wet grip and handling due to ineffective sipes.
  • Hydroplaning resistance in curved scenarios.
  • Rock traction, particularly lacking stone ejectors and durability.

Understand Sizes

The Nitto Nomad Grappler comes in 32 total sizes in 17, 18 and 20 inches rims. These sizes have the following specs:

  • Speed ratings: H, T and V, (only 1 size is seen with V).
  • Load ratings: XL only (right now).
  • Weight range: 28 to 46 lbs.
  • Tread depth range: 12.5 to 13.5/32″.
  • Treadwear Warranty: 60k miles.
  • Winter ratings: 3PMSF and M+S.

Side Note: Learn how to read tire sizes here. You’d find all about speed and load ratings from here as well.

Tread Design

The Nitto Nomad Grappler is an aesthetically pleasing all-terrain tire

Nitto Nomad Grappler
Can you picture the S-shaped lugs on Nomad Grappler?

It’s tread is characterized by two distinct tread parts, divided by wide and zigzag circumferential grooves.

The middle area consists of S-shaped blocks with in-groove notches and off-set edges, providing multi-directional grip.

These central blocks are also outfitted with numerous full-depth sipes, which enhance the flexibility of the lugs, offering improved traction off-road, particularly in snowy conditions, while primarily aiding in wet traction.

The shoulder lugs are designed to be less aggressive though.

While they do not excel in self-cleaning, with their closed up voids, they contribute significantly to steering responsiveness on paved surfaces.

And yes, here the reinforced foundations underneath these lugs also aid to that.

And while these shoulders aren’t staggered, their (outer) edges still feature notches and sharp, serrated biters.

And those combined with the tire’s dual sidewall patterns, you get good enough off-road performance, especially when you lower the tire’s air pressure.

Compare Nomad Grappler with:

Dry Performance

Dry performance is a mixture of tire’s directional and lateral grip, along with steering and handling abilities.

Let’s see how the Nitto tire performed in each of these components.

Dry Traction

Traction is comprised of two main components: directional grip and lateral grip.

Directional grip (measured by braking distances), is predominantly influenced by the tread’s central area, while lateral grip depends on shoulders.

This has to do with the weight distribution on the tire, which shifts depending on the vehicle’s movement.

During straight-line motion, the weight concentrates on the tire’s middle tread area. In contrast, when turning, the weight shifts to the tire’s shoulders.

Having said that, it can be explained why Nomad Grappler isn’t able to perform so great with its more voided up middle section.

Though the tire does great in terms of lateral traction, where its compact shoulder blocks allow for more optimal rubber-to-road contact.

To give you the idea, the Nitto tire lacks to Falken Wildpeak AT Trail (review), by 2 feet in braking distance tests, even though both tires come out with similar lateral traction (as seen by their comparative g forces).

Overall Handling

Overall handling in a tire is a blend of its directional grip, lateral grip, and steering response.

The Nitto’s tire presents a unique case. Despite its moderate performance in directional and lateral traction, it excels in overall handling, outperforming the Falken AT Trail by over half a second in handling tests.

So why is that? Well, to understand this you have to consider the 3 phases of cornering.

  • Entering: Upon entering a corner, a driver typically slows down, possibly downshifts, and brakes before turning.
  • Mid-cornering: Mid-cornering is crucial for feedback. It’s the point in a turn where the vehicle is at the apex, and the tire’s responsiveness is key.
  • Exiting: Exiting the corner involves straightening the tires and accelerating.

Now, the Nomad Grappler might not enter the corner fast enough, due to it taking more time slowing down (braking, as already explained).

But the tire still offers superb performance in other two phases.

I mean, it offers direct and a relatively faster feedback to steering inputs, and a great on center feel, allowing for superb handling times, as seen on lap tests.

About On-Center Feel: This refers to the tire’s stability and feedback when the steering wheel is “centered”. It’s basically crucial for maintaining control particularly, after a turn.

