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During summertime, there are many different strategies for beating the heat – taking in a matinee movie in the middle of the day, enjoying a siesta, or visiting your local waterpark. Off-roaders who love to hit the trails can be stymied by skyrocketing summer temperatures. The obvious solution - night runs.
When you have the itch to take your Jeep out wheeling at night, you’ll feel like a genius by avoiding the midday sun. If you have the proper equipment for a night run, that smart feeling will persist. Here are some of the parts and accessories that will keep you safe on the trail and make your nighttime off-roading enjoyable. Remember, don’t night wheel alone and have radio communication in case you need to stay in touch.
Before you decide on specific lighting options, there are some general guidelines for lighting your Jeep. Lead vehicles should have more powerful beams to pump out as many lumens as possible to light approaching terrain. Followers have to tone it down so they don’t flood Jeeps in front and blind them. If you get separated from your friends, turn your vehicle off and listen for them. The air is denser at night and sound travels well, especially in the desert.
One overlooked aspect of lights is where to mount them on your Jeep. There are many schools of thought on this and in most cases the best way to mount is in multiple areas. Only mounting lights to your bumper is too close to the headlights and mounting on a roof rack is good, but the light can reflect off of your hood and be blinding. Rock lights under the vehicle not only show where rocks are, you can also use them as work lights if necessary.
Another option is the corners of your windshield, which works with TJs and JKs and older YJs and CJs that have a mounting bracket. Reinforcement brackets are good for rough terrain because lights can take a beating at night when there are hard to avoid impacts you have to absorb.
Navigation is critical for night driving and you should be prepared to be out overnight for worst case scenarios. Pack food and a blanket in case something goes wrong and you’re stranded. Garmin has everything from handheld GPS models to wearables to apps. Your off-roading night runs will be enhanced by features like glowing touchscreen displays, turn by turn routing, and an electronic compass. Lowrance also makes amazing GPSs with built-in antennas, high-def Insight Mapping, and even solar options.
There are also quite a few GPS-enabled phone apps, some free and others for a slight fee. Two popular ones for iPhones are EveryTrail and MotionX-GPS. EveryTrail allows you to track your route and when you snap pictures they’re geotagged. After trips are saved, they can be shared online. MotionX-GPS gives the user access to Apple’s road, satellite and hybrid maps. Live speed and altitude graphs let you monitor your trip’s progress.
Two GPS Android phone apps are The Backpacker GPS Trails and Columbia GPS Pal. The Backpacker GPS Trails app allows users to map routes, share trips, and find nearby hikes. The Columbia GPS Pal has the added aspect of journaling trips on social media platforms.
CB radio kits are durable communication devices for off-road rigs. Manufacturers like Cobras, Unidens, and Midlands are tried and true with backlit radio displays and reliable transmission power. The goTenna is a new, wireless option for staying in touch with people when you’re night wheeling.
Forget cell towers, satellites, and even wifi. Paired with your smartphone and using a Bluetooth-LE, a goTenna within 20 feet of your phone communicates with it. This means you can type a text message on your phone that relays to your goTenna then transmits via long-range radio waves to another goTenna. Range is affected by nearby geography and under ideal locations stretches out to 50 miles. The goTenna is great for emergency communication and is compatible with iOS and Android.