Gear Essentials: Lighting, Energy & Batteries

Gear Essential Header - Sept.png

Light, energy, and batteries are the theme of Overland Expo’s Gear Essentials for September. 

Just as in life, energy and light are fundamental to overlanding. Our favorite products across these categories run the gamut from lighting the trail ahead or illuminating your campsite to generating your own electricity during an adventure to tech that enables you to tote auxiliary energy along on your journeys.

With many of the lighting products, we’ll discuss ingress protection (IP) waterproof ratings. Rather than simply let these ratings stand as indecipherable figures, we thought we’d quickly spell out the IP rating scale.

IP65 can withstand a jet of water. IP66 can protect against a powerful jet of water. And IP67 can prevent immersion up to one meter for 30 minutes. In short, any one of these products rated on the IP scale should be waterproof enough to withstand most of the rain and splashes you’ll encounter on your journeys. So, just keep that in mind as you read about them.

Without further ado, here are Overland Expo’s favorite products in the lighting, energy, and battery markets.

ALP Generator — 1,000 Watt Generator

Generators have gotten a bit of a bad rap. They can leak gasoline, putting off unpleasant fumes. Because of this, you can’t really store them anywhere but outside — while on a trip or otherwise. And, if you don’t use them often enough, their carburetors can get plugged, requiring regular maintenance.

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 — Pathfinder 50-Inch Combo LED Light Bar

We’re finally out of overlanding dark ages.

For decades, overlanders had to make due with no more than a couple auxiliary halogen driving lights bolted to the front of their rig’s bull bars. But not anymore.

In our increasingly technologically advanced world, overlanders will no longer tolerate a modest amount of light projecting from the front of their vehicles. And can you blame them? If your iPad Pro puts off more light in the dark than your driving lights, why even bother adventuring at night?

At the same time lighting technology has gotten brighter, it’s simultaneously gotten smaller and more compact. This allows companies to package lots of lighting elements into a relatively small space — or a tremendous amount of lighting into a long package.

Enter Backwoods and its Pathfinder 50-inch Combo LED Light Bar.

Although long, it’s light dense. This allows it to be installed on any number of rigs, but it’s ideal for the Backwoods roof rack for Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter vans.

It features a high-grade aluminum housing, military-style breather to reduce condensation buildup, dual oversized heat sink for heat dissipation, and a GE LEXAN lens with high light transmission properties.

Even without the LEXAN lens, the Pathfinder is blindingly bright — in a good way. It is rated at 42,800 lumens. To put that into perspective, your halogen high beams put out 1,200 lumens each. So, yeah, this thing is exponentially brighter than your headlights. Impressively, it’s capable of putting out incredible amounts of light while only drawing 500 Watts.

Backwoods includes with the 50-inch Pathfinder light bar a waterproof Deutsch connector and its wiring harness includes a switch and a DT connector.

You don’t have to worry much about the Pathfinder 50-inch in inclimate weather either. Backwoods rates it to have a more-than 50,000-hour lifespan. That’s just over 5.7 years. So, you could switch it on now and not have to worry about until early 2026. Don’t do that, of course, your neighbors would hate you.

We love the 50-inch Pathfinder LED light bar from Backwoods because it is not only bright and long lasting but it’s also affordable. Plus, it’s designed to serve the overland van community, which, if we’re honest, is sometimes an underserved facet of the overland cohort.

MSRP: $660.00

DURACELL — PowerSource 1440-Watt Quiet Battery-Powered Generator

Portable battery power packs have been on the market for years. However, many have been from relatively unknown upstarts. Finally, however, the more established battery brands are beginning to enter the market. The latest to do so is DURACELL with its DR660PSS PowerSource 1440-Watt Quiet Battery-Powered Generator.

It might seem odd for a battery company to include the word ‘generator’ in a unit that is effectively just a storage box for electrons. After all, it doesn’t actually generate anything. However, the name is intended to tell buyers without question what the PowerSource is designed to do: replace the gas-burning generator and become your silent go-to auxiliary power source — inside or outside.

The battery inside is not a lithium-ion chemistry, as you might assume. Instead, it’s a 660 Watt-hour sealed lead-acid (SLA) with AGM technology. It’s this chemistry that keeps the price of the PowerSource competitive with comparably powerful gas-burning generators. But because of that battery chemistry, it is rather heavy, at 58 pounds. Obviously, there are benefits and drawbacks to any battery type. With this unit, you trade affordability and peak power output for lightness. Let’s not forget, though, a 48-pound generator needs gasoline to burn, which weighs six pounds per gallon. So, it’s all fairly comparable.

