Part of the fun of any journey is trip planning. Since overland adventures are usually longer in duration than most other types of vacations, planning and preparing for them require careful consideration and attention to detail.
Overlanders don’t want to plan all of the spontaneity out of their trips, but they also don’t want to put their lives and the lives of their travelling companions in undue danger.
Here are some of our top planning and preparation tips that will help to strike the right balance between an exciting adventure and a fool-hardy quest.
The Finances and Time
Money is the first thing you think about while planning. Although it may be cheaper than staying at hotels, you still need to have enough of it.
You need to plan the time you’re going to spend out there carefully.
Remember, the longer it takes, the more money you will need. For instance, you want to ensure you do not overstay at a stopover on the route.
Always have a diary with you and have a clear timetable for how to cover the course. If you experience a breakdown, you may have to cancel some of the things on your bucket list to make up for lost time.
It is imperative that you plan for your finances to the last dollar. Ensure you know how much you will need for the trip, and then carry extra.
For instance, you may find that fuel costs are unexpectedly higher in another country that you expected. It is best to calculate a daily budget, and then forecast a total budget depending on the length of your trip.
These preparations are mainly true for longer endeavours, a shorter overlanding break in the next state or anywhere within the country can be done more spontaneously, with a pack-and-go attitude.
In Chris Scott’s great Overlander’s Handbook, you’d find tons of information on trip planning, including finances, but as the title suggests, it is an all round great book if you want to know the ins and outs of this lifestyle.
Choose the Right Vehicle
An overlanding expedition can only be as successful as the vehicle you are driving. 4-wheel-drive vehicles tend to be more popular these days among overlanders, but as a rule, you can drive anything you want. The main goal is to have fun and discover as much as possible.
You just need to know the limits of your car in order to avoid situations where you put yourself in danger. You also need to decide how far you are planning to go in terms of distance as well as difficulty of the terrain.
These factors, as well as the size of your wallet will decide what kind of vehicle will you chose for overlanding.
The most popular and reliable options are usually 4WD station wagons. However, vans and pickups are also often used, while expedition trucks are becoming ever more popular, especially when traveling with a large family.
While vans have limited capability if your route goes over a rough terrain, their plus side is obviously their flexibility in terms of space inside.
The proven names among off-road travelers are Jeep, Toyota, Land Rover, Mercedes and Nissan. Ford, Dodge and Chevy Vans are nowadays often chosen instead of the classic Volkswagen Westies.
Once you have picked your vehicle, you will then need to decide on the modifications. You might not need, nor want any modifications, while some overlanders install so many aftermarket parts that it is hard to recognise the original vehicle.
Most overlanding enthusiasts end up in the middle: upgrade the suspension, underbody protection, snorkel, good storage system, off road tires just to name the most common ones.
Modifying the vehicle becomes part of the lifestyle for many. It’s not only fun, but getting it done correctly will help you on the trip tremendously.
Apart from modifying your vehicle, choosing your overlanding gear can also be a lot of fun, but to end up with the right equipment you need to go through some serious amount of information.
There is some essential gear, which you must ensure you have on your adventure. According to Overland Journal, which is one of the best resources for information on overlanding, these are the absolute bare essentials for your vehicle:
- Fire extinguisher
- Front and rear recovery points
- Jumper cables
- Drivetrain fluids
- Recovery strap
- Tool kit appropriate to vehicle
- Vehicle spares appropriate to vehicle
- Full-size spare tire
- Light truck or better tires
- Spare key, hidden outside vehicle
The list of equipment that maybe considered essential versus those that are nice-to-have, are endless. Of course you should never leave your house without a very good first aid kit, however that top of the range electric hot-water system might be considered a luxury.
Everyone needs to decide for themselves, but choosing and installing overlanding gear for your vehicle is definitely part of the lifestyle and fun.
We would recommend you to also consider the following:
- Air Compressor
- Satellite Communication Device
- Navigation Device
- Water Filtration System
- Tent and several other camping equipment
- More recovery equipment, like a Winch
- Fridge-freezer or cooler
- DC to AC Power Inverter
- Tire repair kit
The Skills You Need for Overlanding
Besides reliable equipment, you will also need to develop a few new skills and learn some not so obvious tricks of the trade.
One of the skills that you may need as an overlander is the knowledge of local road rules. For instance, in some countries, you need to drive on the right side instead of the left side.
Understanding this could not only save your life, but it could also help you avoid costly fines.
It is very important to also understand the local signaling rules while on the road. While flashing lights in your country may mean one thing, it may signal something very different on another.
You also need to understand the hand signs. For instance, when traveling to the Middle East, an open palm facing towards a person does not mean stop, it means to come closer.
In other places, the simple act of flicking your fingers from chin with the palm facing towards you is an insult.
Understand all these intricacies before embarking on a journey. In fact, understanding the local culture and respecting their customs is essential.
As you might imagine, excellent driving skills are crucial for a successful overlanding. The vehicle you use may not be the one you are used to driving. Also, the terrain can be very different.
If possible, ensure you go for some off-road driving lessons before you go on the trip.