Is It Practical To Use a Full-Size Pickup Truck For Off-Roading?
September 20, 2022
Can You Off-Road A Full-Size Truck?
Pickup trucks have been around since, well, the horse and buggy days, though in those times they were referred to as "horse-drawn carriages" instead of pickup trucks. Nonetheless, these vehicles were purpose-driven to haul large amounts of cargo over various terrains, through all kinds of weather conditions - obviously, over the years the horse and buggy setup evolved into a highly functional, purpose-built piece of utilitarian equipment, designed to haul that same cargo, only faster.
Pickup trucks come in different sizes, and we use our pickups for many different reasons, be them towing trailers, hauling cargo and people, or off-roading. A good truck is the kind of machine that you can put through some abuse and still get to your destination safely - where things start to get separate, though, is when you start to discuss the different sizes of trucks. When it comes to towing and hauling, it's clear that bigger is better, but just because you have a big, badass truck doesn't necessarily mean it's the best for off-roading. So, which size of truck is best for hitting the trails? That's what we want to show you today - check it out below!
Read More: Can You Off-Road A Diesel?
Which Size Of Truck Is Best For Off-Roading Purposes?
Each truck class has its own strengths, weaknesses, and recognizable features when it comes to traversing off-road terrains. So which truck size is best for those of us like the weekend warrior, explorer, overlander, hunters, and those whose work often takes them off the beaten path?
Though we're big fans of older compact Toyota models, compact trucks are a rarity nowadays, and truck sizes tend to start with the midsize class and larger. And we're not gonna talk about cars with a truck bed, like the Ford Maverick or whatever the Honda thing is (author's note: it's the Ridgeline.) So, for the purposes of this piece, we'll be looking at mid-size pickups and half-tons to give you an idea of which one might be best for your needs, though full-size pickups will also make an appearance. So, let's see which body type best suits what you want to do.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Off-Roading A Midsize Pickup
Midsize trucks definitely have their strengths for off-roading, but they also have a few undesired weaknesses too. For example, mid-size trucks will generally have the smallest beds, cabins, and overall dimensions in the pickup truck world. However, a smaller truck often comes with a smaller price tag, and for this reason, they're popular purchases for most truck enthusiasts.
Unfortunately though, that smaller size comes at the cost of strength - mid-size trucks usually have the lowest towing and payload capacities, so if you're looking for a hard-working vehicle that can comfortably tow over 5,000 pounds and haul over 1,000 pounds of payload, it might be time to look for a bigger truck. But then again, if you're looking for an off-road truck, towing and payload probably aren't at the top of your list anyway.
Mid-size trucks also come with their own distinct benefits beyond price. They're more accessible, easier to steer, and easier to maneuver in tight trail conditions, which leads them to perform better overall on the trail. Mid-size trucks are also lightweight and a bit more aerodynamic, which means that they respond better to throttle performance and can really sear down the asphalt. What this means is that mid-size trucks are your best opinion for off-roading - they can easily power over rocky or wet terrains, and their light weight comes in handy when traversing mud, sand, and snow.
What Are The Best Midsize Truck Models?
Trucks like the Toyota Tacoma TRD, Chevy Colorado ZR2, and Jeep Gladiator Rubicon stand out as just a few of the best mid-size pickups in the market, though every model in this class has its own benefits and advantages that can help keep your drive safe and fun.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Off-Roading a Half-Ton Pickup
The next step up from a mid-size truck will be your half-ton trucks, and half-tons are not only the most common, but also the most diverse category of trucks. They balance good features from lighter mid-size trucks and heavy-duty three-quarter or full-ton trucks, and this is most evident on the most popular half-ton truck models on the market, including the Ford F-150, RAM 1500, Chevy Silverado, Toyota Tundra, and so on.
All around, half-ton pickups offer good ride quality, high towing capabilities and payload capacities, durability, and nowadays aren't too bad on fuel mileage either, as more and more of them start to get into turbocharged V6 gas engines and diesel options. However, half-ton trucks are pretty large vehicles to be stuffing down some of these small, tight, wooded trails, and you'll probably end up with some pinstriping from all the tree branches.
This is why factory off-road models like the Ford Raptor and RAM TRX tend to focus on high-speed desert running rather than rock climbing or other technical off-roading situations. If you live in an open are where the risk of body damage is minimal, a half-ton truck can be a great off-roading vehicle, especially if you plan on hauling a bunch of gear or pulling a trailer, or both.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Off-Roading A Full-Size Pickup
While the previous two categories fall under the category of light-to-medium duty trucks, the next size up from that is our three-quarter-ton and one-ton trucks - for ease of reference, we'll be calling them "heavy duty" trucks. These trucks are designed as workhorses, with some models offering a bit more plushness and comfort to them - however, these trucks are made to haul and pull, often delivering commercial-grade payload and tow ratings in a vehicle that still looks like a passenger truck.
While you might expect that a heavy duty truck, with its increased axle sizes and overall strength, can hold their own pretty well on rougher trails, they ride like crap over harsh terrains. But similar to half-ton pickups, if you plan on hauling a huge camper or trailer of some sort and need that extra weight-carrying capacity, just plan your off-road routes accordingly, and ahead of time, to prevent any potential disaster.
Because of this, you're not gonna see many factory-built off-road models for heavy-duty trucks, but the most capable is probably the RAM 2500 Power Wagon and Ford's Tremor package for the Super Duty.
Shop Wheels, Tires, and Suspension for Your Off-Road Pickup At TrailBuilt Off-Road
Deciding which truck is best for you really just comes down to what its purpose will be, and the types of geographical areas that it'll spend most of its time in. No matter what kind of truck you have, though, we'll bet that you'll be wanting to upgrade it at some point, and if that's the case, we have a huge selection of wheels, tires, suspension upgrades, lighting kits, accessories, and more that can fit whatever you drive. Check out our inventory and get yours today - and, as always, we'll see you out on the trails!