The Best New Overland Gear for 2018
Stuff you can add to your truck to make it better for off-road travel
For exclusive access to all of our fitness, gear, adventure, and travel stories, plus discounts on trips, events, and gear, sign up for Outside+ today.
Better known for loud stereos and louder paint jobs, the annual Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association show in Las Vegas also debuts more useful vehicle modifications: off-road equipment. This is the stuff from last week’s show that we feel will make your overland adventures even better.
Get stuck? Just stick these studded nylon recovery boards under your wheels and drive on out. Used to be these platforms were too large to fit inside your vehicle. With the new MaxTrax Mini, just 25 inches long and 13 inches wide, now they can fit in the trunk of even a small hatchback. Perfect for Subaru owners, MaxTrax Minis will work as well in snow as they do in mud, sand, or other sticky situations.
Element E50 Fire Extinguisher
Element’s radical new fire extinguisher is 80 percent smaller and ten times lighter than a traditional five-pound bottle extinguisher, but it sprays five times longer. Because it works through a chemical reaction, the E50 requires no pressurization, which means it isn’t sensitive to temperature or elevation, and it requires no refills or maintenance. A single unit fights all major types of fire. All those benefits together make it perfect for keeping in your truck or even at home.
ARB Linx Controller
Modern off-road vehicles are becoming increasingly reliant on electronics, and the same is true for off-road accessories. Parts like differential locks, air compressors, and aftermarket lights now come with multiple switches or even standalone gauges and control units. With Linx, ARB is consolidating all those displays, switches, gauges, and readouts into a single smartphone-sized touchscreen device. That will save space, expand functionality, and enable you to better organize and manage all your gadgets. It’s nerdy, but we’re seriously excited to incorporate this thing into our future 4×4 builds.
Bubba Rope Winch Line with Soft Shackle
Winches need to do more than pull your vehicle’s weight; they also need to overcome the friction of the mud or whatever else you’re stuck in. So the tension on a winch line can add up to tens of thousands of pounds. If one snaps, or if a component in your winching system breaks, you’ll find a metal shackle rocketing your way with enough force to disable your vehicle or even kill you. Bubba Rope fixes that with its innovative soft shackle, made from the same synthetic material as the company’s winch lines. Now the company has finally incorporated the two products—line and shackle—into a single unit with no metal parts. The result is light enough that it will simply fall to the ground if something breaks.
Cummins R2.8 Crate Engine
Old trucks are simple and incredibly rugged, but they’re also slow and polluting and get terrible fuel economy. Legendary commercial engine maker Cummins aims to solve all those problems with this new four-cylinder turbo diesel crate motor. It’s small enough to fit in the tiniest of engine bays and weighs just 500 pounds, but it delivers a healthy 267 pound-feet of torque, which will be a performance improvement on virtually anything made before the year 2000. Albuquerque-based Tactical Application Vehicles has already put on in the engine bay of a Toyota FJ40 and reports all-day cruising speeds that average 85 mph and fuel economy in the 25 mpg range while doing so.
Baja Designs LP9 Light
Baja Designs is responsible for bringing aftermarket LED lighting to the masses, but its products were limited to bars and square pods. The LP9 is the company’s first foray into the world of eight-inch circles. These produce 11,000 lumens covering a 200-degree arc, perfect for fast-paced desert runs.
Go Fast Campers
This Bozeman, Montana–based company is improving on the rooftop tent formula by adding strength and reliability. In development for a range of popular pickups, the tents mount on a strong steel space frame that leaves the truck bed’s hauling capacity unencumbered. The floor of the tent is made from light but strong aluminum honeycomb and can be rearranged to allow standing-height room or even a bench seat. Go Fast plans to make all its tents in the United States and has designed them to be far more rugged than the Chinese-made competition to better resist off-road abuse.
Whether you’re broken down in a swamp in the middle of the night or just working in your garage, having a secure place to put your tools can help make any job less frustrating. Made from a sticky but easy-to-clean rubber, the flexible Grypmat will securely hold wrenches or nuts and bolts even on slanted or curved surfaces. It was designed to rest on the nose cones of fighter jets.
Decked Storage Boxes
A drawer-based storage system allows you to easily and securely organize all your tools, camping equipment, and spare parts while giving you a better tie-down system to carry bulkier items. Until now, all drawers were custom builds, but Decked has delivered a modular off-the-shelf solution for popular trucks, SUVs, and vans. My dream overland setup would be a set of these in the bed of a Ford Raptor, capped with a Go Fast Campers rooftop tent. That’d keep all my crap out of the way while maximizing onboard living space.
Rhino Rack Dome Awnings
Vehicle-mounted awnings provide quickly deployed, securely mounted protection from sun and rain without eating up your truck’s precious internal storage space. But depending on how tall your vehicle is and how you mount the awning, headroom can often be a problem. Rhino Rack’s solution is simply to create a domed awning in the fashion of a popup tent. It’s such a simple solution that it’s amazing no one’s thought of it before.
Older trucks with strong body-on-frame construction and highly articulating solid axles often make the best platforms on which to build an overland 4×4. But it’s easy to overlook interior parts like the seats when refreshing the powertrain and suspension. You shouldn’t—a quality seat is the part of your truck you’ll spend the most time in contact with, and comfort is incredibly important over multiday drives. Scheel-Mann has been making orthopedic replacement seats in Germany since 1966, and its expansive product range is now available in the United States. Your butt and lower back will appreciate them.
Feniex AI Light Bars
Unless you operate a fleet of emergency vehicles, you haven’t heard of Feniex. The Austin, Texas–based company makes the highest-quality lighting for police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks and is now entering the off-road space with an innovative new line of light bars. The brand’s AI series produces an astounding 50,000 lumens of light and adjusts between a 10-degree spot or 60-degree flood beam pattern automatically based on your speed and the terrain over which you’re traveling.
Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus Tires
If you’re going off-road, the single best modification you can make to your car or truck is adding a quality set of all-terrain tires. Pirelli is finally taking that segment seriously with this all-new Scorpion All Terrain Plus tire, and initial signs are that it will be excellent. Heavy siping in the tread (the small squiggly lines) should allow the heavy tread blocks to conform to obstacles while also boosting winter performance—they wear the three-snowflake mountain symbol of a true snow tire. The company says that in addition to targeting excellent off-road performance, it set out to make the All Terrain Plus as quiet on-road as possible. The tire was just announced, so details are slim, but we’re hoping this could finally be a rival for the dominant BF Goodrich K02.