Overlanding starter's guide - Overlanding for beginners
Do you love to camp? Do you love taking long road trips? If you answered in the affirmative to both these questions you're going to love overlanding adventures. Overlanding is essentially extended camping trips that can take you deep off-road or just across the country, the destination is up to you but the excitement comes during the trip getting there.
Don't confuse overlanding with simple offroading
I love off-roading, whether it's ripping through the mud or conquering trails in my Jeep Wrangler both are a lot of fun, but at the end of the day I go back to my campsite or home to spend the next four or five hours cleaning my Jeep. This is not overlanding! A good way to think of overlanding is that it's backpacking in your off-road vehicle. You're going to strap everything that you think you're going to need on an extended backcountry Adventure, this includes all your recovery gear for when you will be off-roading and your camping gear because wherever you park is where you camp.
Your overlanding setup is going to be similar to an off-roading setup in that its platform is a 4x4 truck, Jeep or SUV but it also has equipment for self-reliance and extended stays in the wilderness off-grid. The overlanding rig will typically have built-in kitchens, solar power systems, a rooftop tent, a tow-behind trailer or it might be one of the large custom-built behemoths such as the BOCKLET DAKAR 700 Series that we featured in another article.
What type of vehicle do you want to use for overlanding?
Choosing the right vehicle for your overlanding adventure will depend on a few things such as where you plan on going and what your budget is. Most people when they start out will want to choose a vehicle that they're going to also use as their everyday driver do to their budget, and with a great variety of trail-ready 4x4’s available at the local car dealerships, this is very achievable. A few great overlanding starter vehicles would include the Jeep Wrangler, the Jeep Gladiator, the Toyota Tacoma, most 4x4 ½ ton or ¾ ton trucks, and even a few small crossovers such as the Subaru Outback are popular starting platforms.
Getting your overlanding rig setup can be a little bit expensive when you consider purchasing a camp kitchen, a rooftop tent, recovery gear, and all your typical camping supplies that you're trying to pack into the experience, but remember you are going to be saving on other expenses such as hotels, campsites, eating at restaurants.
We have seen many ½ and ¾ ton trucks that simply have a truck topper and a custom-built bed, kitchen, and storage system right in the box. These systems are much less expensive to put together if you're the handy type of person.
Whatever overlanding platform you choose it's going to need the following:
- Four-wheel-drive - Overlanding Expeditions typically include some pretty rough Terrain oh, it can be rocky, muddy, or extremely uneven ground where lesser two-wheel drive vehicles are not going to make it.
- Off-road suspension systems - Factory suspension systems are not typically designed for the rough Terrain you could be facing, make sure to upgrade the suspension or only purchase a vehicle that already has upgraded suspension.
- Undercarriage protection - your vehicle might take a few tree branches that scratch the paint or smash a light but the real damage occurs out of sight underneath and this is where you're going to need undercarriage protection to make sure vital components of your vehicle are not damaged and leave you stuck in the wilderness. Skid plates are a necessity.
- Torque is the answer - High-speed driving is not synonymous with overlanding, more typically you are going to need mass amounts of torque that will pull you up and over extreme terrain, or out of that mud pit you simply couldn't resist.
What type of accessories should you outfit your overlanding vehicle with?
TIRES - Get a grip - My mom used to say this to me all the time while listening to my outlandish ideas, little did I know that she was actually preparing me for my future passion of overlanding. Upgraded tires are a must when preparing your vehicle for an Overland Expedition, choosing the right tires depends on the type of expedition you plan on going on. Most people will choose a tire that has great traction Off-Road in a variety of situations but isn't too aggressive for the pavement and can be used as an everyday tire on their vehicle. All-terrain tires are usually the best choice.
SUSPENSION - As we discussed earlier Factory suspensions are just not designed for the torture you are going to put them through on the trails, these suspension systems will typically leave your body hurting from the beating you're taking in the interior and quite possibly a broken down vehicle. Choose a suspension system that can handle the bumps provided by the trails but still give you a relatively smooth drive when you're on pavement.
