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Too Big or Just Right? Is the Half-Ton Pickup Today’s Ideal Off-Roader?

You don’t need to look at sales charts to see how popular half-ton pickups are these days. All you need to do is take a glance at your average highway or parking lot to see just how many Americans are driving half-ton trucks everyday.

GMC Sierra 1500 on Nitto Recon Grappler

With four-doors, ample space for passengers, a bed that can take a variety of cargo, and plenty of ability to tow — there really are few vehicles more versatile.

The Jack of All Trails?

But what about when it comes to off-roading? We all know the 4x4 half-ton truck has been popular among American off-roaders for decades, but is it the ideal choice for today’s enthusiast?

Ford F-150 on Nitto Ridge Grappler

When you picture a dedicated off-roader today, it’s probably a Jeep Wrangler, Bronco or a smaller pickup like a Tacoma that comes to mind. And there's good reason for this.

Not only do these 4x4s pack the hardware needed for off-roading, their smaller size also lends to their capability, particularly when it comes to navigating tighter trails and obstacles. And in general, a smaller, lighter vehicle is typically more fun.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Modified

Yet by the same token, those smaller 4x4s also lack some of the practicality that many are looking for. Don't get us wrong, we love Jeep Wranglers and Broncos but when it comes to things like towing capability, cargo space and even refinement, a half-ton pickup will win out.

Ram TRX on Nitto Recon Grappler

Size Matters

Whether it's a Rubicon or Raptor, all of these vehicles can be extremely capable right out of the box, or you can start with a more basic trim and enjoy vast aftermarket support.

Baja Designs Ford Bronco

The size-question will largely depend on the type of off-roading you have in mind. A half-ton truck should be able to handle just about any type of terrain that your typical weekend off-roader will encounter.

It will likely only be the extremely technical courses, ultra narrow trails or rock crawling situations where you'll need the smaller size.  

Jeep Wrangler Rock Crawling

In the end simply be up the buyer to decide whether the aded weight and size of a half-ton truck is worth the added practicality in non off-road situations.

Ford F-150 on Nitto Recon Grappler

More for Your Money?

Interestingly, when shopping for a rig you'll probably find there isn't much price difference. When compared to a same-age 4x4 half-ton pickup, your typical Wrangler or Bronco isn't going to be much cheaper — at least until you get to the ultra high-end luxury trims of the pickups.

Ford F-150 on Nitto Ridge Grappler Front View

The final thing to consider is the intangibles. How "cool" is it? How "fun" is it?

For some, a full-size pickup truck might feel too "workman-like" to be an off-road project. Some might think a big pickup is simply too common and want something with a slightly more adventurous or distinct character, or want something with a removable top.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Modified

Yet, on the contrary, no Wrangler or Bronco is going to give you the same combination of "work and play" that a properly outfitted Ram or F-150 will. And it's simply impressive how the half-ton has become a Swiss army knife of vehicles.

GMC Sierra 1500 on Nitto Recon Grappler

But no matter which rig fits your lifestyle, off-roaders can't rest assured that the choices for 4x4 fun have never been better.

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