Overlanding: How to Get Started [Detailed Guide]

FJ Cruiser on a overlanding trail

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?

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 quote

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.

Off-roading 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

Spare Tire
Water Filter

Never run out of good water. With a water filter by your side, you can turn almost any water into drinkable water.

Recovery Boards
Camp Stove

Must have if you are going on multiple days or months-long expeditions.

Energy Bar
Energy Bar / Hard Candy

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

Spare Tire
Spare Tires

You will be traveling on some tough terrain, and it's safe to have a spare tire in case something goes wrong.

Recovery Boards
Recovery Boards

Recovery Boards are a godsend when your vehicle is stuck in the mud. They help raise the tires and get through obstacles.

Fuel Can
Fuel Can

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

Pocket Knife
Pocket Knife

Every outdoorsman's favorite tool.


If you ever get lost, A whistle can help you get some attention.

Fire Starter Kit
Fire Starter Kit

These kits make it really easy to start a fire regardless of how windy your campsite may be.

Overlanding Gear for Camping/Others

onX OffRoad Gps app

Helps navigate through trails properly. We actually give out 3 months of free subscription to onx maps on every purchase of roof top tents.

Roam Adventure Co Storage Box
Storage Box

A large and compact storage box can help keep all your accessories and gear organized in one place.

Roam Adventure Co Awning

Awnings will provide the much-needed shade on hot summer days and during heavy rainfall.

Overlanding Tents

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
TMBK roof top tent on a truck

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
Weight 110 lbs
Price $1,199
Nomadic 4 Overlanding Tent
Nomadic 4 roof top tent on a toyota tacoma

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
Weight 183 lbs
Price $1,649
Bushveld Overlanding Tent
Bushveld Roof Top Tent on a 4runner

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
Weight 175 lbs
Price $2,299-$2,799

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.

Smoky Mountain Road Overlanding Trail
Smoky Mountain Road

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.

Location Utah
Distance 78 miles
Trip Duration 1-2 days
The Mojave Road Overlanding Trail
The Mojave Road

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.

Location California
Distance 147 miles
Trip Duration 2-4 days
Ozark Overland Trail
Ozark Overland Trail

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.

Location Arkansas
Distance 140 miles
Trip Duration 3 days
The Dalton Highway Overlanding Trail
The Dalton Highway

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.

Location Alaska
Distance 414 miles
Trip Duration 3-5 days
Ozark Overland Trail
Enchanted Rockies Trail

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.

Location Colorado
Distance 1200 miles
Trip Duration 1-2 weeks
The Dalton Highway Overlanding Trail
Trans-America Overland Trail

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.

Location USA
Distance 5000 miles
Trip Duration 1 month
Rubicon Overland Trail
Rubicon Trail

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.

Location California
Distance 22 miles
Trip Duration 5 hours
Black Bear Pass Overlanding Trail
Black Bear Pass

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.

Location Colorado
Distance 10 miles
Trip Duration 3 hours
Engineer Pass Road
Engineer Pass Road

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.

Location Colorado
Distance 28-31 miles
Trip Duration 2 days
Texas Hill Country Route
Texas Hill Country Route

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.

Location Austin
Distance 145 miles
Trip Duration 4 days
Alpine Loop Scenic Byway
Alpine Loop Scenic Byway

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.

Location Colorado
Distance 65 miles
Trip Duration 6 hours
Sani Pass Overlanding Trail
Sani Pass

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.

Location KwaZulu-Natal
Distance 5.5 miles
Trip Duration 3 hours
Rio de Janeiro Loop
The Rio de Janeiro Loop

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
Distance 300 miles
Trip Duration 8 hours
White Rim Overlanding Trail
White Rim Trail

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.

Location Utah
Distance 71.2 miles
Trip Duration 12 hours
Valley of the Gods Road
Valley of the Gods Road

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.

Location Utah
Distance 17 miles
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 with a roof top tent
Owned by MyKim Nguyen

Lexus Overland Build with a nice 2 person roof top tent.

Truck with a wooden house
Owned by Tim Johnson

A very unique customized truck with a wooden house built into it.

1990 landcruiser overland build
Owned by @overlander_expeditions

1990 Toyota Landcruiser overland build with a custom roof rack and roof top tent.

Toyota Truck with a white roof top tent
Owned by unknown

White Toyota Truck with 3 person Nomadic roof top tent.

