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Best Off-Road Lights: Add Safety and Enjoyment to your Nighttime Explorations

Don’t let a little thing like complete darkness get in the way of your off-road adventures.

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BYAlex Kalogiannis/ LAST UPDATED ON July 19, 2022

Part of the fun of off-roading is facing the unpredictable. How prepared you and your vehicle are determines if your journey is an enjoyable overlanding romp or a dangerous, expensive disaster. Having a solid set of off-road lights mounted to your rig is a great way to prevent trouble when sunset sneaks up on you or if an emergency requires you to leave camp in the middle of the night—missing marshmallows, for example. There are loads of options out there, but I’m here to shine a light on the best kits available for your ride.

Best Overall

Rough Country Dual-Row Cree Light Bar

Summary
Wide range of light, a three-year warranty, and everything you need in one slick package.
Pros
  • Increased range of visibility
  • Three-year warranty
  • Waterproof
Cons
  • Fixed, non-adjustable angle
  • Lack of included instructions
  • DRL mode might be too bright
Best Value

Zmoon LED Light Pod

Summary
For a tenth the price of the Rough Country lights, Zmoon’s bright, waterproof adjustable pods deliver lots of bang for a few bucks.
Pros
  • Affordable price
  • Waterproof and shock-resistant
  • Adjustable brackets
Cons
  • Weak brackets
  • Short spot beam range
  • Spotty harness quality
Honorable Mention

KC HiLites Gravity Pro6 LED Light Bar

Summary
Bright, modern LEDs wrapped in a charming old-school package. With an IP68 rating, they can stand up to the worst dirt and water you can throw at them.
Pros
  • Old-school looks with modern performance
  • IP68 Seal
  • Modular design
  • Multiple beam modes
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Bulky look 
  • Big pod surfaces can collect snow and water
Best Off-Road Lights: Add Safety and Enjoyment to your Nighttime Explorations

Summary List 

Best Pod Lights: Cowone LED Light Bar

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Our Methodology

I took a look at some of the best off-road light kits out there and judged them on a number of factors. These include price, brightness, ease of installation, durability, and compatibility. Off-road lights don’t need to just be bright; they need to suit your needs, be it a broad path or a spotlight. Sometimes it can be both, so flexibility counts, too. You can read more about The Drive’s methodology and mindset by following this link

Best Off-Road Lights Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Light source: LED
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Fit Type: Universal

Pros

  • Increased range of visibility
  • Three-year warranty
  • Waterproof

Cons

  • Fixed, non-adjustable angle
  • Lack of included instructions
  • DRL mode might be too bright

The Rough Country light bar tops our list thanks to its brightness and coverage while also being as streamlined as possible. The curved dual row of lights shines at 46,800 lumens and 520 watts of brightness. The combination of flood light and spotlight in one package is handy, and the simple shape provides light in a broader span, preventing tunnel vision and giving drivers a touch more awareness in their periphery. Its die-cast aluminum housing is IP67 sealed, making it dust-tight and protected against temporary immersion in water. Each LED is covered under a three-year warranty. There’s even a daytime-running-light mode that gives older vehicles a touch of modern safety.
Best Off-Road Lights Value
Zmoon LED Light Pod
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Specs

  • Light source: LED
  • Material: Aluminum alloy housing
  • Fit Type: Universal

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Waterproof and shock resistant
  • Adjustable brackets

Cons

  • Weak mounting
  • Short spot beam range
  • Spotty wire harness quality

The Zmoon light pod set packs a versatile lighting solution into two small, affordable packages. The 240-watt, 24,000-lumen LED lighting solution provides a combination of spot and flood lighting for your rig, with a service life of up to 50,000 hours. This is helped by 10 cooling fins. Its aluminum casing is waterproof and resistant to debris such as dust and sand. A 10-foot wiring harness gives you the range needed to come up with all sorts of mounting solutions, and each unit sits in an adjustable bracket for easy tweaking.
Honorable Mention
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Specs

  • Light source: LED
  • Material: Aluminum alloy
  • Fit Type: Universal

Pros

  • Old-school looks with modern performance
  • Modular design
  • Multiple beam modes

Cons

  • A bit pricey
  • Bulky look compared to modern light bars
  • Big pod surfaces can accumulate snow and water

KC is one of the best-known brands in the off-road lighting game. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, you’ll recognize their smiley-face light caps on some of the sets they offer. Maintaining the retro look but keeping up with the times, the KC HiLiTES LED Light Bar is a 50-inch, eight-light row of LED-powered pods. The 19,616-lumen set has three beam patterns available: driving, spot, and wide. It can also easily switch from pointing straight ahead to a curved pattern for a wider dispersal of light. It’s made up of a collection of individual pods, offering the kind of modularity necessary for whatever setup you want.

