We get a lot of people coming to us wanting to get off road and often, they just want to know where to start when they're building their truck. If this is you, then this post is for you.
There are different directions you could go in depending on where you live and what you want to do, so I’m going to share the order I recommend you go in to upgrade your truck so you can get to all of the places you want to go, comfortably and confidently.
It’s worth saying that the purpose here isn’t to build a hard-core rock crawler or a go-fast desert racer but a versatile rig that'll get you where you want to go.
Let’s get started.
1. What do you want to do the most?
Upgrading your truck can be an expensive hobby, so if you're just getting started, I always recommend that you think very practically. What do you want to do? What do you need your truck to do? What makes the most sense for you?
Do that first.
You’ll get the most value out of what you make the most use of, so that’s where you should always start.
Tires are one of the most important upgrades you can do to your truck.
Tires are your only contact to the ground (hopefully) and they’re the best way to gain ground clearance and traction. There are two things to choose from when you’re looking at tires: what size do you need and what kind.
When it comes to the kind of tire, you're looking at all-terrain or mud-terrain depending on how aggressive you are and what kind of terrain you drive on the most.
With size, you can go with more a stock size, you can go huge with a 35" if you want to go wheeling, and right in the middle, you could go for something like a 33” which is a good compromise—good on road, good off-road,
That’s a decision you want to make right up front so you can get those tires on the ground and build the rest of your truck around the size of tire you want.
Almost as important as tires are sliders and skids.
Here in BC, Canada, the trails are tight, there are lots of trees and big rocks. Odds are you’re going to bash your vehicle and you want to protect it. You do that using sliders and skids.
Sliders will protect the sides of your vehicle from trees, letting you slide around obstacles. If you land on a rock, they’ll protect you from that too. You can also use them as a Hi-Lift point, which often comes in handy.
Skids will make sure you don’t put a hole in your oil pan or rip out your coolant line. Not speaking from personal experience or anything.
When you’re going out in the middle of nowhere, It’s important to protect the most vulnerable parts of your vehicle from damage because BCAA's not going to come out to get you. I mean they might but—
They’re not coming to get you.
Suspension is one of the most exciting things you can add to your truck. People hear suspension and they think, “Oh I want to get that lift...”
To me, it’s not that important. I would rather go for performance and the ability to haul weight so when you start loading stuff on your truck and putting bumpers and sliders on, you’re able to support that weight when you’re going down back roads.
Higher performing suspension will also give a much nicer ride off-road and be easier on your vehicle as well as your body.
Lockers will help you go more places than almost any other mod.
What lockers do is help transfer power to both wheels by locking the axle to help you climb over obstacles or get through muddy terrain.
You want your wheels to always have traction and these new electronic gadgets like A-TRAC work pretty well but won’t give you as much control as a locker will.
Bumpers are a great upgrade for a bunch of reasons. Obviously, they provide protection for smashing into stuff.
But they’re also very useful for providing recovery points on all four corners of your vehicle.
Ideally you do your front and rear bumper at the same time, but it’s not necessary. If you can’t, then you’ll have to decide what is more important to you:
- A front bumper is good for moving forward and can allow the installation of a winch and a lightbar.
- A rear bumper is good for protection and recovery moving backwards.
Nothing will save you like a winch will.
If you are starting to go out more alone, or to more difficult terrain, this is a very handy upgrade to have. A winch is ideally installed at the same time as a front bumper to save time and effort.
The last thing on my list is lights. I often see people put lights on their vehicle first because it’s a quick, easy and relatively cheap thing you can do.
And they are really cool and fun, but for me lights are low-priority. Don’t get me wrong: they're great for seeing at night, especially when you want to back up or look around corners going forward without nailling cross ditches.
But they’re not as important as the other stuff on this list in my opinion, especially if you’re looking to build a capable truck that gets you places.
So that’s it! At this point, once you get through this list, your vehicle is pretty capable. From here, order isn’t as important anymore and we’re back at what makes sense for you.
If you want to pack around a bunch of stuff on your roof, then maybe a roof rack is the right move. Or if you find that you are away camping for several days in a row without seeing another person, a fridge could be a game changer.
The biggest thing is to just get out and use what you have. You don’t need all this stuff to go outside and have fun.
Sum it up:
- Whatever you use the most
A rule of thumb that I used to get my truck to the point it’s at now, was if I couldn’t get to three places I wanted to go because of an upgrade that held me back, then I would do that. This helped us upgrade slowly and still get out exploring.
We started out at all the well-known and easy places and as we got more confident and experienced, and the truck became more capable, we started going further and further away to more and more difficult locations.
But that’s just what I think. What do you think? What did I miss? Did I forget something obvious? Let me know in the comments!