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When you head out on an overlanding adventure – whether it’s for a few days or a few months – one of your biggest expenses will be fuel.
Resigning yourself to the fact that your truck, SUV, RV, or whatever kind of vehicle you have will get whatever gas mileage it will get is the wrong way to think about it. Instead, you should consider what you can do to help your rig get the best fuel economy possible.
With that in mind, let’s learn how to save fuel when overlanding, that way you have some spare money for your trip.
Check Tire Pressure A LOT
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One of the simplest things you can do to improve the fuel economy of your vehicle is to check the tire pressure regularly and ensure the tires are inflated properly.
If the tires aren’t inflated enough, it can dramatically reduce your fuel economy. And when you’re traveling a long distance, a reduction of just one or two percent in fuel efficiency can really add up to some big bucks.
So, before you head out, check the pressure of your tires and inflate them to the recommended PSI. Then, while you’re out on the road, periodically check the pressure, particularly if there have been major changes in the temperature or if you’ve changed elevations.
How to Save Fuel When Overlanding: Take It Easy on the Gas Pedal
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Flooring it when you’re merging onto the freeway isn’t going to do you any favors in the fuel efficiency department, nor is trying to maintain 70 MPH on the highway when in reality you should be easing back and cruising at 65 MPH.
When you mash on the gas, you’re diminishing the fuel economy by as much as 30 percent. And fuel economy takes a similar hit when you try to cruise at warp speed.
Similarly, if there’s a lot of speeding up and slowing down, you’ll notice a drastic dip in fuel economy. Instead, you should strive to maintain a consistent speed. This might mean you drive a little slower to avoid running up behind someone and having to pass them. It also means using cruise control when possible to allow your vehicle to maintain a consistent speed on its own.
Don’t Pack the Kitchen Sink
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Another easy piece of advice for how to save fuel when overlanding is to not overpack. When I go out for an overlanding trip I am always guilty of trying to take too much stuff. But loading up my rig with too much gear only costs me more money in fuel (in addition to the time and effort I expend loading all that extra stuff and then having to unload it when I get home).
Every little bit helps when it comes to shedding weight from your overlanding vehicle. From reducing how much food you bring to how much clothing you have to substituting real plates with paper ones, there’s many different things you can do to shave some pounds here and there.
One of the best ways to save weight, though, is to only bring as much water as you need. That is, if you’re going out for a weekend, you might not need to fill the 40-gallon fresh water tank in your RV. Perhaps 30 gallons will be enough. Well, that 10 gallons of water weighs about 83 pounds, so that’s 83 pounds less that your vehicle needs to carry on the first leg of the trip.
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You should also try to get some of your supplies when you’re at or near your destination. For example, rather than throwing a bunch of firewood in the back of your truck when you leave, think about buying some on your way, that way your vehicle doesn’t have to deal with carrying that extra weight.
Go through your gear as well. If you find items that you can’t recall when you last used them, take them out of your rig and leave them behind.
How to Save Fuel When Overlanding: Balance the Load
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Don’t just throw all your gear willy-nilly into your overlanding rig and call it good. Not only is this not safe, but it can also lead to poor handling on the road that can ruin your fuel economy.
When you pack, keep heavy gear near the bottom of the vehicle. Additionally, spread the load out so that the load is balanced from front to back and side to side. This will help balance the vehicle – whether you’re driving an RV or pulling a trailer – and will enable you to have a smoother ride with better fuel economy.
Also try to minimize the profile of your rig to the extent possible. For example, my bike is mounted on rails on top of my truck bed. This keeps my bike behind the cab and creates less drag than if I had the bike mounted on top of my truck or my trailer.
None of the tips in this article are rocket science by any means. They’re just common sense tips that can result in significant fuel savings – and more money in your pocket. So, before you head out for your next overlanding adventure, take these tips on how to save fuel when overlanding to heart, prepare your rig for your trip, and use the money you save to buy something cool!