Any time you go off roading, you need to be prepared to drive in a variety of different environments and lighting conditions. A narrow trail at dusk requires a different set of off-road lighting accessories than wide-open terrain in the moonlight.
And depending on where you’re driving, the weather can change in an instant, adding snow, ice, fog, or rain into the mix.
While the Jeep brand is closely associated with off-road driving, not all Jeeps are ready to hit the trails right out of the factory.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide to the best Jeep models for off-roading, and the best off-road lights to install on them.
What Jeep model is best for off roading?
The Jeep brand has been around since the 1940s, and was originally designed as the civilian alternative to the 4-wheel-drive vehicles used by the U.S. Army.
Now, the company produces everything from luxury SUVs to pick-up trucks. But which model is best for off-road driving?
In 2004, Jeep created a Trail Rated badge to help you find the most trail-ready Jeeps. To get the badge, the vehicles have to pass five different tests:
While several different Jeeps come in Trail Rated or Desert Rated editions, the Jeep Wrangler is hands-down the best Jeep model for off-road driving.
It’s small enough to be flexible in tight driving conditions, while still powerful enough to handle uneven terrain and adverse weather.
Also, the Jeep Wrangler has a huge aftermarket for auxiliary lighting and other off-road accessories, so you can customize it to your heart’s content.
Whether you choose the Wrangler TJ, JK, CJ, or YJ, you’ll find a range of DIY kits that make it easy to add some personality to your vehicle.
Types of off-road lights you can use
The main area where the Jeep comes up short is lighting. Except for some of the latest Jeep models, most Jeeps come with halogen headlights, which simply aren’t as bright and powerful as the newest HID and LED headlights.
If you’re going to be taking your Jeep off road, the first thing you should do is upgrade your headlights and add some auxiliary lights to supplement them.
Here are a few of your best options for customizing your Jeep’s off-road lights:
LED light bar
LED light bars use light-emitting diodes to produce a bright, forward-facing light. They’re usually installed on the roof, grille, or bumper of your vehicle.
Because each diode can be turned on and off independently, LED lights give you more control over the beam pattern than halogen bulbs. You can get them in spot, flood, and combination beams, and even opt for multicolored light bars with Bluetooth controls.
Light bars come in dozens of sizes, from small (6 inches) to large (52 inches), with the amount of lumens ranging from a few thousand to 30,000 or more.
Side-mirror lights are installed on your mirrors to make your vehicle more visible to other drivers when you have your turn signals on. They’re designed to fit the contours of your mirror and connect directly to your vehicle’s lighting controls.
Side-mirror lights usually come in the form of small LED units or LED strips that flash in unison with your turn signals. Some of them come in distinctive shapes like arrows.
Fog lights are intended for driving in low-visibility conditions, such as fog, rain, or snow. They produce a more diffused beam than your headlights in order to reduce glare and be less distracting to oncoming drivers.
Fog lights can be installed on the front or rear of your vehicle, as low to the ground as possible. They’re usually white or yellow in color, and can be made with either halogen bulbs or LED components.
Your headlights are two of the most important lights on your vehicle. They serve several purposes, including high and low beams, turn signals, and running lights. Although most vehicles come with halogen headlights, LED headlights are becoming more common, and it’s easy to upgrade your Jeep with an aftermarket kit.
Your lights will need to be DOT-approved if you plan to drive them on paved roads, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with halo headlights and even multicolor RGB headlights for off-road use.
Work lights or scene lights are worth having if you need to do maintenance at night, set up camp in the dark, or respond to an emergency. They can also be used while driving at night if you mount them on the roof or on a pole mount attached to your hitch.
If you’re driving or racing in a group, your lead vehicle can use a work light to illuminate the terrain. You can also choose a magnetic mount for maximum portability.
Types of off-road light bulbs
LEDs are widely considered to be the most flexible type of lighting for off-road vehicles. They can be installed almost anywhere, are long-lasting, and are energy-efficient.
But in some cases, such as headlights, you might have the choice of using halogen or HID units instead. What do you need to know about these lighting options?
Halogen bulbs come standard with many vehicles, so chances are your Jeep’s factory lights use this technology. While upgrading your bulbs can improve their performance, halogen bulbs can break easily and aren’t recommended for off-road use.
HID (high-intensity discharge) lights use Xenon gas instead of halogen. These lights are brighter and have a more focused beam pattern, so they’re often used in halo headlights. Aftermarket conversion kits for the Jeep can be hard to find, though.
LEDs are the go-to technology for off road lights because they produce more light than halogen bulbs while drawing less energy from your battery. They also last a long time and can withstand a range of conditions if they’re made with durable housing.
The 5 best Jeep off-road lights
With that in mind, here are our picks for the five best off-road lights for your Jeep:
Prismatic 14” RGB LED Light Bar
The Prismatic 14” RGB LED Light Bar is a great mid-sized light bar that’s bright enough to illuminate the landscape without being too big to manage. At 2.5” deep, it’s designed to keep a low profile and avoid the wind noise that bulkier light bars can produce.
It also comes with a modular mounting system so you can slide the light bar into place on a track rather than being limited to your vehicle’s pre-made mounting holes.
It has an IP69K rating for water resistance, and comes with an optional Bluetooth power module so you can change colors and sync it up to your music.
2007-2018 Wrangler JK Fog Light Replacement Kit
This Fog Light Replacement Kit for the 2007-2018 Wrangler JK is a great way to swap out your factory fog lights for something more powerful. These 3.5-inch lights have six LEDs each, and can be purchased with either a spot or flood beam pattern.
They’re waterproof (IP68), with a plexiglass lens and aluminum housing. They come in a plug-and-play kit designed for the JK, making them especially easy to install.
Lightworx 7" DOT Halo Headlights
These Lightworx 7" DOT Halo Headlights are designed to replace the factory headlights on the JK, TJ, CJ, and other models. You can choose either an H4 or H13 plug to match your Wrangler model, as well as an optional anti-flicker harness.
Since these lights are DOT approved, you’ll get all the features of halo headlights while still being street legal. They include high and low beams, a daytime running light, and a turn signal feature with an optional amber color.
RIGID Industries High Beam Auxiliary Driving Lights
The RIGID Industries SR-Series 30" High Beam Auxiliary Driving Lights is built to sit low on the front of your vehicle to serve as a high-visibility driving light. At 30 inches long, it provides ample illumination while blending in to the design of your vehicle. A mounting bracket and wiring harness are included.
RIGID Industries 6" Spot/Flood Combo LED Light Bar
The RIGID Industries E-Series Pro 6" Spot/Flood Combo LED Light Bar is a compact LED light bar that allows you to switch between spot, flood, driving, diffused beams, and more. It has an IP rating of 68 and runs on 9-36v DC power.
Are off-road lights street legal?
The short answer is that some off-road lights are street legal and some aren’t. Whether or not your lights will be street legal depends on how they’re installed and the state and county you’ll be driving in. As a general rule, you can rely on the following:
LED headlights (including halo headlights) ARE street legal as long as they’re DOT approved and only street legal colors and flash patterns are used.
LED light bars are NOT street legal and must be covered up on paved roads.
Fog lights and other auxiliary driving lights ARE street legal as long as they’re installed below the headlights and use the appropriate beam patterns.