Last updated on May 18th, 2019 at 10:33 pm
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Perhaps you're wondering how your Jeep Wrangler Rubicon would handle off road. Maybe you're already an avid off-roader who's thinking about stepping up to the actual Rubicon trail. Whatever your level of interest and skill in off-road driving, it's important to set out prepared.
There are many off-road accessories designed to help. These range from the absolutely essential – don't leave home without them – to others that are more for entertainment or to look the part. Here we've drawn on advice from specialist magazines and writers to identify the more important accessories for venturing off-road. We'll first explain what you need and why. After that we'll go through the main product categories and review some of the best-sellers in each.
How Venturesome Are You?
Off-roading takes many forms, from blasting down a reasonably smooth dirt trail to climbing sand dunes, fording rivers, plugging through mud and crawling over rocks. The bigger the obstacles the more modifications your 4×4 will need. If you want to hit the Rubicon you'll need 33” tires and a lift kit. Those feeling less ambitious may be content with Utah's White Rim Trail or the Alpine Loop Trail in Colorado.
The off-road accessories we'll cover here aren't in the category of vehicle modifications. If you want to learn about the best off-road tires or lift kits, look elsewhere. If you’re interested in adding additional lights to assist your nighttime off-roading, that’s something we can help with. See what’s available on our Best LED light bars page.
We're also leaving out winches. A winch is a really useful accessory for your off-road vehicle but good ones are expensive, and you need a good one if it's to be of any help. In addition, many off-roading experts suggest a Hi-Lift jack is more useful. Here we're addressing the off-road accessories you should really take with you to be safe and to get out of trouble.
We could divide this list into two groups: products that keep you out of trouble and those that help you get out of it once you've found it. Under the ‘keeping out of trouble' heading go tire deflators and air compressors. Once you're in trouble, meaning stuck somewhere, you'll need a combination of Hi-Lift jack, traction mats and recovery straps. Hopefully you won't need a fire extinguisher but we'll cover them anyway because they're required by some park authorities before they'll let you onto off-road trails.
Best Accessories to Bring Offroading
Here'll we'll go through some of the best-sellers in the various categories we've listed above. We'll highlight the key features so you can decide which is right for you.
Best Tire Deflators
Before driving over sand or big rocks you want to lower the pressure in your tires. This increases the size of the contact patch and gives you more grip. Most off-road drivers will go from the 30 – 35 psi used on road to around 15 psi. A side benefit is that with a bigger contact area you'll do less damage to the trail.
Yes, you could go from tire to tire with a pressure gauge, releasing some air, checking and releasing some more. It's a slow process though and you'll likely overshoot, meaning you then have to get out the compressor.
Tire deflators are devices you screw over the valve stems once you're at the trailhead. Having preset the pressure you want, these let air out of the tires until all four are at the same low level. We’ve got reviews on deflators from Staun, (the sector pioneers,) as well as Billet4x4 and Grit Performance.
Staun is an Australian company that pioneered the concept of tire deflators. Theirs are made from corrosion-resistant brass and engineered for very precise pressure control. Staun offer a range of deflators to suit different vehicles and conditions. The SCV5’s come preset at 18psi and provide 6psi of adjustment per full turn of the cap.
- Accurate to within 0.25psi
- Supplied in a convenient leather storage pouch for safe-keeping
- Manufactured from solid brass for superior strength and durability
These come in a kit of four deflators plus pressure gauge, instruction card, adjustment tool and storage pouch. Made from aircraft-grade aluminum these are lightweight yet long-lasting. (They come with a lifetime warranty.) An additional feature is that the aluminum is anodized in either red, blue or silver.
- Preset to approximately 13 psi.
- Adjustable over a range of 5 – 20 psi.
- Storage pouch included
- American made
This kit works faster than individual deflators by removing the valve core. It consists of the deflator itself, attached via 12” hose to a pressure gauge. This way you can see at a glance exactly what pressure you’re setting. For durability the deflator is made from brass and the pressure gauge has a rubber surround. The whole kit comes in a zippered carrying case.
