Kanati’s Mud Hog M/T Tires Enable a Local Summer Overland Journey

By Rick Stowe

Like many others this year, my wife, Brandi, and I found ourselves reevaluating our summer plans.

We had a long weekend venture to Georgia on the calendar for May, and then a trip to Colorado to round out the end of July and into August. But the current state of travel restrictions and closures, added on top of public health concerns, had us rethinking our entire summer.

However, I had just mounted some Kanati Mud Hog M/Ts on the Tacoma. And I was eager to get them onto some dirt to see how they performed. What’s more, the summer weather was just too tempting to remain cooped up indoors.


Close-up of the Kanatis on some rock. | Rick Stowe

Close-up of the Kanatis on some rock. | Rick Stowe

Keen to test the Kanatis, get out of the house, and salvage at least a bit of the summer, Brandi and I planned a long-weekend trip within an hour radius of home.

The search for new “local” spots presented a particularly challenging proposition for us, since we have thoroughly explored most of the trails and wilderness areas around us already. We saw this challenge no different than any other logistical obstacle. So we poured over the maps and found some areas. Delightfully, we discovered some spots we had somehow skipped over (go figure).

We decided to connect some previously unexplored Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), public lands, and some private campsites to create a nice winding route around our home and neighboring counties.

We packed up minimal equipment in our Tacoma and AT Summit Topper. We could put the cooler in the kayak (we opted to go with the cooler versus our fridge on this trip), since the trip was only a few days, we didn’t require many refrigerated goods.

Outside of that, some fishing equipment, chairs, and a packable fire pit made up the bulk of our gear. The Summit topper always houses our recovery gear, tools, tire repair kit, and a compressor, so there wasn’t much to load up before heading out. 

Journey to Well Known Lands

The first stop was a section of the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Scott County, Tennessee that is somewhat isolated from the majority of the management area. 


Rounding the bend. | Rick Stowe

Rounding the bend. | Rick Stowe

Somehow I had passed over this particular road. It turned out to be a great spot to explore.

I was particularly happy to have run it in the truck with the brand-new Mud Hogs beneath it. What I thought might make a good route for the gravel bikes ended up being a bit too much of a rock garden with several washouts and deep gravel.

The WMA access road snaked up the ridges in steep switchbacks until we topped out to open views of mountains in the distance. The occasional washout kept us at a slow pace and allowed us to take in the thick green forest around us.

Every few miles we would spot a roadside waterfall or small pond. In cooler temps once the leafs have dropped, we’ll return to look for elk.

After we had our feel of exploring the red track tracing through the mountains, we headed back to the valley below. A manmade feature I often take for granted is nearby Norris Lake. A portion of its 800-mile long shore is only 15 minutes from home, but it offers nearly endless coves and hollows to explore. The local marinas tend to be the more popular choices for most folks. We, however, prefer the access points provided by the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency.

These areas are usually off of a small two-lane or gravel road and provide a dirt ramp to the lake. That’s fine for our purposes of launching the kayak.

The day that we paddled a previously unexplored cove happened to also be the day that a Saharan dust storm had blown into the southeastern United States. It made for odd skies and a bit of chop, but the cool breeze was a welcome respite from the normal July sun. 

After some time on the water we decided to have a quick meal of kabobs before settling into camp. We found a spot just down the road that had us spending the night just a few feet from the water. We had a quiet night outside of a few cars on the distant road, the occasional fish splash, and the opportunistic raccoons hoping to find something delicious around our camp.


Camping on a friend’s land. | Rick Stowe

Camping on a friend’s land. | Rick Stowe

The next morning we awoke to light fog and glassy waters. While it was tempting to stick around we decided to put some miles under the tires. We soon found ourselves along the Clinch River. Compared to the WMA, these roads were well manicured — I’m itching to get back and explore them with the Kanatis when the track gets slick in the fall. 

With plenty of time to explore before we needed to head towards our next campsite, we spent the day driving back roads we had previously passed by or had forgotten their destinations. Living in the Southern Appalachian Mountains ensures there is no shortage of old roads that pass family farms, through ancient forest, and occasionally dead ends in the middle of nowhere.

After several hours of high-quality meandering, we made our way to a friend’s property that had graciously offered for us a campsite for the night. We tucked the truck amongst the trees to escape the sun and brought out our minimal gear. Once the delicate balance between the ambient temperature and the annoyance of the mosquitoes reached the tipping point I started a fire in our portable pit. 


