Getting out into the backcountry doesn’t mean that you have to throw a heavy backpack on and stumble through the woods. Packing your gear up into your 4x4 vehicle and hitting the trail is one of the best ways to get way the heck out there!
Overlanding has swept the world over the last couple of years. More and more people are building out an overlanding vehicle to create memories that will last a lifetime with friends and family.
Put simply, overlanding is when you use your vehicle to explore rough terrain to access remote areas in nature. Your trip is centered around the fact that you and your vehicle are self-sufficient. Sound like fun? Well stick around and you’ll learn everything that you need to know about what overlanding is and how to get started yourself!
What is Overlanding?
As mentioned earlier, overlanding is when you use your vehicle to explore rough terrain to access remote areas in nature. But how is that different than car camping or RVing?
Well, the first thing to keep in mind when considering the difference between car camping and overlanding is where it is that you’ll be exploring. Car camping seldom if ever gets away from the main campgrounds and paved roads. Your experience car camping can be pretty tame in comparison to overlanding as you’re not having to run your vehicle over large boulder fields or through creeks. Most of the time, you can access the campground without any sort of adrenaline pumping action. And that’s totally fine! Some folks don’t necessarily want that and there’s nothing wrong with car camping. It’s just not overlanding.
The same idea applies to RVing. Most of the time, RVs are not outfitted to do well on non-paved roads. They’re less maneuverable, which makes passing through narrow parts of the road very difficult. Plus, they can be very heavy. This makes it pretty difficult to get up and over steep terrain.
Overlanding requires that you have a vehicle that can perform well in rough, rocky terrain, squeeze through narrow passages of road, and be light enough to climb up steep grades. In most cases, to access gnarlier terrain and to get way the heck out there, your vehicle also needs some pretty significant modifications to ensure that it can handle what the trail has to throw at it.
So, what sort of vehicles are best for overlanding and how much modification do they need to be trail worthy?
What are the Best Vehicles for Overlanding?
There are so many vehicles that you can take overlanding. Pretty much anything that you can modify to take on the trail and bring everything that you need to be self-sufficient can be used as an overlanding vehicle. From motorcycles to pick-up trucks, there’s someone out using one to get into the deep backcountry! To keep things easy, we’re going to stick to the two best and most common vehicles you’ll see out overlanding: the Jeep Wrangler and the Toyota Tacoma.
Jeeps are made for getting you deep into the backcountry. Developed in 1941, Jeeps were originally made to help transport troops and equipment on the battlefields of WWII. They needed to be able to crawl over varying terrain as war tends to tear up once smooth roads.
The first Jeeps saw action in Europe as well as in the Pacific and performed incredibly well. So well, that an entire automotive company was born to produce high quality adventure vehicles for the general public for years and years to come!
Jeep makes several models of vehicle, but the one that is the best for overlanding is the Jeep Wrangler. These vehicles are made to be taken off road right from the dealership! Each one comes fully equipped with 4x4 drive, which is a requirement if you’re going to do any serious backcountry travel. They’re also incredibly easy to maintain since most of the parts that are built into a Jeep Wrangler are not dependent on electricity to work. That means that they usually come with manual locks and windows. While this may be a bit of an inconvenience, the pros of not having to worry about replacing expensive and difficult to install parts far outweighs the cons of not having power locks and windows.
Wranglers are also really easy to find parts to modify. Jeep designed them to be modular, so pretty much any part from any Wrangler can be used to help with repairs. And when you beat your vehicle up on the regular by taking down rough trails, you’re going to want to have a vehicle that is easy to repair.
The biggest downside to Jeeps is that they have very limited storage space inside of them. You have to get pretty creative when mounting all of your camping and recovery gear to them.
If you’re looking to spend a lot of time in the backcountry, you’re going to need to bring plenty of gear to sustain you. Enter the Toyota Tacoma. These bomb proof trucks are great for overlanding as they are as capable as Jeeps in getting up and over gnarly terrain, but they also offer a boatload more storage space. The beds of Tacomas allow you to bring as much gear as you need to be comfortable and safe for just about as long as you have fuel to keep going!
Toyota is a brand that is synonymous with longevity. Many Toyota vehicles have lasted far beyond 200,000 miles, making Tacomas ideal for those who want to get a high-quality ride that will last for years and years to come.
Similar to the Jeep Wrangler, Tacomas are very easy to find parts for to modify. This is important as the main goal that any overlander should have is to get their truck lifted to provide more clearance. There are tons of excellent options to lift and modify Tacomas, so the real challenge comes in the form of narrowing down your list to getting a lift that will fit your needs and your budget!
The bed feature is what gets a lot of people to buy Tacomas over Jeeps. Tacomas come in 2 lengths of beds: 5’ and 6’. In each case, you can customize the storage options of the bed in a variety of ways. You can put a cargo rack on the back to attach gas cans, water cans, and recovery gear to. You can also put a camper shell on the back to keep all of your gear secure and also use to sleep in at camp. The options are pretty much endless!
You really can’t go wrong with either vehicle. Both are very capable of taking on incredibly rough country and have plenty of options for modifying the suspension and tires to create an absolute unit of a machine.
What Gear do I Need for Overlanding?
Once you’ve figured out which vehicle you’re going to use to go overlanding and made the proper modifications to ensure that it will meet the challenges of the trail, you need to build out your overlanding kit! Everyone is different in terms of what they want to bring overlanding, so the best thing to do is to check out the various forums on sites like Reddit and Tacoma World to get ideas on how to best outfit your truck. In general, you want to bring along the following to have the best overlanding experience you can.
- Sleeping bags
- Cooking gear (pan, plates, forks, knives, cutting board, seasonings, etc.)
- First aid kit
- Camp table (get one that rolls up for easy storage)
- Water jugs
- Fire starters
- Cooler (and plenty of beer!)
- Easy to heat up/cook meals
- Traction pads
- Winch or come along
- A large jack
- Wheel chalks
- Tool kit roll with rachets and wrenches
- Battery operated air compressor
- Tire pressure gage
- Extra gas cans
- Fire extinguisher
The biggest pro tip here is to be as organized as you can be. You want to be able to access all of your gear when you need it and you can’t do that if you can’t find it! A really easy way to organize your gear without spending a ton of money is to put everything into stackable storage bins based on what it is. Keep cooking items together in one bin and recovery gear items together in another. And always try to secure your gear in your vehicle as it’s going to get bumpy out on the trail and you don’t want your stuff flying all over the place!
Overlanding opens a world of opportunity to put yourself in the way of beauty. Nothing beats getting in your vehicle and just driving down a rough trail to find the most scenic spots on Earth. You can really go as far out as your vehicle will take you!
Additionally, overlanding is an extremely fun hobby to get into. People are constantly posting their rig set ups on social media outlets like TikTok, Instagram, and Reddit, giving you plenty of opportunities to be social and build relationships with other like-minded people while you share your experiences as well. Plus, camping is a great way to get social!
And the ability to get away from the crowds in popular destinations like Moab, UT, Ouray, CO, and Death Valley, CA is one of the best perks of going overlanding!
One more thing to keep in mind is that if you love adventure, you need a wallet that keeps up with you on the trail. Axwell invests in better production practices, higher-quality materials, and timeless designs so you can buy one wallet that is just as rugged and long lasting as your overlanding rig!
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