Gear Essentials: Lighting, Energy, and Batteries

Since the advent of overlanding, auxiliary lighting and energy have been paramount. After all, you can’t be truly self-sufficient in the backcountry for very long without either. And the market for these segments has changed dramatically in recent years. Heck, Just a decade ago, most of the products on this list didn’t exist. If they did exist, they weren’t half as powerful or robust as the products we enjoy today.

In the interest of keeping everyone up to date on the latest, greatest, and — importantly — our favorites, we compiled a list of our top auxiliary lights, energy, and batteries (in alphabetical order, of course).

ALP — Portable Propane Generator

But not the ALP Portable Propane Generator. It offers all the on-demand power generation of a gas generator but without the drawbacks.

For example, the ALP is spill- and fume-free. This is the nature of a propane generator. Without noxious gasoline sloshing around inside its tank, it doesn’t suffer a lot of the drawbacks of a gas-burner. And, without old gas being pushed through the carb, you’ll never suffer gummed up fuel-system components.

More than just avoiding a fouled carburetor, avoiding gasoline enables you to stow the ALP inside your rig when you’re not using it because it won’t spill gasoline nor will it put off fumes.

Those are not the only benefits of the ALP unit, of course. Not running on gas is not its sole advantage.

For example, the ALP weighs under 30 pounds, so it’s easy to handle and move around. Speaking of handle, the ALP was designed with a recessed and reinforced handle. This allows you to stack gear on top of it when you’re not using it. Also because it’s a reinforced handle, you can run a cable or chain to it for extra security at camp.

The ALP portable propane generator churns out a reliable 850 Watts of power with a peak surge power output of 1,000 Watts. To put that into perspective, that’s enough juice to run a fridge, freezer, TV, coffee maker, small air conditioning unit (up to 8,000 BTU), electric blanket, lights, small fry pan, or small space heater (not at the same time, obviously).

On a 20-pound propane bottle, you’ll get 60 hours of runtime pulling 500 Watts the entire time. Pop on a small one-pound (16-ounce) bottle and you’ll be looking at 2.5 to 3.5 hours of runtime.

The face of the ALP features a 12-volt charger regulated at 13.8 volts as well as two USB ports. In Economy mode, this 12-volt port puts out 4.0 amps but can put out as much as 8.6 amps for faster device charging. There is also an incorporated parallel port enabling you to tie two ALP generators together generating 2,200 surge Watts and 1,900 running Watts.

The panel face also includes an LED light that makes finding the outlets easy in the dark. What’s more, the LED light is bright enough to illuminate the scene — it’s ideal for changing a flat tire in the dark, for example.

ALP generators are available in orange, blue, and green — each with either gray or black panels. So you can tailor the unit to compliment your rig or gear color scheme.

Given the ALP’s features and design, it’s not hard to imagine why we love it and put it on this list. It’s the perfect midpoint between gasoline- and solar/battery-based auxiliary power systems for your overland setups.

MSRP: $549.00 ($499.00 online special)

Backwoods Adventure Mods — Pathfinder PROWLR Series 9-inch Driving Lights

The plug-n-play amber version produces light that cuts through rain, snow, dust, and fog. The white spotlight version dramatically increases your visibility further down the trail. The beam pattern is a combo/wide side shooter for better coverage. Each package includes one light, bracket, hardware, and DT-style wiring harness.

Each light puts out 6,638 raw Lumens and draws a mere five amps or 13.2 volts. Because of their efficient design, they require no warm up time — the fire right up to full illumination. The lifespan of each light is rated at 50,000 hours. Although these lights are designated nine-inches, they actually measure 9.61 inches.

We love the Pathfinder PROWLR lights for their design, light output, waterproof rating, durability, and price point. There are plenty of players in the driving light market. It’s nice to see a new entrant that isn’t charging a huge premium for a great product.

MSRP: $275 per light (special pre-order price: $250 per light)

Baja Designs — LP4

Each LP4 features a total of 8,750 Lumens and a 200-degree spread of usable LED light. This light pumps out 7,050 forward projecting Lumens and 1,700 Lumens of dedicated peripheral lighting courtesy of our patented Integrated Peripheral Technology (IPT).

