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Out of Darkness and into the Light - Overlanding Lights Overview

Out of Darkness and into the Light - Overlanding Lights Overview


Brighten Your Overlanding Adventures: A Guide to Off road Lighting

In the realm of overlanding, where the journey often takes us through uncharted territories, facing darkness head-on is not always the best approach. Instead, why not bring in the light to illuminate your path? This is where the importance of off-road lighting comes into play. Whether you're embarking on a thrilling off-road journey, camping in the wilderness, or simply seeking to enhance your vehicle's aesthetics, off-road lights are a valuable addition to your setup.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of off-road lighting, exploring its various uses in camping, what to consider when choosing the right lighting gear, and everything you need to know about off-road lights for your truck, car, or SUV.

Why Get Overlanding Lights?

Picture this: You're traversing an unfamiliar trail in the dead of night, the moonlight barely piercing through the dense canopy of trees. Or perhaps you find yourself navigating a poorly lit route, the path obscured by shadows and uncertainty. In the world of overlanding, scenarios like these are not uncommon. Factors such as muddy terrain, rugged landscapes, and unpredictable weather conditions can compound the challenges.

Off-road lights, often referred to as truck lights, overlanding lights, or truck light bars, offer a brilliant solution to these challenges. They significantly improve visibility in dark and adverse conditions, allowing you to see through rain, dust, snow, and other obstacles that may lie ahead. But their benefits extend beyond enhanced visibility.

These lights also prove invaluable for illuminating campsites, creating a welcoming ambiance for outdoor events, and helping you spot and react to unexpected obstacles like drop-offs, fallen trees, sharp corners, or wandering wildlife. In essence, high-quality off-road lighting plays a pivotal role in ensuring the safety and enjoyment of your overlanding adventures..

Everything About Off-road Lighting

The world of off-road lighting offers a vast array of choices, much like the wilderness you explore. From the ubiquitous LED light bars to practical replacement fog lights, each type of lighting serves a unique purpose. In this section, we'll shed light on the different specifications and details crucial for making an informed choice.

Color (Amber Vs White)

The first thing you'll notice when you turn on your off-road lighting is its color. Light colors can range from subdued hues like amber to bright tones like blue and violet, but amber and white are the standard choices among off-roaders. The decision between the two depends on the road conditions you anticipate.

White lights are generally brighter and emit more usable light than amber lights, even at the same power consumption. However, they can be more fatiguing on the eyes and provide less contrast, especially in low-temperature conditions. On the other hand, amber lights excel in poor driving conditions, offering better visibility in rain, fog, dust, and similar scenarios. However, they tend to lack the sharpness needed to distinguish objects from one another, making it challenging to discern, for example, trees from animals.

If you find it difficult to choose between the two, consider dual-function LED light bars that combine both white and amber-colored lights, offering versatility for various driving conditions.

Bulb Type (Halogen vs HID vs LED)

Another critical factor when selecting off-road lighting is the type of bulb used. Each type of bulb emits a specific amount of lumens, ranging from 5,400 lm to 27,000 lm. More lumens translate to brighter lights. Offroad lights typically come with three types of bulbs: halogen, HID (high-intensity discharge), and LED (light-emitting diode). Each has its advantages and drawbacks.


  • Pros:
    • Least expensive, ideal for those on a budget.
    • Abundant and affordable replacements available.
    • Suitable for infrequent off-roaders.
  • Cons:
    • Shortest lifespan.
    • Provides less illumination compared to HIDs and LEDs.
    • Energy-inefficient.


  • Pros:
    • Improved brightness and lifespan compared to halogens.
    • Better than halogens but not as good as LEDs.
    • Shines twice as far as LEDs.
  • Cons:
    • More fragile than LEDs.
    • Not as energy-efficient as LEDs.
    • Typically more expensive than halogens.


  • Pros:
    • Produces clear and bright illumination.
    • Long-lasting and durable.
    • Energy-efficient and doesn't produce excess heat.
    • Available in stylish designs.
  • Cons:
    • Generally more expensive than halogens and HIDs.

