Overland Vehicle Preparation

When I sit back and think a bit, there is so much I need to do to prepare for an overland trip. So naturally, being an amateur and all, I decided to consult the Internet. My first Google search was overland vehicle modifications. My initial goal was to decide on the greatest guide for overland vehicle preparation. Here are the results of my research, hopefully it saves you a bit of time.

Overland Vehicle Preparation

Reviewing the first page of results in Google yielded the following web pages with actionable content. I’m going to use initials for the blogs in the rest of this article.

  1. Mowgli-Adventures (MA)
  2. Expedition Portal (EP)
  3. Life Remotely (LR)
  4. LivingOverland (LO)

I also found a YouTube video that I thought would also be useful.

The best way to consolidate the results would be to create a cross referenced list. Pouring through each of the articles, my goal was to absorb the collective wisdom and create the perfect guide. The guide would be the consolidated wisdom of multiple overland vehicle preparation experts!

My approach as I read through each of the articles was to understand what were the top priorities for each expert on preparing their vehicle for an overland trip. I wanted to know what modifications I needed to make to my vehicle to make it overland ready.

Without further delay, here are the top tips for overland vehicle preparation.

1. K.I.S.S. (Keep It Stock & Simple)

Now I know the acronym doesn’t really stand for Stock & Simple but it fits really well given what I learned. Before you close the page upon reading that your should keep your vehicle stock, there are some exceptions! Press on!

LO, MA and EP all expressed very similar thoughts when it came to modifying the vehicle, especially the engine. The mantra here is keep the vehicle stock and simple. Here is the reason why, complexity increases the chances of failure. A straightforward reason for not adding superchargers and other assorted aftermarket parts to the engine. A good philosophy here to follow would be to buy the right vehicle in the beginning. I wrote another article on the process I went through when I was deciding what to buy for my overland vehicle.

2. Heavy Duty Suspension Upgrades & Tuning

I could not come up with a clever acronym here and H.D.S.U.T did not exactly roll off the tongue.

Not surprising that 3 out of the 4 blogs (MA, EP & LR) all recommended replacing the stock suspension with heavy-duty suspension components. Overlanding places added stress on the vehicle because of the added weight being carried. It also places added stress due to the road conditions and obstacles. It only makes sense to upgrade the factory suspension components with their equivalent heavy-duty counterparts. 

The EP specifically recommends, “…keep the weight down to 90% of the GVWR…” So what does that mean? The gross vehicle weight rating is the maximum operating weight of a vehicle, including everything inside the vehicle. The GVWR does exclude things like trailers. The GVWR for my 2015 Tacoma is 5500 lbs. So, 90% of 5500 lbs. would be 4950 lbs. My curb weight is 4220 lbs. Then this would mean that 4950 – 4220 lbs equals 730 lbs. that I could potentially load into/onto my Tacoma. Use your vehicle’s Product Sheet to do your own calculations. Here is a link to my 2015 Toyota Tacoma.

What was interesting to read, was those same blogs did not recommend lifted suspensions. Here are some simple reasons why.

  1. If you buy the right vehicle from the beginning, you should have enough clearance for most overlanding obstacles
  2. Lifting the vehicle changes the geometry of the interconnecting parts and creates extra stress and wear
  3. A lifted vehicle has a higher center of gravity and would be more prone to tipping over

3. Use the Right Tire for the Right Job

While upgrading your tires might not be a modification to some people. I think it qualifies in this sense because it can dramatically change the performance of your vehicle. In regards to tires, 3 out of the 4 blogs essentially all had similar feedback, use quality, all-terrain tires with the right treads for your expedition.

There are so many choices and so many more opinions on what is the “best” tire. I’m not even going to attempt to make a recommendation on what you should be using for your overland vehicle preparation. However, here is a list of some of the most popular tires.

  1. BFGoodrich, All-Terrain T/A KO2
  2. Cooper, Discoverer AT3
  3. General Tire, Grabber AT2
  4. Goodyear, Wrangler MT/R Kevlar
  5. Toyo, Open Country A/T II

4. Auxiliary Power Systems

I’m going to bring us back to #1 for a minute here because the same philosophy applies. Instead, I’m going to apply a slightly different take on the acronym. The mantra here is keep the auxiliary electrical system simple and separate. The same reason, complexity increases the chances of failure. The less wires you have tapping into the stock electrical system the better off you will be in the long run. The last thing you want to happen out on the trail is to have an electrical issue.

Off-Grid Engineering – Dual Battery Setup

battery

Again, when reading through all the articles most of the experts were in agreement on auxiliary power systems. In overland vehicle preparation, we have a tendency to load up on electronics and this places added stress on the electrical system. There are many options for reducing this load.

  1. Battery banks are popular as quick charge solutions for smart phones and tablets
  2. Small generators are very useful for quick charging after a long day on the trail
  3. Portable solar panels have come a long way and are useful when set up at base camp

5. Self Development a.k.a. Training

The last tip is a combination of different recommendations from the articles I read. However, they all had one thread in common. There is no substitution for good old fashioned know-how.

So, why is training good for you? Anyone considering overlanding as a hobby or lifestyle should know the basics and a good training course can prepare you for some of the situations you might encounter while out on the trail. Here are some of the suggested training programs you should consider an investment.

  1. First Aid – Prepare for the unexpected with first aid training from the American Red Cross
  2. Off Road Driving – Develop skills to reliably run 4×4 vehicles safely
  3. Self Recovery – Acquire knowledge and skills to get your overland vehicle back on track

So, What Didn’t Make the Top Five

What I pulled together above was the “agreement” factor across a number of articles on proper overland vehicle preparation. There are many other items that were confined to each separate article that are worth calling out now. Here is the list in no particular order.

  1. Emergency communication – I was surprised that only Living Overland called this item out in their article.
  2. Proper storage and load securing
  3. Spare parts
  4. Additional lighting
  5. Long range fuel tanks
  6. Vehicle security

While this is in no way an exhaustive list, it should be enough to get the amateur, like me, off to a good start!

I hope this helps!