Words by Andrew Middleton
Wikipedia eloquently describes overlanding as “…self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal.” Whereas overlanding is often performed on the cheap by intrepid adventurers on bicycles or old motorbikes, or by leathery tramps on foot, 4×4 overlanders often get carried away and spend exorbitantly to equip themselves for travel.
Do you ram heavy objects with your huge steel bull bar? How often is a snorkel really necessary? And, most importantly, if you didn’t have this kit, would 4×4 overlanding still be possible? In this guide, we consult industry experts, and draw on some in-house knowledge to prove that overlanding is not only possible on a tight budget, but very easy – and satisfying, too.
Despite Wiki’s rather lovely description, overlanding involves a huge spectrum of possibilities and different genres. For instance, the first expedition linking South America and North America through the swampy barricade that is the Darien Gap, was an adventure of epic proportions. Despite bottomless swamps, dense jungle and gushing rivers, not one of the early Seventies Range Rovers used on the expedition was equipped with 35-inch Coopers or a snorkel designed to embarrass pachyderms. By this logic, we can infer that modern, highly capable 4x4s should be able to get away with only basic modifications, if any. Depending on the specifics of the travel you have in mind, of course. Which brings us neatly to a few lists.
Basic Overlanding Tips:
- Avoid roof loads at all costs If you have a large vehicle, there’s nothing wrong with a roof-top tent and some extra jerry cans, but remember that simple laws of physics apply to any vehicle, and raising its centre of gravity too much can be extremely dangerous. I have witnessed a Land Rover 90 doing wheelies up a mild hill, and almost falling over backwards thanks to a poorly loaded roof and interior. Keep all heavy items central, and make sure that weight is distributed evenly and as low down as possible.
- Make sure your suspension can handle heavy loads Sagging springs or worn shocks are a sure route to discomfort, and even disaster. Standard suspension is always a compromise between comfort and loadability, and standard suspension components are not always the strongest items around. If you do upgrade your suspension, be sure to use trusted brands suited to your vehicle. Poor-quality suspension components are not only extremely dangerous, but also won’t last very long.
- Prepare for the worst This is not to say that you should be a pessimist, but make sure you have all your ducks in a row. For instance, pack the correct recovery gear and make sure that your supply of food and water will last at least a couple of days longer than your intended trip. 3000 calories and three litres of water per person per day is a good guideline. Remember that you may drink more and use more energy if things don’t go according to plan.