Nitto Trail Grappler vs Ridge Grappler

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The Nitto Trail Grappler is a mud-terrain (M/T) tire while the Nitto Ridge Grappler is rugged-terrain (R/T), which is also called a hybrid. Such tires actually come in between all terrain and mud terrain tires. So compared to Nitto Trail, the Ridge Grappler is although not as aggressive, but it sure performs better on smooth pavements.

Nitto Trail Grappler RT
Nitto Ridge Grappler offers a more closed up tread in comparison.

Being a tire engineer, from my perspective, the Nitto Ridge Grappler does things better on road in dry and wet conditions. The tire has closed up lugs which offer better steering response, shorter braking distances and handling times. However, off-road, although the tire is pretty great, it still can’t outperform the Mud-Terrain tire, the Nitto Trail Grappler which offer bigger groove mouth and better self cleaning of it’s tread. Other than this, both tires could use traction on snow, where Ridge Grappler is although not good enough too, is still better in comparison.

Sizes Available

Starting with Nitto Trail Grappler, the tire comes in 53 total sizes (15 to 26 inches).

All sizes go from C to F in load ratings whereas the speed ratings are available in either P or Q.

The tire is one of the heaviest in mud terrain category and it ranges from 61 lbs to 116 lbs.

Other than this, the tread depth goes up to 22/32″ from 19/32″ where most sizes get to have 21/32″

On the other side, the Nitto Ridge Grappler comes with more sizes, as it gives 98 total sizes, though they are available in 16 to 24 inches.

Load ratings are available in SL, XL, D, E and F, while Speed ratings stay in T or Q.

The weight range of ridge grappler is smaller, 36 lbs to 91 lbs.

And same is the case with tread depth as well, where it ranges between 13/32″ and 18/32″, mostly sizes get to have 16.4/32″.

Internal Construction

If I go from least aggressive to most, the least spot goes to all-terrain tires, then comes rugged-terrain and in the end we have mud terrain.

So it makes sense why Nitto Trail Grappler “M/T” is slightly more durable in comparison.

Even though both tires have 3 ply polyester cover, 2 steel belts and 2 layers of nylon as cap plies, the Nitto Ridge Grappler doesn’t offer as much structural integrity as its bigger brother.

This is because the Nitto Trail Grappler comes with a thicker rubber layer on top, which not only covers the central area of the tread, but also the sidewalls, protecting the most vulnerable part of the tire.

Outer Construction

Let me start things here with Nitto Trail Grappler.

Nitto Trail Grappler
Nitto Trail Grappler features dual sidewalls, with bulkier lugs in comparison.

So, this tire is more aggressive in comparison, which is not a surprise, given it comes in mud-terrain category.

The tire although features dual sidewalls, (just like the Nitto Ridge), it’s lugs there are bulkier in comparison, on both sides.

They provide superior off-road bite, as they flex with lowered down air pressure. And adding to that are it’s staggered shoulder lugs, with bigger mud scoops in them (comparatively).

Moving towards the middle, there are 2 ribs seen.

These contain C shaped blocks interlocking with those shoulders. And although they offer very minimal biters there, they still provide better self cleaning with a combination of much wider lateral and longitudinal grooves.

On the other side, the Nitto Ridge Grappler being a R/T although offers less aggressive structure, it’s still allocates its tread with decent channels.

Nitto Ridge Grappler
Nitto Ridge Grappler showing it’s more aggressive side.

So this tire features a clear-cut combination of lateral and longitudinal grooves throughout its tread.

There are zigzag circumferential channels, which connect the lateral tread voids of the shoulders (where bold stone ejectors are seen). Then there are X and Z shaped grooves in the middle, which also interconnect with all.

The central ones are formed by 4 triangular blocks, which have powerful biters, offset edges, and full depth siping in them.

These features provide off-road traction, while the lower tread depth, and reinforced foundations underneath those blocks ensure above average pavement grip as well.

(Basically with shallower tread depth, and foundational supports, the lugs don’t get to flex too much, and this provides highway stability especially during braking and acceleration). Let me discuss this in detail.

Dry Roads Capability

When it comes to highways there are a few things required to have optimal performance, these include dry grip, handling stability and steering feedback, let’s discuss them all.

Dry Grip

Dry traction can be an issue for such aggressive tires, this is because of their balder design which struggle to hold the pavement completely.

Though with a more voided structure, the Nitto Trail Grappler lacks a lot more in comparison.

Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other side, features better connection with the road, as for one, it’s lugs make larger contact patch with the ground, two, they are streamlined longitudinally, so they render shorter braking distances, and third, their reinforced foundations underneath provide highways stability.

That’s the reason why this provides sizes with better speed ratings.

Lateral Traction

Handling of the tire depends on sides of the tire, this is because as the tire corners, the whole weight (it’s carrying) gets shifted towards the outer edges of the tread.

And being a mud terrain tire, the Nitto Trail Grappler is extremely voided there. It’s still somewhat closed up in the middle, but on the shoulders, the tire is bald.

Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other side, ensures a much better lateral g forces in comparison. The tire features minimal shoulder design, so it meets up with the road without any hurdles, and with closed up lateral voids there (comparatively), they cater a better contact patch.

Though most of it’s handling efficacy can be explained with it’s steering response.

Steering Response

Steering response is affected by compound stiffness and tread design. That’s why heavier tires contribute to over and under steering by increasing the rotational inertia of the tire, which can make it more difficult for the tire to change directions.

And so with more bendable lugs on Nitto Trail Grappler, combined with its heavier weight, the tire is more prone to that.

The Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other hand, features more stable rubber to road connection, and it’s lugs don’t waste energy in to flexing/bending, so you get a faster response times here.

Winter Performance

Both tires are not branded with 3 Peak Mountain Snowflake symbols, though still out of them, you’d be better off with Nitto Ridge Grappler. This tire basically provides biters which are more capable of grabbing snow particles and make snow contact with them (which yields better friction, as snowflakes stick better with each other, instead of rubber).

Nitto Trail Grappler on the other side, has too wide of the tread voids to allow ample snow gripping, though on much deeper terrains (off-road snow), the tire supply scooping and the needed traction with it.

Wet Traction

Wet performance depends on just one crucial factor, tire’s water wiping abilities. And this is done by sipes, and grooves.

Being such aggressive tires, both tires are pretty bald, so there’s no deficiency of grooves in them, which channels water out in time to avoid hydroplaning or floating of the tire. But the problem arises, when these tires aren’t able to clear out water particles on a micro level, which has to do with sipes.

Sipes basically are allocated slits on the tread, where water is literally soaked in to. And so with such minimal siping seen on Nitto Trial Grappler, the tire isn’t able to provide ample gripping abilities.

The Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other side, is although not so well known for its wet gripping either, it still does better relatively, as it features more in number siping.

Fuel Usage

With the flexing of the tread blocks, additional heat and friction gets created, between the tire and the road surface, and this wastes the energy of the fuel.

That’s why out of both tires, the Nitto Trail Grappler being heavier and having more tread depth, enforces its lugs to waste more energy in to bending.

Whereas the Nitto Ridge Grappler consumes more of it’s energy in to rolling of the tire, as it’s lugs are more stable, having reinforced foundations underneath.

For Your Info: The bending/flexing of the lugs is an intentional design feature of off-road tires, which allows them to conform to uneven terrain and maximize their surface area of contact with the ground. So tire manufacturers have to find a middle ground here.

Ride Quality

The more aggressive the tire gets, the more it compromises on the overall ride’s comfort. That’s why Nitto Ridge Grappler being a hybrid tire (coming in b/w all-terrain and mud-terrain), still gets to be better when compared to a mud terrain tire.

It’s narrower tread voids, gets to deliver stable on-road maneuverability, and at the same time, account for a quieter ride. This is because with closed up lugs, there’s very less space left for air particles to come in and hit around (which generates noise).

The Nitto Trail Grappler on the flip side is going to be much louder with such balder tread.

Do A/T tires cause vibrations:

Rugged Terrain Traction

Off road you need tires with huge cleaning abilities and durability so you can confidently move on all types of terrains. Let’s check them all out.

On Mud

Out of both tires, its not a surprise to see the Nitto Trail Grappler providing better traction on muddy terrains.

It features much wider grooves, which allow thick clay to pass out of the tread effectively, in time, and it’s elongated shoulders with dual sidewalls featuring thicker lugs there, grant superb paddling.

These scoop the mud out of the tire’s way, and throw it backwards, generating forward motion, as a result.

Ridge Grappler on the flip side, even with it’s Z shaped lugs connecting decent shoulders, and dual sidewall lugs, still can’t provide the same level of traction as a dedicated mud tire.

On Rocks

On rocks you need durability, and powerful lugs (on both middle and sidewalls), and here both tire are great.

Obviously you’d get a slightly better traction on Nitto Trail, but what’s really surprising to see is how little the Nitto Ridge Grappler lacks here.

The tire’s triangular ribs with zigzag teeth, notches, forming Z shaped grooves, providing amazing gripping power in all directions, and it’s dual sidewalls with thick enough lugs provide ample climbing efficacy with lowered air pressure.

Moreover, the tire also offers similar durability with 3 ply sidewalls.

On Sand

Sand is a tricky terrain, as here you need two things, paddling and floating. Floating is achieved by a tire which is lighter, having a softer compound, can bear lower air pressure, and have a wider section width, whereas the paddling depends on the lugs structure.

The Nitto Trail Grappler although offers elongated shoulder lugs which provide ample paddling, it’s heavier weight still puts this tire under a hard time.

Ridge Grappler on the other side, has a sharper edges, though it’s lighter weight, and thick enough sidewall lugs provide ample floating abilities.

So overall, both these tires do okay.


So overall, it all comes down to this, the Nitto Trail Grappler being a mud terrain tire is a much better fit when it comes to rugged terrains, including sand, mud and even rocks (though with a close margin, I should add).

The Nitto Ridge Grappler on the other side, is a better tire for pavements, it shows superior traction, dry steering response, winter traction and on-road comfort.

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