Jeep Overlanding Basics: 5 Beginner Tips for a Great Experience
Overlanding with Your Jeep
Overlanding is more than an enjoyable hobby. It’s a blast. Jeep owners love transforming their SUVs for off-the-grid adventures. Jeep overlanding trips offer drivers the opportunity to experience wilderness and self-reliance using their rugged vehicles as a home base.
What Is Overlanding And How Different Is It From Off-Roading & Camping
Overlanding, as Car and Driver says, is “vehicle-dependent adventure travel, where the journey is the primary goal.” It’s a mix of off-roading and camping using a rugged vehicle like a Jeep Wrangler. This activity allows Jeep drivers to blend their automotive hobby with their love of the outdoors. Overlanding originated in Australia as drivers used the overland outback routes for travel and trade with horses and early motorbikes. Eventually, the practice became a hobby. While overlanders joke about “car camping,” the actual process is more complex.
Jeep drivers who overland enter the wilderness carrying what they can in their Jeeps. It’s an adventurous activity that brings plenty of surprises. It forces participants to solve survival problems and maneuver through unexpected terrain. Overland trips can last for months, but Jeep drivers can get started with short weekends. Overlanders can use a variety of vehicles for off-road, off-the-grid trips, but Jeep Wranglers are ideal because they leave the factory ready to handle most terrains and weather. They can carry food, shelter, water, and other survival necessities.
How To Get Started For A Great Overlanding Expedition
A great overlanding expedition starts with thoughtful planning. Depending on your experience, you’ll want to choose a route that best fits your skill level. It can get gnarly out there. Make sure you’ll be able to reach your destination and achieve your goals. You’ll need to pay attention to weather reports as well as potential difficulties due to geography, wildlife, and flora. However, the possibility of facing challenges in Mother Nature is part of the draw for overlanding enthusiasts.
Before you hit the road, remember that what you take with you is all you have. If you’re in the middle of nowhere, you can’t stop at the store for water or bread. The wilderness doesn’t have rest stops, so you’ll have to prepare for personal pit stops, too. Another important concern is repairing your overland vehicle. You should know how to change a tire or repair punctures. It’s also helpful to know some basic car repair techniques.
Here Is Why You Should Choose A Jeep For Overlanding
Jeeps are perfect overlanding vehicles because they’re already designed for off-roading. They have sturdy drivetrains and suspensions built especially for trails and rugged terrain. Jeeps are also ideal because owners can customize them. Manufacturers make rooftop tents, winches, and exterior carrying gear. Jeep has a new Wrangler with a diesel motor, so it can go long distances without needing a refill. Drivers who want additional cargo space could choose the Jeep Gladiator – which is like a Wrangler but with a pickup truck bed.
If you know you are going to face obstacles like large rocks or water fording, you can prepare your Jeep by adding a lift and larger tires to get the ground clearance you need. No other vehicles on the market today have the off-roading capability right from the factory line. All Jeep Wrangler models have solid axles for difficult terrain. Then, you can enhance the performance with a plethora of aftermarket products from Jeep and other makers.
The Essential Jeep Overlanding Gear You'll Need
If you’re committed to overlanding in your Jeep, you’ll need some essential gear. You'll want a roof rack kit so you can install a rooftop tent. And because overlanding trips can have surprising terrain, having a suspension upgrade will help you get through it in one piece.
But it’s the little things that really make a difference. Case in point: It can be difficult to find a spot for a shower, so you might consider adding a sun shower for those days when a hot shower is crucial. You'll also want to bring along lightweight camping gear like pots and pans, sleeping bags, mosquito netting, and plenty of potable water. Some drivers choose to store their gear in Goose Gear storage bins. Many overlanders also bring a mountain bike, so you could consider adding a bike rack to your Jeep.
And accidents happen: you'll also want to bring a Midland Radio so you can have two-way radio contact when you are no longer in cellphone range. Portable GPS units also help overlanders stay on their route. You'll also need a first aid kit stocked with everything you can imagine.
Optimize Your Overlanding Build
Before you begin your overlanding build, consider what you need versus what you want.
Overland builds can be costly, so learn about the terrain you’ll need to conquer. If you are driving on blacktop or groomed trails, you should get by with the factory suspension or an inexpensive lift and larger tires. However, if you’re planning on driving on sand, through water, or other challenging terrain, you’ll need to upgrade your suspension and get a higher lift with better off-roading tires. You might need to adjust your gears, add a winch and raised air tank, or beef up your suspension to manage heavier gear.
Once you begin making major modifications to your Jeep, consider how to improve your brakes, driveshafts, rims, and other components to handle the additional weight and capabilities. All overlanders should consider bringing an additional full-size spare tire–the small, standard spare won’t cut it in the wild. You might also want an air compressor to keep your tires inflated, especially since you might end up deflating your tires for some rocky legs of your trip.
Cargo space is also a key factor when overlanding with your ride. What’s your adventure like? Which supplies will you really need? How are you going to take all that equipment with you? Sometimes we misjudge how much room we have for storage. Plus, depending on the terrain you’ll be driving on and your intentions, having your cargo space completely filled may not be the best bet. On the other hand, overlanding is Mother Nature’s territory. You never know what dangerous situations you might encounter. So pack wisely. You might invest in a cargo box or a drawer system to maximize your cargo space.
Overlanding is an adventure of man and Jeep vs. nature. If for any reason the situation changes and it becomes man vs. nature, you’re likely to have a ton of issues. For that reason, your overlanding rig should include back up fuel options like a Titan fuel tank and an exterior-mount fuel carrier.
