With all the new concepts and platforms now available for overlanding, we wished to weigh in and offer our theory on what makes the “best” overlanding vehicle.
What is the best overlanding vehicle? Before we answer this question (and we do have an answer!), let’s take a minute to look at the huge variety of vehicles to go overlanding used by an equally eclectic arrangement of colorful characters past and present.
Consider, for example, that today we have an unprecedented number of choices when it comes to deciding with which vehicle we will go overlanding. There was a time in the not-too-distant past when people wishing to go overlanding had to take what was available and make the best of it. Of course, that is what many of us still must do, but today we have a much larger selection of vehicles new and used from which to choose.
Overlanding Vehicles Then and Now
While there were four-wheel-drive vehicles of varying types in limited production prior to 1940, the “4×4” as we know it came onto the scene during WWII in the form of a Jeep (with Bantam, Willys, and Ford getting credit for production). Ever since, both the popularity and variety of 4WD and AWD vehicles have continued to expand. Now, as we enter the EV (electric vehicle) era featuring the likes of the Tesla “Cybertruck,” Rivian R1T, F-150 “Lightning” and an all-electric Hummer–our choices are staggering in both variety and cost.
So with all of these vehicles both new and used from which to choose, which is the best for overlanding?
For starters, one’s choice of an overlanding vehicle involves a complex number of factors, not the least of which is one’s budget. Being that the sine qua non of overlanding is travel, for overlanders, the vehicle chosen is fundamentally, as Scott Brady of Overlanding Journal puts it, a “tool” that allows for overland travel throughout the globe. Let’s say, “through our experience, ultimately the vehicle at its core is merely the vessel we use to see the world.
How much do you wish to spend on that piece of hardware that will take you on an adventurous journey around the world?
Benefits of the Budget-Minded Overlanding Vehicle
The answer to that basic question is, of course, highly subjective. If you have a limited budget and your primary goal is to travel overland to see the world through that overlander’s lens, you are likely to spend the bare minimum on the vehicle that will take you there while recognizing that this same vehicle has to be reasonably reliable and capable so as not to hinder your desire for extensive travel in remote regions and through a wide range of country and terrain.
The Need for Compromise when Choosing an Overland Vehicle
This is why there is a lot of compromise when it comes to selecting the best overlanding vehicle to meet your needs. For example, a vehicle built for extreme off-road capability that would allow you to crawl up boulders in Moab isn’t a wise choice for driving thousands of miles throughout Central and South America. Yet, you may wish to explore a reasonably technical trail to reach an off-the-grid campsite while overlanding through Colombia or Peru, so some degree of legit off-road capability is desired.
Therefore, a compromise must be made between these two areas of vehicle performance: comfortable highway travel and off-road capability. Once you have made your decision, moving forward, the key is in knowing the limitations of your vehicle that come as the result of the compromise and then doing your best to respect those boundaries.
Personal and Social Considerations in Choosing an Overlanding Vehicle
You must additionally consider personal and social factors of the circumstances surrounding your traveling. Are you twenty-five years old and “bulletproof” or are you starting to experience the vulnerabilities of being middle-aged? Do you have lots of overlanding experience or none? Have you considered with whom you’ll be traveling? Are you going solo? As a couple? A family? As part of a group or team?
All of these questions are important to answer as you move forward toward the selection of your overlanding vehicle. Trust us–the small things really start to matter on long journeys. The more people, the larger the variety of needs.
Rooftop tents are fun and relatively inexpensive, but the amenities of the right kind of truck camper like an Alu-Cab canopy camper or larger, purpose-built overlanding rig such as an EarthRoamer can really be an asset to thriving while overlanding if you are vulnerable to colder weather and perhaps struggle to use extension ladders as the result of back and knee problems. Children are another challenge altogether!