Beam Pattern

Not all light beams are created equal; they serve different purposes and come in various patterns to suit different needs. Here are the five main categories of beam patterns:

  • Spot Light: Spot lights, also known as pencil beams, are designed for long-range illumination. They feature tightly focused lenses that project light to extreme distances, often reaching up to 150 to 200 feet away. These lights are ideal for high-speed driving, optimizing long-range visibility. However, they have a relatively narrow beam and may not cover the area around your vehicle effectively.
  • Flood Light: In contrast to a spot light, a flood light emits a wider and more dispersed beam. Typically used as a complement to or in tandem with your vehicle's headlights, flood lights provide ample illumination in close proximity, covering up to a 50-foot range. Their wide beam pattern is perfect for tasks like night-time repairs and terrain observation while on the trail. Most often, flood lights are mounted on the vehicle's bumper, enhancing visibility during drives.
  • Spot-Flood Light Combo: Also known as a hybrid beam pattern, spot-flood light combos offer the best of both worlds. These off-road lights incorporate both spot and flood lights, providing illumination for both nearby areas around your vehicle and the distant trail ahead. Spot lights are usually placed in the center, while flood lights are positioned on the outer edges of these combo lights.
  • Fog Light: Fog lights may be underrated, but they are incredibly useful. They excel in instantly illuminating the ground in front of your vehicle, helping you avoid rocks and obstacles. These lights are especially handy in adverse weather conditions, effectively cutting through rain, snow, dust, dirt, and fog. It's essential to note that fog lights have limited range and are typically considered auxiliary lights. They work best when used in conjunction with regular headlights or driving lights, and they are often installed lower on the front end of the vehicle, below the headlights.
  • Driving Light: Driving lights serve as supplementary lights to your vehicle's headlights. They are akin to your car's high-beams, offering brighter and wider illumination. Designed for enhanced nighttime visibility and versatile enough for various overlanding purposes, driving lights are perfect for high-speed driving. These lights are typically positioned on the lower half of the vehicle, close to the headlights or below the bumper.

Light Bars vs. Light Pods

When it comes to choosing off-road lighting, overlanders often face the dilemma of whether to opt for a light bar or a pod light. Both options have their merits, and your choice ultimately depends on your personal preferences regarding size, shape, and function. Here's a side-by-side comparison to help you decide between a light bar and a pod light:

Light Bars:

  • Size: 10" - 60"
  • Price Range: $249.99 and up
  • Shape: Straight or Curved
  • Moveable: No
  • Unique Advantage: Brighter

Light Pods:

  • Size: 3" - 7"
  • Price Range: $44.99 and up
  • Shape: Round or Square
  • Moveable: Yes
  • Unique Advantage: More versatile

For seasoned off-road enthusiasts, LED light bars are often the preferred choice. These bars offer reliable luminosity and extensive coverage, with curved styles dispersing light over a broader area in front of your vehicle. Light bars are available in single-row and double-row configurations, with the latter offering more light output and a combination of short-range flood lights and long-range spot lights. However, it's worth noting that double-row configurations tend to be pricier than single-row options.

On the other hand, pod lights, or ditch lights, are smaller cube-shaped stand-alone lights. They are commonly used as replacements for weak or malfunctioning fog lights or rock lights. Due to their smaller size, pod lights offer more versatility in terms of mounting locations and are typically movable, allowing you to adjust the angle as needed. However, they are not as bright as light bars and are primarily designed for lighting up nearby terrain.

Off Road Lights Mounting Locations

To make the most of your off-road lighting gear, it's essential to select the right mounting location on your vehicle. Light bars and pod lights can be installed in various areas, depending on their size, style, and other specifications. Here are the different possible mounting locations:

Roof or on Top of the Vehicle

The roof of your vehicle is one of the most common and versatile spots for mounting off-road lights. Longer light bars, such as 50-inch models, often have no other suitable place for installation. The upper part of your vehicle allows light to reach the farthest and widest, enhancing visibility. Many trucks and jeeps come equipped with roof racks or bed racks designed for light bar installation, simplifying the process. However, there are some considerations when mounting lights on the roof:

  • Expect some noise due to increased airflow.
  • Without roof bars, roof rails, or roof racks, drilling may be necessary to secure the light bars, and improper drilling can create entry points for rainwater.
  • Bright lights on the roof can cause strong reflections on the hood, potentially blinding the driver.

Windshield / Cowl

The windshield or cowl area is an excellent location for ditch lights, providing cornering and properly aimed illumination. This placement ensures that the lights shine at eye level, improving visibility. These spaces are also ideal for movable pod lights, as they are typically within reach for manual adjustments. However, mounting lights in this area may require specific brackets or mounts, and you need to be cautious about potential obstruction of wiper functionality.

