It’s always better to be prepared for the unexpected than to be caught off guard. An off-road air compressor can save the day while you’re on an epic overlanding adventure.
If you enjoy off-roading, we’ve got seven of the best off-road air compressors you can buy. Let’s explore their features to see which one is right for you.
What Is an Off-Road Air Compressor?
An off-road air compressor is a portable and lightweight model that quickly inflates vehicle tires. These are essential tools for those planning to take their rigs off paved roads.
Most serious overlanding and off-road enthusiasts have a portable air compressor with them at all times. Some even have onboard units installed on their truck or SUV. When off-road, it’s important to be self-sufficient in the case of a flat, but most of the time, they are used for airing down.
Pro Tip: When overlanding in remote locations, it’s critical to be prepared for any situation. In addition to an air compressor, make sure you carry these 11 top essentials.
Do I Need an Air Compressor for Off Roading?
Yes, you need an air compressor for off-roading. It’s said that one of the best traction modifications you can make to your vehicle is simply letting air out of the tires. Airing down tires improves their traction by giving them a larger footprint and allowing them to smush into the terrain. Airing down also significantly improves the ride on rough terrain. However, you cannot run with low tires at high speeds on the road without experiencing tire failure. This is why you need a powerful air compressor to get you back to pressure before hitting the blacktop at the end of the trail.
At the end of your overlanding adventure, you’ll likely want to get back on the paved roads to go home. However, driving on underinflated tires on paved roads can cause permanent damage. The tire temperatures will significantly increase and even result in a tire blowout.
Having a quality off-road air compressor means you can quickly inflate your tires to the proper levels before hitting the road.
Pro Tip: Even if you don’t need a compressor for off-roading, you may need one for other things. Find out how to pick the best one for your everyday needs.
What PSI Should I Run Offroad?
The tire pressure you should run when driving off-road depends on several factors, such as the type of terrain you will be driving on, the weight of your vehicle, and the type of tires you have. As a general guideline, you can start by lowering the tire pressure to around 20 PSI, but it’s important to monitor the tire performance and adjust accordingly. If you’re driving on soft sand or mud, you may want to lower the pressure even further. Conversely, if you’re driving on rocks or other sharp objects, you may want to increase the pressure to prevent punctures.
Onboard vs. Portable Air Compressor for Off-Roading
You’ll typically find two types of off-road air compressors. Whether you choose an onboard or portable air compressor largely depends on your vehicle and your needs.
Many overlanders use onboard air compressors if they have room. They do take up space under your rig and cost more, but you can store more air. Onboard units can also help with air suspension and air horns.
An onboard air compressor can do the same job as a portable one but faster. You can do the same job in as little as 1/3 of the time.
This may not sound like much, but you’ll likely save 10-15 minutes each time you need to inflate all of your tires. If you’re spending the entire weekend transitioning from off-road to highway driving, it’s a huge time savings.
A portable off-road air compressor is a fantastic option as well. This is a more cost-effective choice and great for those who need to inflate or deflate their tires on occasion. Because they’re portable, you can move them from your motorhome to your Jeep or from your daily driver to your overland truck and use them in various circumstances.
Portable air compressors don’t typically have large tanks. This means they’ll likely need to run harder and longer than air compressors that can store air in a tank. It will also take longer to inflate your tires since the compressor may need time to rest if you’re working it too hard.
If you want to top off your vehicle’s tires, air up e-bike tires, or blow up an air mattress, a portable off-road air compressor is excellent to have. You can store it under a seat or hide it in the back of your vehicle, and it’ll be ready to do the job when you need it.
Pro Tip: Whether you’re on dirt roads or paved, an overland GPS can help get you where you need to go. Here are your 5 best options.
7 Best Off-Road Air Compressors for Overland, Trucks, and Jeeps
We want you to have the best experience and get the most out of your time while overlanding. Here are seven of the best off-road air compressors we think you should consider adding to your shopping cart.