Overlanding is the ultimate Jeep adventure. The more you prepare for your trip, the better and more enjoyable it will be. To make your trip worthwhile, understand the terrain, your Jeep’s capability, and the necessary gear. No matter if you are embarking on a weekend trip or an extended overland expedition, you’ll be sure to have a blast.
Frequently Asked Questions
Beginner overlanders want to know the answers to several commonly asked questions.
How Can I Get Started Overlanding?
The best way to start overlanding is with short weekend trips on terrain that does not require you to upgrade your Jeep. Get the car camping gear you’ll need for two or three nights and give a short expedition a try. After you’ve managed a couple of nights, try five or seven nights. You’ll want to determine if you enjoy overlanding before you invest in upgrading your Jeep. Also, consider joining a Jeep Club for wisdom from experienced overlanders.
How Do I Equip My Jeep For Overlanding?
Before you begin splurging on costly equipment, decide how much overlanding you’re going to do and where you’re going to do it. A factory-equipped Jeep, like a Rubicon, might have enough off-roading capability as it is, so you won’t need to spend thousands of dollars adding lifts, suspension systems, and more.
For beginner overlanders, you’ll want to equip your Jeep with the gear you need to survive. This means plenty of water, extra fuel, camping equipment, and cooking gear. Don’t forget your first aid kit, two-way radio, and spare tire, as you never know when accidents might happen. Remember little things like matches, water-cleaning devices, hand-held GPS devices, and extra batteries. Paper maps of trails and federal land can also come in handy.
What Other Overlanding Gear Do I Need?
To ensure your Jeep gets from point A to point B, you’ll want plenty of extra fuel. If your Jeep is already packed in the cargo area, consider adding exterior racks to the rear bumper or top. Staying organized is easy when you add Goose Gear. You can also make your Jeep more off-road capable with bright fog lights, a winch, and rock rails. For more accessory ideas, click here.
Is Overlanding The Same As Off-Roading?
Overlanding is off-roading, but off-roading is not overlanding. When you overland, you travel on terrain intending to spend several days and nights going from one spot to another. Most overlanders drive on off-road trails, but they can also drive on blacktop roads that are rarely traversed.
Off-roading is usually done in a few hours. When off-roading, most drivers spend a few hours on groomed trails or dunes designated especially for Jeeps, dune buggies, and dirt bikes. Overlanders bring camping gear and other survival gear, while off-roaders might pack a picnic for the afternoon.
What’s The Best Overlanding Jeep Model?
The best overlanding Jeep model is the latest four-door Jeep Wrangler known as the JLU, especially in the Rubicon trim. The U stands for “Unlimited.” This Jeep comes with upgraded off-roading features, with one-inch or higher lifts available. The JLU trims offer several engine options, like the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 and the plug-in hybrid 4XE with a silent electric motor and 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Both of these models have mind-blowing torque, which helps with rugged terrain, steep climbs, and water fording.
The standard engine on the JLU is a 285-horsepower V6. Consider fuel economy before you choose the Jeep that fits your needs best. The Jeep that rules your overland routes might not be as great for your typical road travel.
Can You Overland In A 2-door Jeep?
In the Australian Outback, overlanders traveled the terrain on motorbikes. So, overlanding in a two-door Jeep is a realistic option. The only issue for modern overlanders is the limited space in the rear cargo area but you can always use the back seats as cargo space. If you decide to overland in a two-door Jeep Wrangler, you’ll have to pack efficiently.
Is A Jeep Cherokee Good For Overlanding?
If you have a Jeep Cherokee, you can use it for overlanding. Some of the best choices are those made between 2011 and 2021, called the WK2 models. These models come with excellent engines like the Pentastar V6, EcoDiesel V6, and the powerful Hemi V8. Most have rugged off-road four-wheel drive and plenty of torque.
The Cherokee offers more cargo space than the Wranglers, but they don’t have the same solid axles and rugged off-road capabilities. Jeep Cherokee drivers can outfit their SUVs with all the overlanding gear they need, but the options aren’t as robust as those for Wranglers.
If you can choose between a Wrangler and a Cherokee for overlanding, choose the Wrangler, especially with a top trim. You’ll have more after-market options, better trail capabilities, and a more enjoyable ride.
What Is The Difference Between Overlanding And Camping?
Overlanding involves camping, but camping does not include overlanding. If you go overlanding, you will need to sleep while on the trails. When you go camping, you usually stay in the same campground for an extended time. While overlanding, you’ll camp in different locations each night as you drive from one point to the next.
Campers bring their gear in their cars or trucks, unpack it at their campground spot or their base camp, and then stay awhile. Overlanders bring their camping gear, unpack it for the night, then load it back up for the next day of driving.
Campers at a campground might bring along comfort items like grills, air mattresses, and comfy chairs. Overlanders only bring what they need, as their space is limited. Campers can buy food and water at camp stores, while overlanders need to bring the necessities like food, water, and fuel with them. While you have to pack leaner, overlanding has its perks: you can reach less traveled and more adventurous spots than you can with typical camping.
How Do You Carry Water Overlanding?
Overlanders need at least one gallon of water per person per day. You might be able to find freshwater while traveling, but you will want potable water for the days when the streams are dry.
While overlanding, you will need to consider the minimum weight of each gallon and its canister. A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds. If you are traveling for three days, you will need over 24 pounds of water per person. Many jerry cans can carry five gallons of water, but the cans weigh about four pounds when empty.
If you have to carry a lot of water with you, consider adding racks to the back or top to hold water. Overlanders traveling for weeks or months may need to beef up their rear axles and coil springs to carry the extra weight.