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Sunday, June 16, 2024

A Beginner’s Guide to Overlanding

Photo by ianmcdonnell via iStock

Are you ready to hit the open road? Do you want to pack up your vehicle and get away from it all for a few days, weeks, or even months?

Then overlanding is for you…

But how do you get into overlanding as a beginner? 

In this beginner’s guide to overlanding, we’ll hit the highlights of some of the most critical things you need to consider before taking off on an overlanding adventure.

We’ll talk about overlanding vehicles, essential gear, and staying safe, so let’s get to it!

What is Overlanding?

Overlanding Van parked next to a river under a rainbow

Photo by oksanaphoto via iStock

You can consult our overlanding vs off-roading comparison for a detailed review of how these pursuits are similar and different.

But for a short and quick answer, overlanding is like backpacking with your car. You cover long distances, carry everything you need with you, and make it about the journey and things you see and do along the way, rather than worry about the destination.

Many folks that overland do it simply to see the scenery as they drive. Others bring along their mountain bike, kayak, fishing poles, and other gear to enjoy outdoor pursuits as they travel.

What You Need in an Overlanding Vehicle?

Huge overlanding RV

Photo by Balashark via iStock

You don’t need to go hog wild for an overlanding vehicle. You can actually overland in any vehicle – a truck or SUV, a station wagon or motorcycle. It’s really up to you and what you want your overlanding trip to look and feel like.

You can overland in a two-wheel-drive vehicle, AWD, or four-wheel-drive. Heck, you can make a Volkswagen Bug into an overlanding vehicle if you want! 

If you plan to leave the tarmac, though, you should seriously consider having AWD or four-wheel-drive to enhance your vehicle’s capabilities off-road.

Jeeps, Land Rovers, and Land Cruisers are all well-loved in the overlanding community in large part because of their ability to handle off-road situations.

SUV next to a tent at a lake

Photo by mysticenergy via iStock

No matter what vehicle you use, having one with a good suspension, good ground clearance, and off-road tires is certainly a benefit.

While you’re at it, a vehicle with good storage space is a bonus. After all, if your vehicle is your backpack, you’ll need room for all your gear.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you need a station wagon or SUV, either. You can get a roof rack or if you have a truck, get a bed cover or a bed rack (or both) to give you more space to store the necessities for your trip.

Pro Tip: Whatever vehicle you use for your overlanding trip, know its limitations. Not every vehicle can tackle the Rubicon Trail! If you don’t have a capable off-roader, stick to well-maintained roads in order to minimize the risk of getting stuck or damaging your vehicle.

Beginner’s Guide to Overlanding: Basic Gear for Your Vehicle

Overland Camping at night with a 4x4 and tent

Photo by mato750 via iStock

There is certain gear you’ll want to think about getting before you set out. While this is not a comprehensive list, it should get you pointed in the right direction. Also remember that not all of these accessories are necessary for every overlanding situation. It’s just a general guide!

  • High-Lift Jack – These jacks are bigger, better, and stronger than the one in your trunk. It will prove to be a valuable resource if you get a flat. It can also be used in recovery situations to help you get unstuck.
  • Tire repair kit – You might be hours away from the nearest repair shop. Having tire repair items with you can save your bacon!
  • Tool kit – Bring along things like a socket set, a multi-tool, zip ties, duct tape, and other tools that can help you fix up your vehicle on the road.
  • Shovel – A good, solid shovel is a must-have for your overlanding rig.
  • Tow Strap – A basic necessity for getting yourself (or someone else) out of a jam.
  • Spare items – Things like extra fuses, belts, hoses, oil, and tires are necessary for long journeys.

Of course, there are some off-road mods you might consider making as well. Check this guide for some of our favorite vehicle modifications if you plan to get off the beaten path on your overlanding trip.

Learn More:

Other Overlanding Gear

eggs cooking in cast iron pan with SUV in the background

Photo by sshepard via iStock

Remember as well that you’ll have all sorts of gear with you that might need mending. A needle and thread is useful for patching torn clothes or a hole in your tent. A screwdriver is handy for tightening up loose screws on your car, camp chair, or roof rack as well.

Since you’ll be on the road for an extended period of time, you’ll need something to keep your food in, means of refrigeration (either via a cooler or a small fridge for the car), kitchen items like a camp stove, pots and pans, plates and bowls, and the like, and water storage.

Include a first-aid kit as well. You never know when you might need it!

Woman with map on the hood of a 4x4

Photo by swissmediavision via iStock

I always bring printed maps of my intended route, too. While GPS is great, batteries can die (or the GPS can simply be wrong), so having a good ol’ map will give you some peace of mind.

A satellite phone isn’t a bad idea for extended trips, particularly if you aren’t sure of the cell service. I also have a CB radio installed in my Jeep to give me extra reach in case of an emergency in which I don’t have cell service.

Of course, you need items like a tent, sleeping bags and pads, camp furniture, and other “household” items for your trip. Fortunately, using your car as your backpack means you don’t have to worry as much about weight.

Pro Tip: You don’t need to bring your entire house with you. Don’t overload your vehicle as it will put undue stress on the suspension in addition to negatively impacting the fuel economy.

Guide to Overlanding: Planning and Preparation is Key

Silhouette of a Person sitting by a fire with their 4x4 overland camping

Photo by Huseyin Bostanci via iStock

Overlanding isn’t really something you should do on a whim. Planning and preparation will be key to your success – and your safety as you travel.

Having things like extra food, extra water, spare parts, and extra fuel will help get you through emergency situations. But so too will understanding basic first aid, how to read a map, and how to use a compass.

Using common sense helps too – read road signs, pay attention to potential hazards, use good judgement as you travel, and understand what your vehicle can and cannot reasonably do. Also tell someone when you leave, where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and when you expect to arrive. Check in periodically so your contact knows where you last were.

This isn’t meant to make you think that overlanding is hard or dangerous. But having a safety net to support you is critical whether you’re going off on a weekend trip a few hours from home or whether you’re setting out for a three-month cross-country trip.

So, if you’re ready to go overlanding, use these tips and our other overlanding articles to help you plan and prepare. It’ll be a fun journey – especially if you have all the right gear to help you along!

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