Makeshift grille. | Rick Stowe

Makeshift grille. | Rick Stowe

In keeping with the low-key summer exploration vibes the fire roasted hot dogs rounded out the day. I lazily casted some flies and Brandi made progress on a book. Once the light began to fade we turned in for a solid night’s rest. The next morning we got up, decided to roll out sans breakfast, closed the camper, and were headed home within 15 minutes. 

You Know What They Say

The drive home was uneventful. As we pulled out onto the pavement, the wind through the open windows picked up and I could hear the occasional chunk of mud or rock being thrown from the tires. With the fresh set of M/Ts on the truck, I thought nothing of it. So I ignored the sounds.

We were at the backdoor within an hour and I started unpacking. While unpacking the cooler, my wife and I discussed our plans for dinner. We realized we lacked a few ingredients. With a list in hand, I headed out the door. As I drove down our driveway I heard a loud pop, followed by a noise I can only describe a piercing squeal. Then I heard an ominous and steady rhythmic thud. The couple-mile round trip to the grocery store showed no change in the noise, so a visit to the mechanic the next morning was in order.


The Mud Hog M/Ts performed exceptionally, even at full highway PSI. | Rick Stowe

The Mud Hog M/Ts performed exceptionally, even at full highway PSI. | Rick Stowe

A total failure of one rear axle bearing was the culprit.

As I left the Tacoma at the shop the quote, “It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong” came to mind. I guess sometimes that quote applies when the adventure is small, and technically over. We’re very happy that the axle didn’t give up in the middle of the WMA two days earlier.

The Tires

Over the course of the weeks preceding, and over the long weekend, I had the opportunity to test the new Kanati Mud Hog M/Ts that I had recently mounted on the truck. My first impression was that, even though they were the exact same size as my previous tires, they gave the Tacoma a more aggressive styling than my previous tires.


A little water crossing. | Rick Stowe

A little water crossing. | Rick Stowe

Previously, I ran all-terrain tires on the truck due to my lengthy commute. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the Kanatis on daily driver duty as well as on the local overland adventure.

On the highway, the Mud Hogs aren’t noticeably louder than any other tire I’ve rolled. And I have not noticed any dips in fuel economy.

The majority of our local overland adventure took us over gravel roads of every type imaginable. Of course, they excelled on the smooth graded roads. But I was impressed with how well they maneuvered in the deeper sections and avoided picking up and throwing the larger gravel in the WMA the way my previous all-terrain tires had.

The dry weather didn’t provide many opportunities to see how they do in mud or on slick off-road environments. However, we did encounter one cloudburst on the highway. With one inch of water running across the road and areas of shoulder with deep pools, hydroplaning was never a problem.


The Kanati Mud Hog’s absorbed a lot of the roadway imperfections while returning excellent grip. | Rick Stowe

The Kanati Mud Hog’s absorbed a lot of the roadway imperfections while returning excellent grip. | Rick Stowe

In the WMA we crossed ruts, climbed up steep rock gardens, and rolled along washboard roads for several hours. After getting out to spot a line, I realized that we hadn’t aired down from highway pressure. The tall tread pattern seemed to cushion some of the vibration and gripped the sand stone with ease. I have no doubts that when aired down these tires would be hard pressed to struggle on any terrain I might encounter.

My first experience with Kanati has been great. And I look forward to whatever adventures, both near and far, these tires see in the future. 

The Little Things

With no need to rush and cover big miles, we made conscious efforts to enjoy the little things on this trip.

Lakeside flowers were thoroughly observed and photographed regardless of how many tight spots we paddled into. We inspected roadside blackberry patches with hopes of finding a few early ripe fruits, but without success. And I focused on catching tiny fish near camp that normally wouldn’t warrant such efforts.


It will be fun to test out the Mud Hog M/Ts when the whole state is slick this fall. | Rick Stowe

It will be fun to test out the Mud Hog M/Ts when the whole state is slick this fall. | Rick Stowe

The most enjoyable part of this was that we did all of this because we had nothing else to do. 

Somehow, in taking a long weekend close to home, we had more of a vacation than the majority of our destination trips. While the sense of discovery was on a different scale, it was still there. 

Hopefully the opportunity for our annual longer trips is soon to return, but we have a newfound appreciation for revisiting some of the local spots.


Header image credit: Rick Stowe

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