As quoted from Sahara Overland, a Route and Planning Guide
by Chris Scott (2004, ISBN: 1-873756-76-3):
"...Note that it's the diameter or height of the tyres that makes the difference in sand, and not, as many imagine the width... For the desert
, you want tyres with a high aspect ratio of around 80 because this represents a taller sidewall so corresponds to added ground clearance when firm, and a longer contact area when deflated"
Traction in soft surfaces: It is a common misconception that airing down a tire for off-road traction only makes the tire contact patch wider. That is not the case. In fact, only 20% of the increased contact comes from the width. 80% of the increased contact patch comes from the tread patch becoming longer. A tall, narrow tire allows for a very long contact patch when aired down. That, coupled with the minimal frontal resistance (area), negates much of the downside to narrow tires in flotation situations. The taller tire allows for a long contact patch and still maintains good ground clearance.