Off-roading is a popular hobby among automotive enthusiasts, particularly among truck and SUV lovers. It does not have to be as expensive as many believe with a minimal amount of equipment and a cheap used truck or SUV being all you need to get started. Of course, like many hobbies, it can become quite expensive if you get into it.
One thing it can also be is dangerous. More serious off-roaders usually require vehicle upgrades, safety equipment, and better vehicle accessories to take on the dangerous challenges a true off-road course can offer. Lighting is one of the most important safety accessories necessary for any serious off-road enthusiast.
The Best Off Road Lights
There are plenty of options available to find the lighting necessary to safely equip your chosen off-road vehicle. Halogen, LED, and HID lights are all available, often with just the click of a button on your favorite retail website. If you are looking to upgrade your current off-roader or you want to get more into the hobby, it is important to know what kind of off-road lighting you should be looking for.
1. Rigid Industries SR2-Series LED Light Bar
The Rigid Industries SR2-Series LED light bar features a huge amount of bang for the buck. A maximum output of 13,500 Lumens from this combination driving and hyperspot light bar is perfect for illuminating the path in front of you for a safe off-roading experience.
Its low profile is perfect for discreet mounting, and Rigid Industries powder coats all of its products to provide a sleek look and protect from scratching. Durability is key, with a break-proof lens and rubber seal to prevent dirt from entering and corroding the lighting components. All of this also makes it the perfect choice for police and fire department use.
Their patented Specter optics system features greater output and less footprint than their other lighting systems by incorporating a concentrated reflector design. This allows for a narrower, more intense beam with minimal wasted light. Robust heatsinks integrated into the light bar provide less heat and more lifespan without sacrificing the lights’ high efficiency and little energy usage.
2. Auxbeam LED Light Bar
Auxbeam makes an appearance on our list with their 42-inch floodlight and spotlight combination LED light bar. Auxbeam does make this product in other lengths if it does not fit your particular vehicle. Everything needed for installation is included when you buy this product including mounting hardware and wiring harness to make everything as easy as possible for anyone.
The light produces a cold white 6500 K color at a maximum of 24,000 Lumens. 5D optic design, including fish eye style lenses and reflectors, paired with an all-aluminum, curved LED housing produces a wide light disbursement area without any dark spots.
Auxbeam has also designed its light bar to be waterproof, rustproof, and 100% weather resistant, completely sealed against dust, sand, and dirt. The entire setup is also shockproof, which provides resistance against dings, dents, and disconnected wiring when the environment becomes harsh. This makes the product ideal for police, fire, and forestry applications.
3. HELLA 500 Series Driving Lamp Kit
HELLA is a world-renown lighting company, particularly known for its large, round spotlights mounted on Jeeps. The 500 Series driving lamp mimics that iconic shape comes with the recognizable HELLA light covers, and provides complimentary lighting for your vehicle’s headlights.
The 500 Series driving lamp kit comes standard with two halogen bulbs, a power switch, relay, and an easy to install, plug-and-play installation guide, though LED options and single lights are also available. They are developed to be used in both on-road and off-road settings to minimize eye fatigue.
Each light comes with a high-impact ABS housing for added durability, aluminum vapor-coated reflectors for increased lighting capability, and bonded glass lenses to prevent chipping or cracking. The 500 Series comes with a one-year warranty and the information needed to reach HELLA in case customer support is needed.
4. Auxbeam LED Pods
Auxbeam makes another appearance on our list, this time with their smaller 4-inch LED pod setup. The technology within these smaller lights is similar to that found in their larger light bar but within a package akin to the previously mentioned HELLA driving lights. They are floodlights rather than driving lights, and they produce a 6000 K color temperature and 1800 Lumens each.
Like the Auxbeam light bar, the LED pods are weatherproof, shockproof, and corrosion-proof, 100% sealed from sand, dirt, and mud. The housing, holding six LED lights each, is made of aluminum and is adjustable for preferred or necessary beam angle.
These lights are 18-Watt, low energy usage lights that do not affect battery life or fuel mileage. They feature die-cast aluminum alloy cooling fans for up to 50,000 or more hours of life and are ideal for 4X4 vehicles, military, and public service vehicles.
5. Nilight 60001F B LED Pods
Without making a replica of the Auxbeam LED pods, Nilight made their LED Pods almost identical to Auxbeam’s. They are designed to be shockproof, weatherproof, and corrosion-proof with adjustable aluminum housings to beam adjustment ability. Each light provides 1260 Lumens at a color temperature of up to 6500 K.