1. Our Top Pick: VIAIR 400P Portable Off-Road Air Compressor
About: The VIAIR 400P is a beast for portable off-road air compressors. This 12V unit produces a maximum of 150 PSI and comes with 25ft of air hose. The 33% duty cycle means you can run this compressor for 15 minutes before it needs to take a 30-minute break.
You get a high-quality compressor and an inflation tip kit, a 5-in-1 inflator/deflator, and a convenient carrying case to keep it organized. VIAIR is a respected name in the air compressor community and stands behind their product with a one-year limited warranty.
Off-Road Compatible Features: The VIAIR 400P can handle practically any size off-roading tire. It can inflate up to 35-inch tires from 0 to 30 PSI in less than 5 minutes.
It will effortlessly handle topping off your tires before hitting the paved roads after your off-roading adventures. With the 5-in-1 inflator/deflator tool, your tires will always be ready to go.
- 12 VOLT Operated - 150PSI Max Working Pressure, engine must be...
- 2.3CFM Free Flow at 0 PSI
- 150 PSI maximum working pressure and 33% duty cycle
2. ARB CKMP12 Portable Air Compressor High Output Kit
About: If you like the idea of having a compact, portable air compressor housed in a durable case, it’s hard to beat the ARB CKMP12. It has a 100% duty cycle and fills even the largest of tires in no time.
ARB uses carbon fiber and other lightweight, high-strength engineering-grade materials during construction. It comes with everything you need to hit the road with confidence.
Off-Road Compatible Features: The ARB CKMA12 is a portable 12V air compressor that’s perfect for backroad adventures. It comes sealed in a moisture- and dust-resistant case to protect it from the rough terrains and environments you’ll encounter while exploring.
You can also store all of the accessories in the toolbox-like carrying case so nothing gets lost.
- Compressor housed in a durable carry case for easy storage and...
- Sealed for moisture and dust resistance; washable sintered bronze...
- Hard anodized cylinder bore; Teflon impregnated carbon fiber...
3. GSPSCN Portable Heavy Duty Tire Inflator
About: GSPSCN’s heavy-duty portable air compressor is budget-friendly and an excellent option for overlanding. It can reach a maximum of 150 PSI and inflate a standard tire in 1.5 minutes. The air hose, attachments, and pump come in a convenient and durable carrying case.
With its compact design, you can easily store it out of the way in your vehicle until you need it. It will need to rest, and the manufacturer recommends taking a 5-10 minute break after every 20 minutes of use.
Off-Road Compatible Features: When you hit the best off-road trails, you’ll likely bring other gear with you. This kit’s compact design won’t take up unnecessary space.
The solid construction can handle bumps and rough terrains. The long power cord means you can power the unit from the vehicle, so you can use it no matter where your adventures take you.
- 【FAST INFLATION】: GSPSCN Heavy Duty Double cylinder...
- 【STABILITY TECHNOLOG】: Rubber feet to make sure the 12V air...
- 【DOUBLE CYLINDERS DIRECT DRIVE INFLATION PUMP】: In the direct...
4. Kleinn All-in-One Air Compressor System
About: Kleinn’s all-in-one air compressor system comes with a built-in air pressure gauge and an air tank, and it’s everything you could ask for in an air compressor. It can produce a maximum of 110 PSI and easily mounts out of the way to the frame of your vehicle.
With an amperage draw of 17A, you won’t have to worry about stressing your vehicle’s electrical system when you need to use this unit.
Off-Road Compatible Features: Kleinn has earned its name in creating high-quality vehicle air compressor systems. You want a brand and product you can trust when you go off-road.
This unit has a 3-liter tank capacity, so you’ll have plenty of air for filling up your tires or other toys while making memories.
5. Oasis 12V OnBoard Air Compressor
About: This onboard 12V air compressor boasts 2.2-HP. The dual-ring oil control pistons allow the unit to reduce oil entering the air supply. It has a 100% duty cycle when used at an astounding 200 PSI. You’ll struggle to find an off-roading air compressor capable of these results.