The Vehicles of Expedition Overland
Our own overlanding vehicles are an excellent example of what we’re getting at here. XO trucks and SUVs are extensively built, highly capable overlanding machines. They are the product of ongoing partnerships with companies with whom we have worked to design modifications and accessories for years.
Our unique overlanding builds are equipped to handle our large film crews as they work hard in remote, often less-developed countries and in harsh environments to create our shows about overlanding. In doing our work, we must meet tight deadlines and push ourselves and our vehicles into the redline in order to complete the tasks we have set for ourselves. This is why we have the overlanding vehicles we have, so our team can thrive while in the field as we work to bring our viewers the very best content possible.
Selecting an Overlanding Vehicle to Suit Your Style
When it comes to selecting an overlanding vehicle, there is also one’s personality and peculiarities of taste and style to consider. Some may travel in a simple spartan manner for reasons of budget while others do so as a matter of principle and philosophy. Some like to leave prepared, others, like adventure-motorcyclist Ted Simon of Jupiter’s Travels simply get on a bike and head out to whatever awaits them. People are peculiar, often even eccentric, and their means of overlanding reflect these often colorful aspects of their character.
Where Will You Go with Your Overlanding Vehicle?
Yet another consideration when choosing an overlanding vehicle is the geography of your travels. Through what part of the world will you be overlanding and during which season? Whether traveling north or south, it is important to remember the seasonal changes that occur as you cross the equator and move into opposite hemispheres. Everything from your sleeping system to tire choice may be influenced by these factors in your journey.
The extent of where you travel may also influence your choice of vehicle manufacturer. Something we value about Toyota is that the brand is ubiquitous throughout the world, making service and parts more readily available in many countries. Toyotas are also well-known for their extreme durability and reliability. All of these traits are, of course, very useful in an overlanding vehicle. High performance and lots of sophisticated technology are of no use if you are in a less-developed country with no means to parts and service in the event of a breakdown.
Is a Motorcycle or a Truck Better for Overlanding?
Something else to look at when it comes to overlanding is the decision between two wheels or four–or maybe even six!). What we’re really asking here is whether you’re going for a car/truck or a motorcycle? Well-known British actors, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, famously rode BMW motorcycles around the world in their hit series Long Way Round, but many overlanders were making the choice to ride motorcycles well before this iconic television show inspired so many others to do the same.
The motorcycle provides a vastly different traveling experience from an enclosed vehicle and it is arguable that one is much more vulnerable riding astride two wheels rather than driving on four. Motorcycle enthusiasts claim a powerful feeling of freedom and adventure aboard a bike, but it should also be noted that budget-wise, motorcycles can be highly affordable both in the way of purchase price and also with regard to fuel and maintenance costs.
For a contemporary taste of what it looks like to overland travel on two wheels, check out some episodes of Itchy Boots! Noraly does an amazing job of putting you behind the handlebars as she travels throughout the world on myriad adventures.
Overlanding with Electric and Hybrid Vehicles
And while we’re on the subject of fuel, with gas costs rising globally to an impactful degree, EVs and hybrid vehicles may present themselves as an attractive option for some. (At the time of writing this blog, the average price of gas around the world is $5.01 U.S. per gallon.) EVs and hybrid technology have come a long way in the past decade and there is an increasing likelihood that, moving forward, electric and hybrid vehicles will become the norm.
While we are eager to see where the future of vehicle development may lead and are especially interested in the capabilities of hybrid technology, we equally recognize that, at least in the way of global infrastructure, EVs still have a long way to go before they will be suitable for extensive overlanding travel.
The Best Overlanding Vehicle is the One that’s Right for You
So now, what is the best overlanding vehicle? As you can see, it is the vehicle that is the right fit for your budget, style, and needs. The variety of overlanding vehicles is ever-expanding and really limited only to one’s imagination.
Remember, the objective of overland travel is the journey itself–the traveling. Your best overlanding vehicle delivers the most joy in the journey that will take you there–to all of the places, people, experiences, and adventures that come with overlanding!