What you need to know about off road lights

Squadron LED night shot

Hey everyone, we wanted to share some information regarding light sources and beam patterns that might be useful when discussing lighting options or comparing products. We understand that this is  a lot of information to take in all at once, but please don’t be intimidated Baja Designs is here to help. If you ever have any questions about any article or products, please feel free to ask us.

 Candlepower and Lumens

Don’t be misled by lights that are rated by brightness (candlepower).

Candlepower – ratings only measure light from a single point within a beam of light. A tightly focused beam of light may rate a high candlepower but if that light only falls on a very small area, the light will be less than useful. An extreme example of this would be a laser pointer. While the candlepower would be great, the light would be near useless for illumination.

Lumens – are a measure of potential light output. All 35watt, 4200K HID light bulbs produce essentially the same amount of Lumens. A light’s candlepower or lumens measurement is worthless if the illumination is not where you need it.

Light Distribution – Terms

The most effective off-road light will provide smooth light distribution without Sharp Cut-Offs or Hot Spots.

A “Sharp Cut-Off” is where the light drops off dramatically, creating a horizontal or vertical line into darkness. With the pitch and roll of the vehicle, the sharp cut-off affects your ability to see where you need to see.

A “Hot Spot” is an intense concentration of light in a small area. Hot spots can be very distracting while driving off road; your eyes tend to focus on just that bright spot of light bouncing in front of you.


Light Color

The color of emitted light, or “Color Temperature” is rated in Degrees Kelvin.  The most usable light for the human eye is sunlight, which is rated at 4000K-5500K.  Don’t be fooled by lights offering higher temperatures than this – they tend toward the blue spectrum, which is only good for a “cool looking” light.  6100K and higher bulbs produce fewer lumens than the 4200K and 5000K and are less usable to the human eye.

Light Sources

HID (High Intensity Discharge) – lighting is a quantum leap forward in off-road illumination.  HID lamps produce a daylight quality light (4200K-5000K) and brightness (3200 lumens).  A single HID bulb produces the equivalent of 250 watts of Halogen lighting power, while consuming only roughly 45 total watts of electricity and generating far less heat.  Instead of a filament, HID bulbs fire a charge between two electrodes encased in a Xenon gas filled bulb.  Since the bulb has no filament, vibration does not affect its operating life of approx. 2000 hours.  The benefit of internally mounting the ballast is easy installation and serves to protect the HID components from the elements.

 LED (Light Emitting Diode) – lighting has been around for years but is new to the forward lighting off-road scene.  Recent advances in technology have made it possible to produce high-output LEDs capable of reaching the performance and pricing of HID lighting.  The lights have an extensive life (approx. 100,000 hours) and are very resistant to vibration.  The benefits of LED lighting include smooth, even light patterns and the possibility of making the light assemblies in many varying sizes and shapes.

Beam Patterns   

 Pencil or Spot Beams – provide a longer and narrower beam that focuses the pattern further down the trail.  These lights are designed to be used in conjunction with other wider beam patterns.  Baja Designs pencil beams come with a 10 degree wide pattern than can be widened by 4 degrees if desired.

Driving Beams – offer better peripheral vision than the Spot while maintaining good distance projection.  They can be used alone or with other beam patterns to create an excellent light system.  Baja Designs Driving beam have a 20 degree pattern.

Wide-Driving Beams – are slightly wider than a Driving beam and are good for trail riding or filling in spots closer to the vehicle.  They can be used alone or with other beam patterns to create and excellent light system.  Baja Designs Wide-Driving beams have a 28 degree pattern.

Wide-Cornering or Fog Beams – are the widest and most evenly distributed light pattern of the bunch.  These beams are used for lighting the ground close to the sides of the vehicle and are great for turns or twists on the trail.  In addition, this beam is great in dusty or foggy conditions.  Due to its low and wide angle of dispersion, this beam should always be used in conjunction with other beams to provide the best possible lighting effect.  Baja Designs Wide-Cornering beams have a 42 degree pattern.


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