Overlanding 101: Why Should It Be Your Next Activity?

Overlanding continues to gain more popularity as people are looking for ways to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life in the city. Many people are getting interested in this form of adventure where they could drive away for a relaxing and secluded getaway. It is a perfect opportunity to explore new places, discover unique sceneries, and learn more about different histories and cultures. 

What is Overlanding?

Overlanding is a self-sufficient and vehicle-reliant exploration with the journey itself as the goal. It is similar to backpacking, but you will travel long distances with your own vehicle. Overlanding is somehow identical to road trips. However, instead of spending hours driving to a stretch of highways to reach the destination, you can drive anywhere you want to go. The destinations are often spontaneous, and it is up to you if you want to stop and stay for some time in certain places. 

It is also often confused with off-roading. Although you get to enjoy driving on trails and terrains, the type of road doesn’t matter with overlanding. Overlanding can take you to rough terrains, but the main objective is to explore rather than testing your vehicle’s limitations and overcoming obstacles. You can traverse on any uneven surfaces and even off the grid, but you still get to drive through paved roads and cities too. 

Camping is a primary mode of accommodation, but it is temporary and out of necessity. Most overlanders only stop to eat and rest before continuing their journey. They pack light, usually with the minimal sleeping arrangement, for an easy setup similar to truck camping. However, the duration of your stay in a campground is still your call. Since you will be camping most of the time, accommodation is generally inexpensive. You don’t have to worry about booking hotel reservations. 

Overlanding encompasses these various aforementioned outdoor activities. There’s plenty of things you get to enjoy while you experience the great outdoors and discover new places in the comfort of your vehicle. Depending on your goal, overlanding can last for about an extended period of time. It can be a 100-mile trip from home, a drive across the country, and even an expedition to another continent. 

Why Should You Try It?

Overlanding has become a growing trend, attracting different outdoor enthusiasts such as campers, hikers, and off-roaders. It can be a cost-effective way to travel when you already have your own vehicle. You just have to install better tires like all-terrain Toyo tires to handle different types of surfaces and long travel periods. The growing catalog of more capable and affordable 4×4 vehicles such as SUVs and pickup trucks, including the equipment to improve the existing rig, makes overlanding more accessible.

Overlanding is a fun and challenging activity that lets you expand your horizon and step out of your comfort zone. It offers plenty of opportunities for growth, self-sufficiency, additional knowledge, and skill enhancement. The adventure provides an immersive feel to traveling, in-depth exposure to different places, and a chance to interact with locals and other travelers. You can experience most of these at your own pace and terms. 

This vehicle-related activity offers exciting adventures with lots of possibilities to create unforgettable memories. You get to bask in nature to relieve the stress of staying in the city. You get to travel and wander to remote places where you can learn about local culture, history, and lifestyle. It can be an eye-opening journey where you get to try new things that you would never consider trying. 

Vehicle Needed

There are plenty of vehicle types that are capable of overlanding. These rigs include SUVs, pickup trucks, crossovers, vans, and even motorcycles. All-wheel drive and 4WD vehicles are the perfect fit for the task, but the best vehicle to take on the journey is the one you already have. This notion is true as long as your vehicle is properly maintained and you are comfortable about its capability and reliability on a long-term trip. But if you want a dedicated rig for overlanding, here are some of the starter vehicles that you might want to consider. 

1. Toyota 4Runner, Tacoma, and FJ-Cruiser

Toyota is well-known for its reliability. As long as they’re well-maintained, any of these Toyota rigs would make an excellent choice for a starter overland vehicle. They have decent fuel economy and are durable and highly reliable for expeditions and overlanding trips. They have uncomplicated driving systems making it easier for beginners to handle the rig. Toyota parts and services are widely available, even worldwide. They also have a massive amount of aftermarket support, so you can customize your rig to make overlanding easier and more comfortable. 

2. Jeep Cherokee XJ

The Jeep Cherokee XJ stands out as the ideal vehicle for both overland and off-road. It is one of the most budget-friendly SUVs around. It is proven to be highly efficient and capable of long-term travel and tackling challenging terrains. It has an adequate towing and hauling capacity, suitable for taking other recreational vehicles. It has spacious storage for your stuff. It also has tons of aftermarket support and equipment for both overlanding and off-roading.

