Gear Essentials: Vehicle Running Gear

Running gear — it’s sort of a generic catchall term. But, for us at overland expo, we see it as the essentials you need to outfit your rig to both distinguish it from the crowd and also effectively outfit it for the trail. This includes wheels, tires, suspension, and even an exhaust system. And they’re all tough and trail tested and guaranteed to make your overland journeys safer, smoother, and more successful.

BILSTEIN — B8 8100 Series

Bypass shocks were once relegated to the world of extreme off-road racing. However, in the last couple of years, they have become increasingly prevalent in overlanding. That’s because overlanders like us are outfitting heavy 4x4s with thousands of pounds of gear and then driving at rapid speeds across uneven terrain. At the same time, we demand smooth and competent ride quality. More than just save your spine from a beating on rutted and uneven roads, bypass shocks ensure better traction on rough terrain and remain cooler — and perform better — than traditional shocks after hours on washboard trails.

One of the biggest names in shocks, BILSTEIN, has developed a set of bypass shocks, the B8 8100, and coilover springs and shocks, B8 8112, expressly for overlanders. The B8 8100 series of shocks build on technology and experience BILSTEIN gained over years in off-road racing and vehicle tuning.

The B8 8112s feature tech called ZoneControl that includes three compression zones and two rebound zones, which are controlled by three independent pistons. The triple-piston design delivers comfort during every day driving conditions and maximum control under large suspension inputs — i.e. when you hit a big rut or your suspension is articulating over boulders or logs. This three-piston design is backed by a 60mm remote reservoir.

The B8 8100 bypass shocks include dual-tube external bypass. This offers position-sensitive damping with independent adjustment for rebound and compression. And the incremental flow adjuster enables owners to dial in their ideal ride with precise adjustments.

We love the BILSTEIN B8 8100 shocks and B8 8112 coilovers because they are from a long-established and trusted brand — one that’s been making expert-level suspension for decades. That means you know they were built with the care and precision you demand for your overlanding rig. What’s more, and this is a big one, these shocks can be factory rebuildable. That means that if you blow them out somehow, you can have BILSTEIN rebuild them for you.

You’d be surprised how few other brands offer that level of support. A lot of other shocks in the overlanding and off-road space are one-shot designs — blow them out and they are toast. But not BILSTEIN. That means you can invest in these shocks and know they can last the life of your rig.

MSRP: $569.00 – $1067.50


Photo: Falken

Photo: Falken

Even if you do just a scant bit of research on all-terrain tires ideally suited for overland rigs, you’ll find commenters around the world wide web raving about the Falken WILDPEAK A/T3W tires. That’s because this new tire combines the hardiness of a mud tire with the all-weather traction of an all-terrain tire without breaking the bank.

Unlike other tried and true tires in the A/T segment, the WILDPEAK A/T3W is a relative newcomer. In this case, its newness is an asset, as it has received the latest in all-terrain tire design and technology. This includes Falken’s patented 3D Canyon Sipes to an all-new proprietary lower sidewall. Plus, aggressive upper sidewall, along with offset shoulder blocks, protect the WILDPEAK from sharp rocks. What’s more, they provide additional off-road traction at low tire pressures or in off-camber situations — situations you’re sure to find on remote overland trails.

It features an optimized tread design that has been combined with a silica tread compound. This  enables the A/T3W to excel in three key overland environments: wear, winter, and wet performance. Full-depth sipes and grooves maintain consistent performance and appearance throughout the life of the tire and aid in wet-weather conditions — both on- and off-road.

Designed for severe snow conditions, every A/T3W tire is rated for the Three Peak Mountain Snow Flake (3PMSF) symbol.

We love the WILDPEAK A/T3W because it excels in so many environments. And it’s built to last, as evidenced by its 55,000-mile warranty. That’s why it has quickly become the stock tire option for brands’ most potent off-roaders, including Jeep’s JL at JT Rubicon trim levels.

MSRP: $199.00

Firestone — Destination M/T2

The Firestone Destination M/T2 tire is the best-kept secret in overlanding. We say that because it seems not many overlanders have heard of them. And that’s a shame. They’re one of the highest-rated mud-terrain tires on the market today.

Unlike some tires on this list, the Destination M/T2s are relatively new, released just a couple of years ago. Maybe that’s why they’re not as prolific in the overlanding community as they should be — they’re too new to be tried and true. Nevertheless, they should be on your list for your next overlanding tire.

The Destination M/T2s feature mud and stone rejectors to keep your tread cleared out. Their advanced construction is designed  to help resist chips and tears to maximize the life of the tires.

We love them not just for their high-tech rubber compounds and tread design that allow them to perform admirably off-road in snow, mud, sand, and rocky environments. At the same time, they remain relatively quiet on the highway and fuel efficient.

Maybe our favorite feature of the Firestone Destination M/T2 is their old-school looking design. They don’t look like a product of the 21st century. Look at these tires. We defy you to tell us they don’t look like they were carved by hand from a solid block of rubber with a Bowie knife. And we mean that in the most complimentary way, by the way.

