OB03: Selecting the Right Vehicle

Selecting the right vehicle is an important part of the overlanding experience. You don’t need to buy the most expensive, tricked out off-roader though. Really all you need is a mechanically reliable four-wheel drive that can get you to where you want to go.

If you’re just getting into overlanding, then one of the first decisions to be made is what type of vehicle do you get for your overlanding rig. There are plenty of options to choose from that should not only fulfill the role of an overlanding rig but also as a daily driver.

Used Versus New

There are two ways you can go when considering what to buy, used or new. These two categories could probably be broken down even further into buy stock or buy fully built. As the overlanding vehicle market starts to gain traction, more and more options become available, and it becomes easier to make this decision. Dealerships are beginning to offer overlanding related upgrades, and seasoned veterans are selling their fully kitted rigs to move on to the next build.

Buying a brand new vehicle has its advantages in that it should be worry free for at least the first few years. If you’re considering modifying a brand new stock vehicle, then make sure you understand what happens to your warranty if you do. A used vehicle comes with no guarantee, but if building from the ground up and learning the ins and outs of your rig is what you want, then a used option may be best.

What Do You Want to Do

The decision on what to buy should be based on functionality and what works best for you. For example, if you have a family to think about then going with a tricked out vehicle with no space may not be the best option. There are other factors to consider (along with functionality for yourself and/or family) to consider as well, such as capability, capacity, durability, reliability, and payload all of which are explained below. There are two types of overlanding to think about when making vehicle selection, soft and hard.

Soft Overlanding

Starting out, this may be what most people will experience firsthand. Soft overlanding allows people to get their feet wet by traveling fire roads and sand or dirt trails that may be partially groomed. The likely hood of damage to a vehicle is low (other than some possible pinstriping), and the terrain is not overall technical in nature.

Hard Overlanding

By comparison, hard overlanding finds you traveling trails that are more likely to be more technical and cause potential problems. It may also be that going to purpose-built off-road parks plays into the need to test the waters with hard overlanding.

Factors to Consider and Some Rough Guidelines

There are probably hundreds of things to consider when deciding to buy a vehicle and modify it for overland use. Below are some baseline items to consider before you begin the process of converting a stock vehicle into an overlanding monster.


Vehicle capability is what the vehicle can do whether in stock form. What this comes down to is whether or not your vehicle can handle what you want it put it through off-road with no modifications having been made. Any upgrades, for example, should not deter from the vehicle’s ability to travel normal roads as well as off-road.


You want your vehicle to be able to handle the potential tortures of driving off-road without breaking down every time you hit the trail. This is where some research comes in. Search the web and figure out what vehicles come bone stock and are capable of running trails on a consistent basis. Durability may be a good baseline to use for where to start with your vehicle.


Much like durability, you don’t want to continue having a failure of parts when out on the trail. Research what overlanding vehicles are the most reliable mechanically before adding in the modifications you want to have.


Payload, or gross vehicle weight rating, determines what your vehicle is capable of carrying stock. Factor in who is traveling with you and what you will need to carry.

What Works For You

The main thing is to make a selection based on personal factors and what type of overlanding you want to do. Plan out what you want to do, where you want to travel, and what sort of modifications you think you might do. From there, make a list of four or five vehicles you think you might want. Research each one to see what has the best and most support for aftermarket parts.


OB02: Building the Overall Picture

This part of the Overlanding Basics series deals with building the overall picture of what you want to do. Overlanding can easily turn into a money pit. Looking at rigs and gear the price tag begins to increase and increase the further down the rabbit hole you go. This doesn’t have to be the case though. You can break down the overall picture into small, easier to manage pieces to a larger puzzle.

Vehicle and Location Planning

Knowing where you want to go and what it will be like can help the decision making when selecting a vehicle. Sections 2 and 3 will provide some detail on selecting a vehicle and modifying it for overland use. You might already have a vehicle in mind, and even if you don’t, you should start planning out what you want to do. Some questions to ask are:

  • Where do I want to travel with my rig?
  • What sort of terrain am I going to be facing?
  • What sort of weather am I going to be overlanding in?
  • How long do I plan to be out? Weekends? Weeks? Months?
  • What do I need to be done to my vehicle to survive for this timeframe?
  • Am I going to travel outside of the United States?
  • What documentation do I need to travel within the United States?
  • What documentation do I need to travel outside of the United States?
  • How many people do I plan to travel with?
  • Should I consider a trailer?
  • Do I need training and what sort of training?