To keep your light performing at its highest potential, the LP4 integrates our proprietary Direct Ducted Cooling (DDC) technology. This feature allows air to travel through the front of the housing and over the rear heat sinks, which drastically improves cooling capacity and performance. All of this combined with an amber day-time running light means that the LP4 is well suited to fulfill all your lighting needs.

The lights feature a hard-anodized and powder coated aluminum housing that is both lightweight, durable, and rain and waterproof. What’s more, the LP4’s hard-coated lenses are fully replaceable, should you damage them.

We love the LP4s for their compact size, lightweight, and powerful light output and pattern. They bathe the trail in light, despite their diminutive stature. They’re perfect for the overlander who want a ton of light from a small, unobtrusive package.

MSRP: $424.95 each or $849.95 per pair

DENALI Electronics — D7 LED Light Pod with DataDim Technology

Universal in nature, the D7 light pods can be used on any motorcycle, ATV or 4×4 vehicle. Mount two on the front forks of your adventure motorcycle for maximum visibility and conspicuity. If you are a 4×4 lover you might like adding 4 D7’s, which fit perfectly along the front bumper of your truck or overlanding rig, giving you an incredible view when looking for the perfect campsite at night. Wiring harnesses are available for motorcycle, ATV, and automotive applications.

Still not convinced this light is bright enough? A single D7 pod will outshine seven D2 lights and produce more than twice the light output of our beastly D4 light pod. With the DENALI D7, you’ll be sure to see no matter which adverse weather conditions mother nature throws at you.

The D7’s DrySeal technology means it’s a submersible waterproof light that can withstand the most extreme environments. Plus its PC polycarbonate bezels won’t crack, fade or corrode like traditional aluminum bezels. Finally, LiveActive thermal management keeps the LEDs cool, preventing the loss of light output from overheating.

We love the D7s because they pack a hefty illumination punch in a small package. Furthermore, they are ideal for either 4x4s, ATVs or adventure motorcycles — a selling point we really appreciate. To that end, DENALI provides wiring options to suit either application. And they mount to whatever you’re bolting them to with a low-profile bracket complete with stainless steel hardware.

MSRP: $324.99

Imtra Corporation — Vimar Switching

Imtra’s Vimar offers a full selection of switches, outlets for every country, USB charging ports, decorative cover plates and more. That wide range makes Vimar the perfect choice for any vehicle. Furthermore, Vimar’s modular design makes the installation process a breeze. With interchangeable snap-in pieces, arranging switches and outlets to maximize the functionality of your van is easy to do. Vimar combines functionality with elegance by offering thousands of finishes to match any interior design.

Configurations available from just one or up to seven switches and outlets in one frame. Vimar offers every type of switch and power-outlet, as well as data ports. Different sizes, orientations and configurations are available to fit any space. They feature durable and reliable construction from high-quality materials. High-power USB ports provide rapid recharge of phones, tablets and portable electronic devices.

Vimar can be paired to your build design and motif; metallic, plastic, stone, wood and even leather finishes available. Imtra will further customize the design to your build with laser-engraving on switches, outlets or cover plates. And, of course, they’re built to withstand harsh environments without tarnishing.

We love Vimar for its versatility and customization. It’s perfect for an overlander building a full-time vanlife van.

MSRP: See website

Ohmmu — Gen 3 Group 31 Deep Cycle 12V LiFePO4 battery

Selecting the right deep cycle battery for your overlanding adventures can be a challenging process, especially when you factor in all of the variables, such as: storage capacity, battery chemistry (safety, environmental, Peukert effect), size/weight, charging speeds/settings, voltage sag, and battery management systems.

With all of those factors in mind (we know, there’s a lot), Ohmmu’s Gen 3 Group 31 Deep Cycle 12V LiFePO4 battery stands out as an excellent choice, offering an industry-leading 156Ah capacity, 3,000+ charge cycles lifespan, a built-in battery management system (BMS), and the safety, reliability, and eco-friendliness of a lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery — all while weighing in at only 31 pounds (1/3 the weight of a comparable lead-acid battery).

