Can Am Trip Reports UTV Product Reviews

Rock Crawling on the Rubicon Trail with our Can-Am Defender XT-P

Can-Am Defender

By Jon Crowley

We’ve had our Can-Am Defender HD10 XT-P for over a year now, and while we use it around the ranch on a regular basis, it is certainly a capable trail rig. But taking it rock crawling on the Rubicon Trail – have I lost my mind?!

Kunz AcrEase Rough Cut Mower towed behind Can-Am Defender HD10 XT-P

Kunz AcrEase Rough Cut Mower towed behind Can-Am Defender HD10 XT-P

The Defender XT-P is built to be a work horse with a large dump bed, a Payload Capacity of 1,500 lbs., a Towing Capacity 2,500 lbs. It has served us well around the ranch hauling tools, towing our rough cut mower in the pasture or moving firewood. But the Defender XT-P also has a few tricks up it sleeve. 

The first upgrade on the XT-P is FOX Podium 2.0 shocks all around.  These shocks provide for a smooth ride while also giving you more ability to soak up larger bumps along the trail.

The second upgrade to the XT-P is the lockable front differential. The Visco-Lok QE front differential combined with the lockable/unlockable rear differential offer a 4-mode traction system providing multiple choices for varying terrain or tasks.  By way of separate front-and-rear toggle switches, I can select between a 2×4 open rear differential for tight turning and turf protection, a 2×4 lockable rear for improved 2WD traction, a 4×4 open rear for more maneuverability in rugged terrain and a 4×4 locked rear for maximum traction. In addition, the front differential can be locked or unlocked separate from the rear.

I always love to push the limits and explore the boundaries for different UTVs. So when I learned that the Defender XT-P came with a fully lockable from differential, I immediately thought about rock crawling on the Rubicon Trail.

Warn AXON 55-S Winch

Warn AXON 55-S Winch mounted on the Defender XT-P bumper.

To prepare a bit more for this test, I added a few things to our Can-Am Defender XT-P:

  1. Factory UTV UHMW Skid Plate – The Defender XT-P comes with a full skid plate, but I knew we’d be spending some time on the trail taking hits to the underside and I wanted more protection. I went with a 3/8 inch thick UHMW skid plate from Factory UTV.  This is thicker than stock and the UHMW is more resistant to damage.
  2. Warn AXON 55-S Winch –  My motto for exploring in more rugged terrain is if you have a winch, you most likely will use it to pull your friends out of a tough spot before needing it for yourself.  Either way, it is comforting to know that you’ve got help if needed and Warn’s newest winch is not only super easy to install, but it performs well and looks great sitting on the XT-P’s bumper.
  3. ITP Tires & Wheels – Ground clearance is a serious concern while rock crawling, so we added a set of ITP Terra Hook tires mounted on ITP Twister wheels.
  4. Can-Am Plastic Roof – Long days on the trail during summer can really take their toll, so we added a roof from Can-Am. The roof installs easily and the fit and finish is what you’d expect from Can-Am.
  5. Can-Am Bed Box – This rotomolded construction provides exceptional rigidity and durability. It has a 40 gallon capacity with doors on both sides.  This is a great way to keep gear separated and protected.

With upgrades to our Defender XT-P complete, we set a date to spend the weekend on the Rubicon in June. I was in a group of 5 sport UTVs that were built for this type terrain. On the first afternoon, we didn’t have a lot of daylight left so we left Loon Lake and did a quick run to Ellis Creek and back.

On the second day, we decided to head deeper into the trail.  We made it through Little Sluice and to Buck Island for lunch before turning around.

Can-Am Defender XT-P

Taking on Little Sluice on the Rubicon Trail

I had zero issues with our Defender XT-P throughout the two days on the trail. The Defender did everything I asked from it. Knowing that the Defender is primarily a utility vehicle that is stretching into the recreation segment is key to analyzing the performance.  It is certainly capable of tackling the entire Rubicon Trail and carrying a lot of gear while doing it. I ran with the rear differential locked and the front open for most of the trail and only locked the front when needed.  This system works well, but it is something that you need to physically engage.  I’d prefer it if the XT-P had Rock and Trail automatic modes like the Maverick X3 RC, but knowing that this rig won’t be rock crawling all the time makes that unpractical.

Can-Am Defender XT-P

Can-Am Defender XT-P at Buck Island on the Rubicon Trail

The Defender suffers from low ground clearance like all other utility vehicles. ITP Terra Hook tires definitely helped get the skid plate off the ground, but we still rode on the skid quite a bit. In this scenario,  skid plates will be put to the test so I was happy we installed the Factory UTV UHMW.

Can-Am Defender XT-P

ITP Terra Hook tires provide extra ground clearance and Factory UTV UHMW skid plate protects the underside .

Overall, I was very pleased with how the Defender XT-P handled the Rubicon Trail.  This type of terrain is more on the “extreme” side for a utility vehicle and the Defender proved it was up to the task.  If I was looking for a rock crawler, I’d certainly focus my search on a sportier vehicle, but if I needed a utility vehicle that can work hard and play hard as well, the Defender XT-P is a great choice.

More Can-Am Defender Resources

Warn Axon 55-S Winch Installation on our Can-Am Defender XT-P

New ITP Terra Hook tire available in nine sizes

Trail Ride in our 2018 Can-Am Defender XT-P HD10

Offset Field Mowing with our Kunz Engineering AcrEase Rough Cut Mower and Can-Am Defender HD10 XT-P

2020 Can-Am Defender Accessories



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