Overlanding Guide for Beginners

Overlanding is an increasingly popular recreation pastime where the objective is more to enjoy the trip than to worry too much about the destination.

However, the destination is usually quite remote as overlanding is designed to facilitate exploration of the world around us.

So, the idea is to embrace the world around us and take in places that others may not have seen whether it’s a short trip of a hundred miles or less or an epic journey spanning thousands of miles and to enjoy the entire experience, not just “getting there”. In our overlanding guide for beginners, we’ll show you how to get the most out of overlanding.

Overlanding Guide For Beginners: It’s All About The Vehicle

We’d recommend that you check out our guides to van life, the best campervans, the best truck campers and even our best pop up campers as they can help you choose vehicles that you don’t just travel in but also can live in. 

overlanding guide

However, for overlanding you want to consider the following features on whatever vehicle you choose:

  • 4-wheel drive – if you can’t use all the wheels on your vehicle in concert, then you may find you get stuck somewhere in the middle of nowhere. 4WD allows you to distribute the weight of the vehicle effectively and gain traction on uneven ground.
  • Higher ground clearance – on a road clearance doesn’t matter too much but the more clearance under the vehicle, the better when off-road, it stops things in the terrain from damaging your vehicle underneath. You might want to consider a “lift kit” to give your vehicle more clearance if one is available.
  • Torque and suspension – the more torque, the better. Think of it as the power in the engine to handle steep climbs and off-road conditions. You also want a very capable suspension system; nobody will enjoy a few hundred miles of making like a kangaroo across beautiful lands.
  • Cargo capacity – this, obviously, is more or less important depending on the length of the journey but you need food, toiletries, clothing, etc. and you need room to store it. If you want to bring other stuff like canoes or bikes, that takes space too.
  • The right tires – none of the above will make much difference unless your vehicle is equipped with the right tires for going off-road. They should be thicker, harder to puncture and have a better level of tread. Don’t forget to take a spare and a tool that makes changing it easy.

Pack Well

If you want your overlanding journey to be enjoyable you need to take things to support that journey!

pop up tent
  • Tents: if you’re not traveling in a camper style vehicle then you need somewhere to sleep
  • Clothes: you want changes of undergarments at a minimum but for longer journeys, you will need shirts, shoes, etc. too.
  • Toiletries: a first aid kit, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, etc.
  • Kitchen equipment: a cooking stove, fuel for that stove, crockery, cutlery, coffee maker (maybe?), towels, washing up equipment, waste bin, etc.
  • Food: it’s always best to carry tinned goods and other things that don’t easily waste in warm air, etc. and make sure to bring some snacks for the road too.
  • Water: you should budget 1 gallon/person/day and then bring some spare water on top of that.
  • Miscellaneous: extra gas to fuel the vehicle, GPS, maps, compass, sunglasses, headlamp/flashlight, etc. be prepared – you won’t be near any shops if you forget something.

You Need A Cooler

If you’re overlanding for days at a time, you need a great cooler for company. This can keep food and drinks cold for up to 10 days if needed. Check out Yeti, Otterbox, and Orca for these.

If you’re going for a longer overlanding journey, then you probably want a portable power station to replenish the ability to cool things over time.

Though some people skip the cooler and just go with nothing but freeze-dried food which only needs some hot water to make it edible.

overlanding guide

Do Your Research

It’s very important when undertaking an overlanding trip for you to fully understand the journey in front of you. It’s unlikely that you will end up trapped in the middle of nowhere for days, but it becomes more likely when you have not done your homework.

Look at the route you will take and ask, “how would we deal with an emergency along this route?” Then look at things like food, and other supplies. Make checklists of things to take with you and then double check them on the day.

off road

Be certain of the tolls and park fees that you might face, where bathroom opportunities and gas stops might be available. Take a long hard look at weather patterns on the route too.

When you come home from an overlanding trip have a debrief – what went right? What could have gone better? What do you really wish that you had packed that you forgot to bring? Update your checklists and ensure they reflect that for next time.

Also, it’s very important to realize that overlanding is done in harmony with nature. You need to leave the world as you found it. So, please plan for collecting any waste you generate and bring it back with you for safe disposal. That way overlanding can be as thrilling for the next people as it was for you.

Enjoy It

Finally, we think it’s important that as we close this guide on overland that we encourage you to enjoy every moment of an overlanding journey.

Look out the window, stop when you see something beautiful, don’t be afraid to take photographs of things that inspire or excite you and while you don’t have to share the whole thing on Instagram, you should create memories of your time in nature.

overlanding guide

Put your day-to-day life on hold and live in the moment. Experience the great outdoors in the way that it’s meant to be experienced and we promise, your overlanding experience will be one of the best times of your life.

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