People have been overlanding for a long time but I feel like its popularity has really blown up in recent years, or maybe I’ve just been paying more attention to it I don’t know. Anyways, It’s always looked really cool to me, going out in the boonies being responsible for taking everything you need to survive with you in one vehicle. I think one of the coolest aspects of it are all the damn accessories and really cool gadgets you can take and outfit your vehicles with! The overlanding industry is huge and there are many cool builds that manufacturers put together to show off their stuff. There is also a wide variety of vehicles that can be used, most of which are medium sized SUVs and pickup trucks. To me, outfitting your vehicle for overlanding has an almost “prepper” thing about it which I admit, interests me quite a bit. That’s no surprise as its prepping for self-reliant travel into remote destinations. Im sure its different for everyone but let’s talk about some of the vehicles that make good overlanding candidates and what you might want to take on your adventures.This will be just scratching the surface though as there are so many options and variables in the overlanding community.
For starters i’m going to say the vehicle must be four-wheel-drive unless you are really looking for a challenge. Most places people want to go and explore are off the beaten path and require adequate traction, ground clearance, and general off-road capability. I think the first vehicle hat comes to mind is the jeep family of vehicles for obvious reasons. I imagine the most popular pick for overlanders is the newer JK platform as they are available in 4 door unlimited trim and more interior room than previous models. It’s a wise choice as I can’t think of an off-road biased line with more aftermarket support than the Wrangler. The Wrangler has all the good stuff off-roaders want out of the box such as solid Dana axles, high ground clearance, and good suspension articulation. Upgrade to the top trim Rubicon and you get electronic lockers, larger tires, and electronic disconnecting sway bar. While you might reduce the off road capability a little going with the unlimited model on account of its longer wheelbase you would more than likely want the additional interior space provided, especially if you are taking company along. Overlanding isn’t about rock crawling anyways so the unlimited model would be a wise choice. Plus I imagine the longer wheelbase would make for a more comfortable ride on long trips.
Now i’m no overlanding expert here but from what I can see there are a few teams involved, at least here in the states. You have the Jeep team on one side and the Toyota team on the other. Toyota offers multiple models that are perfect for overlanding. The Tacoma, 4-Runner, and my personal favorite Land Cruiser, are all capable four wheel drives and heavily supported by the aftermarket. If I were going to pick a team it would be Toyota for me, especially if overlanding abroad. Toyotas are everywhere and finding parts for them in other countries would be easier I would think. They are also very reliable vehicles, not that Jeeps aren’t, but it’s hard to argue with Toyota’s reputation. I have been trying to talk my wife into a series 100 Land Cruiser for sometime. Not that we would use it for overlanding but more for a capable family hauler / camping vehicle, aka “mall crawler”. Maybe someday i could start outfitting it with fun stuff but it would probably see more pavement than anything. The Landcruiser is a larger SUV that was originally designed with off roading in mind but over the years became a more bloated luxury vehicle. They are still very capable off road and the whole car is overbuilt and designed for a long service life in the worst conditions this planet has to offer! The UN uses them in the harshest places on earth and they are trusted by many to get them to where they need to go no matter what.
At the core of overlanding is being self sufficient while being multiple days travel from civilization. Its planning ahead for whatever you might encounter in the great outdoors while getting to that special place that maybe no one else has ever been. First off you need a capable, reliable vehicle with enough room for you and whoever else you intend to bring on your adventure. Then you need to think about where you are going to sleep, how are you going to cook your food, do you have extra parts to fix your vehicle should it go down hundreds of miles away from the nearest town? If it were me id go with the roof-top tent option and keep myself up off the ground at night. As for cooking food that’s pretty easy as cooking food over a fire is just the best but you still have to start that fire. A small backup propane grill would be a good idea too. Vehicle wise, I’d be as nice as I could to my rig so that nothing catastrophic would happen haha. But it would be a good idea to carry a good quality tool set, recovery straps, shackles, spare belts and hoses for the engine, and a good high lift jack to help you out of those sticky situations. The high lift jack can be used with other auxiliary components to help in awkward circumstances as well. A good set of of sand tracks aren’t a bad idea either, I’d rather have them and not use them to need them and not have them! An onboard air compressor could be very useful as well as a deflator for airing down in certain situations. I could see it would be real easy to go overboard with the vehicle outfitting as there is just so much you can do and the aftermarket to support it is crazy. As in most cases a minimalist approach with quality stuff is probably your best bet.