Internal fans keep the unit cool to protect its components from overheating. The Oasis onboard air compressor is highly reliable and won’t back down from a challenge when you need to get the job done quickly.
Off-Road Compatible Features: This onboard air compressor is for those overlanders that want the best equipment at any cost. Being able to hit pressures of 200 PSI and with a 100% duty cycle, you can kiss goodbye all those days of waiting for your tires to inflate.
This unit will have you back on the highway in no time. This product was engineered with durability and protection in mind and will last for many years.
6. VIAIR Constant Duty Onboard Air System
About: If you want to stick with a trusted company like VIAIR and also like the idea of an onboard air system, this is the unit for you. It mounts and installs onto your vehicle and can inflate tires up to 37 inches. This kit comes with everything you could need to install the unit and inflate and deflate your tires.
The 2.5-gallon air tank and 100% duty cycle provide plenty of air. With a PSI limit of 150, this air system can handle practically any scenario.
Off-Road Compatible Features: This VIAIR system can inflate even the beefiest 37-inch off-roading tires. With its ability to work continuously for up to an hour, you can likely air up not only your tires but any friends’ tires as well. The kit comes with many attachments and accessories, too.
- Intended for inflation of tires up to 37 inches. Designed to be...
- Includes all parts needed for installation of you very own...
- Comes with a VIAIR 450C Air compressor and a 110 to 145 PSI...
7. ARB CKMA12 High Output Onboard Air Compressor
About: Another fantastically designed onboard air compressor from ARB is the CKMA12. It’s constructed of the same lightweight and high-strength materials used in their other products. The entire unit is sealed to prevent damage from moisture and dust. The compressor’s motor is also protected internally to help minimize the risk of damages from extreme temperatures.
The unit has a 50% duty cycle but can fill a 37-inch tire in a few minutes. With speeds like this, it can go for a long time without needing a rest.
Off-Road Compatible Features: The CKMA12 is a high-output, onboard air compressor. The compact design provides a tremendous amount of freedom when mounting the unit.
Made from Teflon-impregnated carbon fiber, this unit is tough as can be. If you’re planning to take your vehicle into rough and tough situations, you need a compressor like the CKMA12 that’s equally as tough.
- Constructed entirely of lightweight, high strength engineering...
- Quality components for quiet operation and extra long life
- Hard-anodized cylinder bore for reduced friction
Is an Off-Road Air Compressor Worth It?
If you love to go off-roading or find the idea of giving it a try appealing, an off-road air compressor is essential. The units we recommended are pricy compared to cheaper options, but the reliability and speed they operate will really be worth the investment.
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Saturday 3rd of September 2022
You did not test the Fini Flash. It is in a different class.
Thursday 26th of May 2022
The onboard Oasis sounds great but what about water? It looks like driving thru standing water or even puddles and that thing is done for. It is waterproof?
Have a Grenadier on order and wonder about how to handle inflation after a beach trip. Portables seems slow not having a tank, would rather have a tank on board. Perhaps the answer is a tank storing air and use a portable to top off the tank as needed. hmmmm
Thursday 13th of January 2022
Good morning, I really enjoyed this article on air compressors. I am interested in driving on the beach and would like more information about inflation and deflation of tires. My tires currently are 80 psi, what should I deflate them to for driving in the sand? I have heard down to 30-40 psi. Is that going to damage my tires? I am looking for some more information regarding this subject. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Mortons on the Move
Sunday 16th of January 2022
I am planning on writing an article all about this, but its primarily going to depend on the weight of your vehicle. Some tires have inflation charts and will tell you. Running that low should not be a problem at all, in fact you should be able to go lower. Its just the operational speed that is a concern with the lower pressure. Driving too fast flexes the rubber too much and overheats them. The lower you go the slower you need to drive. Our 80PSI tires we take down to 20 in the front and 35 in the back on our 17,000lb overland vehicle. These are military tires and we have the speed/load/inflation charts for the tire.