There’s definitely a charm to a tire that looks old-school and not necessarily designed by an algorithm (don’t worry, the Destination M/T2 was designed on a computer). With so much newfangled technology in the overlanding space, it’s nice to be able to add some classic-looking tire tech to you rig.

MSRP: $193.99

General Tire — Grabber X3

One of the — if not the — top-rated all-round overlanding tire is General’s Grabber X3. In fact, it’s the tire our very own Nick Jaynes picked for his Jeep Gladiator Rubicon.

General’s Grabber X3 developed a tread compound molded to handle the most robust off-road tracks. The tread features blocks and traction notches designed to provide grip in loose surfaces where other tires might slip.

Mud is effectively tossed from the tread, and lot allowed to build up, thanks to the X3’s evacuation channels. Meanwhile, stone bumpers at the base of the grooves release stones and debris. The body and upper sidewall area of the X3s are protected from punctures while traversing harsh terrain thanks to sidewall protection lugs as well as deflection ribs help.

Further distinguishing the X3 from other tires in the MT segment, they feature full-depth sipes to improve wet and wintertime traction. What’s more, they remain as quiet as can be on the highway thanks to a multi-pitch tread block pattern — forget about highway drone with the Grabber X3s.

For as mean and capable as they are on the outside, the real strength of the X3s comes from within. General Tire’s DURAGEN technology, which consists of a three-ply body casing and twin ultra-high strength steel belts, ensure durability off-road and on.

Perhaps what we love about the X3s, aside from their go-anywhere technology and snazzy red sidewall lettering, is the fact that they don’t ride like a stiff mud-terrain tire. General Tire’s engineers have found a way to blend sidewall toughness with a more supple ride. What’s more, although the X3 is technically a mud tire, they have some characteristics of an all-terrain. This makes them the best of both styles. And that’s why we love them.

MSRP: $171.57

MagnaFlow — Toyota 4Runner Overland Series Cat-Back Performance Exhaust System

Want to add a bit of grunt to your overland rig’s exhaust note without compromising its off-road capabilities or toughness? Let us recommend you check out the new MagnaFlow Overland Series designed expressly for overlanders.

The new Overland Series Exhaust features a robust stainless-steel construction throughout the entire system made to withstand the toughest terrain and climate out there. More than bring your exhaust note to life, the Overland Series also improves off-road clearance.

MagnaFlow engineers used 3D laser scanners to design exhaust systems specially to significantly increase ground clearance. They did this by allowing the main piping and muffler body to sit much higher off the ground stock exhaust systems.

Finally, the Overland Series includes a 2.5-inch high clearance exit pipe and borrows the trail proven Rock Crawler series turn down tip design for additional clearance and better protection on exit.

MagnaFlow hasn’t solely focused on just improving utility, but road manners as well. Every Overland Series exhaust system incorporates MagnaFlow’s new No Drone Technology (NDT). NDT quarter-wave resonators work their magic by cancelling out the droning noises that can sometimes occur in aftermarket exhausts, allowing Magnaflow to offer a system that improves performance both on and off-road while maintaining a calm and relaxed ambience in the interior for long road trips to your ultimate wilderness destinations (or even mundane highway commutes).

MagnaFlow recognizes that vehicle performance is also an extremely important factor when it comes to overlanding, especially with all the heavy gear that your steed of choice will be carrying to support you on your journey. The extra dyno-proven power enabled by a MagnaFlow Overland Series cat-back exhaust system will allow you to carry all your cumbersome overlanding gear much more effectively.

Currently, MagnaFlow offers Overland Series performance exhaust systems for some of the most popular overlanding vehicles, including the Jeep Wrangler JK (2012-2018), Toyota 4Runner (1996-2021), Lexus GX460 (2010-2021) and Lexus GX470 (2003-2009).

We love the MagnaFlow Overland Series because it takes into consideration the subtleties of overlanding. Yes, we overlanders want the best equipment for our journeys because our lives literally depend upon it. But we also want improved performance while adding some personal flare to our rigs. The MagnaFlow Overland Series does all of that and more. It improves upon stock exhaust in both sound, clearance, and robustness. Plus, it beefs up acceleration a bit without killing your eardrums with a highway-speed drone.

MSRP: $699.00

Mayhem — Voyager 8303

There are a lot of wheel brands on the market trying to cater to the overlanding buyer. While they all offer tough, good-looking wheels, not all are created equal.

Mayhem used its vast and extensive knowledge in wheel manufacturing to shape a finished product worthy of your overland vehicle. The key to the wheels are their lightweight yet very strong aluminum alloy. Limiting the unsprung weight of your wheels frees up your vehicle’s horsepower. At the same time, the wheels are strong enough to endure the rigors of any trail or journey. The design of the Voyager 8303s was born in the outdoors and made for the outdoors.

