FREE SHIPPING on most products - Buy Now, Pay Later with Klarna

Click for Lead Times

FREE SHIPPING on most Roof Top Tents

FREE SHIPPING on all lighting products

Lights for Overlanding

Why fight the darkness when you can bring in the light? Invest in useful and reliable offroad lighting. Offroad lights come in different sizes, shapes, colors, patterns, brightness, and styles. This article will guide you on the different uses of lighting in camping, what to look for in good lighting gear, and essentially anything you need to know about offroad lights for your truck, car, or SUV.

In overlanding, it is unavoidable for off-roaders to get caught driving an unfamiliar trail or pathway in the middle of the dark. In some cases, others may also find themselves trailing a poorly lit route or an overshadowed forest. Not to mention the instances wherein the ventured terrain is either muddy, bumpy, or both. All these scenarios pose danger to you, your passengers, and your vehicle. Thus, these should not be taken lightly and should be resolved brilliantly.

Why Get Overlanding Lights?

As a bright solution to the above issues, truck lights have become overlanders' popular choice. Truck lights (also known as overlanding lights, offroad lights, or truck light bars) aid a lot in providing a more improved visibility in dark ways, as well as in bad weather conditions. They let you see through snow, dust, rain, and other obstacles in the road.

They also come in handy for  illuminating campsites and other outdoor events. Moreover, they help you spot and better react to unexpected drop offs and washouts, fallen trees, sharp corners, and wandering wildlife. All in all, good lighting plays a big role in keeping offroad enthusiasts safe. Additionally, many also find aesthetics in offroad lighting saying that it looks “cool” on trucks or vehicles. 

Everything About Offroad Lighting

As mentioned above, the forms and choices for offroad lights are just as wide as the wilderness. From the most common  LED light bars to the practical  replacement fog lights, each kind differs from the other in some ways. In this section, we will shed light on the different specs and details you need to know about offroad lighting.

Color (Amber Vs White)

 

The first thing everyone will notice once the lighting is turned on is its color. While light colors can range from toned-down shades like amber to bright ones like blue and violet, amber and white are the regular choices among offroaders. You might be wondering which between the two is the better option?  The deciding factor depends on the conditions of the road you plan on driving in. 

White-colored lights are generally brighter and emit more usable light than amber lights even if the power used is exactly the same. However, they tend to be more fatiguing on human eyes and provide less contrast compared to low-temperature lights. On the other hand,  amber lights work best in poor driving conditions. They tend to offer better visibility towards rain, fog, dust, etc. The drawback with amber lights is that their dull effect makes it difficult for the user to differentiate objects from each other (such as trees from animals). 

Tip: If you can’t decide which one to buy, you can get both colors. There areDual Function LED light bars that consist of both white- and amber-colored lights.  

Bulb Type (Halogen vs HID vs LED)

Another important factor in choosing an offroading light is the kind of bulb used. Each kind of bulb emits a certain amount of lumens, which range from 5,400 lm to 27,000 lm—more lumens means brighter lights. Most truck lights come in three types of bulb: halogen, HID (high intensity discharge), and LED (light-emitting diode). All three types have their own advantages and drawbacks, which we will go through in detail.

Halogen

Pros

Cons

  • Least expensive; ideal for those who are in a budget
  • Shortest lifespan
  • Plenty and cheap replacements available
  • Does not provide much illumination as HIDs and LEDs (lowest light output)
  • Great for those who do not offroad often
  • Energy inefficient

HID 

Pros

Cons

  • Improved brightness and lifespan compared to halogens
  • Not as good as LEDs
  • Better than halogens yet cheaper than LEDs
  • More fragile than LEDs
  • Has the ability to shine twice as far as LEDs
  • Ideal for those who travel high speeds at night

LED

Pros

Cons

  • Produces clearer and brighter illumination
  • More expensive than the other two types
  • Energy-efficient
  • Does not produce enough heat to melt snow or ice off the light lens
  • Long-lasting and durable
  • Come in stylish designs

Beam Pattern

Not all light beams are the same. While they all produce light that guide offroaders on the track they’re taking, they serve different purposes. There are five main categories of beam patterns:

  1. Spot light
  2. Flood light
  3. Spot-Flood Light Combo
  4. Fog Light
  5. Driving Light

 

The decision on which beam pattern to select relies on the condition and location you intend to use them for. Additionally, the speed at which you’ll mostly be driving when using these lights is another consideration. Let’s go through each one of them to see which pattern works best for you.

  • Spot Light

Spot lights (also called pencil beams) are long-ranged lights that feature tightly focused lenses that project lights to extreme long distances. Most spot lights can reach as far as 150 to 200 ft away. They are best for fast-speed drivers as they optimize long-range visibility. 

These kinds of lights, however, are not spotless after all. While spot beams’ focus reaches far lengths, they are relatively narrow and are not expected to cover the area around your car very well. Majority of spot lights are only able to light no wider than a 45 degree coverage. To fully maximize a spot light, it is mostly mounted on the roof or the windshield of a truck or SUV.

