If you’re a driver who has hobbies and pastimes that take place in the great outdoors, automakers have thought up loads of simple yet clever solutions to make your vehicle work harder for you and make it easier to integrate into your active life. These features are designed to make things more convenient and help you travel more confidently with the added bonus of often adding extra protection for your vehicle.
Here are some features you should look out for on your next vehicle if you’re an outdoorsy driver. Some are offered right from the factory while others can be ordered and installed at your local dealer.
Household Power Outlet
Having a three-prong 120-volt power outlet in your vehicle is a game-changer. It makes it easy to run a laptop, camping cooler, power bank, auxiliary lighting, or any number of other accessories on the go. Ever wanted to make an espresso while on a camping trip or use an air compressor to inflate an air mattress or pool float? Some models offer enough juice to run small appliances, while others are more powerful, like the latest Ford F-150 Hybrid, which can provide enough juice to power a small home in the event of a power outage.
Whether from your dealer’s accessory catalogue, straight from the automaker’s factory, or via the automotive aftermarket, numerous options exist when it comes to protecting your vehicle from the ravages of time – especially if you frequent off-road areas or often transport outdoor adventure gear or even pets.
Consider accessories like mud flaps and hood-edge deflectors to protect vulnerable painted areas from damage, which can help maintain the looks and resale value of your vehicle.
Door sill protectors, running boards, and scuff-plates can protect your vehicle from scratches and damage from sandy boots, sharp claws, and heavy equipment being loaded in and out. Many automakers offer bumper pads or a rubberized loading area, which are designed to protect the rear bumper from damage as pets and gear are loaded in and out of the cargo area.
Cargo Tie-Down System
If you’re considering a pickup, crossover, wagon, or SUV, consider checking out your options for a cargo tie-down system, which help keep your gear, equipment, and belongings safely secured so they don’t move around while you’re on the go. Cargo tie-down systems come in various shapes and sizes, from simple elasticized nets, to metal rings you can use to secure straps, to adjustable, rail-mounted cleats that can be moved into any tie-down configuration imaginable.
If you frequently travel with large or clumsy equipment, cases, or bags, a cargo tie-down system can be a blessing. Many are great for securing pet kennels on the go, too.
Flip-up Rear Glass
Some crossover and SUV models offer a flip-up rear glass window that opens separately from the tailgate it’s built into. This flip-up or roll-down window can make it easier to load and unload certain cargo, while extending the length of items that can be transported inside of the vehicle. A flip-up rear window also makes it easier to keep your gear and supplies accessible without opening the trunk and risking everything tumbling out if you’ve got it packed to the brim.
Vehicles like the Ford Bronco Sport and Toyota 4Runner have rear glass that can open separately from the trunk.
Rubber floor protection is one of the best investments you can make for your vehicle. Thick, form-fitting rubber mats prevent any sand, salt, dirt, or moisture from taking up residence in your vehicle’s carpeting, where it can lead to damage, mould, and rust of the metal floor beneath.
Rubberized mats are easy to clean (you can just take them out and hose them down), you can install them in seconds, and they form a waterproof barrier between your vehicle’s carpeting and the things that may damage what’s underneath over time.
Consider form-fitting rubber mats for each passenger as well as your vehicle’s cargo area to help keep your interior looking tip-top for years to come.
Some outdoorsy vehicles are offered with auxiliary lighting, either by way of an option package or add-on accessory available at your dealer’s parts counter as a factory accessory.
Supplemental off-road lighting can be a tremendous confidence booster as you get into a new hobby, and can prove useful in other situations too, including for jobsite or campsite illumination. Off-road lighting provisions in the form of roof- or bumper-mounted lighting makes it easier to see more of your surroundings on the trails after dark, enhancing confidence and reducing the urge to rush back to pavement by sundown.
With proper lighting for the situation, drivers can enjoy safer and more confident exploring.
If you drive a crossover, SUV, or minivan, there’s a decent chance you can order a made-to-fit camping tent that attaches to your vehicle and makes your tent an extension of its interior. This can add comfort and convenience during camping trips, and makes sure you and all of your things are always available and dry, even if the weather turns bad. Another benefit is that you won’t have to worry if the campsite is lumpy – sleeping in your car means you’ll always have a flat surface to snooze on.
Having a trunk tent also means you’ve got shelter with built-in power outlets, a stereo, and a nearby horn to scare away pesky four-legged visitors if needed.
Roof Racks and Trailer Hitches
Most SUVs and crossovers (and some wagons) come with roof rails or roof racks as standard, while trailer hitches can usually be optioned in at a reasonable cost. Having roof rails/racks and trailer hitches expand the possibilities for hauling your gear and keep the cabin open for passengers and other cargo. Once you have roof racks or a trailer hitch, it will be easier to attach any number of specialized gear carriers for bikes to kayaks to snowboards and more. Many brands offer a selection of carrier components that can be swapped in and out as seasons change, for instance, switching from a snowboard rack to mountain bike rack.
Most crossovers and SUVs come with 4x4 or all-wheel drive (AWD) as standard or optional equipment, but some models go further than others to enhance driver control and peace of mind when exploring more challenging trails and terrain. Some AWD vehicles come with differential locks, different driving modes to tailor to varying terrains, and hill descent control, all features that help boost confidence and capability during outdoor activities.
Hill descent control allows drivers to benefit from automatic off-road speed control that can inch the vehicle down steep grades with extreme caution, enabling the driver to focus on steering around obstacles safely.
Some vehicles offer built-in Wi-Fi, powered by a cellular connection integrated within the vehicle. Some drivers take advantage of monthly data plans to ensure a fast and consistent connection. Most in-car Wi-Fi systems can stream data to multiple devices at once and have sufficient range to connect with devices around a small campsite.
With some vehicles, this technology can also enable enhanced communication between the driver and vehicle via smartphone. For instance, having a vehicle with telematics enabled means the vehicle’s location and status can be monitored remotely, and it can be remote started, locked, unlocked, or even made to sound its alarm from virtually anywhere.
A Full-Sized Spare Tire
Does the vehicle you’re considering come with a full-sized spare tire in case of a puncture or flat? Nothing ruins a trip like blowing a tire, and if your vehicle doesn’t pack a full-sized spare, a tire-related mishap might spell the end of your trip.
If your vehicle has a temporary spare tire, you’re typically able to limp the vehicle a short distance at a low speed, ideally straight to the nearest tire shop for a replacement. If you puncture a tire while towing a trailer or in an off-road setting, it could spell serious trouble.
That’s why full-sized spare tires are great: if you get a flat, you can change it on the spot, and carry on with your adventures.
Built-in Exterior Storage
Sometimes, being outdoorsy necessitates hauling some dirty, messy things back home that you’d rather keep outside of your vehicle’s cabin. Whether it’s sandy beach gear, muddy trail gear, or a bag full of soggy socks, a vehicle that lets drivers carry cargo in lockable, built-in exterior compartments can be very handy.
For instance, trucks like the Ram 1500 offer locking, drainable storage bins built into the side of their beds. The new Land Rover Defender is available with a lockable accessory compartment that mounts to the side of the vehicle, covering one of the rear windows and creating a unique look. The Honda Ridgeline has a locking, drainable storage bin (so you can use it as a cooler) that acts like a big trunk underneath its cargo bed. Having clever solutions like this keeps the dirty stuff where it belongs – outside.