How to get started overlanding. First of all to get started overlanding you don’t need a Jeep Gladiator, a Defender or a Tacoma with lifted suspension, 33’s, a roof tent, on board air and a one thousand euro fridge. The best vehicle to start overlanding in is the one you already have.
There really are no rules to overlanding, from an afternoon driving through forest tracks in your car to a 3 week tour of your country in a 4×4 it’s the same thing – getting out there, exploring, admiring the scenery, stopping off to cook breakfast and enjoy a coffee with a great view, the list goes on.
Whatever type of overlanding you decide to do it’s all about the journey, vehicle based travel and enjoying yourself so if you have a camping stove in the boot and head off on a scenic route off the beaten track then then your already doing it in its most simple form.
It Doesn’t Have to be Expensive
If like us you are in search of more challenging routes, places where a 4×4 would be required then you will need to consider buying a vehicle if you don’t already have one. Second hand 4×4’s especially the old ‘true’ 4×4’s like Shoguns, Patrols, Landrovers etc can be picked up without a huge budget. In fact there are many benefits to overlanding in an older machine, the main one being that they are far simpler and cheaper to repair, despite being older they are much more basic mechanically and not filled with electronics like modern day 4×4’s, the key is reliability so why not use the money you save and get an older vehicle in tip top condition?
Our Shogun Sport started this way, a budget buy exported from the UK to Spain where it then became an overland project, little by little adding parts here and there, getting things sorted out, changing tyres for all terrains, adding storage, usb ports and all that good stuff.
There seems to be a ‘thing’ these days that the more you bolt onto your vehicle the more of an overlander you will be, this is far from the truth, in fact the simpler you make it the better, a minimal setup is easier and quicker to manage, there is less to maintain, less to clean and less to lug around which in turn will have a detrimental effect on fuel efficiency. Big American and Australian rigs look the business, there is no doubt about that but consider their purpose, the distances they have to travel and the kind of overlanding [or expeditions] they do.
I Need a Roof Top Tent Right?
Nope, roof top tents are expensive and they don’t solve all of the problems you may think they do, they also have many distinct advantages over a ground tent so it needs some thought.
Having an RTT on your vehicle may look the part but you are also driving around with what is essentially a 40kg+ brick on your roof, not very aerodynamic and it shifts the center of gravity. An RTT will depend on where you overland and also the terrain, they are however not ‘essential’ to overlanding. **Check out our sleeping in the 4×4 post**
Upgrading the Vehicle
Car manufacturers make their 4×4’s incredibly capable, in fact you would be surprised how capable a stock 4×4 is. In getting started you may choose to keep your vehicle stock, there are many advantages to this including cost, insurance as well as performance.
One of the first upgrades to consider is tyres, some all terrain tyres can be the bottom end of ‘all terrain’ so an upgrade to something more aggressive may be a good idea depending on the terrain you intent to tackle.
Tyres are the first part of your suspension, upgrades to suspension must be thought out carefully, for example a 3″ lift just for aesthetics compared to a lift to achieve more ground clearance and terrain capability are different things, both can cost so it’s worth weighing up whether its worth doing or not, if the stock suspension is doing its job for what you do then why change?
“I need a roof rack to be an overlander”, again it’s that thing about bolting things on the vehicle, you certainly don’t need a roof rack straight away if your trips are short, if all the gear fits in the 4×4 then why rack it up?
Roof racks are tremendously handy things to have, good ones like Frontrunner and Gobi command high prices and they do scream ‘OVERLANDER’! However there are quite a few four wheeled adventurer’s out there that don’t have them too. It all depends on what you carry and the size of your tent – swags, Oztents and similar are massive even when rolled up and ideally need a rack for transport.
G.A.S [Gear acquisition syndrome]
Photographers suffer from this, an unexplainable need to get more gear, overlanding can be the same and let’s face it there is some fantastic stuff out there. Over the past decade or so overlanding has almost created an industry on its own, the thing to remember is that the companies within that industry have you in their crosshairs to empty your wallet, it’s just business.
you will need to have the means [and the skills] to get yourself out of a situation should one arise
To get started overlanding you don’t need all the bells and whistles, again , keeping it minimal is better, build gradually if you need to but don’t feel as of you have to have all this ‘stuff’ straight away. There is some gear you will need though and most of it should be on the top of your priority list:
Given the nature of overlanding being predominantly vehicle dependent travel you will need to have the means [and the skills] to get yourself out of a situation should one arise. Recovery gear is crucial and the main components of this are a portable battery jump starter, a puncture repair kit, spare fuel and recovery boards if you are in areas where you may get bogged down. A good first aid kit is also essential and a set of basic tools including a recovery strap.
Think about GPS
If you are a casual overlander and stay local then you may not need gps or your vehicle may already have it. To make things interesting though we use an app called Gaia gps. The app allows you to plan routes off the beaten track and most importantly prevents you from getting lost. Any gps app will do, there are free versions like Google maps and paid version like the one mentioned [cost approx €30.00 annualy] a paid membership offers much more functionality and in our opinion worth the money.
How to get started overlanding – think camping, if you already have camping gear then that’s half the battle, if not then you need a tent setup, sleeping bags, stove for cooking, kettle, utensils etc. Acquiring basic camping gear need not be expensive to begin with, a basic selection of equipment can always be built on gradually.
If your overlanding is simply day trips then all you really need are cooking facilities, water storage and boxes to organise the cargo/boot space.
Just do it
If you are considering venturing into overlanding our advice is to just do it, there are no rules and your rig does not have to be equipped to circumnavigate the globe. There are all types of vehicles out there from older more retro 4×4’s, pickups, vans, crossovers and motorcycles, the vehicle doesn’t matter and while it may be nice to rock the latest ‘stuff’ it is the journey that is the main goal. Go adventure!