  • Flood Light

In contrast to a spot light, a  flood light emits a wider and more spread out beam. It is usually used as a back up to or in tandem with your vehicle headlights. Flood lights’ wide beam pattern is capable of lighting everything in close proximity to your car—covering up to a 50 ft range. A flood light’s major drawback is that its beam does not reach too far. 

Flood lights are sometimes referred to as “work lights” since they come in handy when doing night time repairs. They are also best for observing the terrain around your vehicle while on a trail. Flood lights are often mounted on the car’s bumper to give clearer visibility when driving. 

  • Spot-Flood Light Combo

Also known as hybrid beam pattern,  spot-flood light combos let you enjoy the best of both worlds. These offroad lighting houses both spot and flood lights—providing illumination to close areas around your car, as well as the distant trail ahead. Spot lights are usually placed in the center while flood lights are positioned on the outer edges in these types of combo lights. 

  • Fog Light

A fog light is an underrated yet very helpful kind of light. It works very well in instantly illuminating the ground in front of you and steering clear from rocks and obstacles. It is also most useful on days with undesired weather conditions since it is designed to provide good visibility and cut through rain, snow, dust, dirt, and fog. 

It is important to note that fog lights can only cover a short distance and are more of auxiliary lights—meaning they need to be used with regular headlights or driving lights. Fog lights are usually installed lower on the front end of the vehicle below the headlights.

  • Driving Light

Just like fog lights,  driving lights are supplementary to your vehicle’s headlights. They are like your car’s high-beams—only brighter and wider. They are designed for heightened visibility at night and for all-around overlanding purposes. They are also great for high-speed driving. Driving lights are positioned on the lower half of the vehicle close to the headlights, on, or below the bumper.

Light Bars vs Light Pods

One of the dilemmas overlanders face when choosing an offroad lighting is to either get a light bar or a pod light. While both options are good and practical, it will all boil down to your personal preference in terms of size, shape, and function. Before going into specifics, here’s a side-by-side comparison between a light bar and a pod light.

Light Bars

Light Pods

Size

10” - 60”

3” - 7”

Price Range

$249.99 and up

$44.99 and up

Shape

Straight or Curved

Round or Square

Moveable

No

Yes

Unique Advantage

Brighter

More versatile

Light Bars

For seasoned offroad fanatics, LED light bars are a more favored choice. This is due to its more reliable luminosity and bigger coverage. Light bars for trucks and vehicles typically come in straight or  curved styles. The latter gives a better advantage since they disperse light over a broader area around and in front of your vehicle. 

Light bars also come in  single-row or double-row configurations. Double-row light bars (especially the long ones) generally produce more light and usually come with both short-range flood lights and long-range spot lights. The biggest pitfall with these configurations though is that they cost more than the single-row light bar. 

Light Pods

Pod lights or  ditch lights are smaller cube-shaped stand-alone lights that aid drivers in offroading. They are common options for weak or faulty fog light/rock light replacements. Because of their smaller size they tend to be more versatile in terms of mounting locations. They are also mostly moveable—which means that they can be titled, swiveled, or rotated to a certain angle. The only negative thing about light pods is that they are not as bright as light bars and are designed only for lighting up nearby grounds.

Offroad Lights Mounting Locations

The last step to take when shopping for LED truck lights is to see where they can be mounted to your vehicle without a problem. Light bars and pod lights can be fixed in various parts of a car. Depending on the size, style, and other specs, we will go through the different possible mounting locations to get the best out of your offroad lighting gear.

Roof or on Top of the Vehicle

The first and most common spot on the list is your vehicle’s roof. Depending on your car type, long  50” light bars for instance may have no other place to mount in your vehicle. The upper part of your car also serves as a perfect position to place most types of lights as it allows the lighting to reach the farthest and widest. Moreover, most trucks and jeeps carry an installed roof rack or bed racks for other overlanding gears. The convenience of having a  roof bed or rack to install a lighting to makes putting things together even easier. For instance, most of the  Prinsu racks on our website have cutouts specifically designed for light bars.

On the other hand, there are few things to weigh up when mounting lighting on a car’s roof. First, noise can be expected due to a lot of airflow. Second, in the absence of roof bars/roof rails/roof racks, you may need to create drilling to hold the light bars. When poorly done, the holes can potentially ban an entry point for rain water, which can damage your car’s interior in the long run. Third, installing bright lighting on your car’s roof can cause strong glaring reflections on the hood, which can be blinding and annoying to the driver.

Windshield / Cowl

Best area for ditch lights, the windshield or the cowl makes a great setting for cornering and properly-aimed lights. This location throws light right around the driver’s eye-level, allowing the driver to see anything coming onto him/her. These spaces also work perfectly with moveable pod lights as they are usually within reach should you wish to manually adjust or shift your lighting’s focus. 

curved light bar Toyota Tacoma

The main downside to mounting lights on your windshield or cowl is that it typically requires a specific bracket or mount to hold the light in place. You also need to be careful with properly setting lights in your windshield area as they sometimes can obstruct your wiper functionality. 