What does that mean exactly? Take for example the ‘Trail Lip’ design. The spokes of the wheel connect to the Trail Lip, which in turn is connected to the barrel of the wheel. This design disperses any load or impact throughout the wheel. That means you’re less likely to suffer a crack in your Voyager 8303s. And if you venture deep into the backcountry hundreds of miles from the nearest tire shop, that can add a lot of peace of mind.

That’s why we love Mayhem’s Voyager 8303 wheels. Not only do they look great on just about every rig (they’re available for Subarus now by the way), they’re as tough as they are handsome. Sold in 15-, 16-, 17-, and 18-inch sizes with five-, six, and eight-lug options, and finished in Dark Bronze or Matte Black, there is a Voyager 8303 to fit your rig and add some much-needed strength and peace of mind to your overland adventures.

MSRP: $165.99

Skyjacker — Six-Inch Dual-Rate Long-Travel Suspension Lift System

You’ve probably heard a lot about dual-rate long-travel coils. If you don’t know what they are or what benefits they offer, here’s a quick refresher: The first rate offers an exceptional highway ride. It also gives you increased travel, as the coils expand during articulation allowing suspension droop to keep the tires in contact with the ground for a longer period of time. The coils remain in the upper coil bucket even at a full droop unlike linear rate coils.

The second rate, the lower coils, only engage when the suspension compresses past the first rate. The second rate allows consistent control and stability during body roll and heavy off-road suspensions movement.

Skyjacker’s front coilover-shock lift kit was created for Gladiator owners who are extreme off-road enthusiasts — and not just for the gasoline-burning Gladiators. Skyjacker has created a kit for those driving the EcoDiesel-powered Gladiator that can handle the extra weight of the diesel V6. Another perk is that this kit is a direct bolt-on. That means you don’t have to waste any time or effort on cutting or welding major components. To that end, if you want to return the truck to stock, all you have to do is unbolt it — no undoing your modifications.

Along with offering an adjustable ride height, Skyjacker’s kit also enables increased articulation (12 inches of travel in the front) and an adjustable secondary spring rate engagement. So, no trail or obstacle will stand in your way. Skyjacker’s dual-rate, long-travel system comes with a lifetime-guaranteed coil spring. 

What’s more, Skyjacker’s engineers tune their coils springs specifically to the side of the vehicle they’ll be install on. That means your newly lifted rig won’t have a weird lean to it — you know you’ve seen those before.

That’s why we love the Skyjacker kit. It offers a bolt-on lift that is tuned to both your vehicle, its power plant, and its specific weight distribution. And they offer a wide range of lift sizes from a modest two-inch kit up to the gargantuan six-incher. That means you can set up your Gladiator overland rig exactly how you want it, further distinguishing your rig from the rest of the crowd.

MSRP: $2,072.09

Superlift — Four-Inch Dual-Rate Coil Lift Kit for 2020-2021 Jeep Gladiator

The Jeep Gladiator has quickly become the newest go-to overland rig since its debut. And there’s a good reason. Even in its base Sport trim, the rig offers tough-as-nailed solid front and rear axles, disc brakes and coil springs at all four corners. Plus, it has removable doors and roof panels and a truck bed. It really combines the best of the Wrangler with the utility of a mid-size pickup.

The Gladiator does have one hangup, though; its long wheelbase that is exacerbated by its stock 31-inch tires (on non-Rubicon trim levels). A quick way to solve this problem, though, is to raise the rig up a bit so you can fit taller tires.

Superlift’s all-new Dual-Rate Coil Springs four-inch lift kits for the 2020 and 2021 model years Jeep Gladiator JT is the first four-inch lift kit on the market with replacement dual rate coil springs that are location specific (not every corner of the Gladiator weighs the same, so corner specific springs are essential to maintaining a level ride).

Through specialized testing, Superlift’s engineers determined that the same coil spring rate cannot be used side to side. These new dual-rate coil springs provide excellent ride quality on-road while allowing more extension for off-road use.

Superlift’s all new dual-rate coil springs will give your Jeep Gladiator the ride, stance, and durability it desires. Each dual-rate coil features a transition of two rate ranges. This feature gives you a smooth ride on pavement with the flexibility and durability of off-road performance.

More than just a set of new springs, the kit also includes a front adjustable track bar, shock extension brackets or Fox Shocks, compression stop spacers, and extended sway bar links.

These extras ensure your Gladiator corners and flexes as safely as possible. Plus, the Fox Shocks or shock brackets allow the maximum amount of extension travel without drive shaft bind and the compression stop spacers prevent tire rub during full compression.

We love Superlift’s Four-Inch Dual-Rate Coil Lift Kit for Gladiator because it more than just lifts your rig, getting it further from trail obstacles, it also allows you to bolt up bigger, meatier tires, and improves both aesthetics and on- and off-road performance. You can’t ask for more than that.

MSRP: $999.95

Header image credit: BILSTEIN

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