3. Ford F-Series 

Pickup trucks have been a common choice for a starter overland vehicle. Ford F-Series trucks like the F-150 are a popular choice among pickup trucks for overlanding because of their numerous features and practicality. It has decent fuel economy and range compared to other full-size pickup trucks. You can modify the truck to enhance its overall performance and make it more comfortable and functional to live in. The use of the truck bed is not limited to storage space since it doubles as a platform to set up a tent for camping. Proper truck wheels and tires and a good suspension can make the truck more formidable in overlanding and off-roading, even during unexpected weather conditions. 

Where To Go?

There are many overlanding routes to explore, from tedious to scenic and beginner to intermediate, making it difficult to choose which one to take to kick off your adventure. Here are some of the trails and routes ideal for minimal vehicle build and those just getting into overlanding.

  • Mojave Road, California

The Mojave Road is a historic 138-mile route with a remarkable desert landscape cutting across Mojave National Preserve. This route is rich with history, being a Native American trade route and wagon trail that has remained unchanged for about 150 years. Spring and summer is the best season to visit the route, and it takes 2-3 days to explore the desert landscape. 

  • Valley of the Gods Road, Utah

The Valley of the Gods is the shortest overland route with a 17-mile loop that can take at least a day or two to explore. The route is easily accessible to beginners due to its mild dirt and gravel track. It offers scenic overland landscapes close to Utah, Arizona, and Colorado. 

  • Rubicon Trail, California

The Rubicon Trail is a classic 22-mile long overland route located across the Sierra Nevada region of California. It is known for its rugged dirt trails and paved roads with a scenic view of some landscapes in California. The trail offers plenty of off-roading opportunities making it a popular destination for off-road enthusiasts. Car manufacturers test out their 4×4 vehicles on some parts of the trail. 

  • Trans-America Overland Trail

This route is the single longest overland trail in the USA, spanning across the Atlantic to the Pacific side of the country. It is approximately 5,000 miles that can take at least a month to complete. The trail is moderate and ideal for beginners, with a lot of paths for off-pavement driving. 

  • Baja Peninsula, California

The Baja is a 760-mile long peninsula south of the US border. It has a stretch of beaches and shorelines and a contrast of desert landscapes and scenic jagged mountains. Baja feels like a paradise rather than an overland trail. It is safe and easy to travel with a diverse location for camping, including secluded campgrounds and beaches. 

  • The Pan American Highway

The Pan American Highway is known as the longest road in the world, spanning 19,000 miles across 18 countries. The highway starts in Alaska all the way to Argentina. This overland route is probably the most popular, and every overlander has included it on their bucket list. Driving through the Pan American Highway can be an adventure of a lifetime that can take nine months to 2 years to complete the whole trip. It may be a daunting journey since it will test your driving, mapping, and navigation skills, but it is quite achievable for beginners. 

What To Bring?

The things you pack will depend on the overland route of your choice and the duration of the trip. It is important to prepare before setting out on your journey. Here are some of the essential items you need to bring to make your overlanding safe and comfortable. 

  • Camping Gear and Provisions

Bring a tent for a convenient shelter whenever you need to settle for the night. A portable kitchen and cooking supplies come in handy for cooking meals in the wilderness. Don’t forget to pack enough food and water supply for the trip. If you are using a truck, you can store most of your camping equipment on the truck bed by securing it with a tonneau cover

  • First Aid Kit

A first aid kit has always been a must-have on any trip. The kit should contain bandaids, alcohol, antiseptic solutions, ointments, sterile gauzes, plasters, painkillers, and vitamins. 

  • Toolkit

Bring tools such as pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches, jacks, crowbar, and duct tape. These tools are essential for basic car repair and maintenance. Basic knowledge and skill in car repair are also required. 

  • Spare Parts

Automotive shops can be miles away from the wilderness. Make sure you have some spare parts like radiator hose, spare belts, wheel bearings, fluids like engine oil and coolant, and repair supplies. Carry a spare tire and extra fuel as well. 

This list just covers the basic and essential items you need. You can add more stuff that you like or will need for your journey. After every overland trip, you can always revise your list since not every route and trail will give you the same experience. It is easy to start and get into overlanding when you already have a vehicle to take you on a journey. You can always go for a test trip to get a general idea of the activity and see if this is something you will enjoy. 

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