Specs

  • Light source: LED
  • Material: Die-cast aluminum
  • Fit Type: Front mounted

Pros

  • Simple setup
  • Affordable
  • More discreet than larger pods

Cons

  • Limited one-year warranty
  • Poor installation instructions
  • Lack of customer support

You’ll notice that most of the choices on this list are LED-powered, and that’s mostly due to the fact that LEDs tick loads of boxes for customers and manufacturers. They’re inexpensive, don’t burn as hot as old-school bulbs, and they’re bright. That’s why my pick for this category goes to the Hella ValueFit LED Driving Lamp Kit. It’s a simple, affordable LED light system. The two-pod kit shines at around 2,100 lumens each and comes with stainless steel mounting brackets. The adjustable base helps drivers position them to their preferences. It’s simple but effective and an affordable upgrade to any rig.

Specs

  • Light source: LED
  • Material: Die-cast aluminum
  • Fit Type: Front mounted

Pros

  • Reasonably priced
  • Easy to install
  • High/low beams plus DRLs

Cons

  • Poor wiring instructions
  • Can’t compare to light bars
  • DRLs can be too dim

Sometimes a light bar can be a little much, and all that’s needed is a good pair of pods to give a vehicle’s factory-installed light system a little boost. We like the Cowone LED Light Bar because it has multiple modes, is reasonably priced, and it’s compatible with just about any off-road vehicle. The two pods in the kit have high and low beam settings, and include daytime running lights within the housing. Depending on the mode, they can shine between 4,000 to 6,000 lumens each. They also project light at a 6,000K temperature, which is close to natural daylight. The included hardware makes mounting to an existing bull bar a simple affair, and the waterproof, shockproof construction means you can set them without worry.

Specs

  • Light source: LED
  • Material: Die-cast aluminum
  • Fit Type: Universal

Pros

  • Fair price
  • Impressive beam
  • Water- and dust-resistant

Cons

  • Waterproofing doesn’t extend to connector plugs
  • Inconsistent mount quality
  • Unclear instructions

Rough Country makes its second appearance on our list, thanks to the Rough Country Black Series Dual-Row Light Bar. This dual row light bar has 40 three-watt LEDs that glow at a 9,600-lumens intensity. It sports an eight-degree spotlight and 90-degree flood light combo pattern. The die-cast aluminum housing is waterproof, and there’s a breather built in to reduce moisture buildup. It comes included with everything needed for mounting and there are noise silencers thrown in to keep the set-up whistling in the wind at speed. If anything fails on you, there’s a three-year warranty. All that plus a reasonable price makes this a very appealing upgrade to your off-road ride.

Specs

  • Light source: LED
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Fit Type: Universal

Pros

  • Ample flood light
  • Reasonably priced
  • Waterproof sealant

Cons

  • Might need some DIY internal reinforcement
  • Poorly designed mounting bracket
  • Some drilling required

The Nilight Spot and Flood LED Work Light two-piece set of lights are a great way to enhance your existing vehicle’s set of lights with a bit more illumination. Each pod emits light at a 6,000K temperature and blends a spotlight beam into the flood pattern for enhanced distance. Its aluminum housing is sealed with waterproof glue to prevent the condensation that can plague most off-road lights. Along with waterproofing, these pods dissipate heat as efficiently as possible and should provide 50,000 hours of use. If something isn’t right, customers have reported prompt replies from customer service, and that certainly earns this set a thumbs up.

Our Verdict

Our picks for best off-road lights should banish any night-time driving concerns just as easily as they do the dark. The Rough Country Dual-Row Cree Light Bar is solid, and the Zmoon LED Light Pods are affordable, and a good place to start. Be sure to comment below with your favorite offroad lights!

Things to Consider Before Buying Off-Road Lights

Picking the right set of off-road lights isn’t as simple as picking the brightest hardware you can find and slapping them onto your truck. Do you need a wide pattern or something more narrow? How about a flood light or a spot light? How about both? You should also consider where you plan to mount your lights, how rugged they are for your purposes, and what type of light sources are best for you.

Types of Beam Patterns

Spotlight or Pencil Beam

This is a narrow, concentrated beam that penetrates long distances in front of your vehicle. It’s great for straight, high-speed situations but is even more useful for racing, rather than typical recreational use. 