Asking similar questions to those above and filling in the answers can help the planning process overall, but also gives you an idea of how to outfit your rig and determine what gear you might need. Once you have an idea on these things, you can start planning modifications and generate gear lists.

The Master Kits List

Once you’ve worked out a plan of attack for your vehicle and travels, you should focus on the gear you need or already have. The baseline should start with the ten top level kits listed below. Each top-level kit can be broken down further into sub-kits to make management of gear easier.

  • Recovery Kit
  • First Aid Kit
  • Camp Kit
  • Navigation Kit
  • Tool Kit
  • Kitchen Kit
  • Toiletries Kit
  • Clothing Kit
  • Documentation Kit
  • Communications Kit

This list is just a starting point and should be expanded or reduced based on your particular needs. Once you have an idea of what kits you will need, you can start planning out sub-pieces of each kit. For example, a kitchen kit could be further broken down into cooking items, eating utensils, and clean-up items. This breakdown would look something like this:

  • Kitchen Kit
    • Cooking Items
      • Small Pot
      • Medium Pot
      • Large Pan
    • Eating Utensils
      • Fork
      • Spoon
      • Knife
      • Spork
    • Clean-Up Kit
      • Wash Rag
      • Paper Towels
      • Collapsible Sink

Breaking down your top level kits into smaller sub-kits stored in their own container makes performing an inventory check and locating things much easier than digging through a bin full of stuff.


Checklists are a great way to get you started with what you will need in terms of gear. These can be used as a baseline for planning what you will need. You should supplement items based on how you will be traveling and how many people might be traveling with you. In order to ease the pain of trying to remember everything, we highly recommend using checklists of some sort. This makes doing inventory much easier. Keep a checklist with the kit you have put together as well as separate, so you have two points of reference.


OB01: Introduction

Overlanding has seen a meteoric rise in popularity over the past five years. This once small community has ballooned into everyone having their own overlanding thing. Jump on Facebook or Instagram and do a search for overlanding and you’ll end up with hundreds of pages, each with their own unique spin. While each has their own uniqueness, the underlying principle and mindset remains the same. The overlanding basics series is your starting point if you are new to overlanding. If you’re coming from rock crawling or a car camper that wants to expand into something new, this series will help you understand what overlanding is all about.

What Is Overlanding?

One part off-roading and one part camping, overlanding is self-reliant travel to remote destinations where the journey is the goal. If you have a capable four wheel drive vehicle available, you can jump right into this lifestyle. It doesn’t take a purpose built overlanding rig to get to remote destinations.

Historically, overlanding is defined as the movement of livestock over long distances. Modern overlanding as we know it no longer involves moving livestock. Rather, it’s the wheeled pursuit of adventure that rose to prominence in the 1940s. Self-reliance, long distance travel, and the journey overall define what we know as modern overlanding tend to be these days.

As stated, overlanding is generally accomplished using four-wheel drive vehicles capable of traveling over moderate to difficult terrain. Camping plays a vital role in the overland experience as it is the primary form of lodging when the day has reached its end. Although four-wheel drive vehicles tend to define the modern definition of overlanding, there are many different alternatives to consider when thinking about overlanding.

Where To Start

If you’re interested in getting into this, dare we say, hobby, then YouTube is the best place. It offers a wealth of videos from all around the world of people out overlanding in all types of conditions. This can give you an idea of the types of terrain you might encounter, some of the gear you might need, and the different types of vehicle options available.

Joining an overlanding related forum such as Expedition Portal or Overland Bound can be a good platform for asking questions, whether as a newbie or a seasoned veteran. Both communities are populated by thousands of people who enjoy overlanding in some capacity and can provide information as requested.

At a minimum, you really only need a few things to get out and start exploring. You’ll learn as you get out more and more what type of items you can do without and what items you need.

What’s Covered In This Series

We tried to cover most of the major topics involved with overlanding in each article. This is by no means a comprehensive series that covers everything. It’s a baseline for where to start with overlanding and it’s up to you to grow from there using lessons learned as you get out and adventure. Below is a quick synopsis of what’s covered in each included chapter. Click the header title to jump to an article.

OB02: Building the Overall Picture

Having a plan to get things done is always a good idea. The first article in this series will lay out the groundwork for creating that plan. It breaks down the overall big picture into easier to manage and execute smaller pieces.

