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Most trucks have features that make driving on dirt roads, gravel trails, and light trails possible. If you want to tackle some of the toughest off-road trails the wilderness offers, you’ll want a specially-equipped truck for the job. This means looking for specific items either already on the truck or available as aftermarket products that can turn your ride into an off-road beast.

The most important item for an off-road truck is power on all four wheels

A red 2023 GMC Canyon in AT4X Trim
The 2023 GMC Canyon AT4X | GMC

How do you get power sent to all four wheels of any vehicle? This happens when either AWD or 4WD is present. Typically, we view 4WD as the necessary item for off-road truck performance, but some trucks offer AWD that allows them to drive on tough trails. Once you have a pickup with 4WD or AWD, Kelley Blue Book tells us you’ll want additional features.

How big is too big when it comes to your off-road tires?

2023 Ford Raptor R Kicking Up a Lot of Sand in the Desert.
2023 Ford Raptor R | Ford

The bigger the tires are on your off-road truck, the higher you’ll sit off the ground. Of course, larger tires also require more clearance in the wheel wells, which might require some modifications to the truck you drive. In addition to more room in the wheel wells, the wheel size matters. If you buy 32-inch tires for your 18-inch wheels, you’ll have more off-road capability than 32-inch tires on 20-inch wheels.

Most off-road tires have thick, deep tread patterns as well. These treads help you move through mud, sand, and water more easily than if you have standard road treads. Find some great off-road tires that are mud or all-terrain-rated, and get ready for some wilderness adventures.

Skid plates are a must for your off-road truck

Skid Plates Under an Off-Road Truck
Skid Plates Under an Off-Road Truck | Wiki Commons

You might bash your quarter panel or fender while on the trails, but you can still drive with some damaged body parts. If you tear off the oil pan or break some of the lines underneath your truck, you might be stuck. Skid plates protect the vulnerable items underneath your truck while out on the trails.

Should the suspension system be upgraded for an off-road truck?

2023 Ram 2500 Rebel off-roading
2023 Ram 2500 Rebel | RAM

The better your suspension system is, the more rugged trails you can tackle. This means adding items that make your truck perform better on the trails. The suspension parts you need to upgrade include:

  • Shocks/dampers
  • Differentials – front and rear locking versions are best
  • Disconnecting front sway bar

These features offer greater wheel articulation, ensure your wheels don’t end up in the air where they won’t do you any good and give you the best chance to cover some of the toughest trails you’ll find. In addition to these suspension upgrades, a lift kit positions the body higher above the frame, giving you more ground clearance.

Your truck should have an electric winch and tow hooks

Off-Road Winch in Use puling a truck out of the mud
Off-Road Winch in Use | Wiki Commons

No matter how much gear you add to your off-road truck, it’s always possible you’ll get stuck. Of course, your off-roading friends might get stuck and need you to pull them out. No matter who is stopped and unable to move in the wilderness, a winch and tow hooks come in handy when moving around or over obstacles, you’ll naturally find in the wilderness.

Next, check out some of the best off-road SUVs, or learn more about what you need in an off-road truck:

This article was updated on 1/30/2023.