Driving 

A driving beam pattern illuminates a much wider area than a pencil beam and gives the driver a much more useful view of the trail ahead. They provide more intensity and reach than typical high-beam headlights.

Fog Light

Fog lights provide a wide, flat-topped beam that brightens the area near your vehicle and gives a broader view of shoulders and curves. They are not designed for long-distance illumination but to supplement a typical low-beam headlight by giving the driver a more complete view of their surroundings. The flat top of the beam is designed not to reflect fog, dust, snow, or rain back into the driver’s eyes.

Flood Light

Flood lights, as the name implies, are designed to flood an area with light. They are typically used as work lights or area lights for a campsite or as reverse lamps, rather than to light your way down a road. However, this type of pattern is sometimes used for forward lighting at low speeds on Jeeps and ATVs.

Types of Light Sources

LED

LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, have in recent years become the dominant light source for off-road and auxiliary lighting in general. LEDs provide long life and use very little power compared to halogen bulbs. They’re also resistant to vibration and pounding on rough roads. These lights produce a whiter light as compared to halogens.

Halogen

Prior to the rise of LEDs, halogen bulbs ruled the lighting world. There are still many halogen off-road lights available, and they are generally less expensive than LED lamps. Halogen bulbs, although easily replaceable, do not last anywhere near as long as LEDs.

Laser

Yes, laser! For very high-end racing applications, laser diodes are being used by some manufacturers for super long-range lighting that shines about 350 percent farther than other light sources.

Types of Lights

Pod

A pod lamp is simply an individual lamp in its own housing that can be mounted on a bumper, grille, cowl, or roof. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes to suit individual tastes and mounting requirements.

Light Bar

A light bar houses a number of different individual lamps in one horizontal unit. They come in a variety of lengths and styles to provide different light patterns and output. They can be mounted on the top or front of a vehicle.

Off-Road Lighting Key Features

Construction

Since you're going to be off-roading with these lights, they need to be able to withstand vibration, impact, and a variety of weather conditions. As a result, they should be constructed with high-quality materials. Look for lights that have durable lenses and high-quality housings and mounting brackets. Also, make sure they're water- and dust-resistant.

Brightness and Beam Pattern

Choose the type of beam pattern that will put light where you want it, based on the type of driving you do. If you want to throw light far down the road, choose a long-distance or spot beam driving pattern. But if you want to light up road edges and curves closer in, you will want a wider array. Brightness is measured in lumens, but there can be variable consistency in that measurement, so be wary of using lumens as a sole criterion for which lamp to choose. 

Mounting Position

Before spending your hard-earned cash on a set of off-road lights, think about where you want to install them. Light bars and pods should be mounted in an area where they provide the best performance. Whether you’re going for a high position on the roof or roll bar, or down low on the bumper or grille, make sure you have a solid mounting surface that won’t shake with the vehicle’s movement. The lights you choose have sturdy, appropriate mounts to fit the location you want.

Other Considerations

Look for lights with an IP67 rating, which indicates they are highly water-resistant and dustproof. Cooling can be an important consideration for longevity, so make sure lamps include proper heat-dispersal methods such as heat sinks, fans, or flow-through venting. Finally, check to see if there's a warranty.

If you're not mechanically inclined, it may be a little challenging to install a set of off-road lights on your vehicle. The good news is that most manufacturers provide detailed instructions on how to set them up, or you can find some handy videos online.

Off-Road Lights Pricing

One of the best things about off-road lighting is that it can be quite affordable. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get increased visibility. However, lower-priced systems may not offer the performance or durability of more expensive models. Look to spend between $300 to $1,500. 

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Are off-road lights street legal?

A: The short answer is no, but the degree differs from state to state. The legality of off-road lights depends on a number of factors such as brightness, light color, and even where they’re mounted. You’re free to use them off-roading and on private property, but check your local laws first.

Q: How many lumens do I need for off-road lights?

A: At a minimum, 6,000 lumens should get you in the ballpark. If the goal is to maximize visibility ahead of your car, there’s hardly an upper limit. It’s really the pattern that factors into things.

Q. What is the brightest off-road light?

A: The current champ in this field is the Nitro Maxx LED light. Nitro has worked the optics to the point where it can fully illuminate objects more than a mile ahead. Go for these if your goal is to upset neighbors, blind drivers, and disrupt the sleeping patterns of nocturnal creatures.

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