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Jeep Gladiator Overland Build Jeep Gladiator Overland Build

A Guide to Overlanding

Overlanding is a relatively new and extremely popular concept that has a long and rich history worldwide. Think about the early Americans traveling by horse and in covered wagons, seeking a new life and lands out west. They were blazing trails for those who followed later, and were truly traveling overland and off-trail. In the early 1900s, Australian cattle drivers established an overland route across the Western Australian territory. What we know now as a safari in Africa, began with merchants traveling overland to establish trade routes across the country. These early examples are the inspiration for present day people to head out in search of new routes, adventures, and locales.

In short, overlanding is a self-reliant extended trip to remote or new destinations. Overlanding is not about the destination, but the journey itself. To some, overlanding is considered “going off the grid.”

Off-Road Wrangler JL
DV8's Brand Manager Lucio Running Our Rubicon at Butcher's Creek

Off-Roading vs. Overlanding

You may find the terms off-roading and overlanding used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Overlanding encompasses off-roading, but involves much more and requires an additional set of skills.

While off-roading is usually a days-long adventure, overland treks can easily go for weeks or months long. Thus, overlanding takes substantially more gear, knowledge, and preparation before embarking.

Overland Vehicle Choices & Modifications

Your vehicle is the single most important aspect for overlanding. As you travel into unfamiliar territory, further away from civilization, your vehicle must be properly equipped for the journey. So before you take your vehicle out into the wilderness, make sure it's built to handle the challenges ahead.

Ford Bronco Overland Build
Bronco Overland Build by Ford

Four-Wheel Drive

During overlanding trips, you will encounter all types of terrain. Your vehicle must be able to tackle the uneven, muddy, and even sandy trails (or no trail at all). You will need all four wheels pitching in on this effort, so you can call this a hard requirement.

High Torque

High speed is the last thing your overlanding vehicle needs. What it needs instead is high torque. Torque determines how well your vehicle handles off-road terrain, and the power at your disposal to get up and over or through obstacles. It can you get yourself out of a rut (literally).

Rock Sliders

Rock sliders protect the vulnerable lower edges of your vehicle from damage by large rocks, tree limbs, and the like. If you damage the edges of the body below the door too much, you may not be able to keep your door shut. That would be particularly bad on a trek over cold, snowy regions.

Jeep Rock Sliders
DV8's HD Tubular Rock Sliders

All-Terrain Tires

All-terrain tires are also a must. They are tougher and thicker than regular tires, and offer more traction. 35-inch or larger would be best, in order to get the ground clearance you need driving off-road. There are loads of options to choose from. Regular street tires cannot withstand the terrain of an overlanding trip.

Undercarriage Protection

A skid plate is essentially your undercarriage’s shield. It protects the critical parts of the underside of your vehicle, from the fuel tank, the oil pan, exhaust, differential, and more. You may consider getting several skid plates to protect various components under your rig. As you traverse over rocks and fallen tree limbs, you do not want crucial parts exposed below you susceptible to gashes, punctures, and breaks.

Differential Skid Plate
Our Wrangler JL Rear Differential Skid Plate

Off-Road Suspension

Most factory suspension is not sufficient for your overlanding expeditions, unless you bought a rig that included long-travel suspension as part of the package. Off-road suspension is a necessity to handle the rough and uneven terrain you'll be traveling on. And you can bet you'll need to do some crawling over small boulders at some point in your journey.

High Ground Clearance

High ground clearance also helps to protect the undercarriage. Not only does it protect, but it also helps you clear terrain that may otherwise leave you stuck or trying to figure out your way around. Your suspension, wheel, and tire choices effect how much clearance you have. It's also a good idea to be sure your front & rear bumpers have good approach and departure angles.

Winch Bumper

Having a winch front bumper with good ground clearance is important for two reasons. Protecting the front of your rig, and the ability to winch your vehicle if you happen to get stuck in mud or wet sand. When you're hours away from other people, you may be your only hope for recovery. Adding supplemental off-road lighting to your winch bumper is vital for seeing rough terrain ahead in low-light conditions.

2021 Ford Bronco Winch Front Bumper
One of our Upcoming 2021+ Bronco Winch Front Bumpers

Supplemental LED Lighting

It's important to see what lay ahead of you on the trail in low-light conditions. Installing LED lighting at the front and rear of your rig enables you to see your path clearly. Many people also mount lights on the sides of their vehicle, to get a full 360-degree view of their surroundings at night.

Roof/Bed Rack

Adding a roof rack & bed rack (if you have a pickup) is an essential add-on to your overland build. Each can be used to mount a topper tent, storage cases, recovery tools, RotopaX fluid containers, and more for your journey. A good rack enables you to efficiently pack your necessary gear.

