Overlanding is vehicle-based self-reliant adventure travel. Hopefully done in a way that’s respectful and sustainable!
Overlanders take their vehicles (typically a jeep, SUV or pickup truck) over long distances off-grid to go camping in cool spots out in the mountains, deserts, and forests of the world.
The appeal of overlanding differs from person to person. For me, overlanding means freedom, time spent in nature, and bonding with friends and family. It’s a passion for camping, hiking, and being outdoors.
The best thing about overland travel? Anyone can do it. Whether you have a tiny car or a decked out four wheel drive rig, there are trails you can hit and camp spots you can stay at! And there are plenty of resources to learn everything you need to know.
It evolved from wheelin’ and a love of backcountry camping and became the trend you see today taking the world by storm!
Intrigued? Read on to learn more.
Some common terms you’ll hear in the world of overland include:
- Car Camping: Traveling in a car to a camp site. Simple!
- Truck Camping: Just like it sounds; camping in your truck! This could be a campershell, rooftop tent, truck bed tent, or even a ground tent next to your truck (such as an awesome DIY overland trailer).
- Back Country Adventure / 4×4 Touring: An off-road adventure to a remote destination in a motorcycle or 4WD vehicle.
- Vehicle-Dependent Expedition: An organized journey with a defined purpose, often geographic or scientific in nature.
- Expedition Vehicle: A four-wheel drive vehicle (often referred to as a “rig”) prepared for self-reliant travel over long distances, through unpredictable weather and over variable terrain.
What is the Best Vehicle for Overlanding?
The best vehicle for overlanding is anything with four-wheel drive and high clearance, such as a lifted jeep, pickup, or SUV. The Tacoma pictured above is my rig – click here to see my full build list!
The most popular four wheel drive vehicles for overlanding are (in no particular order):
- Toyota Tacoma
- Jeep Gladiator/Rubicon/Mojave
- Chevy Colorado ZR2
- Ford F-150 Raptor
- Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
- Land Rover Defender 110
- Ram 2500 Power Wagon
- Toyota 4Runner
- Toyota Land Cruiser
- Ford F-Series Super Duty Tremor
That said, you can go overlanding in pretty much any vehicle. Even if you just have a small sedan or crossover, there are plenty of easy trails with amazing scenery you can go camping at! No need to spend $50,000+ on a new vehicle to overland with… start where you are and see if you like it first!
I highly recommend you take your current vehicle on a weekend trip to some semi-remote destinations and get a feel for overlanding first.
Why is Overlanding So Popular?
Overlanding has been gaining popularity in recent years for many reasons… the recent world-wide shutdowns due to the pandemic have pushed people into more outdoor recreational travel, such as camping and overlanding.
Beyond that, overland travel captured the hearts of many who want to explore new places and cultures, go camping, and enjoy the great outdoors. Some love fishing and hunting, others do it for the off-roading, and others still just love building out their rig, modifying their vehicle to their specific taste and personality. The customization options of overlanding are near endless!
Overlanding has begun spanning international boundaries. I’ve been overlanding in Mexico and it was one of the most fun trips I’ve ever been on!
Where Can You Go Overlanding?
Whether you’re just looking to take a weekend trip or you want to travel for extended lengths of time to remote destinations, there are TONS of options for your overland journey.
The most popular places to go off-roading and overlanding are on off-road trails in National Parks and other public lands. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has options for all kinds of long distance travel, ranging from a paved road to gravel to barely a road at all that requires a lot of skill to navigate.
The cool thing about overlanding is that you can start with any skill level! No matter how prepared you are, there are off-road options for you.
For your first trip overlanding, I would recommend sticking to paved roads and maybe gravel roads that you know your vehicle can handle. You can find options using apps like iOverlander, OnX Offroad, and FreeRoam.
There’s a huge overlanding community of highly skilled people on Facebook and at events like the Overland Expo that you should absolutely tap in to. You’ll find that most of us are extremely friendly and willing to help!
What Gear Do You Need to Go Overlanding?
Again, the only overlanding gear you really need is a place to sleep and food and water.
As you begin to get more experiences and find routes in remote locations without cell service for an extended period, it’s a good idea to expand your overlanding gear to include essential gear like:
- First aid kit
- Recovery gear
- Cell signal booster and/or satellite phone
For more information, check out our guide to essential overlanding gear.
How to Start Overlanding
Ready to hit the trails? Read our beginner’s guide to get started overlanding next.
Just grab a tent and some basic camping gear, look up local trails on the OnX Maps app or All Trails, and go plan your trip. You’re now an overlander!