Overlanding Suspension Guide - Part 1

We’ve all got a list of dream destinations we’d like to visit in our lifetimes, maybe you have some that you just want to visit this year. The pandemic has surely fired up our desire to get outta dodge! If you’re looking for a suspension upgrade on your ride in order to better handle the equipment loadout or aggressive terrain, we’ll dive into where and how to start thinking about the options available to you. You may be surprised at what you can accomplish with a basic upgrade, or even in stock form.

Budgeting for Beginners

If you’re watching youtube highlights or instagram reels about off-roading or overlanding, you may be lead to believe you need top of the line gear to enjoy yourself, but that’s the furthest from the truth. The factory suspension on most newer vehicles is extremely capable, and with minor upgrades can improve your experience on and off-road, whether thats more comfort or more control. You can get into some upgraded shocks for under $500 in a lot of cases:

  • A good monotube shock like Bilstein 4600s or 5100s are very budget friendly around $300-400 depending on application, are super dependable for the long term, and improve handling in all terrains.
  • A higher performance shock like Fox 2.0 IFP will get you very good control, possibly at the sacrifice of comfort on the street.
  • Something like the Old Man Emu Nitrocharger Sports can be had for less than $500 in some cases, and even though its a twin tube shock, they’re extremely durable and are meant to perform in tougher terrains without fading and maintaining vehicle control.

Address Your Needs for Now

You may want the killer reservoir or adjustable shock setup long term, but we typically recommend getting a budget friendly upgrade in the short term, if your budget is the bottleneck to hitting the road. Don't be the guy investing thousands into gear, only to realize he can only go camp or adventure once every few months, that’s a waste of hard earned money.

We’re not afraid of talking people out of products that are overkill for their vehicle or intended use; use that $2000 saved for time off, or a better tent, or better amenities to enjoy your time on the road or at camp.

In today’s market, its easy to sell second hand parts to recoup some of the initial cost, and pour that money into the next upgrade, when you really know what you need based on your experiences, not others that you’ve seen on social media.

Leveling Kits and Tire Clearance

A big lead-in for a suspension upgrades are typically the ‘leveling kit’, or wanting to increase tire size which requires some more front end height for clearance. Some of the most popular upgrades available on IFS vehicles do double duty as a leveling kit, allowing the height adjustment in the front struts or coilovers to gain another 2-3” of lift. This is accomplished either by using the factory springs on a taller spring perch (Bilstein 5100), or with a full assembly that allows preloading of a new coil spring (Eibach 2.0, Fox 2.0).

Some notes on popular options:

  • Bilstein 5100s are one of the most popular go-to options in this space, for their affordability, longevity, and ride quality. You may here that they aren’t the softest shock on the block, but a large majority of 5100 customers actually enjoy the ride and find it fine, the negative feedbacks are usually just the loudest. (4.9 out of 579 Reviews)
  • If you have a solid front axle vehicle, a 2” leveling spring can sometimes be paired with a factory height shock, but if you plan on off-roading a lot, we suggest something slightly longer to have optimal travel availability in your suspension.
  • Entry level performance coilovers like Eibach 2.0 and Fox 2.0 will improve handling and road feel, while also being able to tackle aggressive terrain at quicker speeds (if thats your thing). Both of these options can be set between factory height (0”) and approximately 2-3” of lift, depending on application.
Power Wagon and Jeep Wrangler off-roading in Tahoe