Overlanding: How to Get Started [Detailed Guide]
If you are looking to get started with overlanding or want to know what it is all about, you have come to the right place.
Overlanding has gained a lot of popularity in the past few years. Even though it's only now gaining popularity, off-roaders and adventure enthusiasts have been doing it for a long time. In fact, The first-ever Overlanding expedition took place in the early 1900s.
"For me, it's adventure, freedom, exploring, going anywhere, seeing things that most people don't get to see or do, and most importantly...meeting people with the same passion for adventure."
- Overland Bound User on why he loves overlanding
In the following sections, we'll discuss everything you need to know to get started with overlanding:
- What is Overlanding?
- Essential Overlanding Gear
- Top Overlanding Trails to Try
- Inspiring Overlanding Vehicles
- Overlanding Tips from Experienced Overlanders
What is Overlanding?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, Overlanding simply means to travel across the land in a vehicle, on foot, or on a horse.
However, A slightly more accurate definition goes like this: Overlanding is a self-reliant adventure where a person or group travels to a remote destination with their vehicle.
We think the primary goal of overlanding is just to enjoy the journey of getting to your destination and explore as much as much nature as possible (This, of course, can differ from person to person).
Overlanding vs Off Roading: Is there any difference?
People often ask us if off-roading and overlanding are the same things. Even though overlanding is sort of a brainchild of off-roading, they are pretty different from each other.
Here's a table that explains the primary difference between off-roading and overlanding.
|Driving on unsurfaced roads or tracks, surfaces such as sand, gravel, riverbeds, mud, snow, rocks, etc||Driving to remote locations via both surfaced and unsurfaced roads.|
|Goal: Have fun driving on fun terrain||Goal: To explore and enjoy nature|
|Typically completed in 1 day||Last few days to months depending on the destination|
|Doesn't require camping gear||Requires camping gear|
Essential Overlanding Gear
As overlanding expeditions usually take days or even months to complete, It requires you to carry around some essential gear with you to make your adventure more comfortable and keep your mind at ease if something goes sideways.
In the following section, we will go through some of the essential overlanding gear you can't miss to take on your adventures.
Overlanding Gear for Kitchen
Never run out of good water. With a water filter by your side, you can turn almost any water into drinkable water.
Must have if you are going on multiple days or months-long expeditions.
You should carry along foods that last long for safety and for days you don't feel like taking out your stove.
Overlanding Gear for Your Vehicle
You will be traveling on some tough terrain, and it's safe to have a spare tire in case something goes wrong.
Recovery Boards are a godsend when your vehicle is stuck in the mud. They help raise the tires and get through obstacles.
This one is obvious. You will be going to places where it will be hard to find gas stations nearby. Fuel Can with extra gas can help you a ton and keep your mind at ease!
Overlanding Gear for Survival
Every outdoorsman's favorite tool.
If you ever get lost, A whistle can help you get some attention.
These kits make it really easy to start a fire regardless of how windy your campsite may be.
Overlanding Gear for Camping/Others
Helps navigate through trails properly. We actually give out 3 months of free subscription to onx maps on every purchase of roof top tents.
A large and compact storage box can help keep all your accessories and gear organized in one place.
Awnings will provide the much-needed shade on hot summer days and during heavy rainfall.
You can use both ground tents and roof top tents for overlanding. However, quite a few people who overland prefer roof top tents as they are way more comfortable compared to ground tents.
Roof top tents are expensive compared to ground tents. So if you are on a tight budget, ground tents might be the best option. Having said that, below are 3 of the best roof top tents for overlanding currently on the market.
TMBK 3 Overlanding Tent
If you are looking for an affordable overlanding tent, then the TMBK 3 roof top tent is perfect for you. It comes with 4-season weather construction and is large enough to sleep up to 3 people.
To make your nights as comfortable as possible, TMBK features a 3" thick memory foam mattress + a skylight window on the roof to improve ventilation and let you stargaze. For the price, the TMBK roof top tent is a bang for your buck.
|Sleeping Capacity||3 People|
Nomadic 4 Overlanding Tent
Designed to handle any weather conditions like a pro, Nomadic 4 by Overland Vehicle Systems is one of the best-selling roof top tents currently on the market.
It has a sleeping capacity of 4 people and includes a 3" thick memory foam mattress and pillows to help you sleep like a baby.
|Sleeping Capacity||4 People|
Bushveld Overlanding Tent
If you are looking for a premium overlanding tent, then the Bushveld hard shell roof top tent is the ideal choice. It is lightning fast to set up and takedown (Takes less than 15-30 seconds).