When buying a deep cycle battery, two of the most important considerations are its chemistry (flooded lead-acid, gel, AGM, or lithium) and its energy capacity (rated in amp hours, or Ah). The numerous benefits of LiFePO4 batteries have been well covered, so we’re going to focus on energy capacity, which the Gen 3 Group 31 has loads of.

While the vast majority of Group 31 LiFePO4 batteries provide 100Ah of energy storage, the Ohmmu Gen 3 Group 31 supplies a whopping 156Ah.

To put that into context, if your goal is to have 300Ah of energy storage, that means you can buy just two Ohmmu Gen 3 Group 31 batteries to meet and exceed that goal, rather than three standard 100Ah batteries — a significant cost, weight, and space savings when you do the math.

Ohmmu’s higher capacity has other benefits as well. By distributing equivalent loads more evenly across its larger prismatic cells (where the “work” of the battery occurs), the Gen 3 Group 31 is able to greatly reduce the stressors placed on the battery. Think of it like going on a leisurely jog vs a full-paced run – because the work is less strenuous and more evenly paced, the battery isn’t taxed as heavily, leading to a longer lifespan and greater performance.

Another big advantage to having a higher capacity is reducing the need to fully charge or discharge the battery — generally two of the biggest stressors a battery experiences. These extreme power states cause chemical reactions that result in small but permanent capacity losses over time. With the higher capacity Gen 3 Group 31, you’ll have more energy to spare on each charge cycle, making it easier to stay in the sweet spot of charging your battery up to 80-90% and discharging it down to 10-20%.

For these reasons and more, we recommend the Gen 3 Group 31 battery from Ohmmu. Ohmmu has clearly put a lot of thought into developing this high-performance battery and we think it will be a great and reliable addition to your overlander’s power system for years to come.

MSRP: $999.00

REDARC — Manager 30 with RedVision Display

REDARC’s Manager30 BMS1230S3R-NA features both the RedVision display screen and mobile phone connectivity for complete battery management for charging auxiliary batteries used in recreational automotive and marine applications. The dual-battery system incorporates AC, DC and solar inputs to achieve the best charge for an auxiliary battery.

This 30-amp charger is the complete battery management system that gives you the best of both worlds. Whether you’re free camping or on a powered site, it knows how to take charge and keep auxiliary batteries fully charged.

The Manager30 operates like six separate products, it charges an auxiliary battery from the vehicle while on the move, it’s a 240-volt charger, a solar regulator, a battery isolator, a load disconnect controller, all with a remote colored RedVision battery monitor, making it market-leading.

The RedVision remote battery monitor is designed to show auxiliary battery information and charge status through its colored display. You can customize how your battery is charged and monitor where it is coming from. It also provides full connectivity to the Manager30 via the RedVision Smartphone App on both Apple and Android devices.

Whether you’re charging Lead Acid, Gel, Calcium, AGM or Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries, The Manager30 represents a complete DC to DC charging and maintenance solution. If you’re charging one auxiliary battery or more, The Manager30 will ensure they’re always fully charged, providing peace of mind when battery charge provides the power source for the comforts of home while travelling.

We love it because REDARC has proved itself as one of the premier auxiliary power management brands. And the Manager 30 with RedVision display underscores that with its features and user-friendly design.

MSRP: $1,559

Sunflare — XPLOR

The addition of solar to a rig allows overlanders to stay out there. This is why we chose to add the 180 watt Expedition XPLOR series solar panel to our 2021 Ultimate Overland 4Runner. Sunflare, the parent company of XPLOR, designed and engineered the XPLOR solar panel series specifically for the off-road, RV, and overland market. Sunflare is the leader in the next generation of solar technology, reinventing the energy landscape. Sunflare has perfected a new, proprietary technology revolutionizing CIGS solar. Their rapid cell-by-cell manufacturing process yields efficient, shade-resistant, micro-crack-proof modules. These light, thin, flexible and rugged modules can go anywhere and everywhere.

