Modern automotive lighting is powerful, but as bright as those lights may be, they may not be enough when driving on the trails. Seeing where you are headed is essential to safe driving so it’s best to have an abundance of light available to you when heading off the road.

KC Hilites Slimlite 6-4

KC HiLites 6” Slimlite LED projects an impressive 250,000 cendela in a piercing spot beam pattern.

When leaving the lit roadway and onto unimproved trails, auxiliary lights are an essential upgrade to add onto your off-road vehicle. Being able to clearly see your path is key to safety and navigation. Ruts, rocks, drop-offs – heck, even a cliff can spring out of seemingly nowhere when you’re driving in the dark of night.


Old Trucks Need Help
Halogen lighting that came on older vehicles, such as our 1999 100 Series Land Cruiser’s headlights, is anemic compared to those of more modern trucks. It makes plenty of sense to augment them with modern, much brighter options.

KC Hilites Slimlite 6-6

Old halogen headlamps can use the help of bright LED upgrades when on the trail such as these KC HiLites 6” SlimLites.

The answer is to mount the power of the sun on your vehicle, or at least try to get close to that. When it came time to add auxiliary lights to our Land Cruiser project vehicle, we looked to KC HiLites – a trusted name in the off-road space. KC innovated the automotive lighting industry by mounting ultra-bright aircraft lights to the front of off-road vehicles as far back as 1970 and have been leading the way ever since.


On A Budget
Lights can get expensive and we have a budget to adhere to. We selected a pair of KC’s 6” SlimLite LEDs as well as two pairs of KC’s Flex ERA 1 lights for the project.

KC Hilites Slimlite 6-2

The OVR Land Cruiser sports KC’s SlimLites on the bumper and Flex ERA 1 ditch lights under the side view mirrors.

At the time of this article’s writing, 6” SlimLites retail for $380 a pair with wiring harness and Flex ERA 1 kits are priced at $340 a pair, so their cost to brightness and effectiveness ratio stood to be a great deal for us. Both types are offered as single lights or double light kits, the kits come with wiring harnesses. We chose the kits for ease of installation.


SlimLite LED
The Land Crusier’s bumper-mounted lights are the 6-inch version of the SlimLite LED. For those looking for bigger and brighter, you’ll be glad to know that KC recently released an 8-inch version of this light.

KC Hilites Slimlite 6-3

These are the 6” models, larger 8” diameter SlimLites are available too.

SlimLite earns its name through its very slim 2.7 depth profile. Its slim design enables it to easily fit into narrow spaces such as a-pillars and bumpers, all while delivering an impressive amount of light. We found that they took up very little space on the bumper and at roughly only 5 pounds each, are lightweight as well.

Despite its svelte profile, the SlimLite LED packs a punch when it comes to light output. With a total of 50W of forward-facing LEDs and precision-injected metalized reflectors, these lights deliver a truly usable spot beam that’s rated at 250,000 candela.

This light is only available with a spot beam pattern, but KC recently released a new lens that can change the beam from spot to a driving beam pattern with color options in clear, yellow or amber. These lenses are very similar to the latest shields that are available for the all-new SlimLite 8 series of lights.

KC Hilites Slimlite 6-7

SlimLites have a thin profile and are lightweight.

The lights are built for toughness too. KC is renown in the harsh world of desert racing, an arena which the SlimLite, has been tested in. Its sturdy die-cast unibody housing and robust wiring harness promise not let you down, even over rough and tumble night drives.

SlimLite LED’s metal housing also features top and bottom fins that promote heat dissipation, ensuring that the lights remain cool even during extended use.


Flex ERA 1
With the SlimLites taking care of our forward-facing lighting needs, we turned our attention to other areas that could use some additional lighting coverage. We selected the smallest driving lights KC makes, the Flex ERA 1 to help act as our ditch and chase lights.

KC Hilites Flex ERA 1-2

Flex ERA 1 is capable of three different light outputs depending on which of the three lenses it comes with is installed. 4,510 cd for flood, 16,200 cd for spread and 31,000 cd for spot beam.

Flex ERA 1 is a compact light that can be mounted anywhere on your vehicle that you want bright light spread onto. Whether you want them forward, side or rear facing, the choice is yours. Forward facing ditch lights are traditionally aimed at an angle to either side of the vehicle so that the driver can see a wider view, including the ditches to either side; hence the name ditch lights.

You’ll commonly see ditch ligths mounted on the hood, forward of the windshield on most trucks. Our Flex ERA 1 ditch lights are mounted to Ronin Metalworks Ditch Light Brackets, which are situated low and forward of the Land Cruiser’s side view mirrors.

KC Hilites Flex ERA 1-Ronin-Metalworks-Ditch-Light-Brackets-1

Ronin Metalworks Ditch Light Brackets for Land Cruiser 100 Series.

