Last week, I published a quick guide to body armor that reviewed some of the most common types of body armor that off-roading enthusiasts typically buy.
Then someone asked, “Do I need armor for my overlanding rig?”
The short answer is no, not all overlanding rigs need armor. Let’s find out why.
The Type of Overlanding You Do Will Determine if You Need Armor
Photo by waterotter via iStock
If you’re the type of overlander that seldom leaves the tarmac, car camps, and only ventures out on the weekends, it’s safe to say that you probably don’t need to invest in a bull bar, upgraded skid plates, and aftermarket bumpers.
Don’t get me wrong – there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a weekend warrior that hits the road for a couple of days and sticks to well-maintained roads and campgrounds. But that kind of overlanding simply doesn’t require that you have a rig that looks like it belongs in a Mad Max movie.
In fact, for that type of overlanding, the armor that came with your vehicle will probably do just fine. Many trucks and SUVs come with skid plates from the factory, and though they are light-duty, they’ll get the job done if you seldom go off-road.
Likewise, the factory bumpers will give you all the protection you need for typical highway driving – and without the need to add things like a bull bar or a winch, there’s really no need to have upgraded bumpers anyway.
However, if you are more hard-core, venture onto rough trails, get out in the wilderness, or overland for extended periods of time, some beefed-up body armor for your overlanding vehicle might be a good idea.
Whether you need rock sliders for when the trails you take get a little rough, an upgraded rear bumper for mounting an oversized tire, or body panels to protect against damage from rocks, tree branches, and other debris, there are plenty of armoring options for you.
Which Overlanding Rig Armor Should You Get?
If you fall into the category of being the type of overlander that ventures off-road, the types of armor you should prioritize for your vehicle depends on the types of situations you get yourself into.
For example, if you spend a lot of time exploring roadways in areas that are rich with wildlife, a bull bar will be a great option for helping to protect your vehicle from animal strikes.
One of my favorite places to camp requires that I drive through extremely thick deer territory, and sometimes do so at night. It’s about a 10-mile stretch during which I might see 50 or more deer either alongside the road, running across the road, or just chilling out and standing in the middle of the road.
I’ve managed to avoid an animal strike thus far, but I’d rather be safe than sorry, so I added a bull bar years ago. Besides, like I discuss here, a bull bar gives you the added option of attaching lights, a winch, and other accessories.
“Ford F-150 Raptor Pickup Truck Underside Skid Plate” by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Another option is to upgrade the skid plates on your vehicle if you intend to do any amount of off-roading.
Like I mentioned earlier, the skid plates that came with your vehicle from the factory are intended for light-duty use. They are not intended for the rough-and-tumble life on two tracks.
If your overlanding adventures will take place on questionable roads or trails, take the time to research aftermarket skid plates and invest in something that will offer a greater level of protection for your rig than what the factory-installed.
Along the same lines, rock sliders are a smart option for overlanders that want to get off the tarmac now and again (though I’d prioritize skid plates before sliders).
Sliders offer your rocker panels protection from being crushed when going up and over obstacles on the trail, like large rocks or even logs. Crushed rocker panels can lead to plenty of other problems, like not being able to open the car door, so protecting them is smart and can offer you a lot of peace of mind. For most overlanders, though, rock sliders aren’t a necessity.
Think About the Added Weight
When you add armor to your overlanding rig, you’re adding a lot of weight. That weight means reduced fuel economy, reduced handling response, and less stuff you can bring with you in your rig. After all, your vehicle can only carry so much weight, and if you upgrade your bumper by adding a 125-pound bull bar and winch, that’s 125 pounds less gear you can reasonably expect your rig to transport. You still need to stick to the vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating!
Think about the budget, too. Aftermarket armor can be pricey, so if you’re on a tight budget, you’ll need to prioritize which armor you get – if you get any at all.
At the end of the day, you might not need aftermarket armor for your overlanding rig. Plenty of overlanders take their stock vehicles on trips all the time and make it home in one piece. Just be smart, don’t overdo it with your vehicle, and invest only in the armor that you absolutely need.