Lighting is one the most overlooked and frankly, scoffed at elements of a serious overland vehicle build. Honestly, we try not to drive at night when we are in new places or foreign countries. But getting stuck out after dark DOES happen and being prepared for low visibility is much easier with proper lighting.
Full disclosure, I have been employed by DENALI Electronics for several years and I get an employee discount. With that said, I would still use DENALI even if I were paying full price and I hope you understand why after you see our setup.
We had a couple of conditions when picking out forward-facing auxiliary lighting. First, the lights had to be discreet and as subtle as possible. Second, the lights had to be rugged enough to survive hundreds of miles of washboard and rough roads. Lastly, the product had to perform. We didn’t want an entire Christmas tree worth of lights across our roof line if a nice set would perform at the same level.
DENALI D7 Driving Lights
The DENALI D7 Driving Lights are “face of the sun” bright. With over 15,000 lumens per pair at 1 lux, they are one of the brightest 4.5″ lights available on the market. I wrote up a review of the DENALI D7s here for a more in-depth look.
The D7s have lived in various locations on the GX and even spent a little time on a previous rig. They have found their forever home in the center of our steel bumper as the lights we turn to when it is really dark and there is no one else on the road. The beam pattern is obviously far-reaching, but is also wide and full. The pictures don’t do it justice, but it is worth a shot.
We have had more than a few occasions where we would have been in trouble without our D7s. A couple of years ago, a surprise thunderstorm in Moab created conditions that were extremely difficult to see in and I am not sure how we would have made it back without all of the extra light.
DENALI D3 Driving Lights
I will confess, adding the DENALI D3 Driving Lights to our bumper was mostly a cosmetic choice. Not because the D3s aren’t impressive, they are. We simply had too many spaces in the bumper and wanted to make sure it looked good. The D3s have turned out to be one of the light sets that we use the most because it is not as intense as the D7s but it still shines over a thousand feet!
The D3 is my go-to light when I need to see, but there is a chance that a car could round a corner or that my lights might swing across a tent in a campground. When driving on the interstate at night, the D3 Driving Light with hybrid lens is my choice because it is plenty bright, but it is easier on my eyes than the D7s. Signs reflecting 15,000 lumens can become very distracting.
The importance of a great fog light is often overlooked because the majority of OEM fog lights are weak and poorly designed. Most manufacturers aren’t even including fog lights, instead, they are opting for obnoxious and trending daytime running lights in big swooshes and gills in front of the radiator. I am a fan of a true fog light and DENALI has a great option for just about any vehicle or motorcycle.
DENALI D3 Fog Lights
My favorite light in the DENALI lineup at the time of writing this is the DENALI D3 Fog Light. The D3 Fog is a DOT/SAE-compliant fog light that has an ultra-sharp cutoff and a crazy wide beam pattern. I elected to mount mine with amber lenses because I want to run it as a true fog light for foggy and rainy conditions and as a conspicuity light that is on all the time without blinding other motorists.
One of my favorite aspects of how DENALI designs and sells products is that the design team always shares the ISOLUX testing of each product. This allows the consumer to know exactly how a particular light performs and ask for the same chart from other brands for an apples-to-apples comparison. DENALI could simply list raw lumens like everyone else, but it is the little things that set the brand apart.
As you can see, the D3 Fog is extremely wide (300 feet) and still shines an impressive 450 feet in front of you, which is impressive given the DOT/SAE compliance. The best part of the D3 Fog is the razor-sharp cutoff that allows us to run this light 100% of the time without distracting other drivers. We have had these for over a year without a single flash from another motorist.
Scene & Camp Lighting
Scene lights are one of those things that you don’t want to mess with until you actually need them. For us, our headlamp batteries typically die right after we pull into an extremely dark campsite. Effective scene lighting allows you to setup camp, assess your surroundings, and even deter unwelcome guests.
DENALI Daytime Running Lights (DRLs)
The Daytime Running Lights from DENALI are one of the most versatile lights in the catalog. The DRLs are slim, easy to mount and draw a tiny amount of power (0.5 amps at full power). The DRL is available in amber, white, or red and can be wired at 50% and 100% brightness. We have two DRLs mounted on the driver’s side and two mounted on the rear of the roof rack. We will likely add a DENALI B6 Brake Light (a DRL with red LEDs) to the center of the roof rack as we often have a bike rack blocking the brake lights.
The most interesting use for the DRLs is when something brakes on our vehicle and we need to work on it in the dark. Whether trailside or in our apartment parking garage, the DRLs really light up the space and they should because each pod puts out nearly 900 lumens of broad flood light.
DENALI SoundBomb Horn
The DENALI SoundBomb Airhorn is one of those modifications that you didn’t know you needed until you used it for the first time. It is EXTREMELY LOUD. Clocking in at 120 decibels, the SoundBomb is twice as loud as a standard car horn. The compact design allows it to be mounted in a variety of places on almost any vehicle and the performance is unbelievable.
Like most overland travelers, we can’t afford to travel year-round and much of our driving is commuting in cities. In traffic, an effective horn can mean the difference between being seen and not. We use our SoundBomb liberally in traffic and it has kept us out of more than a few scrapes. Plus, it’s really fun to honk at the texters in front of you when a light turns green.