OB03: Vehicle Selection

If you’re brand new to overlanding vehicle selection is going to be one of the first things you get into. Understanding stock limitations, what certain things mean, and understanding how and what you want to use your vehicle for can make the decision easier.

OB04: Vehicle Modifications

Much like vehicle selection, the modifications you make can help or hinder the overall experience. We provide some detail on the first modifications that should be done as well as some more advanced changes to your rig that can be done later on.

OB05: Driving Principles

Overland driving is can be very different than driving on regular roads. Understanding the situations you may face and how to tackle them prepares you for getting out onto the trail.

OB06: Convoy Driving

While you could drive into the woods by yourself we don’t really recommend it. This section covers some basics on convoy driving on and off road.

OB07: Camping Gear

Don’t go out into the woods without this stuff.

OB08: Clothing

Basic loadout ideas for packing for the right conditions and environments.

OB09: Building a Camp Kitchen

A good camp kitchen can go a long way in providing a great meal at the end of a long day of trails.

OB10: First Aid Kits

A first aid kit is an essential item to keep in your rig at all times, not just when you’re heading into the woods.

OB11: Navigation

GPS, paper maps, tablet, phone. There are several different ways to navigate when traveling and everyone has a preferred method. We break down the positives and negatives of each and offer some advice on what might be the best for you.

OB12: Planning and Preparing For Trips

You don’t just want to drive into the woods without a basic plan. We lay the groundwork for establishing a baseline plan of attack for heading into remote areas that can be expanded upon as you begin to travel more and more.

OB13: Rig Maintenance & Repair

Your rig probably pulls double duty as an overlander and daily driver. Keeping up on regular checks and maintenance ensures you are riding around in the best possible condition and not worried about breaking down on the trail or on the side of the road.

OB14: Communication

Open lines of communication between rigs and the outside world is important for safety. Like navigation, there are several forms of communication available to you when traveling. Knowing the license restrictions and what can and can’t be done with each is important.

OB15: Vehicle Recovery

Everyone has experienced getting stuck at some point, whether in the snow at home or in the mud on the trail. Knowing the gear to carry, what to do in certain situations, and how to use recovery equipment is one of the first skills to learn.

OB16: Menu Planning and Meal Prep

Gourmet cooking or just hot dogs over the campfire, everyone has a preference on camp food. We provide some insight into cooking gear, methods, and how to keep things fresh while out and about.

OB17: Shelter Options

Staying safe from the elements and having a comfy place to sleep can make a world of difference when travers Click here to jump to this article.ing rough terrain. Everything from roughing it to sleeping on a queen sized bed is covered here.

OB18: Organization

There are hundreds of different methods to keep things organized in your rig. Don’t let your stuff just fly everywhere; keep it neat, organized, and safe in the event of an accident.

OB19: Emergency Preparedness

You never know what’s going to happen when you’re out. Being prepared and trained for the worst can literally mean the difference between life and death.

OB20: Travel & Security

Whether you’re traveling locally or out of country, understanding rules and laws of where you are can keep you safe.

OB21: Off Vehicle Activities

Sitting by a fire is nice, but having some other things to do can be just as entertaining. Trips can be planned entirely around other activities that you enjoy doing or want to get in to.

OB22: Documenting Your Adventure

The story that can be told from an overlanding adventure is a memory worth having. Documenting that adventure can be just as rewarding and provides long lasting details that may escape memory.

OB23: Protecting the Environment

Understanding the principles to keep the outdoors in pristine condition should be the first thing you understand as an avid outdoors person. We breakdown the Leave No Trace principles, apply them to overlanding, and offer advice on minimizing the impact we have to the environment.

This Is Not Gospel

We tried to capture as much information as possible in each part of this series without it being too much. Some articles are longer than others and some are pretty short. This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide with detailed information. Everything is pulled from research that was done for articles that have either appeared, are going to appear, or were scrapped for the Michigan Overland website. The idea with this guide is to pull that information into one document and use it as a baseline to grow from. Take what you read as a high level look at overlanding and run with the topics that interest you. Dive deeper into new things and learn about those low level things we don’t cover here.

Feedback is always welcome so feel free to send us an email, find us on social media, or leave a comment. If there is something you would like to see added or expanded upon, do not hesitate to contact us.