While they also feature six LED lights, they differ from Auxbeam in that the lamps are specially designed with special cups within the housing to spread light farther to the left and right of the center of the beam. They also feature aluminum alloy heatsinks with silicone gel to dissipate heat quicker than normal heatsinks.
Under normal circumstances, these lights can provide up to 50,000 hours of working life on a variety of applications beyond off-road use including, agriculture, home, garden, public service, train, and construction applications.
Types of Off Road Lighting
The difference between off-road lighting and normal vehicle lighting is that off-road lighting is added to a vehicle to supplement a vehicle’s already existing lights. These additional lights can be halogen, HID, or LED lights and are usually illegal for regular road use because of their added brightness and intensity over normal headlights.
There are four main types of off-road lights, most of which have easily identifiable jobs based on their individual names.
Spotlights are bright, intense lights that have a narrow, focused beam that usually shines ahead of a vehicle to illuminate its path. Police vehicles often have spotlights mounted at the base of their A-pillar that can be moved to focus on a specific area.
Spotlights used in off-road applications are usually adjustable to focus the light where it needs to be, but once adjusted properly, they are usually locked into position.
Driving lights are lights that are designed to supplement the headlights of a vehicle, most often the high beams. They are unlike spotlights in that they essentially make the headlights brighter by adding light rather than focusing light beyond the normal headlights as a spotlight does.
Even though many types of off-road lights are illegal, driving lights can be legal if used properly. They can be a great safety addition in bad weather and at night. It is still important to check your local and state laws concerning vehicle lighting to make sure your desired setup is legal.
Floodlights function the opposite way of spotlights. Instead of a focused beam, they produce a very wide, scattered beam that can be used beyond what normal headlights can provide. They do not shine far as spotlights or even headlights since their job is to scatter as much light as possible within a wide area.
Examples of floodlights can be seen in emergency services applications and in construction to illuminate an area in which crews work. Off-road vehicles can utilize floodlights because of slower driving speeds and potentially treacherous terrain.
Most people are familiar with fog lights since they are often used on regular road cars. They are designed to provide additional lighting in low visibility situations, especially in fog or inclement weather.
In many ways, they are more for other drivers’ visibility than for your own, but off-road vehicles can use them much like floodlights or as reverse lights.
Off Road Lighting Mounting Positions
Light mounting positions are important in off-roading. Most types of off-road lights coincide with where they are placed on a vehicle even though just about any light type can be mounted almost anywhere it is effective. There are five main mounting positions commonly found on off-road vehicles.
Floodlights and fog lights are commonly mounted on, below, or even inside a vehicle’s front bumper. This is because these light types are designed to spread light over a short area, and the bumper provides a low enough mounting point to utilize these light types optimally. Some manufacturers make vehicle-specific bumpers for popular off-road vehicles with integrated lighting.
Grille lighting is a popular mounting point for additional driving lights since they are mounted at the same height as headlights. It is also commonplace for light bars to be mounted here. Lightbars can be mounted within the bumper as well, but they are much more commonly placed on top of the bumper at the base of a vehicle’s grille.
The A-Pillar – halfway between the hood and the roof – of a vehicle is not as common of a mounting point as others, but floodlights and spotlights can often find a home here. This is usually too high of a position to support fog lights and just gets out of ideal range for driving lights, especially on lifted vehicles.
Lightbars, commonly placed on a vehicle’s roof, and spotlights are easily the most popular type of light mounted here. On a roof, they can shine over and ahead of all the other lights on a normal vehicle.
The roll bar mounting point features similar benefits to roof mounts. A roll bar is a strengthening bar that often travels the width of the vehicle behind the driver or just behind the cab of a pickup truck.
Additional Information About Off Road Lighting
Fitment and power needs are two of the most important things to consider when choosing off-road lights. Most bars and pods that must be mounted can be done so wherever optimal, but power needs and electrical capabilities become a potential issue. Lights integrated into part of a vehicle poses more of an issue to proper fitment.
Correct installation is another piece of information to consider. Any additional wiring will need to be carefully installed so as not to harm any other vehicle electronics or yourself. Additional lighting does not often feature plug-and-play installation since it is an extra rather than a replacement. Proper installation will ensure that the product works safely.
If in doubt, seek the help of an electrician or vehicle specialist to make sure that all installation needs and power provisions are met.
There is a host of off-road lighting options for just about any vehicle. Most vehicles don't need to have off-road lighting – in fact, it is illegal in most normal road applications – but for off-road enthusiasts, good lighting is a matter of safety and necessity. Understanding basic mounting positions, light types, and what to look for in a good setup is crucial to understanding your own needs.