Off-roading enthusiasts know rock crawling is serious business. It involves navigating a vehicle over rocks of all sizes and even scaling mountainsides. To go rock-crawling safely, you need a solid plan, driving experience, and comprehensive knowledge of the SUV or
, speed (or lack thereof) is one of the most important factors in rock crawling. It's called "crawling" because ideally, you should move very slowly (we’re talking 3 miles per hour).
Going too fast can damage your vehicle or result in you getting stuck. As speed increases, accurate judgment of your surroundings is sure to decrease. Plus, too much momentum over uneven terrain can cause your vehicle to tip over.
It's important to know where and how your tires will land as you move. Rock crawling shouldn’t be a spontaneous thrill. It should involve careful planning, as the safest experiences for you, your vehicle, and others around you will come from charting the path you plan to take in advance.
To do this effectively, you can walk the path first to see what sort of terrain you're dealing with. Once you’re in your off-roading vehicle, a third-party spotter can also help by walking along nearby and guiding you over the rocks as you navigate.
Now that you have an idea of the basics of safe rock crawling, let's talk about some of the finer details.
Having rugged, off-roading tires is a necessity. Even so, you have to navigate over the rocks carefully to protect those tires, particularly the sidewalls, from damage or puncture.
According to HowStuffWorks, it's a good idea to avoid straddling larger rocks, tackling them with your tires instead. This will help to protect the underside of your off-roader from getting torn up.
Critically, you should know your vehicle's capabilities before you attempt a path and be mindful of what it can and can't clear. That awareness combined with a conservative, slow speed is your best chance for a successful run.
Three of the top off-roading vehicles for rock crawling
off-road package beefs up the standard Ford F-250 and F-350 Super Duty trucks.
This high-performance package is designed for the road less traveled. It boasts two engine choices: a third-generation 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel, or the powerful new 7.3-liter gas V-8. Both offer plenty of horsepower (475 and 430, respectively), but the Power Stroke’s torque far exceeds the V-8’s (1050 lb-ft vs. 475 lb-ft).
The rock-crawl, deep snow, and sand drive modes make the Tremor a
. The truck also features progressive rate springs and an anti-roll bar, which help to rank the ride above GMC and Chevy competitors, according to Hagerty.
On the downside, it doesn't offer a front locking differential and is too large for some trails. Plus, the truck’s sheer size and minimal body protection mean that bumpers can get damaged when navigating larger obstacles.
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. This is another capable off-road vehicle that can tackle rock crawling with skill. The
Rubicon leads the pack for built-in off-roading capabilities. Powered by a 3.6-liter V-6, turbocharged four-cylinder, or turbodiesel V-6, the Rubicon has 33-inch tires, great suspension, steel rock sliders, skid plates, full-width track bars, and a host of other features.
It is particularly good for those who are new to off-roading, as it protects its occupants and itself incredibly well. It comes with Jeep’s Rock-Trac 4x4 System and the manual transmission Rubicon has an 84.1:1 crawl ratio, which is reduced slightly to 77.2:1 for automatic. For reference, the Ford Tremor offers a maximum of 53:1, so the Rubicon is the better choice here.
The Rubicon is available with two or four doors and you can pull off the doors and roof for an open-air experience. The two-door model gives great approach, breakover, and departure angles that increase maneuverability, but the four-door model is more popular, according to Hagerty.
The iconic Jeep Wrangler Rubicon can take you almost anywhere you want to go. Just know that when you add features, it can get expensive very quickly.
The 2021 Ram 2500HD Power Wagon. This heavy-duty truck is a force to be reckoned with, pairing a large 6.4-liter V-8 with smooth ride quality. It doesn’t have the best crawl ratio (35:1), but according to Hagerty, the Power Wagon has front and rear solid axles with an electric locking differential—the only heavy-duty pickup truck to do so.
It also includes an extra joint at the upper axle mount, rear coil spring rear suspension, an electronically disconnecting front stabilizer bar, and superior wheel travel on 33-inch tires.
Like the Ford Tremor, it has minimal body protection and is too big for some trails. As you can imagine, it doesn't get the best fuel economy, but this is to be expected from big offroaders.
If you’re thinking of buying an off-roading vehicle,
Genevieve holds a BSc in Psychology from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, but her first and forever loves are writing and editing. She is passionate about creating transportive experiences for readers and feels most at-home in the literary world. When she's not writing about finance or car insurance, you can probably find Genevieve watching a good film, looking for sushi, or putting on her chef's hat in the kitchen.