This positioning keeps them out of the driver’s view and may help with reducing possible wind noise too. Our view is unobstructed and we don’t hear any wind noise stemming from the ditch lights so we think this mounting position is perfect for us.

We also mounted a pair of back facing Flex ERA 1’s on the Land Cruiser’s Front Runner roof rack to use as chase lights. Using Front Runner spot light brackets, we were able to get the lights situated perfectly for the task.

KC Hilites Flex ERA 1-3

A pair of Flex ERA 1s are mounted high on the roof rack as chase lights.

High mounted chase lights are used to signal the position of your vehicle to those behind. This is especially useful in areas with sandy dunes where vertical vision can be obstructed by towering mounds of sand as well as the steep angles, up and down, that one finds themselves in while driving.

Front Runner's line of roof rack accesories include this handy light mount

Front Runner’s light mount is used to attach the KC Flex ERA 1 to the roof rack.

Areas where massive amounts of dust can get kicked up or when driving through weather such as thick fog or falling snow also suits the use of chase lights as well. Its best to be seen from all angles, so we added this rear facing pair in increase our vehicle’s third-party visibility.

KC Hilites Flex ERA 1-1

A feature of the Flex ERA 1 we really like are its amber LED backlight. This low-powered ring light acts as a running light that simply looks cool in our opinion.

Flex ERAs are customizable and come with several different glass lenses that allow how its light is transmitted. Spread beam lenses come pre-installed, but flood beam or spot beam lenses can be swapped out if needed.


Optional aluminum bezels are available for extra personalization.

KC also offers a variety of colored Flex ERA aluminum bezels for further personalization. They come with gold bezels from the factory; we swapped our gold bezels for black. Red and blue bezels are available as well.


Covers & Shields
Both the SlimLite LEDs and Flex ERAs have a variety of covers and shields available to them. Clear and rock shields can protect the light’s lenses from damage. Clear amber covers can take the edge off the bright white lights to improve visibility in dust, snow, or fog. The covers are easily snapped on and off for secure, yet easy to remove mounting.

We chose to go with KC’s iconic smiley face in a modern black and white colorway for our SlimLites when the lights are not in use.

KC Hilites Slimlite 6 Covered-2

KC’s black and white smiley face covers are among our favorites.

Our Flex ERA ditch lights wear clear protective lenses or the blacked-out KC-logoed covers, depending on the occasion. Our Flex ERA chase lights have amber lenses installed on them pretty much all the time.

KC Hilites Flex ERA 1-4

Clear covers on the KC Flex ERA 1.

Not only are these covers useful and look cool, they help keep us street legal too. Where we are located, covering certain auxiliary lights while on public roadways is the law so we roll with full covers while in the city. (You may want to check your area’s ordinances to keep in compliance as well.)


If you’re looking for plug and play installation, KC’s wiring harnesses that the kits come with are the solution. The light kits come with harnesses and power switches so a majority of the wiring is done for you already. We however, once again called upon the installation services of Al Catolos of Sponsored by Wifey to help us with the installation.

Thanks to the sPOD BantamX, the wiring job was made even easier. The SlimLites and Flex ERA chase lights were a straight forward plug and play situation while the ditch lights needed a bit more finesse. This had everything to do with our chosen light mounting position than the lights or harnesses themselves.

The ditch lights required the plugs to be cut off and resoldered in order for the wires to be fished through the fenders into the engine bay. Catolos expertly installed the lights by looming and securing the wires neatly in the Cruiser.


sPOD Bantam X
All the lights are connected to an sPOD BantamX electronics controller, which allows them to be activated with the touch of a button on its touchscreen display. The BantamX can be programed with switch activation options including output dimming, strobing, flashing and more. So we can dim our forward facing SlimLites to 20% while navigating a campsite and throw the rear facing Flex ERA 1 chase lights into strobe mode to signal caution.


An sPOD BantamX touchscreen controller is used to activate the lights and other accessories.


Final Thoughts
Since the lights have been installed, we’ve used them several times on trail drives that went longer than anticipated. The sun goes always seems to always go down quicker than you think it will – or more likely, we don’t want to head back as early as planned. We can attest that having auxiliary lighting is a godsend when driving though trails at night, especially unfamiliar ones.

KC Hilites Slimlite 6-1

Don’t stop the fun even after the sun goes down.

The SlimLites are wondrously bright, so bright in fact that we needed to turn them down a bit with the sPOD as to not blind ourselves on the tight forest trails. The Flex ERAs did their duty and lit up the ditch area and informed our trailing companions where we were, even from a distance. 

We found that the KC HiLites SlimLite LED and Flex ERA 1 lights are a solid choice for reliable, powerful and budget conscious off-road lighting. Whether you’re navigating rough terrain or need extra visibility on the trail, these lights are up to the task without give your wallet too much grief.


KC HiLites

6” SlimLite 2-Light System

Flex ERA 1 Kit


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