Let's say you've plunked down some serious cash on a shiny new overlanding vehicle for you and your family. Or maybe you spent the last five years lovingly restoring your FJ60 Land Cruiser to better-than-factory specs. While they can indeed be beautiful, adventure rigs are meant to be driven, and driven hard. The last thing you want is to back off a fun trail for fear of ruining your new pride and joy or the labor of love you spent many months perfecting. What's the point of all that work if you can't enjoy it?
Trail obstacles and other objective hazards are simply part of overlanding life, and they should be a fun challenge, not a source of fear. We've covered some of the basics of off-road body armor before. Installing armor to your vehicle is a balancing act.
Add too much to an already overloaded vehicle and your vehicle will be sluggish, lose power and handle poorly. Forgoing any armor at all on challenging trails will likely result in expensive damage to your vehicle body (not to mention drivetrain). So where’s that fine line? Let's narrow the focus a bit and think about rock sliders in particular.
The primary purpose of rock sliders is to save your bodywork from trail damage. Rocks, trees stumps, ledges - they all pose a threat to the underside of your vehicle. Most factory running boards will offer a little bit of protection, but will only take a couple of hits before bending badly or even breaking. Rock sliders are built to support the entire weight of the vehicle as they slide over those obstacles, sparing your sheet metal.
However, they also function as side steps for climbing into your rig. Modern vehicles are getting taller and taller even before we get our hands on them and start pushing them up even higher with lift kits and big tires. On top of just making climbing in and out easier, these also give you a solid leg up for lashing gear down on the roof as well as for getting those things back down safely. Fuel cans and spare tires are heavy enough as it is. In truth, 99% percent of the use your rock sliders will see will be as an extra sturdy step ladder.
Depending on your vehicle and preference, these sliders either bolt/weld directly onto the frame, or sometimes bolt to the bodywork itself, as is the case with many Jeeps. Either way, their job is the same, to rest on the rocks and give a smooth, tough surface to slide across without taking your factory bodywork with it. It’s a simple job, but not an easy one.
As alluded to above, the two key questions for you regarding rock sliders center on your driving habits and the weight of your overland set up. True rock sliders, like those from CBI or TJM, are robust enough to hold up the weight of your rig over large obstacles. That means they tend to be quite heavy. Make sure you calculate carefully with the mass of the rest of your build as to whether you can afford the extra weight.
CBI Rock Sliders
And, think about the trails you frequent most often, and those you seek out when you're traveling far from home. Do you prefer more rock-crawling challenges than the average overlander? Are you exploring remote areas where trail beta is in short supply, and you might find unexpected obstacles? Then rock sliders might be a solid investment.
Questions about rock sliders? Slide on over into the comments and let us know!
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We don’t like to get too hung up on labels here at Overlander, but, well… it’s in our name so we thought we’d take some time to think about what overland travel means to us and for you.