The art of overlanding can be as simple or complex as you make it. In episode 105 of Dirt Every Day, for example, Fred Williams and Dave Chappelle go overlanding in Utah in an unconventional overland vehicle: a Kaiser Jeep M715. Their adventure makes plain that what you need to go overlanding broadly fits into a few categories: a vehicle; spares, tools, and recovery gear for your vehicle; camping gear; food; and a camera. You’ll also need the packing finesse and creativity to fit all that stuff into one vehicle.
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What Is the Best Vehicle for Overlanding?
To go overlanding, you need a vehicle—which, duh, but it’s essential. Whether it’s one of our best new vehicles for overlanding or a used rig, your vehicle will likely be a pickup truck or SUV and should preferably be reliable, well-maintained, able to tackle inhospitable terrain, and mechanically sound. (Or, well, it should at least be something you’re capable of fixing yourself.) This is your mode of transportation and your passport to remote areas, and off-road accessories like lighting, bumpers, suspension lifts, and all-terrain tires are helpful and can make the journey easier.
The thing that differentiates overlanding from basic camping is the element of off-roading. Since you’ll be in remote areas, you and your vehicle need to be self-sufficient. Ideally, your vehicle will have four-wheel drive and be able to hold plenty of gear, parts, fuel, and other supplies, because overlanding is all about off-grid adventuring and camping in isolated spots.
Essential Overlanding Gear
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You’ll need plentiful spares, tools, and recovery gear like winches, jacks, and/or come-alongs for your vehicle. Since you’ll be traversing desolate areas, there’s no guarantee as to what the terrain will be like. Remember, even if you’re familiar with your route, off-road terrain can change and there’s no assurance it’ll be in the same condition as the last time you were there. You have to be prepared for calamity caused by rocks, water, sand, mud, hills, ledges, and such. So pack easily swapped—and commonly needed—spare parts, tools both basic and specific, and the appropriate recovery gear accordingly, because if you break down or get stuck, there’s no tow service to rescue you. Even a few miles of off-roading can take its toll on your vehicle.
Since most overlanding trips aren’t simple day trips, you’ll need all the camping gear you can muster up: some sort of tent or overnight shelter, sleeping bags, camping chairs, clothing and provisions to stay warm and/or cool, protection against bugs and sun, products to stay clean (enough), portable tables, headlamps, firewood, and a way to bring all your trash back out with you, among the other items you deem necessary for camping. Remember, you’ll be living out of your rig for days.
Life involves food. All that meandering in the wilderness is bound to give you an appetite. Food has to stay cold and then has to be cooked, so the gear associated with keeping food cold—and then hot—is a big part of overlanding. The overlanding market for refrigerators, stoves, and lightweight pots, pans, and utensils is quite robust for a good reason.
Don’t Forget the Camera
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Lastly, overlanding involves a passion for the process and a desire to make memories. That means you’ll need a camera—okay, maybe need is too strong, but you’ll certainly want one—and a way to keep it powered up to document the journey. After all, you’ll want to tell the internet how strong you live that #offthegrid life (see the irony there?). For many, overlanding’s all about the ‘Gram, although the memories posted to your mental photo roll will certainly be more poignant.
After cooking, eating, cleaning, and tinkering with your overland camping setup—or fixing your rig—make sure to carve out time to enjoy a good book, explore nature, or take a well-deserved nap, too. Of course, what you do and where you go is ultimately up to you.
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