- Spare valve stem caps included
- Lifetime guarantee
- Illustrated instructions
Best Air Compressors for Offroading
Once you've finished your day of off-road driving you need to get the tires back to safe road pressures. A foot pump would do it but especially with big off-road tires it'll be dark before you're ready to leave.
An air compressor makes short work of reflating tires. Just plug it into the electrical outlet in your 4×4 and you're good to go. Better still, look for one that installs permanently on your 4×4. (Make sure to start the engine before you run though otherwise you may flatten the battery!) Read our review below of the impressive CKMA12 compressor from off-road specialists ARB.
This compact-yet-powerful compressor is designed for permanent installation in your 4×4 and runs off the 12V supply. ARB test their compressors under the most arduous conditions and this unit is sealed against dust and water penetration so you can be confident it won’t let you down.
Despite measuring slightly less than 6”x8”x4” it can air-up a 35” tire in just two minutes. It ships as kit that includes the wiring loom, mounting hardware and isolating and pressure switches.
- Two year warranty
- Draws 14.2A
- Weighs 9.9 pounds
- Washable sintered bronze air filter
- Attractive blue finish
Best Hi-Lift Jacks
This looks like a steel bar 36 or 48” long with holes punched along its length. At one end there's a lever and part way down there's a bracket or bar for lifting. Pump on the lever and the bracket inches it's way along the bar.
The Hi-Lift is the accessory you need when you're stuck. With one of these you can raise your vehicle up so it's free of rocks or mud. That lets you put branches or other rocks under the wheels so you can drive off.
A Hi-Lift can also function as a hand winch. Lash one end to a tree with a stout recovery strap and the moving bracket to your vehicle. Working the lever pulls the straps tight and your 4×4 out of the mud or whatever it is you're stuck on.
A Hi-Lift is quite large and heavy, which makes it awkward to stow, but find somewhere anyway. You should also consider getting a cover to protect it from mud. Note that the “Hi-Lift” name is unique to jacks made by the Hi-Lift Jack Company. While they have a range of different jacks to choose from there are no good alternatives to consider, (that we know of anyway.) We’ll review their range-topping EXTREME below.
This is the top of the “Hi-Lift” range of jacks. At 48” long it should be enough to raise your vehicle, even one with 35” tires and lots of lift, off any obstacle. With an all-cast construction it’s rated for 4,660 lbs and tested to 7,000 lbs. A charcoal metallic powder coating protects the jack against rust while the handle and other hardware have a gold zinc-coated finish.
The top winch/clamp/spreader attachment has 7/8” holes for attaching a shackle and a 3/8” chain slot for secure winching. A cut-out wedge adds grip when spreading an object.
Don’t forget to carry an off-road base! When you need to use your Hi-Lift you can’t be sure you’ll have a sufficiently solid surface otherwise.
- Weight: 35 lbs
- Rated for lifting 4,660 lbs
- Neoprene cover available separately
Best Traction Mats for Offroading
Floor mats have long been the first choice for getting out of slippery situations. The idea is, you slide them under a spinning wheel to get some grip. They're less than ideal though. If you're really stuck a tire will likely just pull a mat underneath and throw it out the back. Plus, you'll probably ruin the mat in the process.
If you can't get traction you should be using the right tool for the job, and in this case it's a traction mat. Think of this as a short ladder your 4×4 can use to climb out of a hole. It digs into the mud, snow or sand and provides a good surface for the tire to ‘bite' onto. If you're off-roading, or even just likely to get caught in bad weather, you should have a pair of these in your truck.
Their one downside is, they do take up quite a bit of room. But if you don't want to be stuck somewhere remote for a long time, find space for them. We’ve got reviews of mats from MAXSA and Maxtrax further down the page.
At 48” long these lightweight high-impact polypropylene mats will get you out of almost any sticky situation. They’re 14” wide so all but the most crazy-wide tires will fit and they spread the weight of your vehicle out over a wide area. Textured top and bottom surfaces grip your tires and the surface underneath.
