Off Road Lighting Options
It’s no secret that when it comes to off road lighting, there are a ton of options, designs, patterns, and - of course the biggest factor for many - the price. For the longest time, we were stuck in the “dark ages” of lighting technology and function especially for cars. Sometimes I miss the days of the KC Highlighters and the Hella driving lights. The options were simple! Our only choices were 6” round or 5x7” rectangle, Halogen was the only option, and Chrome or Black housings. Typically we had to opt for mail order. Or if were you lucky enough, an auto parts store or an off road shop would have lights in stock.
Best Off Road Lighting Technologies
Today’s lighting technology has graduated to a new level and, at times, it seems the options are changing as fast as the new iPhone is released. LED lighting is the standard and now Laser is the near future. Off Road racing is getting faster and they are outpacing the throw of their lights, creating opportunity for advancing the technology. That technological advancement trickles down to the average guy, like you and me, and makes our options for our own off road vehicles extensive. No complaints here!
Take a look at the off road lighting options I have experience with that can help you decide the best off road lights for you:
KC Highlights: Since 1970, KC Highlights has been the staple of off road lighting. I remember my first set of Chrome Day Lighters in the 90’s and how much these lights set you apart from every other truck or SUV on the roads and trails. I’m pretty sure I still have them tucked away in a box in the back corner of the shop. The iconic yellow smiley face covers were a fashion statement, or a badge of honor. Fast forward to today and KC is still a family owned business pushing out a phenomenal product.
Their lighting technology is different than Baja Designs, Rigid or most other LED lights as KC is using a precision-designed reflector that is engineered to maximize the light output and throw without cranking up wattage. The Iconic round lighting design is definitely a throwback to the original Day Lighters and we can’t get enough of the retro yet modern styling. Great product!
Made in the USA Rigid Industries: I started offering Rigid Industries at Hefty Fabworks back in 2009, just a few years after their inception and they flipped the Off Road Lighting market on its head. These are marketed as being nearly indestructible off road lights with a warranty to back that claim. Maybe you remember the ballistic tests, the submersion tests, the drag it behind a vehicle and stab it with screw drivers. If not, check out their YouTube videos. Rigid was the one to copy and copy it was (see Amazon Specials). I am still running Rigid Industries lighting that I have moved from one vehicle to the next for nearly 15 years now with no issues.
In 2015, Rigid Industries was acquired by Truck-Lite Company. The transition saw some quality issues and some of the manufacturing was delayed, this was when we started making the shift to Baja Designs here at Hefty Fabworks. Rigid is still a great product option but, in our professional opinion, they fell out of the top spot with the Truck-Lite acquisition. That being said, Rigid Industries lighting is still an excellent choice in off road lighting.
Mostly Made in the USA Morimoto: When it comes to headlight replacements, you can’t get much better than Morimoto for quality and plug-and-play installation, but we are talking about off road lighting. The selection is slim here, but the new Morimoto Banger series lights (yes the name is a little quirky) are making - for lack of a better word - a bang in the lighting world. From direct plug-and-play replacement fog light kits for many vehicles to their universal lighting options, the Morimoto Banger series lights are definitely worth looking into for an easy off road lighting option. Wide, driving, or spot patterns are available in both white and amber light output. Price point is at the same level as Baja and Rigid if not slightly higher, and the quality is very good. These are made in China.
Diode Dynamics: Diode Dynamics has come onto the scene in the last few years and definitely made a splash. Their products are high quality and built in St. Louis, MO. The biggest downside we find with the Diode products is the size of their LED pod housings as they are slightly larger than Rigid industries and a lot larger than the Baja Designs. This can make them difficult to fit into certain off road bumpers (i.e. Hefty Fabworks products). The SS3 SAE pods have a very sharp cut off pattern, which some customers really like vs. the Baja designs soft transition. It really comes down to a personal preference and style choice in off road lighting. One cool feature is the white or amber primary color with an optional back light in several color options.
Amazon Specials: Well, we’ve all heard it, “No way I’m spending that crazy amount of money on name brand lights when I can buy these on Amazon for $50!” There is always something to be said about cheap lights, built in China or Taiwan by a 7 year old for 15 cents a day. Will you get a light that works? Maybe. Will you get a light that has good light pattern? Extremely doubtful but throwing out a bunch of light in random ways seems to work for some people. Will you get a quality product that will stand the test of time? No way! Will you get something that gives you the look of an overlander on the budget of a teenage drug addict? Sure thing!
We tend to stick to quality products at Hefty Fabworks that we can stand behind so we’ll leave the Amazon Specials on Amazon. While there are many more options on the market than what we discussed here, there is a solution for everyone needing off road lighting. From the elite to budget build, Hefty Fabworks can help you light up the path.