Side Note: Despite its superb performance, the tire couldn’t make it to my list of top A/T tires, see here:

Wet Performance

Wet Performance is a combined component of wet grip, handling, and hydroplaning resistance. Let’s check out both, one after another.

Wet Grip and Handling

Wet road traction in tires is heavily dependent on the design of the tread and the quantity and “quality” of sipes.

These sipes are small slits on the tread that play a crucial role in water displacement. They basically suck up water particles coming underneath the lugs, preventing tires from slippage.

And the Nitto Nomad Grappler, unfortunately, falls short in this aspect.

It lacks an all-weather rubber compound, which usually involves a mix of silica and advanced tread technology. This combination is essential for improving the tread’s flexibility, a key factor for sipes’ “quality”.

This flexibility basically allow sipes to properly “flex”, drawing moisture in. Meaning, with a rigid rubber on Nitto, these sipes aren’t as effective to clear off water from the road.

Moreover, the tire although features multi-directional sipes, running in all directions, their linear structures is less effective.

This particularly goes for shoulders, where the linear sipes tend to get stiffen up, further, especially with extreme cornering.

Aquaplaning Resistance

Hydroplaning occurs when a tire loses contact with the road and instead skims across a water layer, resulting in a loss of all traction because the tire is essentially “floating”, or I should say hydroplaning.

To prevent this, tires are designed with grooves (in the tread), to channel water away, and so with such voided up structure, its not an issue for our boy here.

I mean, the Nitto Nomad incorporates wide zigzag circumferential grooves, which are are inter-connected with each other, thanks to “U-shaped” interlocking lugs in the tread’s middle. And so its able to throw water out efficiently.

Though the tire could improve here a bit as well. I mean it performs adequately in straight aquaplaning tests, as indicated by float speeds, its still less effective in curved scenarios.

This is because curved aqua tests measure how fast a tire turns (again measured with float speeds), on a similar surface, with few millimeters deep water, standing on.

And the Nomad Grappler with closed up shoulder voids, not allowing water to properly evacuate out, laterally, isn’t able to perform well in this regard.

Durability and Tread Life

To withstand the challenges of off-road driving, all-terrain tires are constructed with robust rubber and layered polymers internally.

However, the Nomad Grappler differs in its design, featuring a less rugged only 2-ply polyester structure with belts and a single nylon cap ply.

And sure this lowers its durability making ride less confidence inspiring, especially when it comes to off-road performance, it enhances overall tread life.

The fewer plies in its internal construction reduce the tire’s overall weight. And this lighter weight means the lugs and tread are subjected to less force, enhancing wear resistance.

Moreover, the tire’s harder rubber composition further adds to that. So even though it comes with a shallower tread depth of up to 13.5/32″, it still takes a considerable amount of time to wear down to the 2/32″ replacement level.

Side Note: In the United States, 2/32″ is the legal minimum tread depth at which tires can be used.

So overall, Nitto’s tire provides an excellent choice here, which is backed up its 60,000-mile warranty offering, across all sizes.

Off Road Traction

Each of the following off-road terrains presents distinct challenges, and so it’s important to assess tire’s performance in all of them, one by one. Let’s start with mud.

Mud Traction

Tires designed for muddy terrain should feature wide grooves and self-cleaning capabilities to avoid tread blockage and maintain traction.

Having said that, while the Nitto Nomad Grappler may not be the best choice for deep mud conditions, it performs adequately on milder, less demanding muddy surfaces (especially when compared to other tires in its category).

This tire’s effectiveness partly stems from its staggered shoulders and sidewalls, which are engineered for mud traction. They function by scooping and displacing mud backward, aiding in forward momentum.

Additionally, despite its closed lug design, the interconnected grooves that run in various directions still allow for good enough self-cleaning properties, thereby improving grip on lighter mud surfaces.

Sand Performance

Overall, the Nitto Nomad Grappler demonstrates a pretty decent performance on sandy terrains.

Its design incorporates a softer, silica-rich tread compound, enabling a larger portion of the tire to make contact with the sand.

