An Introduction to Scale Crawling & Trail Finding (Part 1)

"To crawl or not to crawl, that is the question…"

An introduction to crawling, scaling and trail riding by James Justus

You’ve seen them in the hobby shops and in the magazines or maybe one of your buddies has one. I'm talking about "crawlers.” Of the many aspects of the R/C hobby, crawling and scaling is one of the fastest growing. With so many chassis options and configurations, officially licensed parts and tons of customization options, it's hard not to see why. In this post, I'm going to go over a few different chassis that are great all around and some others you may want to stay away from, along with chassis in different price ranges. 

A big question I hear a lot is "What chassis is the best?" or, "What chassis should I buy?" which are very good questions--however the answer isn't that easy. The question you should be asking is what chassis is the best fit for you. That question in itself has a few sub questions attached to it, like, “What do you want to do with your new crawler?” Do you just want to run it on trails or in the woods? Do you want to enter competitions? How realistic do you want it to look? All of these questions can help you pick the right crawler setup. 

Another piece of the equation is often budget. With kits and RTR’s (Ready to Run) ranging from $100-$500, there's a lot to choose from which is great. But I will mention that in most cases you get what you pay for, so please keep this in mind.

Having been into crawling for awhile now and owning (at one time or another) just about every type of crawler chassis, I feel I may be able to help you choose your first setup. But before I start, I'm going to list off a few chassis I'd avoid as a beginner:

1.) Smaller scale trucks (1/24 - 1/18 scale crawlers)
Although they have an attractive price tag, there is very little to no option for upgrading or enhancing the trucks performance; meaning, what comes out of the box is likely what you’re stuck with. Their smaller size will also limit where you can drive it. My advice is to stick with 1/10 or 1/12 scale trucks.

2.) Leafed spring trucks (Ex. Trailfinder 2, Tamiya high-lift)
Now don't get me wrong, I LOVE the Trailfinder 2 chassis--but for a beginner I wouldn't recommend it. A leafed truck with small tires will challenge even the most seasoned drivers’ abilities and needs tuning and modifying to make it perform well on all surfaces. Also, with a staggering price tag it may be a bit much for someone who doesn't even know if they’re going to like crawling/trailing.

3.) MOA trucks (motor on axle)
These types of trucks are mostly used in serious competitions and may be too complex for a beginner.

Now with that out of the way, if I was going to suggest a few crawlers for a beginner, I have two main trucks in mind: the Axial SCX10 II and the Vaterra Ascender. Here’s why:

• These two are the best performing “out of the box” trucks you can buy.
• Both are amazing on all surfaces and have tons of steering and suspension flex.
• Both vehicles are also available as RTR’s or kits (if you want to build it yourself).
• Lastly, both have huge aftermarket parts support.

With each priced around $400, I truly believe that you are getting a lot for your money.

Moving down the budget list to my number 3 pick: the original Axial SCX10. Now it might not be as awesome out of the box as the SCX10 II, but it's still a very capable rig and has by far the most upgrade options of any crawler ever!! With a price tag of around $300 for a RTR Deadbolt, it definitely makes the cut.

Moving on to my final pick: the Redcat Everest 10. This is the cheapest of my picks but performs well out of the box and can be upgraded and modified to be great little truck. I especially like the Redcat for a lower budget, starter-way into crawling. For under $150 you get a truck that can be highly upgraded and modified to whatever you’d like to make it. Biggest plus (aside from the price) is the fact that it’s compatible with Axial SCX10 parts, giving you virtually unlimited upgrade options.

Now, these are trucks that are good at everything. And there are other great trucks out there too (i.e. Traxxas TRX-4, Gmade Sawback and Komodo, Axial Wraith and Bomber and more) but I'm merely trying to point you in the right direction for your first crawler and get you bang for your buck.

I’ll finish this post off by saying there are MANY types of chassis and all of them can be made to crawl or trail well, but your first truck to me is always the most important. If you don't like it, it'll probably turn you away from this awesome aspect of R/C.

My advice? Do your research, ask questions and watch videos. These too can help you make the right choice for you.

I hope this helps someone choosing their first crawling rig or inspires you to get one!

Axial SCX10 II Jeep Cherokee

Vaterra Ascender Chevy K-5 Blazer






Axial SCX10 Deadbolt