Although it’s rated at a continuous 1,440 Watts, the PowerSource actually rated at 1,800 Watts with 2,880 Watts of surge power. Measuring only 20 inches long by nine inches wide and 13 inches tall, it’s easily more powerful than gas-burning generators 30% larger.

PowerSource features four AC outlets, two USB ports, and a 12-volt DC outlet for vehicle accessories. Alongside those ports is an LED display. This quickly shows you input power source, AC or solar, output power levels, and current charge levels.

The unit can be fully recharged off a standard home outlet in 10 hours. But it includes threaded ports, so you can tie other batteries inline with it for longer life. What’s more, its lifespan is rated at more than 300 charge cycles.

We love the PowerSource because it gives overlanders the ability to make the step away from gas power to eco-friendly electric power without breaking the bank. Plus, thanks to its built-in standard Anderson connector, should an overlander want to step up to solar power, the PowerSource can become your solar energy receptacle.

MSRP: $699.99

Bigtent Outdoors — CLAYMORE ULTRA 2 Rechargeable Area Light

Scene lights are hot commodities in the overlanding world.

Sure, you need the driving lights to get you to your campsite in the dark. But what do you do to illuminate the site once you’re there? To answer that question, many of us are bolting up hardwired area lights around our rigs. That works great for some, but not all. This is where the CLAYMORE ULTRA 2 from Bigtent Outdoors rechargeable area lights come into play.

They’re powerful (2,200 lumens), portable and by definition extremely versatile replacement for wired area lights.

The ULTRA 2 lights can be attached to virtually anything you want to affix them to. The swingarm features a built-in hot-shoe quarter-inch threaded socket. This allows you to mount the light to a tripod or to thread in the included hook. A magnet mount adapter is sold separately.

The ULTRA 2 is available in two sizes, medium and extra large, as well as two colors, black or red. The light from the units can be dialed into your prefered tone, from warm white to natural white to cool white.

The one-pound body of the unit is armored and designed to meet IP65 dust- and water-proof standards. So you can use it at camp in even the most extreme conditions without worrying you’re going to ruin it.

The run time of the ULTRA 2 battery depends on the size of the unit (XL has a larger capacity battery) and the light output level. CLAYMORE estimates between 10 and 80 hours of run time.

Given their robust construction, relative light weight, long run time, various mounting options, and bright and variable light output, you might expect these lights to run a couple hundred bucks. To our delight, they retail at $123 (M) and $150 (XL) respectively.

That’s why we love them. For a fraction of the price of hardwired area lights that require laborious installation, you can get a handful of these ULTRA 2 lights and use them not just in the back of your rig in the dark but in your tent, around the campfire, or even at home.

MSRP: $123.00 (Medium); $150.00 (X Large)

Bigtent Outdoors — CLAYMORE CAPON 120h

If you’re anything like us, you have at least a couple headlamps in your rig at all times. You never know when they’re going to come in handy. More often than not, though, when you want to use one of your trusty headlamps, you’re also wearing a baseball cap. While great for keeping the sun out of your eyes during the day and keeping unkempt hair in check at all times, hats also block — or at least get in the way of — a headlamp’s beam of light at night.

Realizing there has to be a way for overlanders to both wear a hat and also illuminate the space in front of them, CLAYMORE (from Bigtent Outdoors) developed their CAPON headlamp, which clips onto the brim of your favorite cap. Cap on, CAPON — get it? Cute, right?

More than just cleverly named, the CAPON is keenly designed as well. Thanks to its lightweight but energy dense 1,200 milliamp-hour (mAh) lithium battery, it weighs a mere 0.13 pounds. Despite being slight, it can put out as much as 500 lumens. That is, depending on the mode you choose, of which there are three.

You can pick from focus, flood, or red diffused. Focus can put out anywhere from 30 to 500 lumens and project light from 26 to a whopping 345 feet. Flood can put out 30 to 400 lumens. And red diffused is rated at one to 20 lumens.

The lumens range is thanks to the fine dimming feature. Simply press and hold a single button and the light will dim. When it reaches your desired light level, let go and it will hold there.

The CAPON has an easy-to-read battery level indicator as well as an SOS mode. And it is both dust- and weather-proof while also being safety helmet friendly (yes, you can clip it to more than just a hat). Available in black or tan, you can pick the color that best compliments your gear or ensemble.

We love the CAPON because it solves a problem that we didn’t necessarily know could be solved. We often take the light obstruction from a hat brim as inevitable. Imagine our delight when we discovered we didn’t have to perpetually pick between hat or headlamp. What’s more, stepping up to the CAPON enables a ton of additional lighting options than most traditional headlamps.