Bushveld overlanding tent is available in 2-person and 4-person sizes. Both the models include a thick memory foam mattress and can be mounted on any off-road vehicle out there.
|Sleeping Capacity||2-4 People|
Top Overlanding Trails to Try
Now that you know what overlanding is and all the gear you will need to get started. Let's take a look at some of the best overlanding trails from around the world that people love.
The 78-mile Smoky Mountain Road overlanding trail spans an incredibly scenic section of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. It offers astonishing views of Lake Powell and the Navajo Mountains.
|Trip Duration||1-2 days|
The Mojave Road is one of the most popular overlanding trails that traverses a breathtaking 147 mile section of the Mojave Desert between the Colorado and Mojave Rivers. It is reasonably easy to navigate, making it perfect for beginners.
|Trip Duration||2-4 days|
Ozark Overland Trail spans 140 miles of primarily two-track and forest service roads between the Buffalo National River and the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas. The trail includes numerous opportunities to navigate water crossings, mud bogs, and bedrock shelves.
|Trip Duration||3 days|
The Dalton Highway is a 414-mile road in Alaska. It begins at the Elliott Highway, north of Fairbanks, and ends at Deadhorse near the Arctic Ocean and the Prudhoe Bay Oil Fields. It is one of the most dangerous roads on earth with mind-blowing scenery.
|Trip Duration||3-5 days|
The Enchanted Rockies is an overlanding trail that spans approximately 1,200 miles between Queen, NM, and Estes Park, Colorado. 800 miles of the route is off-pavement and traverses 9 National Forests and 2 National Parks.
|Trip Duration||1-2 weeks|
Trans-America Trail is the longest overlanding trail currently in the United States. It offers everything from scenic vistas and unique attractions to rough terrain and challenging conditions. Trans-America trail is mainly made up of dirt, gravel, forest, farm, and brief sections of paved roads.
|Trip Duration||1 month|
The Rubicon Trail is a classic 22-mile-long overlanding trail that is part road and half 4x4 trail in the Sierra Nevada, California. It is extremely popular among overlanders and off-roaders.
|Trip Duration||5 hours|
Black Bear Pass is an infamous dirt road that starts from the summit of Red Mountain Pass to Telluride, Colorado. It is considered to be one of the most challenging routes in the US, but the views it offers make it worthwhile.
|Trip Duration||3 hours|
Engineer Pass Road spans through the breath-taking scenery of the San Juan Mountains, ghost towns, and historic sites. Other than the first couple of miles, This overlanding trail is fairly easy in difficulty and is perfect for people who are just starting.
|Trip Duration||2 days|
Texas Hill Country Route is one of the best overlanding routes in the South Central region of the United States. It features a diverse landscape of natural springs, vast plains, strange gullies, hidden sinkholes, etc. The difficulty of this trail is easy.
|Trip Duration||4 days|
Located between highways 550 and State Road 149, Alpine Loop Scenic Byway offers some of the most amazing mountain views in the US. It spans about 65 miles and can be completed in under five to six hours.
|Trip Duration||6 hours|
The Sani Pass is a gravel track connecting South Africa with the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. Rising 1332 meters in just 5.5 miles, It offers one of the most scenic 4x4 drives with fantastic views in the whole world.
|Trip Duration||3 hours|
The Rio De Janerio Loop is a must-try if you are visiting Brazil. It covers lots of amazing places with amazing sceneries and takes about 6-8 hours to complete.
|Location||Rio de Janeiro|
|Trip Duration||8 hours|
The White Rim Road is an overlanding trail that spans the top of the White Rim Sandstone formation below the Island in the Sky mesa of Canyonlands National Park in southern Utah. It's a short route with some mind-blowing views.
|Trip Duration||12 hours|
Valley of the Gods Road is almost always the first overlanding trail we recommend to people who are just starting out with overlanding. It's a easy route that offers fantastic scenery.
|Trip Duration||8 hours|
Really Cool Overlanding Vehicles
If you are wondering what a real overlanding vehicle looks like, Here's a list of 30 really cool overlanding vehicles from around the web. We hope these vehicles inspire you to customize your rig.
Lexus Overland Build with a nice 2 person roof top tent.
A very unique customized truck with a wooden house built into it.
1990 Toyota Landcruiser overland build with a custom roof rack and roof top tent.
White Toyota Truck with 3 person Nomadic roof top tent.