Moreover you also get dual sidewall designs on this tire as well, which do the same. I mean, these sidewall lugs flex/expand, thereby distributing the vehicle’s weight more evenly.

Of course, both of these (sidewalls, and composition), features are beneficial, when the tire is deflated. And yes, they both provide the tire with better floating properties (so it won’t sink in the sand).

Furthermore, the tire’s lighter weight is the cherry on the top, as it directly impacts the tire’s resistance to sinking, especially on deeper sandy dunes.

Traction on Rocks

Traction on rocky terrains, has two main components. It include gravelly roads and larger rock (where tire’s climbing abilities are checked).

Focusing on gravelly roads first, effective tires here typically require robust stone ejectors and chip-resistant rubber.

And the Nitto Nomad Grappler provides satisfactory traction on these surfaces.

I mean although the tire is missing with stone ejectors, which leads to rapid dirt accumulation, its overall performance here is still not so bad, thanks to its durable chip-resistant rubber, and open tread voids (in the middle).

Moving towards rock climbing, where durability and multi-directional grip matter the most, the Nomad Grappler again meets partial requirements.

It falls short in durability but compensates with its interlocking lug design, offering multi-angled grip. Additionally, its serrated shoulder edges, along with good enough sidewall lugs, enhance overall traction with lowered air pressure.

Winter Performance

When evaluating the winter performance of an all-season tire, three critical factors are essential: acceleration, handling (which includes steering response), and the tire’s ability to adapt to various winter conditions, especially soft snow and ice.

In this context, the Nitto Nomad Grappler stands out in its category for its above-average winter performance, as indicated by tests and subjective evaluations.

And that’s simply because this tire incorporates several features, typically found in winter tires, enhancing its winter capabilities.

One such feature is the use of a thermally adaptive rubber compound. This softer rubber remains flexible even in cold temperatures, allowing biters to effectively grip on the slick surfaces.

Speaking of which, the tire also offers a lot of in-groove notches/biters, predominantly formed by S-shaped lugs in the middle (of the tread). These notches, along with multiple siping slits running in various directions that join them, are designed to trap and hold snow.

But why that’s important?

Well, because this allows for optimal snow-to-snow contact, and since snowflakes like to stick more on to each other, instead of rubber, you get better overall snow adherence, thereby improving grip.

Moreover, the tire’s middle lugs also help with snow acceleration, as they scoop out the snow backwards, propelling tires forward. That’s why the tire is also rated with 3 Peak Mountain Snowflake certification, along with the M+S (Mud and Snow) ratings across all its sizes.

Noise Comfort

Tire noise usually arises from air particles striking the tread walls, a phenomenon often initiated by air entering through the gaps in the tire’s shoulders.

That’s why it makes sense why the Nitto Nomad Grappler is so quiet on road. The tire comes with a very packed up shoulder design, where the voids in between the lugs also have ridges.

These ridges/connectors act as a barrier, reducing the amount of air that can penetrate the tread area and, consequently, decreasing noise generation at its source.

Moreover, the tire also deals with sources of sounds as well, like it’s rubber doesn’t emit a lot of in-groove resonance. This has to do with, what Nitto calls, Variable Pitch Technology.

This technology involves designing lugs with subtly different shapes and sizes, disrupting the regular pattern of sound wave creation.

I mean, as air particles hit these geometrically varied lugs, they generate sound waves at diverse frequencies. And so overall noise is not amplified.

Side Note: A better tire for noise comfort is the Continental TerrainContact A/T (review).


In conclusion, the Nitto Nomad Grappler exhibits a mixed performance across different terrains and conditions.

In dry conditions, it offers moderate directional and lateral traction but excels in overall handling.

However, its performance in wet conditions is less impressive, though the tire stands out in winter scenarios, thanks to its thermally adaptive rubber compound.

Moreover, the tire’s noise comfort is also impressive, and so is its tread life and fuel economy.

Though the tire lacks in durability, and some off-road areas.

Leave a Comment