Bumper / Car Front

The front end of your vehicle, including the bumper, grilles, and bull bars, is another popular spot for mounting off-road lighting. This location works best for supplementing your headlights, allowing lights to shine far ahead without causing blinding reflections. It's also convenient for wiring, as it's close to the hood. Many bumper light bars are designed for specific car models, making installation hassle-free.

Lower End of the Car

Positioned just below the bumper but above the wheelbase, this region is suitable for amber and yellow fog lights and rock lights. These lights are often used for low-speed crawling, tire repair lighting, and driving in adverse weather conditions. However, they don't offer significant brightness on the road and are primarily used for auxiliary lighting.

Campsite Lighting Essentials

In the world of overlanding and camping, the journey doesn't stop when the sun goes down. Instead, it transforms into an opportunity to embrace the serenity of the night, share stories by the campfire, and create lasting memories. Campsite lighting is your ally in this nocturnal adventure, providing both practicality and aesthetic appeal.

As you plan your next camping excursion, consider how the right lighting can elevate your experience. Illuminate your campsite with care, and watch as it becomes a welcoming retreat where you can relax, unwind, and revel in the beauty of the great outdoors. After all, the best adventures are the ones that shine the brightest, even in the dark.

  1. String Lights: Delicate strands of warm LED lights can instantly transform your campsite into a magical retreat. String them along your roof rack, tent, or nearby trees to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. The soft glow not only adds a touch of enchantment but also serves as functional ambient lighting.
  2. Lanterns: Classic and reliable, lanterns are a staple for any camper. They come in various styles, from traditional fuel-powered lanterns to modern LED options. Hang them around your campsite or place them on a table for a nostalgic touch and practical illumination.
  3. Headlamps: While headlamps are primarily designed for personal use, they can also come in handy for campsite tasks. Whether you're cooking, reading, or setting up your tent, a good headlamp ensures you have a hands-free light source at your disposal.
  4. Candles: Nothing beats the ambiance of flickering candles in the wilderness. Opt for flameless candles for safety, and place them strategically around your campsite for a serene and tranquil atmosphere.
  5. Spotlights: For larger campsites or when you need focused illumination on a specific area, consider portable spotlights. They are versatile and can be adjusted to light up your cooking area, the campfire, or even the path to the restroom.

Making Your Campsite Yours

Personalize your campsite lighting to reflect your style and preferences. Choose from a variety of colors, patterns, and designs to create an ambiance that suits your mood and the occasion. Whether you prefer a rustic, back-to-nature feel or a contemporary campsite with a touch of modernity, the right lighting can help you achieve your desired atmosphere.

Remember to pack extra batteries, solar chargers, or portable power banks to ensure your campsite lighting remains reliable throughout your adventure. Additionally, practice responsible camping by using energy-efficient lighting options and respecting the natural environment.

Enhancing the Campsite Experience

The right campsite lighting not only provides practicality but also enhances the overall camping experience. Here's how:

  1. Warmth and Comfort: Soft, warm lighting can make your campsite feel like a home away from home. It sets the mood for relaxation, storytelling, and connecting with fellow campers.
  2. Safety: Well-lit campsites are safer campsites. Proper lighting helps you navigate your surroundings, preventing accidental trips and falls.
  3. Cooking: If you enjoy preparing meals at your campsite, good lighting is essential for food safety and convenience. You can precisely measure ingredients, monitor cooking progress, and ensure your meals are cooked to perfection.
  4. Entertainment: Campfire gatherings, card games, and stargazing are all part of the camping experience. Adequate lighting ensures everyone can participate and enjoy these activities well into the night.
  5. Aesthetic Appeal: Let's not forget the beauty of a well-lit campsite. The interplay of light and shadows in a natural setting can be breathtaking. It's a chance to appreciate the serenity of the outdoors from a different perspective.


Are LED truck lights street legal? The legality of LED truck lights on public roads depends on your state and local laws and regulations. While most states do not permit the use of off-road lights on public roads, some states, such as Georgia, may allow overlanding and auxiliary lights on your vehicle. Some states may even specify which colors or types of lighting are acceptable.

However, stricter states like California not only prohibit the use of these lights for city driving but also mandate that they be covered while the vehicle is on public roads. Safety concerns surround the use of these lights, as they can be blinding and hazardous to other drivers and pedestrians.

What accessories and other equipment do I need for off-road lighting? While some lighting gear comes with complete installation kits, others are sold as standalone products. To ensure a successful off-road lighting installation, you may need various accessories and tools, including light bar switches, roof brackets, mounting brackets, wiring harnesses, spare replacement bulbs, and bezels, among others.