RECOVERY GEAR - Unless you really play it safe at some point you are going to get stuck and having a good bumper-mounted winch is the best way to rectify that situation. there are a number of aftermarket winch is available four different budgets and vehicles, you will need to determine how big of a winch you're going to need to get yourself out of a bind or help a fellow overlander. If your vehicle doesn't have enough torque and grip to get you out of a situation a bumper-mounted winch usually will. Add in a good hi-lift jack, shackles, snatch block, recovery strap and you've got the makings of an excellent recovery kit.
LIGHTING - I don't really recommend doing too much over landing at night as a can be incredibly dangerous but if you do find yourself in a situation where you don't have a lot of light you are going to which you outfitted your vehicle with auxiliary lights and light bars to light the trail up. Consider putting lights that will illuminate the front, the back, and the sides of your vehicle if required.
VEHICLE GUARDS - We talked earlier about the importance of skid plates underneath your vehicle, but it doesn't stop there. You're going to want to integrate rock slides, push guards, grille guards, and potentially even roll cages depending on the level of overlanding you decide to do. All of these things have the same purpose and that is to protect your vehicle from damage.
RAISED AIR INTAKE/ SNORKEL - If you plan on crossing any water during your adventures you might want to consider adding in a snorkel or a raised air intake system so that your engine can breathe even if most of the truck is underwater. In reality a raised air intake system is meant for reducing the amount of dust that gets sucked into the engine but many people associate it with Giving you the ability to drive through deep water, and yes it will assist in this situation but be careful as many other problems can occur by crossing deep water.
RACKING - Having a great racking system will provide you with much-needed storage that you're going to need an extended overlanding trips. Racking systems also give you the ability to take along your bicycles, canoe, or kayaks.
ROOFTOP OR TRUCKBED TENTS - At some point you are going to need a place to sleep and having a good rooftop or truck bed tent is an awesome option. These tents have come a long way in the last few years and are very easy to set up call Mama or dismantle. The pack down nice and small and don't take a lot of time in comparison to setting up a typical campsite.
What about overlanding trailers?
Let's be clear, we are not talking about fifth wheels or 24 ft tow behind that the Weekend Warriors are taking to the campgrounds. those types of trailers are not going to stand up to the beatings provided by off-road trails and will simply break down quickly. What we are talking about is custom-designed, specially built tow behind trailers made for the overlanding lifestyle. This market is growing incredibly fast and there are a number of different trailer designs on the market today at varying price points. Be prepared for a little bit of sticker shock as the upgraded suspension systems and higher quality builds required cost substantially more than the cheaper built trailers you're going to find in the campground. Cost can run anywhere from $12,000 to $80,000 pretty easily.
You can actually watch our video on YouTube where we talked about five of our favorite overlanding trailers here: OUR TOP 5 OVERLAND TRAILERS
This is just a shortlist of many overland trailers that are available on the market today, do your own research and decide based on the type of trails you want to tackle, how many people you need to sleep, and the towing capacity of your vehicle.
Here are a few other essentials that you are going to want to take on your overlanding trip.
Camp cooking system - There are many options here, right from portable camp stoves and plugin coolers that you simply store in your vehicle to full camp kitchens that are built into the back of your vehicle. Don't forget to take utensils and dinnerware and one of the most forgotten things, a can opener.
Air Mattress & Sleeping Bags - Getting a good night's sleep is always important and having a comfortable air mattress and the proper sleeping bags to keep you comfortable depending on the weather you are going to be out in is essential. Some winter campers will even pack an electric heated blanket for added warmth.
Water - During our survival courses we are always talking about the need for water and many people will simply take one liter of water per person per day, but I do think that this is not enough and you should plan for 1 gallon of water per person per day but you plan on being off-grid. there is a good chance that you are going to find a water source but you can purify along your journey but always lean to the area of caution and carry at least 7 gallons of water per person starting out your trip. Always carry a water filtration system, they are inexpensive, small, and could absolutely save your life one day.
Food - Remember this is not your typical camping trip and you might not be able to just run over to a local grocery store and replenish your food supply, so stock up at least 7 days more worth of food supplies then you plan on being off-grid for.
