RC Crawling: What Is It?
RC crawling is all about controlling remote controlled vehicles through rough terrain. The focus is on trail driving and clearing rock obstacles – and it’s generally quite relaxing! These vehicles are typically built on a scale of between 1:6 and 1:24 – that’s very large to very small. They are built with high-torque motors and low-geared transmission to aid climbing over rocks, logs, and other obstacles. RC crawlers are typically not fast cars.
Many RC hobbyists enjoy the challenge of navigating difficult terrain and the realism of the crawling experience. There are also competitions and events organized specifically for RC crawling. Scale realism and performance are two common goals in competition, whilst for relaxation, it is a popular passtime to simply drive a scale crawler along a forest or rocky trail.
There is no right or wrong way to enjoy the hobby. Playing with toy trucks is rarely Serious Business, though many find that getting detailed or driving under competition rules is part of the fun!
Is It Real or RC?
RC crawlers have a functional scale suspension system that allows the vehicle to flex and adapt to the terrain, providing traction and stability whilst looking realistic. The designs often match those found in full-size vehicles and can vary as much as they do in real life, with leaf and coil suspension being commonly found under these scale tiny trucks. Many people enjoy building their RC crawlers to closely resemble the real thing on which their models are based.
DIY is a big part of the hobby. Folks get involved with 3D printing, working with styrene sheets, paints, metalwork and even wood. Your imagination is the limit where customizing a truck is concerned, and the delight of sharing your creations online and on the trails with others adds value for many. The hobby continues to improve as more manufacturers bring creative and realistic models and parts to market. I often find myself thinking, ‘what a time to be into RC crawling!’
Variety Adds Spice
RC crawlers come in various shapes and sizes. Ranging from small, compact models to large, highly detailed models that can weigh several pounds, there’s nearly endless choice. Popular models are based on real-life, off-road vehicles such as four wheel drives, military and civilian trucks, SUVs, competition crawlers and more.
The smallest models are pocket sized – that’s 1/87. They tend to be very custom DIY builds and while there are some kits for this scale, it’s an advanced project to try. A more common small size is 1/24, which is convenient backpack size and will typically fit on an adult’s open hand.
The larger models are 1/10 scale and these are arguably the most common scale – though 1/24 has exploded in popularity over 2022 and 2023.
The real big ones are 1/8 and 1/6 scale. The best known big crawler at time of writing is the SCX6, from Axial. (Our video series for that is here).
RC crawling might be considered a more technical and challenging aspect of the RC hobby. It requires precise control and a good understanding of the vehicle’s capabilities and limitations. However, the stakes are low, as unlike with high-speed models, if you mess up, you can simply try again. Damage happens, but it’s far more rare than with big air or high speed models.
As well as the attraction of slow going, many enthusiasts enjoy the challenge of navigating difficult terrain. For me and many others, an attraction is the realism of the crawling experience. Make the truck look real and you can get lost in the fantasy of driving – it really is quite relaxing.
There are also many competitions and events organized specifically for RC crawling, where participants can showcase their skills and compete against others. Some of my best memories from this hobby are at the various interstate and even international crawling events I’ve attended. If you can make it to any kind of comp with whatever rig you may have, I do recommend it!
The Popular Group
The hobby has grown popular over the years. Many RC enthusiasts are building and modifying their own RC crawlers to make them more capable and realistic. This include adding lights, sound, and even cameras to make the experience more immersive. You can find an overview of how things got started in our video about the RC4WD Trail Finder 3.
Of course, the RTR (Ready To Run) side of things continues to improve, too. It used to be that the only ‘good’ models were those you built yourself. Things have changed and now you can get a properly tough and capable model out of the box. Plastics engineering and electronics have come a long way since the 80s and 90s! Tires and drive-trains have improved too, and radio systems are easier than ever to use. Batteries last longer and models look more realistic, even mass-produced units. It’s hard not to be excited about the future when things are already so good now!
But Is It Worth My Time?
In a word, Yes!
In more words, Absolutely Yes! and I Highly Recommend It!!
Alongside the hard-body models from RC4WD and Cross RC, I’d also recommend you look into the Traxxas TRX-4, the Axial SCX10 III, RGT’s range, Element RC’s Enduro platform and and Redcat Racing’s Gen7, Gen8 and Gen9. These are all highly customizable and durable RC vehicles that are specifically designed for rock crawling and are popular among hobbyists and enthusiasts.
Now, if you’re wondering whether RC crawling might be for you, consider reading our article, Is RC Crawling Fun?
Craig has been into radio control since the 90s and into RC crawling since about 2010, when a Losi MRC started the obsession! Now it's all rocks this and crawl that and upgrade all the things! ...You know how it is, right? Welcome home 🙂