Gear Collections: Air Compressors

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Airing down is critical. But it is a simple skill to learn when you’re out exploring trails in the backcountry with a vehicle or motorcycle. 

Not only does airing down save your vehicle from costly repairs, it makes the drive more comfortable, and it actually protects the environment. That’s because, when your tire is aired down, it slips less and won’t break down the trail surface, which could lead to erosion. 

For whatever reason you decide to air down, it is important to note that you will need to air back up at some point to travel on tarmac at highway speeds. Traveling at speed on pavement with low tire pressure is a serious no-no. You should not ever attempt it — even for a few miles.


So how does one air back up when they are away from a gas station?

Simply put, you’ll need to use a compressed air tank or 12-volt air compressor — either hard-mounted in your rig or a portable kit that attaches to your battery. While an air tank or air compressor serve the same purpose, they function differently. A tank has no moving parts, so you can use it infinitely. That is as long as you have CO2 in the tank and it is free of leaks. Air compressors are more efficient, but have moving parts (and parts that might fail). Plus, they need to be tied into your 12-volt system to function.

Oh, there’s one other way to air up. You could bring a bike pump with you on overland trips, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It would take a really long time to pump up your tires to 40 PSI or more.

Below, I’ll take a quick look at some air tank and air compressor solutions I’ve used in the past:


Power Tank 15Lb Package B System

Photo: Power Tank

Photo: Power Tank

Power Tank comes in 10-lb. and 15-lb. capacities. The 15-lb. version is the one you want to go with for an overland rig. With a Power Tank you can air up tires, reseat tire beads safely, and run air tools at full power. As an example, the 15-lb. Power Tank can fill up to 42 37-inch tires before needing to refill your tank.

MSRP: $665.99



VIAIR 450PA Automatic Portable Air Compressor Kit

Photo: VIAIR

Photo: VIAIR

The VIAIR 450P-Automatic offers an automatic shut-off function in a larger powerful portable tire inflator. This 100% duty cycle unit is capable of pressures up to 150 PSI and can be operated for up to 40 minutes at a time before needing to be rested. The 450P-Automatic comes with a close-ended gas station-style air gun for added convenience.

MSRP: $306.95

ARB Twin Air Compressor

Photo: ARB 4x4 Accessories

Photo: ARB 4×4 Accessories

This compact vehicle mounted compressor has been designed to do everything! Activate your ARB Air Locking Differentials, air up a 35 inch tire in less than a minute and run air tools. This 100% duty cycle, 6.16 CFM compressor is built to support all of your compressed air needs. I have been using this air compressor in my rig for over ten years and the most I’ve ever done is blow a fuse. A real workhorse.

MSRP: $559.00

Just a quick note, there are a lot of air compressors and air tanks on the market and you might find one that works better for you for a lower price, but the three that I included above are solutions I’ve actually used and the only ones I feel comfortable recommending to you.

My best advice is whatever you end up choosing, just make sure it is a quality system. Spending a little money upfront is often better than making the same purchase multiple times.

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Anthony is the Director of Sales for Overland Expo and travels extensively with his wife Astrid and his dog Sir Digby in his 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser, nicknamed Hank the Tank. Follow his adventures on Instagram @overlandnomads

Header image: ARB 4×4 Accessories

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Photo by Brett Willhelm


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