Jeep Gladiator Roof & Bed Rack
Our Gladiator Roof Rack & Overland Rack

Good Starter Overland Vehicles

When choosing a good overland vehicle, there are several things to consider. Does the vehicle meet all of the must-have features we discussed above? If not, are you able to modify the vehicle to get it up to spec? Does the vehicle have the capacity to carry all the gear and supplies you need for a long trip, and still function at a high level? Is the vehicle reliable, or is there potential for mechanical issues while you're in the middle of nowhere? If you do encounter mechanical issues, is it an easily serviceable vehicle or will you have a hard time finding parts nearby? This is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are many, many options when choosing a good vehicle for the task.

  • Toyota - There are probably more Toyotas modified for overlanding than any other automaker. They're know for their reliability, durability, and longevity. We offer off-road parts for several Toyota models.
    • Land Cruiser - This has been a super popular choice, and for good reason. It's earned it's reputation as an overland/safari vehicle that can handle extremes.
    • 4Runner - The 4Runner has been a favorite choice for many overlanders, due to it's power, reliability, and storage capacity. It can get you through most anything off-road, and you can easily pack all the supplies and gear you need.
    • Tacoma - The Tacoma is another popular choice for an overland build. Similarly, it's a reliable and capable truck with plenty of room for storage and a rack to stow a tent up top.
    • Older Model Toyota Trucks - They are slow, but many of the older models last forever and have the 4x4 power needed for most terrain.
    • Rav 4 - Yes, that's right. Newer model Rav 4s have proven themselves as capable off-road vehicles.
  • Jeep - Known as the paramount choice for rock crawling and driving over inhospitable terrain. But would it be the most comfortable choice for an overland trek starting in Alaska, then down across North, Middle, and South America to the tip of Chile? Well, no it certainly wouldn't be. We offer a wide range of Jeep parts & accessories.
    • Gladiator - The relatively new Gladiator JT is built with the capability of the Wrangler, but with the addition of a truck bed it allows for much more gear for a long journey. Our Gladiator Overland Rack was designed to mount a tent on top, and includes mounting points along the side for other gear.
    • Wrangler - The Wrangler has worn the off-road crown for years, and for good reason. However, it's never been known for it's comfort on road trips. The other thing to consider is it's available storage space. You could mount a rooftop tent for sleep, and stuff the backseat and tailgate full of supplies. But only in limited quantities. This makes the Gladiator or Cherokee a much better choice for overlanding.
    • Cherokee - The Cherokee is well suited for off-road driving, and many older model Cherokees have been modified for overland travel. Used models are great for a budget build.
  • Land Rover - This choice really goes without saying, being known by all as a safari vehicle (alongside the Land Cruiser).
  • Lexus - Creature comforts from Lexus, and the best of durability from Toyota.
    • GX 460 - The 460 has become a rather popular choice for off-road and overland builds.
    • GX 470 - The 470 is no longer in production, but is another great choice if you're on a budget and want to base your build on a used vehicle.
  • Ford
    • Bronco - The recently released 2021+ Bronco has already earned a good reputation for off-road capability, and overland builds have started springing up already. We are now days away from releasing our first round of parts for the 2021+ Bronco!
    • F-Series Trucks - Anything from an F-150 to a camper equipped Super Duty can make a great overlander, as long as the trim comes with 4x4.
  • Subaru - Subaru's AWD platform is well suited for off-road driving, and their twin-turbo 4-cylinder boxer engine provides plenty of power to overcome obstacles.
    • Outback - The Outback is probably the most overland suited vehicle in Subaru's lineup. Plenty of interior space & roof space for your gear, and with a stock 8.7-inches of clearance, it only needs a small lift when adding larger AT tires to your build. We have been considering developing off-road parts for the Outback. Think we should?
    • Crosstrek - A smaller, more affordable version of the Outback, the Crosstrek can make for a good compact roamer.
  • Mercedes - Another luxury choice for your build, there are a couple great Mercedes based options for an overlander.
    • Sprinter Cargo Van - The Mercedes Sprinter van can make for a formidable overlander, with plenty of cargo space and power to handle rough terrain. Luxury features make the journey a little sweeter.
    • G-Wagon - G-Wagon builds have been popular, and many compare it's capabilities to a Land Cruiser.
  • EarthRoamer LTi - If you happen to be a millionaire, the Earth Roamer is a luxurious overland camper built on a Ford Super Duty F-550 base vehicle. If you haven't checked these out yet, give their video walk-throughs a look. The EarthRoamer is an amazing vehicle.
EarthRoamer LTi
The EarthRoamer LTi

Overlanding Gear

Once your vehicle is all set, you can start gathering the other gear you'll need for a long trip. The following is a list of many of those items, but naturally this list will be tailored to the environment you'll be traveling in.