Cans of Fuel - Nothing brings an expedition trip to a stop quicker than running out of fuel. Make sure you stock up a few extra jerry cans full of the required fuel just in case. Remember this is extra over and above what you calculate you're going to need for your trip, this is emergency fuel.
First Aid Kit - We are not talking about a little first aid kit where you keep a couple of extra bandages, we are talking about an advanced first aid kit that has a blood stopper kit, tourniquets, allergy medication, pain medication, splints, tick removal kits and of course gauze and bandages for the inevitable scrapes and cuts you are going to get.
Do not cheap out on first aid, emergencies can happen at any time and not having a proper first aid kit can make the difference between life and death.
Fire Extinguisher - Make sure you get the proper fire extinguisher for your needs, and in this case it's going to be an automotive rated fire extinguisher. when off-roading Vehicles can pick up combustible materials such as leaves and sticks but get lodged up into the engine bay and have the potential of catching fire, having a good fire extinguisher at the ready could mean the difference between a saved trip and a completely destroyed overlanding set up or worse.
Power Supply - We all like to carry a lot of electronics these days and they require power. Having a good power supply system such as portable solar panels that can recharge a small power pack such as the Jackery 500, which is what I went with, or a full-fledged gas-burning generator. One thing that I do really like above the small generators is that you have the ability to recharge them off your vehicle while you're driving around.
Camp Shower - Camp showers are awesome, after a couple of days on the road and nothing is going to feel as good as a hot shower and there have been many advances in portable shower systems that are reasonably inexpensive. You can get just a passive solar shower that will heat up just using the Sun or you could opt for a small portable boiler system that uses propane to give you that hot shower you're looking for.
CB Radio - Did you know that CB radio actually stands for citizens band radio? CB Radio Service consists of 40 different channels, And although there are limited to 4 watts of power they can actually reach considerable distance at that power and you do not need a license to operate one. Truckers will often use CB Radio and can be reached in the event of an emergency, CB is also used frequently on backcountry Roads such as logging roads, and in some cases, you are required to have one before being allowed on that road.
GPS - Having GPS available for any area that you are unfamiliar with is a great idea, GPS stands for global positioning system and their digital maps that are available via satellites. using a GPS will help you set waypoints and keep you from getting lost.
Vehicle Recovery Traction Mats - Sometimes it doesn't matter how aggressive the tires are on your 4x4 are, you are still going to need more traction. This is where vehicle recovery traction mats come in. They are lightweight, easy-to-use, and provide you with the grip needed to get out of messy situations.
Personal Location Beacon - Your overlanding rig should always be outfitted with a personal location beacon, these beacons are outfitted with a Ham Radio and can alert search and rescue teams of your location within minutes AB activation. Although you are not allowed to operate a ham radio without a license this is the exception if it is an emergency situation and you are lost.
A few more considerations before starting your Overland Adventure
Off-Road Driving Course - Because of the growing popularity in overlanding there have been many companies that started offering Overland driving courses. These professional instructors will teach you many different topics on how to deal with overlanding situations not just the driving part, you will learn how to operate your vehicle safely, get yourself out of sticky situations, and put you on a path to being able to successfully navigate the great outdoors.
Learning to properly prepare and learning skills such as trip planning, preparation, driving techniques, vehicle recovery, route navigation, field mechanics, and of course safety training will allow you to enjoy the overlanding experience for the rest of your life.
Consider A Buddy System If New To Overlanding - If you are new to the world of overlanding you might want to consider the buddy system where you hit the trails together so if you run into a problem you will have some help. Sometimes using the buddy system can just mean a much more enjoyable trip where you get to share your experiences with other people.
How much does it cost to go overlanding?
Probably the most frequent question that we receive in regards to overlanding is how much does it cost? and in all honesty this number varies greatly depending on your starting budget. You can get into overlanding for as little less 7 to $10,000 or as much as $1,000,000 if you want one of the extreme RV systems available. Most people starting out should budget for approximately 50 to $60,000 including their everyday driving vehicle.
once you have all your investment complete overlanding becomes very inexpensive and your expedition can cost as little as $30 a day including fuel and food. Of course this depends on your vehicle and how far you want to travel each day but remember to take some time and enjoy the environment during your trip, that is what overlanding is all about.