There’s Off-Roading, Then There’s Extreme Off-Roading

If you’ve ever seen a cliff climbing demonstration, you know there’s a difference between off roading and extreme off roading. Off roading is something like mudding. Sure, it’s fun and you get your truck dirty, but if you have big tires and a decent amount of power (and don’t drive into some obviously deep spots), there isn’t much of a challenge. Extreme off roading, on the other hand, is a whole different beast. Cliff climbs are almost 90 degree ascents up slippery or rocky terrain. You can’t take your grandma’s Jeep on a cliff climb.

What do you need to build an extreme off roader?

The most obvious key is ground clearance. The more ground clearance you have, the steeper hills and crests you can clear. Also, there’s the whole deal with scraping the underside of your vehicle and nobody wants that.Check out the angles of your vehicle. This picture illustrates ways to measure angles and thus determine what size obstacles you can clear.


As you can see, by removing the front and rear bumpers on the Jeep pictured could allow it to clear bigger obstacles by increasing the approach and departure angles. The breakover angle is the largest obstacle you can clear without high centering. Raising the whole vehicle will increase all of those angles and let you climb bigger rocks. Removing the bumpers is free if you can figure it out yourself but lift kit costs vary depending on how much lift you want.

For 1.5 inches, it’s about $150, depending on your make and model, with Jeep being a bit cheaper than GM or Dodge.  For 3 inches, you’re looking at around $400. There are also different manufacturers that cost a bit more, so make your choice wisely!

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For extra protection, steel skid plates are the way to go. You never know when you might clip a sharp edge and puncture your gas tank or bend your rocker panels. They’ll run you anywhere from $80 to $300, again depending on the make or model.

Now comes the choices.

Let’s start with independent suspension vs solid axle. For this, you need to know what kind of hill you want to climb. If it’s all rocky terrain with little to no sand or loose dirt, you want a solid axle to keep the vehicle rigid and not flexing with every rock you touch. For a desert hill climb, such as a dune, or a mostly dirt climb, you want an independent suspension where you want the flex with every divot for maximum traction. Both kinds will run you a few grand so get the right kind for your type of extreme.

So what about the fun part? Power.

As always, more is better. However, depending on what kind of terrain you’re tackling, you might not need a ridiculous amount. I’ve seen tons of off road vehicles with over 800HP that will climb huge sand dunes in seconds. If you can afford it, go for the most horsepower. If not, you need to find a good power to weight ratio. For cliff or rock climbs, you need a very light vehicle so if you only plant one tire against a rock, you can still climb it. For dunes, a lighter vehicle will feel all of the bumps; don’t go too heavy because you’ll lose some of that power to weight ratio for maximum acceleration. Then there’s the matter of low end torque. Lots of low end torque means you can clear obstacles without pushing your engine to the limit. An example of a high end off road package is this one offered by Roush: the 590HP Raptor package will put you back $7,570. The more horsepower, the more money.

And don’t forget about gearing.

You might have some powerful low gears to go with the low end torque for your mudding adventures but extreme off roading requires even better gearing. Be sure to tweak your gears before attempting a hill climb, and while you’re messing with that, put some bigger tires with bigger treads on while also airing out your tires a little bit once you get to your climb. Bigger tires, bigger treads, and less psi equals maximum traction. 33 and 35 inch tires are the most popular and they’ll set you back about $150 each.

Finally: the frame.

For mudding, unibody frames vs body-on-frame advantages are negligible, despite what some diehard fans might say. When it comes to cliff climbs or any sort of extreme off roading, body-on-frame is only slightly better than unibody and you can always use stiffeners to aid the unibody construction. Stiffeners will set you back about $200.

There you go, you have plenty of things to tweak for an extreme off roading experience. I didn’t bother mentioning high mounted air intakes because you already know about that, right? Go out and climb some cliffs, make us proud!

Check this out for inspiration.

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For 1.5 inches, it’s about $150, depending on your make and model, with Jeep being a bit cheaper than GM or Dodge.  For 3 inches, you’re looking at around $400. There