Luxury overlanding build by EarthRoamer - one of the most popular adventure vehicle company.
Toyota 4runner overlanding build with a roofnest roof top tent and an awning.
Jeep overland build with tons of mods and a Freespirit evolution roof top tent.
Toyota Landcruiser with a alucab camper on top.
Mercedes 310 4x4 unique Expedition Vehicle with cool features like built-in shower and solar power.
Customized Mercedes Unimog with wooden interiors and comfortable bed system.
Highly customized Land Rover with awesome paint job and a yellow camper.
Subaru Crosstrek Overland Build with a hard shell roof top tent.
1979 Volkswagen Westfalia completely restored and ready to take on overlanding adventures.
Customized Mercedes Unimog with a built-in pull kitchen and a hard shell roof top tent.
Toyota Tacoma overland build with a bed rack and a roof top tent.
Pinzgauer high-mobility all-terrain 4WD camper built for overlanding.
Teal FJ Cruiser with a low profile roof top tent. Perfect setup for any adventure.
Land Rover Defender with a built-in camper system.
Land Rover Defender 110 with a popup roof top tent.
Toyota Tacoma with a luxurious and very comfortable camper.
Volkswagen Syncro Kitted with poptop, bed, storage, and custom tires.
Mitsubishi Delica kitted with standard awning and a pull-out kitchen.
Toyota 79 series kitted with side entrance cabin with popup roof, upper and lower beds.
Acura 90's sports car with a roof top tent. You don't see this often!
Unimog customized with military tires, roof mounted bike racks, solar and 270 degree awnings.
RZR with a Roam Adventure Co vagabond roof top tent.
1978 Toyota Chinook with fold-Out sleeping accommodations and an awesome paint job.
Tuff Stuff Alpha mounted on a red Toyota Truck.
Ford Cutaway Van with a steel reinforced fiberglass shell and a integrated penthouse top.
Ram Truck with a 3 person TMBK roof top tent.
Overlanding Tips from Experienced Overlanders
1. Build Your Rig Your Way
Don't get caught up what other people have. Overlanding is using your vehicle as a home base to do what YOU love doing. So, when you build out your overland vehicle, think about what activities you'll be doing and what amenities you will ACTUALLY use often. This will save you a lot of headache, money, vehicle space and time on your dream build. And most importantly, get out there and enjoy the road!
2. Do A Maintenance Check
A common mistake would be not running through your vehicle as a preventative maintenance check before hitting the trails. Check all fluids and top off if needed. Make sure all bolts on your suspension, steering, brakes, etc are tightened. Check that four wheel drive is working properly and all u-joints are in tact. Spending 15 minutes inspecting your vehicle beforehand can save you a day of struggles on the trails.
3. Pack Compact Items
When your vehicle is overpacked with bulky items it becomes highly stressful having to dig through everything just to get to the item you need. Plus, you have to remember that you have to pack it all back in at the end! Finding compact tables and chairs, even a compressible pillow, has helped tons with space and time.
4. Carry A Satellite Radio
Always go out with a satellite radio (I use Spot) so if you are in an area with no reception, you still have a way to communicate with others in case of an emergency, of if you would just like to get a message out that you are okay!
5. Tread Lightly
Everyone reading this loves the outdoors, love traveling, and exploring new places. It's important to us to Tread Lightly so that these places can remain open for others to discover. We need to protect our lands and our trails. Here are a few simple ways to do this:
- Stay on the trail and don't drive on vegetation. This is the most important when trying to find a good campsite. Don't go off-trail and drive over a bush to get to a flat spot. Park and hike your gear to the clearing or go find another spot.
- Clean up after yourself, and maybe more importantly clean up after others. Keeping the wilderness clean of our trash this might be the best way to keep our trails open. if you see trash on the side of the trail, stop and pick it up.
- Lastly, make sure you're having fun.
If you want know more about overlanding trail etiquette, please check out Jimmy’s video.
6. Get A Fridge
Skip the cooler, just get a fridge. Nobody wants to deal with having to go buy ice, load it in the cooler, and continuously drain the melting ice throughout the day. With a fridge, your items are dry, room for more food and drinks since there’s no ice (which also means you can get a smaller fridge than you would a cooler, so less space used in your vehicle!), and it’s great not having to lug a huge cooler into your vehicle. Total game changer!
Overlanding is one of the best ways to explore nature and have fun with your family and friends. We hope you found this article helpful enough to get you started with overlanding. If you have any questions or doubts, feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
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