Project Light-em-up: Van Light Upgrade

Van Headlights for Overlanding
| July 9, 2019
Categories: Musings

What is it with stock headlights these days?

I swear I have seen Yankee Candle jar candles brighter than the stock headlights on my 2017 GMC van. Yeah, I know part of it is that I’m getting older, but come on, these fucking things are dim when driving. I notice the poor lighting on my overlanding van (Van Solo) especially when I’m out in the middle of nowhere setting up camp at night. That usually happens because I take my sweet ass time shooting a sunset somewhere and don’t set up camp first.

Yankee Candles burn brighter than stock headlights

WTF! Yankee Candles seem to burn brighter than stock headlights.


Van Solo with Stock Headlights

Van Solo with Stock Headlights

Van Solo needed better lighting

I knew I had to resolve this fiasco of a situation so I decided to upgrade on some major candlepower.  I needed exterior illumination, so I went shopping on the Rigid Industries website and ordered some brightness for the van from front to back.

The next part was to figure out a way to control these demons of light. I was seriously considering the sPod system that I checked out in person at the 2018 Overland Expo West. This company is family owned and their units are clean with a nice touchscreen controller— but I could not justify the $800 price for a light controller. So instead, I decided to go with Rough Country. The van needed simple rocker switches and a clean wiring controller board. The price for these items through Rough Country was way more affordable at under $250.


Rocker switches installed to improve overlanding van lighting.

Rocker switches installed to improve van lighting.

Installing the New Van Lights

I’m no stranger to wiring, I ran a custom motorcycle shop for 15 years and had the pleasure of working on custom built bikes by amateurs. It always included wiring issues.  I used to have nightmares of the spaghetti mess I found on those bikes. The thought of running wiring from 5 different light sources to the inside of my van gave me the “heebie­jeebies”, so I called David Price of Public Safety Equipment LLC in Sturgis, SD.  These guys wire up all of the police and EMS vehicles in the area. They have all the proper tools to getting exterior lights installed in a clean and correct manner, with no lengths of wiring hanging around like a damn spider web to mess with every time I climb inside the van.


Wiring in the rocker switches for the van lights.

Wiring in the rocker switches for the van lights.


The van lights were wired through the rooftop tubing.

The van lights were wired through the rooftop tubing.

Wiring in the new van lights for Van Solo

Clean, new wiring for Van Solo’s lights.

LED public safety lights in Sturgis, SD

These guys took really good care of us – check ’em out!

These lights are bright! I’m so happy that I can now safely find my camp spot or maneuver on some dark backroad I end up exploring. I added two small lights on the front bumper, and a light larger bar across the front of my Aluminess roof rack.  David fabbed up a nice mount for the front, side and rear rooftop lights. He also made sure nothing would interfere with my Zamp solar panels.  All of the wires were run inside the rooftop tubing, David knows how to install accessories correctly and does so in a way that is immaculate.  Project #lightemup on #vansolo is a success thanks to David!


My overlanding vehicle with improved lights

Van Solo improved: two small front bumper lights and a light bar across the front of my Aluminess roof rack.


Other links from the article:
Public Safety Equipment
Rough Country
Rigid Industries
Zamp Solar


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Popular Articles

The Tribe back Breach-Bang-Clear

Find what’s in stock, and where, and compare prices. 

⚠️ Some hyperlinks in this article may contain affiliate links. If you use them to make a purchase, we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. It’s just one way to Back the Bang. #backthebang