There are many obvious things to bring along as well like food, cold storage, proper clothing, extra fuel, and hygiene supplies, but we could write a whole article on that alone. You don’t have to have a 100k rig or a new series 200 Land Cruiser to get started overlanding either. There are many who go the budget route and I think that’s the way to do it. For someone like me who would fall into the “weekenderlanding” category it would be a bit silly to build an all out overlanding expedition vehicle just to drive a hundred miles or so away to the nearest state park or public land. Plus I live in kansas so camping out in a cornfield in my roof top tent with my winches and high lift jack bolted on the back of my truck might be a little odd.Im sure there are some great places to go though that aren’t too far away. There are many good budget options out there too as long as they are mechanically sound. Any old Toyota or Jeep as mentioned earlier is a good choice. A full size pickup truck might be a good option too. Many are built pretty tough as they are meant to work, have good interior room, a whole bed to haul your gear, and most have four-wheel-drive as well. Not that road trips aren’t a blast but i think living somewhere that has a little easier access to remote places would be best suited for an overland rig so that it could be enjoyed more often but that’s just my two cents.
As I’ve been writing this I keep thinking of what my ideal vehicle would be for an overlanding rig. There are many good options that come to mind. A series 100 Land cruiser as I mentioned earlier would be pretty hard to beat for me and it would also be fairly budget friendly compared to a new vehicle. As good an option as it is a full size pickup truck would be just as good or better in my opinion. The LC is known for outstanding reliability but newer cars and trucks have come a long way. A full-size Tundra in supercrew configuration would be another good choice as it has ample interior space, four-wheel-drive, and plenty of power. A ford Raptor may be tempting as well but I feel like its a bit purpose built for dessert running or crossing terrain in a speedy fashion. For me though I think a real good pick would be a 2010 and up Dodge Ram Power Wagon. It’s a big full size truck which could be a hindrance on tight trails so that’s a factor but overlanding isn’t about technical offroading and it’s pretty hard to beat a full size HD pickup truck for toughness. The big Dodge comes with pretty decent hardware from the factory as well.
What you get with the Power Wagon is a good ol manual transfer case, solid axle, body on frame pickup truck but with some other goodies. You also get lockable front and rear differentials, remote disconnecting front sway bar, 4.56 gearing, a 2” lift, 32” tires, skid plates for all the important stuff, Bilstein shocks, and a built in Warn winch in the front bumper. That’s a pretty good setup already straight from the factory. A 35” tire would go under it with no problem and there is more than enough power from the Hemi V-8 under the hood. It’s a thirsty engine but it’s no worse than the old Land Cruiser or other V8 options plus it has a 34 gallon fuel tank which is handy for the longer adventures. It also has a high output alternator which is great for running auxiliary stuff. As much as I wished they would have offered the Power Wagon with a turbo diesel option I think the gasser is better suited for off-roading. Diesels are heavy and they really like to sink in mud and sand. I would put a topper on the bed so that the whole back of the truck could be used for storage and id probably pull a purpose built overlanding trailer for even more storage. Those little trailers can be super cool and we could write an entire article on them as well! It’s going to take a part two of this overlanding newsletter to go through all of the cool gadgety stuff i’d outfit my rig with though.
So this has been just a bit on my thoughts about overlanding and the vehicles that seem to be popular pics but like I said there are so many options and opinions on what’s good and what you really need to overland properly. I think the beauty of it is in it’s basic, simplest form of getting out in the wilderness away from the bustle of daily life and go places most people don’t. Leave the screens and devices at home and enjoy the beautiful places this country/world has to offer. I think people need this now more than ever and as I have two children now this life looks more and more appealing to me every day! From all of us here at Gearbox have fun, be safe, go explore, and keep the shiny side up!