Our website offers products tailored for specific vehicle models, such as the Cali Raised LED 2016-2022 Toyota Tacoma 32" Lower Bumper Hidden LED Light Bar Kit and the Cali Raised LED Front Runner Slimline Roof Rack LED Light Bar Brackets Kit, which can streamline your lighting installation.

How many light fixtures should I have? The number of light fixtures you need depends on several factors, including your preferences, vehicle type, frequency of use, driving conditions, and budget. For frequent overlanders who venture out often, a dependable lighting setup with a substantial amount of light may be ideal. In such cases, a large spot/flood combo light bar might be preferred. However, for those who do not go off-roading as frequently, a 10" light bar mounted on the roof and a pair of ditch lights on the sides may suffice.

Should I go for an expensive or cheap truck light? Does off-road lighting price matter? The decision to invest in expensive or affordable off-road lighting depends on your preferences and budget. Some individuals find that high-priced brands offer better value due to their quality and features. Others opt for more affordable options as long as they meet their specific needs. Cheaper LED lights, while budget-friendly, often come with drawbacks such as poor housing quality, flimsy mounting brackets, moisture issues, short-lived bulbs, and dimmer illumination. While the initial price is lower than premium brands, these problems can lead to more significant issues and costs in the long run.

At Roof Top Overland, we prioritize quality brands with good overall value, including Cali Raised LED lights. Additionally, we recommend higher-end brands like Rigid, Baja Designs, and KC HiLites for their exceptional quality. We believe that, like any other product, you get what you pay for, and we don't compromise on quality.

What is an IP rating, and how important is it in selecting the right off-road lighting? IP rating stands for Ingress Protection rating, a standardized measure of a product's quality in terms of protection against solid objects (e.g., sand, dust, dirt) and sealing effectiveness against liquids (e.g., rain, moisture). The IP rating comprises two numbers, with the first indicating protection against solids and the second against liquids. Higher numbers signify greater protection.

When selecting off-road lighting, you should pay close attention to the IP rating, as it indicates the lighting gear's ability to withstand environmental conditions. A higher IP rating is essential for ensuring that your lights can endure the rigors of off-roading and continue to perform optimally.

What are the tips for selecting the best lighting gear? To help you make an informed choice when selecting off-road lighting gear, here are our top 10 tips:

  1. Understand your lighting needs based on your specific off-roading activities.
  2. Assess the terrain and weather conditions you'll encounter during your adventures.
  3. Ensure that your vehicle can support your chosen lighting gear.
  4. Consider the durability and lifespan of the lights in relation to your off-roading frequency.
  5. Determine where on your vehicle you'll be mounting the lights, as this can affect the ease and organization of your wiring installation.
  6. Prioritize quality over price to avoid potential issues and replacements.
  7. Rely on reviews and brand reputation to make an informed decision.
  8. Examine the IP rating and other specifications carefully to match your needs.
  9. Ensure that cleaning and storage instructions are practical and manageable.
  10. Shop from trusted industry experts like Roof Top Overland to guarantee product quality and customer support.


For seasoned off-road enthusiasts and novices alike, lighting gear is more than just an accessory—it's a necessity. Whether you're seeking dependable illumination, enhancing the aesthetics of your campsite, or simply adding a touch of fun to your off-roading experience, the world of off-road lighting offers a wide range of options to suit your needs.

Let your light shine brighter than ever on your next overlanding adventure. Explore our extensive collection of off road lighting options, campsite lighting,  brackets, and accessories at Roof Top Overland. We also offer a wide range of other overlanding equipment, including roof top tents, bed racks, awnings, annexes, and much more. Feel free to reach out to our experts via text, email, or phone to discuss your specific requirements and embark on your well-lit journey. Visit Here: [Roof Top Overland]

In this comprehensive guide, we've delved into the world of off-road lighting, exploring its different types, applications, and considerations for your overlanding adventures. Whether you're a seasoned off-roader or a novice explorer, we hope this article has shed light on the importance of quality lighting and its role in enhancing your safety, visibility, and overall overlanding experience.

Roof Top Overland is your trusted partner for top-quality off-road lighting gear and accessories. With a commitment to providing adventurers with the best equipment, we invite you to browse our wide selection of lighting solutions, roof top tents, bed racks, awnings, annexes, and more. Your next adventure awaits, and we're here to help you light the way. Visit Roof Top Overland to start your well-lit journey today.

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