The rough terrain encountered while overlanding can really do a number on silicon panels … even “semi-flexible” panels. Because silicon cells are super brittle, they get micro-cracks when they flex. Over time, this cracking causes a loss of wattage. XPLOR is made with semiconductors on stainless steel. So, they can flex all day long without damage.

XPLOR panels are rugged and beat other panels when it comes to energy production in shade. XPLOR panels have a bypass diode at each cell. This means that when a cell is being shaded, only that individual cell won’t produce energy. The bypass diode lets the energy flow right around the shaded cells to the next cell. Most panels only have a bypass diode at every string. So, when one cell on a string is shaded, the whole string turns off. Side-by-side tests show that with only 2 cells shaded on a 100-Watt panel, XPLOR still produces 71 Watts, while other panels produce only 18 Watts.

MSRP: $749

Vision X Lighting — Overland Area Light Kit

Vision X’s Overland Lighting Kit is the perfect solution to light up any area around your vehicle while you are out on an adventure. Easily attach the Vision X Overland Light at multiple points on your vehicle to light up a campground or stopping point on the trail. With the low-profile design, the Vision X Overland light mounts perfectly beneath most rack systems for a clean and simple install.

Using a combination of 60-degree and 40-degree flood optics, this light was made to cover a large area with a massive amount of light. With only 15 Watts of draw pushing 1,140 Lumens, you can easily light up a campsite for hours without running your vehicle, allowing you to enjoy the serenity of nature. Watertight (IP68 rating) and dustproof, the vented housing prevents moisture buildup making these the perfect area lighting for your overland vehicle in any conditions.

Each Overland light kit includes two Overland Area Lights with a two-way Armor Series Mounting bracket for maximum durability and a wiring harness complete with a toggle switch and relays. Installing these lights closer to the rear of your vehicle? No problem. Vision X also offers an Overland Light Kit that comes with an extension harness to provide extra reach with your wiring harness.

We love the Overland Area Light Kit because they are easy to install and draw very little power for the amount of light they produce. Plus, they’re good looking and hardy. And that’s a hard combo to beat for the price.

MSRP: $187.99

Vision X Lighting — Adventure Series Light Cannon Kit

VisionX’s ADV Light Cannon Series combines the superior lighting distance of Iris Reflector technology with the spread of Elliptical optics to shine a powerful combo driving beam that is optimal for all terrains. The large Iris Reflectors blast a long-distance spot beam while the smaller elliptical optics shine the light directly in front of your vehicle. This unique combination reduces the need for multiple lights to achieve that perfect blend of distance and flood lighting needed for hitting the trails. Equipped with a smooth back-lit halo function and a robust four-bolt steel trunnion bracket, the ADV Light Cannon Series was engineered to outshine and outlast the competition.

Backed by the latest generation high output 10-W CREE LEDs, each ADV boasts a massive 8,560 Lumens per light and 17,120 for the pair. Vision X’s patented Iris Reflector technology focuses the power of each LED to boost the beam out to over 1,800 feet. The ADV also features the infamous back-lit halo function that is traditionally found in Vision X’s light bar ranges. This backlighting is run independently from the light and is commonly used as a daytime running light.

As with all our round LED lights, the ADV is also compatible with the brand’s 25-Lights-In-One Cover System (sold separately). These snap-on covers give you the ability to change the beam pattern and color output of your ADV in a matter of seconds. Consistently driving through harsh weather conditions? The ADV is also available with our new Selective Yellow Lens option that will allow you to cut through dust, rain, snow, and fog and maintain maximum visibility.

We love the Adventure Series Light Cannon Kit because it really is a bunch of useful lights in one compact bar. It’s available in 6.7- and 8.7-inch sizes. And the light it produces can be dialed to your needs. Plus, Vision X includes the plug-and-play wiring harness for a quick and painless installation.

MSRP: $749.00

Header image: DENALI Electronics

Photo by Brett Willhelm


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