EarthRoamer Overland Build
Owned by EarthRoamer

Luxury overlanding build by EarthRoamer - one of the most popular adventure vehicle company.

4runner overlanding build
Owned by @centralcoastt4r

Toyota 4runner overlanding build with a roofnest roof top tent and an awning.

Jeep overlanding build
Owned by @sarges_toys

Jeep overland build with tons of mods and a Freespirit evolution roof top tent.

Landcruiser with a alucab
Owned by Fit Garage

Toyota Landcruiser with a alucab camper on top.

Mercedes 310 4x4 unique Expedition Vehicle
Owned by Linda & Thomas

Mercedes 310 4x4 unique Expedition Vehicle with cool features like built-in shower and solar power.

Mercedes Unimog Overland Build
Owned by @freedomoverland_

Customized Mercedes Unimog with wooden interiors and comfortable bed system.

Landrover Overland Build
Owned by @freedomoverland_

Highly customized Land Rover with awesome paint job and a yellow camper.

Subaru Crosstrek Overland Build
Owned by Kai

Subaru Crosstrek Overland Build with a hard shell roof top tent.

Volkswagen Westfalia Overland Build
Owned by @camplifecustoms

1979 Volkswagen Westfalia completely restored and ready to take on overlanding adventures.

Orange Mercedes Unimog Overland Build
Owned by Johan Louw

Customized Mercedes Unimog with a built-in pull kitchen and a hard shell roof top tent.

Toyota Tacoma Overland Build
Owned by Jesse Rizo

Toyota Tacoma overland build with a bed rack and a roof top tent.

Pinzgauer Overland Build
Owned by @team_pinzibroncos

Pinzgauer high-mobility all-terrain 4WD camper built for overlanding.

FJ cruiser with a roof top tent
Owned by Boonie

Teal FJ Cruiser with a low profile roof top tent. Perfect setup for any adventure.

Landrover Defender overland build
Owned by Simon

Land Rover Defender with a built-in camper system.

Landrover Defender 110 overland build
Owned by Emeline

Land Rover Defender 110 with a popup roof top tent.

Toyota Tacoma Camper Conversion
Owned by @sackwear

Toyota Tacoma with a luxurious and very comfortable camper.

Volkswagen Syncro Overland Build
Owned by @syncromonkey

Volkswagen Syncro Kitted with poptop, bed, storage, and custom tires.

Mitsubishi Delica with awning
Owned by @thesavelys

Mitsubishi Delica kitted with standard awning and a pull-out kitchen.

Toyota 79 series overland build
Owned by @sackwear

Toyota 79 series kitted with side entrance cabin with popup roof, upper and lower beds.

Acura overland build
Owned by @nsxtra

Acura 90's sports car with a roof top tent. You don't see this often!

Unimog overland build
Owned by @drivetheglobe

Unimog customized with military tires, roof mounted bike racks, solar and 270 degree awnings.

RZR overland build
Owned by Godfrey Proof

RZR with a Roam Adventure Co vagabond roof top tent.

1978 Toyota Chinook overland build
Owned by @bringatrailer

1978 Toyota Chinook with fold-Out sleeping accommodations and an awesome paint job.

Roof top tent on a Red Toyota Truck
Owned by unknown

Tuff Stuff Alpha mounted on a red Toyota Truck.

Ford Van Overland Build
Owned by @fieldvans

Ford Cutaway Van with a steel reinforced fiberglass shell and a integrated penthouse top.

Ram Truck Overland Build
Owned by unknown

Ram Truck with a 3 person TMBK roof top tent.

Overlanding Tips from Experienced Overlanders

1. Build Your Rig Your Way

White Tacoma with a freespirit evolution roof top tent

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!

Tip by Tim Johnson (@truckhouselife)

2. Do A Maintenance Check

Guy Pouring Oil Into Vehicle

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.

Tip by Becca Spalding (@yellerlife)

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. 

Tip by Nikki Pink (@jeepgirl726)

4. Carry A Satellite Radio

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!

Tip by Nikki Pink (@jeepgirl726)

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.

Tip by Jimmy Black (@snailtrail4x4)

6. Get A Fridge

Portable 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!

Tip by Nikki Pink (@jeepgirl726)


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 support@overlandjunction.com, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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