Let’s face it, the most import aspect of off-roading is the skill of the driver. However, you do need a proper vehicle, with the right equipment and modifications, to keep up on the trails. So what makes an off-road vehicle practically unstoppable?

Small and Lightweight

Unstoppable small 4x4

This surprises some people, but a smaller off-road vehicle is nimble enough to get through some tough spots. 4x4s with a shorter wheelbase, small overhangs, and decent ground clearance can keep a steady pace through all kinds of terrain.

Ground Clearance and Angles

Unstoppable tire clearance

Ground clearance gets you over stumps and rocks, but if you’re planning to crawl larger rocks, you may need to invest in a lift kit.

Good ground clearance and a short wheelbase are critical to having good angles. You should know these angles:

  • Approach angle: the steepest incline a vehicle can possibly climb without hitting the front bumper
  • Departure angle: how steep a vehicle can tackle a decline without hitting the rear bumper
  • Break-over angle: how steep of a crest it can travel over without bottoming out

Knowing your vehicle's angles is key to preventing damage.

Skid Plates and Rock Sliders

Unstoppable skid plate

Even with decent ground clearance, the underside of your vehicle can - and probably will - suffer some damage. Tearing up your transfer case, gas tank, differential, and other crucial components is usually prevented with skid plates. Rock sliders are also a good add-on as they offer reasonably priced protection for your rocker panels.

Locking Differential

Unstoppable diff

Copyright wikipedia/heb

For many, AWD and 4WD doesn’t offer consistent enough power to get through some truly sticky situations as compared to a locking differential. Limited slip or lockers provide the most efficient use of torque as they keep the tires rotating in unison regardless of traction level. A locking differential will help alleviate the pain of watching one tire spin helplessly while the other three just sit there in the mud.

Tires and a Full Size Spare

Unstoppable mud tires

Remember ground clearance when choosing tires. Bigger is usually better, so taller tires are the way to go, but the truck’s suspension and other necessary modifications may play into the right decision for you. There are a lot of options, depending on the terrain you’ll traverse, and the choices are too numerous to cover here. However, mud terrain tires with a good lug pattern - five-, six-, or eight-lug – and tough sidewalls are a good all-purpose choice.

Speaking of tires, every well-equipped 4x4 has a full-size spare. No matter how tough the sidewalls or which ply the tire, it can be cut on rocks, roots, and other sharp objects your vehicle may encounter. Getting caught on a trail without full-size spare is likely to strand you.

Wheel Articulation and Suspension

Unstoppable jeep crawl

An unstoppable 4x4 will travel in an almost-vertical direction at times, and articulation keeps the tires on a surface with maximum traction and stability. If your goal is rock crawling, you'll gravitate towards a fixed axle to obtain more articulation for slow, calculated climbs.

If you're seeking the rolling hills of a Baja race, an independent suspension is what you want for taking on rapidly changing angles at speed.

The right suspension will get you around every soggy turn and over each boulder step-up you may encounter. As with all modifications to an off-road vehicle, the key is to find a happy medium. Too soft of a suspension will drop your nose into the dirt while one that is too stiff will make it feel as if you're riding a 4 legged Pogo-stick.

Low End Torque

Unstoppable jeep 4cyl

The rush off-roading brings is not from speed. Low end torque keeps the momentum going and can mean a 4 cylinder 4x4 will run just as well, if not better, than a vehicle with a big V8.

Visibility

Unstoppable led

Spotting rocks, crevices, and low-hanging branches in your path is imperative, so a vehicle with great visibility is a must. But a truly unstoppable 4x4 doesn't quit just because the sun goes down or greenery becomes more dense. More efficient than halogen and brighter than stock, LED lights will illuminate your path. Project LM offers a variety of sizes that can be mounted both in the front and the rear of your vehicle so you're always seeing and being seen.

While the things we've listed above certainly help with off-road driving, it's still important that you know how to drive whatever vehicle you take on the trails. Always have an emergency kit handy and follow basic off-roading rules for a fun, safe ride.