As an arm-chair off-roader there's not much I can say to compare with real adventurers, but as an experienced tire dealer I can offer some suggestions as to how to get the most out of your tire dealer.
These ideas are based on the belief that you'd prefer to keep your adventures to the time when you get off the beaten trail and not starting at the point where you purchased your tires. In fact, I'd bet that you'd most likely like to leave the tires themselves out of your adventure scenario, except so far as they help you to get in and out of the places you want to go.
To start with, choose your dealer carefully. If possible try to find one who either specializes in off-road equipment, or at least has experience in this area. If you can find a tire dealer where some of the staff are avid off-roaders you'll do even better. Naturally, if you have friends who share your passion for off-roading you would want to ask them too.
Use your dealer's knowledge and experience. Tell him as much as you can about what you want to do and what kind of results you want. Think about what you like to do and where you expect to go.
The kind of tire you're going to get best service from when you're planning to climb the side of a snow-covered volcano in Iceland is far different from what you'd need if you're traveling through the scorching desert in Baja California or slogging through some bog in a tropical jungle.
Plan out the kind of terrain, weather, time, speed, distance and other conditions you're most likely to be experiencing. Also discuss your traveling habits -- do you usually travel alone or do you travel in a group with other vehicles? Are you prepared to change tires in mid-journey or do you expect to make it from start to finish with the same wheels?
All of these things can influence what would be the best tire for you, and when a particular recommendation is made, ask if they can put you in touch with someone who has tried those tires and get in touch with them. Compare notes. See if their experiences match up with what you plan to do, if their vehicle, driving skills and other characteristics are similar or different from your own.
Another consideration which might be important is what you would do if your need to replace only one or two tires. This might be because of a planned change or because of some unexpected accident -- possibly in the middle of a journey. If you stick with major brands with wide distribution you might find it easier to make a quick replacement, but if you choose a specialty tire, you may want to consider purchasing an extra spare which you could either leave in a convenient place where it might be easily shipped to you, or even carry it with you, according to your circumstances.
Finally, if you want to get the very best service from any dealer, be prepared to let them profit from doing so. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to find a good price for your tires, but don't try to squeeze the last nickel out either. If you really want to increase your value, try asking for some additional services without cost -or at a discount- rather than getting the lowest price for the tires.
And when you're done with your installation and services, consider giving a nice tip to the guys who did the work to make sure they know you appreciate good work ... they'll be falling all over themselves to help you the next time you visit the shop.
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