Auxiliary lighting for off-road applications has been a traditional modification almost as long as big tires and lift kits. For me at least, when I think of the typical off-road truck, the first thing that comes to mind is a brightly colored late-’80s/early-’90s rig, fitted with big tires and a lift, sporting round off-road lights wherever possible.
Okay, maybe this is just something I want to see, but that’s not the point. The point is: those lights were a major part of the build’s competence and style.
Since then, halogens have been outpaced by newer lighting technology. HID, or high-intensity discharge, lights popped up in the 1990s, with stronger beams and lower power consumption. And then LEDs were refined a little later, offering better durability, lower power draw, and a longer lifespan. Today, it’s typical to see nearly any off-road truck fitted with at least one LED light bar. And although the technology works very well, it hasn’t stopped the innovation. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at some of the most advanced light bar options on the market today. We’ll also shed a light on the next wave of technology and how it’s further increasing efficiency.
PIAA RF Series LED Light Bars
Founded in 1963, PIAA has been one of the most recognizable brands in the industry. Establishing a reputation in motorsports, the company has helped set the standard for off-road lighting with its high-quality product lineup, particularly its traditional round lights.
Far from a one-hit-wonder though, PIAA has since continued to produce ever more advanced lighting options over the last 50+ years, including some excellent light bar options.
PIAA RF Series light bars are named for the Reflector Facing Technology that defines them. Compared to conventional lighting options that use forward-facing LED lamps—which will cause the light rays to scatter—the RF Series uses a special, computer-designed multi-surface reflector to create a more concentrated and controlled beam. This produces better illumination, resulting in greater driver visibility and more light output per watt versus the competition.
Housed in cast aluminum with polycarbonate lenses, the RF Series light bars are compact and durable. And even better, they’re modular. That means they can be stacked together to create up to a 54-inch light bar, adding versatility and convenience. And, drawing little energy for operation, they still provide a strong, concentrated light beam that is extremely effective. A brilliant light pattern that is, thankfully, SAE-compliant—meaning you get race performance without breaking the law for street-driven vehicles.
Most of the RF Series light bars provide a brilliant cobalt-blue color, but PIAA has recently released a new offering in the line, emitting a yellow hue ideal for bad weather, as it is less reflective in snow, sleet, rain, fog, and dust.
Click here for more information on PIAA’s advanced light bar options.
Xray Vision Quad Optic LED Light Bar
Another quality manufacturer innovating lighting technology is Xray Vision, whose products are tested in the rugged Australian Outback. Pairing the functional design of traditional round or square lights with the style of conventional light bars, Xray has brought something truly clever and practical to the table: Quad Optic LED light bars.
Like every groundbreaking technology, LED light bars have their limitations. A big drawback is the limited amount of real estate available to mount them, as well as their lack of a pointed beam for seeing long distance. Xray Vision’s Quad Optic bars solve both of these problems through their unique design.
First, Quad Optic light bars have a 30% lower profile than traditional offerings. And with a range of four sizes, they cover every mounting hole distance from 5.7-inches to 51-inches. Plus, their versatile design allows them to be mounted in any position.
Secondly, the 1200 and 900 Series dual-beam models allow for users to change between individual spot and flood beam lighting at the simple flick of a switch. And the Quad-optic LED projection technology focuses all the light onto the road ahead, allowing for visibility up to 3600 ft (when using the 1200 series spot beam).
To stand up to off-road use, the Quad Optic LED light bar is constructed with heavy-duty die-cast alloy, stainless steel, and hardened polycarbonate. And despite the space age tech and sci-fi moniker, these light bars still look like familiar light bars. Additionally, Xray Vision makes a line of stackable slimline LED lightbars that use the same Quad Optic technology but provide a more compact design for added utility.
To learn more about Xray Vision’s unique line of advanced light bar options, click here.
It’s no secret that the off-road community likes its products Big and Bad.
Although, contrary to what many critics will say, it’s not because of a complex to overcompensate. Big things just tend to be extremely rugged and durable. Important qualities to those who are really beating on their 4x4s. However, big and bulky can have its drawbacks off-road, namely the sacrifices made to weight and agility.
So, what if you could have the best of both worlds? What if you could get something that is extremely durable but in a small package? Even further, what if it could function just as well as something bigger? You’re in luck (at least when it comes to lighting), as the folks at Putco have you covered.
Putco Luminex Edge Light Bars
Putco’s line of Luminex Edge light bars delivers on all fronts. Let’s start with the fact that this is the thinnest LED light bar In. The. World. That alone makes it extremely easy to find mounting locations where it won’t get snagged on passing brush or debris. It’s also a check in the pro column for those off-roaders who like to keep their vehicles looking stock, as the incredibly low profile (especially in the flush-mount options) makes it look totally natural to the vehicle.
The variety of available sizes increases versatility, with even the little 6″ model packing a powerful 400 lumens per LED of light output. The housing is constructed of billet aluminum with a UV-protected black anodized finish for added durability. And its quality American manufacturing is further improved with extensive testing, including explosive atmospheres, making it the highest rated LED light bar on the market.
With roughly fifty years in the lighting game, Putco has established itself as a major player and recognized brand, with competitive advanced light bar options. The Luminex series builds on this experience with a superior light output condensed in a package 300% smaller than the competition. And if you happen to be a truck guy wondering how you can carry this sleek styling ’round the rear of your new ride, check out the company’s brand new Blade LED light bar. The extremely slim tailgate bar is durable and waterproof, encapsulated in a tinted polycarbonate housing. Custom-designed to fit all full-size trucks on the market (including the all new Ford F-150 and Super Duty), it emits a stunning light output in red, amber, and white, sure to turn heads wherever you go.
Interested? Click here for more information.
Baja Designs OnX6 Hybrid LED and Laser Light Bar
Alright, I saved the most ridiculous light bar for last and I promise, you won’t be disappointed. It’s funny when you watch progression in technology. Even though each development that comes along is a surprise, there eventually comes a point where you think that it can’t go any further. Then all of the sudden something comes out that totally blows your mind. That’s exactly what Baja Designs has done with its OnX6 Hybrid LED/Laser Light Bar.
Yea, you read that right. LASERS. This is the first forward-projecting LED Laser Light in the world. And while it still uses LEDs, it combines them with laser chips that provide a light beam that projects 350% further than any other premium light bar using traditional LED technology. This Hybrid light uses a dual-beam system similar to Xray Vision’s product, wherein a user can switch between pointed laser lighting and surround LED lighting.
And as if shining light for incredible distances isn’t enough, the company has constructed this unit from aircraft aluminum with a mil-spec hard anodized finish and stainless steel hardware, making the light bar waterproof, rainproof, and submersible. Essentially, this next-generation light will stand up to whatever off-roading you can think of. Desert, wooded trail, Planet Mars’ sand dunes, you name it. Additionally, like all of Baja’s quality products, the OnX6 Hybrid LED/Laser Light Bar is built with replaceable lenses and optics to keep you running no matter what.
With 25 years under its belt as a leader in off-road lighting, Baja Designs has clearly been making the most of its time. Double up on the future tech and add on a Baja XL Laser Light to your rig as well. As the world’s first laser auxiliary light, you’ll be virtually unstoppable.
Check out Baja Designs other incredible light bar options here.