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Lights for Your Overlanding Vehicle

Welcome to the twelfth article in this series on Building an Overlanding Vehicle. In this article, we will be looking at enhancing your driving lights and work lights for camping.

Here at 4x4Explorer, we like to be at our destination and have camp set up before dark, but there are many occasions where this has not been the case and we have found ourselves driving in the dark. This is usually the case in Spring and Autumn when the days are shorter and when an unexpected recovery or puncture has caused a delay.

Photo 1 of Lights for Your Overlanding Vehicle

Our vehicle is a 1997 Toyota Prado and the factory lights are fairly average, to say the least. If you have a more modern vehicle, chances are that your factory lights will be far superior.

Even modern lights, whilst suitable for driving on the tarmac, will probably not give you what you need when you find yourself negotiating an off road track in the dark. Once you’re off the tarmac at night, you need to be able to see clearly the ground that you are driving over and see in the distance where the track is going.

There are really two options for enhancing your driving light capability. These are spot lights and light bars. Before deciding which is the best for you, there are a number of things to consider. Budget is always an important consideration and both of these options come at various price points. Decide how often you are realistically going to use them before you spend thousands. Check online reviews and speak to other people about what they are using.

Photo 2 of Lights for Your Overlanding Vehicle

When wiring in your new driving lights, make sure that they are on a separate circuit to your factory lights, I think that this is law, and make sure that the switch to activate them is clearly visible from the driving position and preferably illuminated. Some of these lights can be extremely bright and you don’t want to blind other motorists because you’ve forgotten to switch them off. You should also consider how much power the lights are going to draw and whether your alternator is putting out sufficient power to keep everything charged while you’re driving. Most lights now are LED, which have a much lower power draw than traditional bulbs.

Think carefully about where you want your lights to be mounted. We have a light bar mounted on the roof platform but underneath the platform itself. We also have another light bar attached to the front bar.

The top bar is underneath the platform to avoid damage in close wooded areas. We often see people with spotlights mounted on the top of roof racks. These look great, but may be very vulnerable to a low branch. Many people also mount their spot lights on the bumper part of the front bar. We decided not to do this because it would have made it difficult to engage and disengage the winch.

Photo 3 of Lights for Your Overlanding Vehicle

Another useful light to have is a powerful LED reversing light. We can’t really see much out of the back of our truck because of the fridge and cargo net suspended from the ceiling, but if you can see out of the back of your vehicle, this maybe worth considering. Might save you from driving into a rock or ditch that you hadn’t seen.

Another consideration is reflection. A good friend of mine has a stainless steel bull bar and these can create a distracting reflection. We get a slight amount of reflection off our various antennae, but this is manageable.

Whatever you decide to go for, you will definitely notice the difference and wonder how you ever managed without them.

When we are in camp, we like to be able to see what we are doing around the vehicle and be able to cook out of the back. What we have done is fitted two small LED work lights on either side of the vehicle, and another at the rear, attached underneath the rack to keep them out of harm’s way.

Photo 4 of Lights for Your Overlanding Vehicle

There are switches accessible at the rear, which allow us to choose which lights are functioning. These are great when we’re wild camping but can be a bit antisocial if we’re in a campsite.

Ideally you should have your work lights wired to you house battery, if you have one, or to a separate power bank. Do not run work lights off your crank battery in case you drain it and can’t start the engine in the morning.

We have a drawer system at the back of the truck and cook out of the back. To provide lighting for the kitchen area, we bought some LED light strip from a hard ware store and glued it around the rear door opening. Because it’s low profile, it doesn’t get damaged when we open and close the rear door.

One modification that we will be making is changing this LED strip from bright white to a another less bright colour. The reason for this is that during the summer months, these lights become an insect magnet and there’s nothing worse that swarms of insects congregating where we are trying to cook.

Once again, we hope that you have found this article interesting and informative and look forward to seeing you out on the trails………

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