- Sold as a set of 2
- Support up to 3 tons on mud or snow
- Easy to wash clean after use
Designed and engineered in Australia, these mats measure 45” by 13”. Large lugs on the underside bite into the ground to provide grip while on the top surface there are 88 teeth that interlock with your tire. Engineering-grade nylon construction ensures these mats are practically indestructible.
- Lifetime warranty
- Sold as a pair
- Weight: 8 lbs each
- Available in 12 different colors
Best Recovery Straps for Offroading
Yeah, we used to call them tow ropes but they're no longer rope. Rope's thick, heavy, and difficult to wrap around things. A recovery strap serves the same purpose but it's more like a long nylon belt with loops at both ends. This makes it easy to hook up to a tow hitch, so someone else can pull you out, or to a winch or Hi-Lift.
Note though that you shouldn't just drop the loop at the end of the strap over a ball receiver. The correct way of securing the strap is to loop it through a shackle. Some vendors, like ARB, supply shackles in a kit with the straps but in most cases you’ll need to buy them separately. Details are in our reviews below.
Recovery straps must be matched to the weight of vehicle you'll be pulling. A good rule of thumb is that the strap should be safe for three to four times the vehicle weight.
Made from a special poly/silk webbing material, this has a Lab Tested breaking strength of 31,518 lbs. It’s an eye-catching neon green color and comes with a heavy duty drawstring bag for storage.
- Length: 20′
- Strong loops at both ends for securing to shackles.
This kit has everything you need to pull a vehicle to safety, in one bag. The recovery strap is rated at 17,600 lbs, making it suitable for smaller trucks, 4×4’s and SUV’s. Also included are two 3/4” shackles, an ARB snatch block (pulley) good for 20,000 lbs and a 10′ tree trunk protector.
- For smaller vehicles
- Includes gloves
Made from Military Grade high tensile polyester, this heavy duty strap is lab tested to 31,541 lbs. It features padded and reinforced double-web-loop ends for maximum strength and durability. The bright orange color ensures excellent visibility.
- Length: 20′
- Storage bag included
Best Offroading Fire Extinguishers
Whether you venture off road or stick to paved highways, it's always a good idea to keep one of these in your car. They're especially important for off-roading though, and there are two reasons for this. First, accidents happen. You could suffer an electrical short or even tip over and spill some gas. Second, you'll be out in what might be remote, dry country. Wildfires are a big problem in many of these places and having an extinguisher with you could let you stop something small, like a lit cigarette, starting a major conflagration.
You'll see there are a lot of different extinguishers to choose from. The ones you should consider are classed as A, B and C. That means they're powder extinguishers that will work on oil and gasoline as well as electrical systems and other combustible materials. Also look for the weight of extinguishing agent, specified in pounds. More is always better.
It's also important to consider size and where you'll mount it. Basically, get the biggest you can afford and put it where it will be easily accessible, even if you're upside down. And don't forget to check it every year, preferably more often.
We’ll review two fire extinguishers from industry-leader H3R below.
With an eye-catching chrome finish this extinguisher looks good while helping keep you safe. It employs halotron 1 as the extinguishing agent which is EPA approved and UL rated as 1B:C. The effective discharge range is 6 to 8′.
- Comes with a steel strap and mounting bracket
- Five Year limited warranty
- 1.4 lbs of extinguishing agent
Rated 1A:10B:C by Underwriters Laboratories, this uses a special fluidized and siliconized mono ammonium phosphate dry chemical that’s been proven effective in automotive environments.
- 2.5 lbs of dry extinguishing chemical
- Black finish
Get Your Vehicle Trail Ready With the Bet Off-Road Accessories
When your 4×4 looks trail-ready it's only natural you want to put it to the test. When you do venture off-road it's important to be properly equipped. Study our list of the best 4×4 accessories and make sure you have what you need to stay safe and out of trouble.