MSRP: $67.00

Denali Electronics — D7 2.0 Trioptic LED Light Kit with DataDim Technology

Don’t worry, adventure motorcyclists. We didn’t forget you. Like the 4×4 crowd, you too need auxiliary lighting options. And we have a great one for you: the D7 2.0 Trioptic LED light kit from Denali Electronics.

Not only is this pair of auxiliary lights multitudes brighter than the Denali D2 and D4 lights, at 15,000 lumens, they’re far, far brighter than your stock lights. But just because they put your bike’s factory high- and low-beam lights to shame doesn’t mean they can play nicely together.

Offered with Denali’s DataDim dimming controller technology, the D7s can be connected to your moto’s factory lighting with a plug-and-play wiring harness. This allows the D7s to be automatically switched on and off with your bike’s headlights. So, when you switch on the brights, the track ahead gets really bright thanks to the D7s. What’s more, this wiring harness doesn’t require any cutting or splicing. Just bolt up the lights, run the harness, plug it in, and you’re ready to ride.

The lights themselves are composed of seven high-intensity, 10-watt LEDs each — for a total of 14 to the pair. The light is focused through a proprietary single-piece optic that can throw a full-bodied spot light over 1,500 feet. With your stock brights on and the D7s throwing light a half a kilometer down the track, there’s almost nothing you won’t see.

These bright-as-heck lights are inside a dryseal submersible housing that can withstand the most extreme conditions. The housing is further supported by Impact PC polycarbonate bezels that won’t crack, fade, or corrode. Let’s say, god forbid, you drop your moto during water crossing. Your stuff might get wet, but your D7s will stay illuminated. And even after years of long, grueling rides, the D7s should still look nearly new.

In addition to being bright and rugged, the lights are designed to keep cool even in hot climates and over long periods of illumination. They feature Active Thermal Management that ensures the lights don’t dim from overheating.

One might rightly expect a pair of 15,000-lumen lights that can throw light 1,500 feet down the track, work with your factory lighting, and withstand extreme temperatures and being submerged in water without suffering fading or breakdown might cost a fortune. Thankfully, Denali Electronics’ D7 2.0 Trioptic LED Light Kit doesn’t. And that’s what we love about it.

It’s the kind of light kit you can quickly add to your bike without breaking the bank and rely on for years to come.

MSRP: $599.99

Imtra Corporation — BCM Orlando 75 LED Light

There will come a time, especially for van-based overlanders, when you will want to add a myriad of interior lighting to your rig. Keeping with the van example, since you’re working with a finite amount of space that needs to serve many purposes, from living space to sleeping quarters to work space, your lighting solution needs to serve many masters. They need to be bright enough to illuminate the space no matter the exterior lighting levels but also versatile enough to allow for dimming or color adjustments. Then you’ll want all of this from a light that won’t destroy your budget.

With those constraints in mind, let us introduce you to Imtra’s BCM Orlando 75 LED Light.

Each light puts out 240 lumens, draws only two Watts (0.17 amps), measures a mere three inches in diameter, and weighs just 3.2 ounces. In addition to being lightweight and compact, the Orlando 75s are available in white or white/red options as well as screw- or spring-mount options and require just one inch of recess depth for mounting. From there, you can choose one of three finish options: stainless steel, satin steel or white. So there’s likely a finish available to suit your van’s design motif.

Did we mention that they’re also waterproof (IP66 rating), capable of withstanding the vibrations of the trail, dimmable, rated with a 50,000-hour lifespan, and backed by a three-year warranty?

The benefit of the Orlando 75s is that, if you get the white/red light option, you can run bright white light any time you need it. But, should you need to illuminate your cabin late at night, you can switch on the red hue and not ruin your night vision.

Since they only cost $65 each and have low power draw, they won’t be taxing to either your wallet or your vehicle’s battery.

We love the Orlando 75s for their versatility. They’re both versatile in their range of light levels and colors. And they’re versatile in their mounting options to boot. That means you could toss a ton of these lights in your rig and create a pretty unique lighting scheme with little effort or cost outlay.

MSRP: $65.00

KC Hilites — KC FLEX ERA 3

Now for something totally new — no, really. KC Hilites just revealed these, the all-new KC FLEX ERA 3 lights.

Their chief conceit is that they’re as compact as a two-element light but as strong as a four-element light in the same space — a veritable win-win. To that end, KC claims these lights offer best-in-class lighting output. Plus, they are accented by amber backlighting, giving them a classic yet modern appearance.