Bumper / Car Front

Another popular spot to install lighting is your car’s front end. This includes your bumper, grilles, bull bar, etc. This location works best for supplementing your headlights. Placing your lighting here will let it shine far out in front of your vehicle without having to deal with blinding reflection. The bumper is also the best spot in terms of neat and concealed wiring since it’s the closest to the hood. Furthermore, there are a lot of  bumper light bars that are designed for specific car models which can make installation a piece of cake. 

Lower End of the Car

Located right below the bumper but above the wheelbase is another good region to place your lighting gear. Best for amber and yellow fog lights and rock lights, this spot is reserved for lights aiding in low-speed crawling, tire repair lighting, and bad weather driving. This area is typically used for auxiliary lighting and does not offer much brightness when on the road. 

FAQs

  • Are LED truck lights street legal?

It depends on your state and city laws and regulations; although most states do not legalize offroad lights to be used on public roads. A few states, such as Georgia for instance, legally allow overlanding and other auxiliary lights to be installed on your vehicle. Others may even allow certain colors or types of lighting to be used. 

However, stricter states like California do not only prohibit the use of these lights for city driving, but at the same time mandate these to be covered while the vehicle is out on public roads. As far as safety is concerned, it is only fair to reserve these lighting for offroad use 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 come with a complete installation kit, others are purchased as stand-alone products. To complete your offroad lighting installation, you may need a couple accessories and tools. These may include light bar switches, roof brackets, mounting brackets, wiring harnesses, spare replacement bulbs, and bezels among others. 

Our website carries products specifically tailored for certain vehicle models. Examples of these are our  Cali Raised LED 2016-2022 Toyota Tacoma 32" Lower Bumper Hidden LED Light Bar Kit  and  Cali Raised LED Front Runner Slimline Roof Rack LED Light Bar Brackets Kit. These should make your lighting installation so much easier.

  • How many light fixtures should I have?

The answer to this will depend on a couple of factors: your preference, vehicle type, frequency of use, conditions where you’ll be using them, and budget. For instance, frequent overlanders who go out often would love a dependable light. So, they would probably pick a huge spot/flood combo light bar. On the other hand, those who do not go out as often may make do of a 10” light bar mounted on the roof and a pair of ditch lights on the sides.

  • Should I go for an expensive or cheap truck light? Does offroad lighting price matter?

The choice for whether to go for a cheap or expensive lighting depends on your preference and budget. Some find high priced brands worth it because of the value they bring to the table, while others stick to more affordable options as long as they serve their purpose. The downside with cheaper LED lights is that they often have poor housing features, thin mounting brackets, moisture issues, defective or short-lived bulbs, and duller lighting. While the price is lower than premium brands, these problems may even cause you more trouble and money in the long run.

For these reasons, here at Roof Top Overland, we only carry quality brands with good overall value, such as our Cali Raised LED lights. We also promote higher end brands like Rigid, Baja Designs, and KC HiLites because of their superb caliber. We believe that just like any other product, customers get what they pay for. That is why, we don’t settle for less. 

  • What is an IP rating, and how is it important in selecting the right offroad lighting?

IP rating stands for Ingress Protection rating. It is a standardized way of measuring a product’s quality in terms of protection against solid objects (such as sand, dust, dirt, etc.) and sealing effectiveness against liquid components (such as rain and moisture). IP rating consists of two numbers. The first one indicates the level of protection against solids while the second one refers to its protection against liquids. The higher the numbers, the greater the protection. This is what you should look for in lighting gear.

  • What are the tips for selecting the best lighting gear?

As a starter, we’ve gathered our top 10 tips when choosing an overlanding light.

  1. Know your lighting needs 
  2. Assess the terrain and weather conditions of where you’ll be offroading
  3. Ensure that the type of vehicle you have can support your preferred lighting gear
  4. Make sure that your lighting’s durability and lifespan can withstand the frequency of your overlanding activity
  5. Know which part of your vehicle you’ll be mounting your lighting gear on (this will help in making your wiring installation easier and more organized)
  6. Never compromise quality over price
  7. Bank on reviews and brand reputation
  8. Inspect IP rating and other specs thoroughly
  9. See to it that proper cleaning and storage instructions are easy to do
  10. Shop around trusted and seasoned industry experts like Roof Top Overland

Conclusion

For veteran and well-versed offroaders, lighting gears are more of a necessity than an accessory. The convenience of having dependable lighting, its aesthetic value, and worth for money are just some of the reasons why a good truck light is sought after. The variety in colors, styles, and sizes even make the experience more fun.

Let your light shine brighter than the rest on your next overlanding adventure. Check out our wide collection of lighting options, brackets, and accessories. We also have other overlanding equipment like roof top tents, bed racks, awnings and annexes and a lot more. Feel free to text, email, or call us to talk to our experts.

Search