We live in a culture rich with choices. There are 100 shampoos on the grocery store shelf. There are 1,500 channels that can be streamed to our TVs. And if you like to get off road, and love to do it at night, then you already know how many 4×4 lighting options there are on the market. It can be overwhelming and easy to get lost in an ever growing pile of brand names and styles.
- What’s the big difference between LED, halogen, and HID?
- How do I know what features I really need and those I can do without?
- Is a budget brand best for me?
- Or should I spend top dollar on a state of the art 4×4 lighting setup?
While individual answers to these questions can certainly vary, there is one solid truth every nocturnal off-roader can agree on. With all of these available upgrades, that stock lighting situation simply isn’t gonna cut the mustard anymore.
What Kind of 4×4 Lighting? Beginning Your Search
First things first, it’ll help to decide what type of bulb you’re looking for off road. Halogen bulbs have already been in use for a few decades. They were the gradual replacement for the old school sealed-beam headlights our trail-running forefathers struggled with years ago. These cast a much whiter beam than their predecessors and are often the most cost effective option for beginners, or wheelers on a tighter budget. Anywhere from 100 to 150 watts is the most common power ratings for halogen bulbs.
HID (High Intensity Discharge) lights are newer still. They produce light by forming a plasma in a gas-filled bulb. HIDs are more efficient than their halogen counterparts. So much so, in fact, that they can provide the same light output as a halogen bulb while using less than one third of the battery current. HID bulbs are generally rated between 35 and 50 watts.
And finally, the new kid on the 4×4 lighting block, LED (Light Emitting Diode). Now common in plenty of electronics, LED technology has gained traction during recent years in the lighting game for their, to date, unsurpassed efficiency. LEDs are essentially miniature semiconductors, producing several different wavelengths of white light and even color. The amount of electrical current they produce, relative to their light output, far surpasses any other style in the 4×4 lighting industry. And better still, their wildly long life spans usually exceed 10,000 hours, a simple way to justify their higher price range.
The Right 4×4 Lighting to Fit Your Style
Think you’ve narrowed it down? There’s a lot of factors to consider. Style, performance, and price are all important, as is what exactly you’ll need your new 4×4 lighting setup for when the sun goes down. It’s important to determine what kind of beam pattern is best suited for your off-road activity, as well as where on your rig you’ll want to mount that extra hardware.
What sort of ground will you be covering—are you hitting some windy, narrow forest trails, or taking it nice and slow? Then search for something with a more concentrated beam of light. If you plan to be whipping through the wide-open desert at high speeds, then a broader light pattern with less throw should be on your shopping list.
Trusted Names in the 4×4 Lighting Game
Even after Google narrows down the search, many brand and product choices remain. There are plenty of trusted names that have been on the market for years (including Rigid Industries, KC Hilites, Vision-X, and Pro Comp), as well as some newbies on the 4×4 lighting scene that have quickly gained the industry’s respect (such as Westin and TrailFX). Only you can decide which setup is just right for you, but here are a few names we love to kick start your research.
RIGID Industries remains one of the premier names in the 4×4 lighting business, and for good reason. They offer a wide range of products for a large community with diverse interests and budgets. RIGID’s SAE-compliant Fog Lights and Auxiliary High Beam Driving Lights, for one, are great LED choices that not only light up the trail, but are fully street legal. The color temperature of these lights was chosen for its near-perfect recreation of real daylight by using RIGID’s patented Clarilux optic system.
RIGID’s PRO Series, while not street legal, is professional race-quality equipment. This includes a PRO version of their insanely popular D-Series Cube Kit, perhaps the most popular light blocks on the market. RIGID proudly declares the PRO Series to be, “The most powerful lineup of lighting ever produced.” It’s a hard assertion to argue with, especially once you get a look at the RIGID ADAPT, a light bar that literally raises the bar for what 4×4 lighting can be. The ADAPT has eight beam patterns to choose from, which the light bar does for you AUTOMATICALLY based on your vehicle’s speed. Wow. And just for good measure, it looks totally and completely bad***.
More Brands that Shine Bright
Hella Northern is a name that’s known for making top quality lighting at affordable prices. Among their offerings are LED cube kits, light bars, and rock light kits—all of which can change color. And what’s even more useful, they can all hook up to your Bluetooth. Because we never leave home without it, right?
J.W. Speaker has a simple yet purposeful mission: to make replacement lights that are superior to the ones your Wrangler came with stock. Their J2 Series, which has been a wild success, offers LED headlights, fog lights, and turn signals that can flat out improve your nighttime drives. Plus, they’re super simple to install.
Vision X is another exciting brand of 4×4 lighting that won’t leave you in the dark while off-roading this fall. “Engineered to outshine and outlast the competition,” the 6.7” ADV Cannon kit provides over 2,600 feet of driving light, while remaining true to the round Jeep styling. If that’s somehow not enough, bump up to their 8.7” model for over 3,200 feet of visibility. Danggg, that’s like two thirds of a mile.
Looking to simply replace the bulbs in their original housing? PIAA’s Platinum H4 LED Bulbs will give you the perfect upgrade. And the PIAA Light Bar is street legal, super-capable, and its yellow ion glow is undeniably sexy in the moonlight (if a light bar were capable of being sexy, ya know?).
And a Few More for Good Measure
A few more? Sure! TrailFX Premium Series light bars use focused reflective technology to create better beam control and are available in single or double row models. Rugged Ridge has a famously vast collection of 4×4 lighting solutions that work for nearly any budget. They’ve mated the rough construction of their halogen lights with HID technology to produce a durable, bright, and affordable product that looks and performs just right.
XRAY Vision is a relatively new kid on the block from Down Under, but these Aussies are nothing to toy with. With a full lineup made from tough materials and housed in nearly unbreakable polycarbonate, its easy to see why their motto, “Rough enough for the Outback, tough enough for you”, holds true.
In the end, the exact brand and lighting option you choose matters less in comparison to ensuring you choose a perfect match for your specific needs. That it performs the way you want it to and is the right fit financially. There are more options out there than we can name but with a little research, you can find the right way to light your path—wherever it may lead you.