The triangulated light signature features two high-coverage combo lights as well as a highly focused spot. That way, you’re getting the best of both worlds in one light. What’s more, you can quickly swap out the lens optics to dial the lights to best suit your rig and the trail ahead.

These lights were developed for Baja racing and boast an IP68 waterproof rating. They feature an aluminum housing that incorporates the essential head-dispersing fins with a visually appealing design. That means that they not only look cool, the FLEX ERA 3s should be tough enough to withstand years of dusty, rainy, wind-whipped, or blisteringly hot overland journeys.

We love the KC FLEX ERA 3s because they dare to reimagine an old standard, the accessory LED light. After all, not every light has to be a circle or a square. There is room for creativity in the overland lighting space.

KC Hilites proves that by folding the lighting power of four lights in the packaging size of two — and then gave its customers the ability to further personalize the design. Moreover, these aren’t just side-by-side-, 4×4 rig- or moto-specific. Thanks to that distinctive design and lens variability, they could work for virtually any vehicle. So, your imagination is the limit, not the lights. Kudos, KC.

MSRP: $399.99

REDARC — Manager30 Battery Management System

Overlanders love adding gear to their rigs — especially high-tech, energy-hungry gear. And why wouldn’t we? Every piece of kit that enables us to stay out in the backcountry that much longer is worth its weight in gold.

However, for every additional device or gadget added to a rig, the technical complexity of keeping all of them all powered and running efficiently goes up exponentially.

So, what’s an overlander to do? Enter REDARC.

REDARC is an Australian brand well known around the world for its electronic and power control systems designed, built, and torture-tested in the extreme conditions of Australia.

REDARC has a device, called Manager30 Battery Management System, that is designed specifically to combine a ton of electronic essentials in one.

Manager30 includes an AC charger, DC charger, maximum power point tracking (MPPT) regulator, battery isolator, load disconnect, and battery monitor. With Manager30, you can also see live state-of-charge, charge rate, live power consumption, and solar use. That means you can see exactly when your battery will be discharged and know exactly when you’ll need to start using solar, for example, to replenish the power.

That’s why we love REDARC’s Manager30. It essentially acts as six products in one. What’s more, it doesn’t matter whether you’re charging lead acid, gel, calcium, AGM, or lithium iron phosphate batteries. Manager30 can handle them all with ease. It gives you the peace of mind and single-point interface that few other systems can.

MSRP: $1,229.81

REVEL GEAR — Trail Hound 30 ft. USB Camping Lights

Popping on a headlamp is a great, easy way to illuminate your campsite. But they have their limitations. They only project light directly in front of you. They don’t play nicely with baseball caps. They blind anyone you turn your head toward. And, let’s be honest, they’re pretty dorky. Worst of all, they cannot set a scene — they lack subtlety. And forget creating some ambiance with a headlamp.

For the moments you want a hands free lighting solution that can do more than simply illuminate exactly what you’re looking at, let us introduce you to REVEL GEAR’s Trail Hound 30 ft. USB Camping Lights.

If you’re not aware of them, you’ve probably actually seen them before in action but just didn’t realize it. The Trail Hounds play starring roles in plenty of overland Instagram posts. Plus, we’ve used them to illuminate happy hour events at various Overland Expos.

Enough lead in. Let’s get to brass tax.

The Trail Hound is, not surprisingly, 30 feet long. However, that 30-foot expanse includes 100 high-efficiency LEDs. They put out a combined 350 lumens but draw less than one Watt up to five Watts. So, they’re both bright and efficient.

It plugs into any five-volt USB port. Since it draws so little power, it’s safe to run off your rig’s battery or even a modest portable auxiliary power supply without worrying you’ll drain all its juice.

With eight brightness settings, you can dial in exactly the mood or feeling you’re going for. If you simply need to drench your campsite in light, the Trail Hound can do that. Or if you’d rather simply dribble some soft light across the place, it can do that, too.

Getting trickier still, you can also choose from one of six lighting modes: solid, fade, strobe, flash, or fire crackle. The latter is ideal for when you’re camping during fire-ban season.

Don’t worry about stringing these up during inclement weather either. That’s because they’re IP65 waterproof rated. Nor do you need to worry about the Trail Hound taking up too much space or adding undue weight to your kit. It weighs just 1.5 ounces and can be compact down tight enough to fit in your pocket. So there’s definitely room in your gear collection for it.

It’s sort of obvious why we love the Trail Hound 30 ft. USB Camping Lights, right? They’re bright, efficient, lightweight, compact, versatile and incredibly affordable. Plus, they’re only $24.99. Spend $75 getting three strands and you could really transform even the largest overland campsite.

MSRP: $24.99

Header image credit: Bigtent Outdoors

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