  • Tent/Sleeping Quarters - Most people favor the roof-top overland tent for sleeping quarters. It keeps you off of the ground and away from critters and scavengers. Be sure to consider what temperatures you'll be facing at night, and bring sleeping bags rated for the weather you'll be in.
  • Plenty of Water/Water Filtration - The last thing you want in a remote location is to run out of the one thing we can't go without, water. Always pack more water than you think you'll need, and have a water filtration system of some kind to supplement your supply.
  • Food & Food Storage - It's important to find meal choices that don't eat up too much storage space. So finding a balance of foods you love, and foods that provide proper nutrients and store well. Some form of cold storage is a good idea, unless you want to eat MREs and canned foods the whole trip.
  • Fire Extinguisher - Campfires in the evening are great, unscheduled fires while you're traveling are bad. It's easy to find a spot to mount an extinguisher somewhere on your rig.
  • First Aid Kit - With medical aid hours away, you must be prepared to treat injuries or illness by having a robust first aid kit at the ready. There are many great options to be found online.
  • Extra Fuel/Gas Cans/RotopaX - When plotting your course to the next resupply point, be sure to have more fuel than you need in case you have an unplanned detour. Otherwise, your overland journey becomes a cross-country hike. Many people install auxiliary fuel tanks when vehicle space allows for it. RotopaX are a good choice for fuel storage, they have many mounting options to fit somewhere in your load-out.
  • Hi-Lift Jack & At Least One Full-Size Spare - It's a good idea to have 1 full-size spare. It's a fantastic idea to have 2 full-size spares. Be sure you have the tools packed away to change your tires as well.
  • GPS, Maps, and Compass - A GPS device is your best friend in navigating your course. However, electronics can fail. Bring topographic maps of the areas you'll be traveling, and know how to read them. Pack an old-school magnetic compass as a back-up.
  • Radio/SAT Phone - In an instant, you could be facing an emergency. Purchasing a reliable means of communicating with civilization could be a life-saving choice. A cell phone doesn't cut it.
  • Mechanic Tool Set - In case you need to make a field repair on your rig, bring along a good toolkit containing tools you would most likely need. You know your rig and what would most likely fail, so choose your tools with this in mind.
  • Recovery Kit/Gear - Previously, we wrote about some of the standard items you should have in your kit:
    • Winch - We spoke earlier about the importance of a winch. This is a must-have for any overland build.
    • Traction Boards - These can be used to free your rig if it's stuck in mud, and coupled with your winch front bumper you'll be able to get un-stuck from most anything.
    • Recovery Strap - This can be used alone, or couple with your winch to get your vehicle, or a traveling partners vehicle freed when stuck.
    • Tire Repair Kit - If you have more flats than you have spares, you'll want to have a good patch kit to keep you moving.
    • Gloves/Shovel/Tools - Bring some work gloves and basic tools to handle any trouble your gear may experience. There are good lightweight tool options to keep your load manageable.
  • Solar Powered Charger - There are some great solar charging systems on the market today. This can be used to keep your cold storage running, as well as any other electronic gear you may have. It's also wise to include a vehicle battery charging/jumping system as well.
  • Air Compressor - Unless you want to rely solely on your spare tire(s), a good air system is wise to install. Especially if you're using beadlock wheels and aired your tires down for rough stretches.
2021 Ford Bronco Overland
The DV8 Bronco Heading into the Sunset

Preparing for your Journey

What CAN go wrong, WILL go wrong. Plan accordingly.

Carefully select your destination and familiarize yourself with the area as best as possible. Consider what could go wrong, and be sure you have a plan and the gear to handle it. Speaking at length with someone experienced with overland travel will help you prepare for your own journey. Better to learn from someone else's mistakes, then your own. Bring someone with you, it's great to have company and you have backup. Give at least one friend your trip plan. If disaster strikes, your loved ones will want to know where to look for you!

Overlanding is undoubtedly an amazing activity that takes you out into the wilderness to experience nature like never before. However, being away from civilization can be dangerous without proper preparation and equipment. Therefore, be sure to take all appropriate precautions and ensure you're properly equipped before setting out. And once you set off on your trip, have an amazing time making unforgettable memories!

Looking for more information or to get equipped? DV8 Offroad can help you get your vehicle in peak overlanding condition!

Jeep Gladiator Overland Build

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