Finding The Best Family Overlanding Vehicle
At its core, the world of overlanding is simple. Use an SUV or pickup to modify into an overlanding machine that’s capable of serving as a basecamp for all sorts of outdoor adventures. With an overlanding vehicle, you’ll be able to access areas that few else can. Higher clearances, more robust tires that can withstand rocks, and off the grid power and water make these vehicles some of the most capable on earth.
While it’s possible to convert just about any 4x4 into an overlander, choosing a base vehicle that affords certain comforts and capabilities means you’ll be less worried and have an overall better time. If you're just getting into overlanding, you want to start with a vehicle that is rugged and capable, can fit all of your overlanding gear and equipment, and ideally have plenty of aftermarket offerings for things like suspension systems, racks, bumpers, and other gear that can optimize your overlanding experience.
Countless overlanding vehicles can be found with additions such as rooftop tents, traction mats, powered coolers, camp kitchens, and solar power. You’ll notice that certain vehicle platforms are more popular than others, but depending on your goals you might want to vary from them. A 4-Runner, for example, is a highly capable platform for overlanding, but is probably far too small for most families.
If finding an overlanding mobile-home that can fit a family is your goal, we've put together this quick guide to help you get started. Here are some of the best vehicles for overlanding with your family off the grid whether for a few nights or a week.
Domestic Overlanding Vehicles
While overlanding can seem like an exclusive world at first, the good news is, you don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money to get into it. Plenty of large domestic 4x4 SUVs make great platforms for overlanding with a family. Chevrolet Suburbans and Tahoes, along with Ford Excursions and Expeditions all make solid starter overlanding vehicles.
The downside to choosing an SUV is that you’ll be limited to using a roof-top tent or similar setup rather than having a bed inside. If you’re wanting to have more interior space, domestic manufacturers also produce some full-size vans with 4x4 drivetrains.
Many of these vehicles provide ample space, are moderately capable off-road, and are easy to repair and find parts in the U.S. along with the Americas. Because these vehicles are produced in large numbers, you can often find used domestic 4x4 SUVs and vans for relatively low entry prices despite still having significant life left in them. Most of these vehicles have a sea of aftermarket parts to modify the suspension, along with legit four-wheeling components like custom solid axle conversions, link suspension, off-road shocks, and bash guards.
Vehicles With True 4x4 Capabilities
True overlanding is far more than simply slapping some knobbier tires on a small SUV with all-wheel-drive. Sure, most SUVs are more capable than a car or minivan, but they simply can’t go places that a vehicle with a true 4x4 transfer case and a locking or locked center differential can. So be sure that whatever vehicle you’re considering, it has these core features. Non-mechanical all-wheel-drive systems just can’t handle the abuse of crawling over rocks and through deep creek crossings, which is what any aspiring overlander really has in mind.
Using A Van For Overlanding
Vans offer the most space for adventuring families, and many folks buy used work vans to save on the initial investment for an overlanding vehicle. Today, finding a used van with 4WD isn’t easy, but they do exist. It definitely pays to be patient and find the base vehicle for your overlanding that has plenty of life left in it and won’t be prone to major mechanical failures. Steer clear of vehicles with high-wear service lifes, like former ambulances, as these often have severely worn drivetrains (for the miles) from frequent hard accelerations.
If you’re having trouble finding the perfect van for your family, there are numerous outfitters and off-road fabricators who specialize in converting vans to 4WD in-house. Examples include Quigley, Van Compass, and Sportsmobiled Although you could save money doing the conversion and up-fitting for overlanding yourself, if you make mistakes that someone has to fix, you could wind up paying more in the long run.
If budget is a concern, search for used delivery vans from mountainous regions where many package delivery vans are equipped with 4x4, along with beverage distribution vehicles, etc. Many newer models of these vans come with abundant headroom as well, making them ideal for small families.
Luxury SUVs Aren’t The Best Overlanding Vehicles
Luxury vehicles are more often than not overly-complicated. Most used luxury SUVs have tons of electronic features and systems that can leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere. There’s something to be said for the simplicity of a mechanical 4x4 system. They can be fixed in the field, and parts are generally more abundant.
The risk of buying a less common luxury SUV to use as the base for an overlanding rig is that parts are difficult to get in far-flung places, and are expensive when you can find them. In overlanding, things are prone to breaking much more, especially when going beyond the typical use cases that luxury SUVs experience. It’s much better to find a vehicle with parts that you can get at a parts store anywhere from New York City to Baja California.
Beyond parts availability, it’s important to also consider how easy it will be to find a mechanic for your overlanding vehicle. Many luxury brands require specialized tools to perform even basic maintenance on, greatly limiting the number of shops that can work on them. Instead, opt for high-volume brands like Toyota, Ford, or Chevrolet that have extensive networks of mechanics all over the world.
Navigate Over Rough Terrain With Rokform Dash MountsOnce you find the perfect overlanding vehicle for your family, you’ll want to start modifying it to perfectly serve your every need. One of the first things to add is a dash mount for your phone that makes it easy to quickly attach and detach while staying securely mounted over rough terrain. Rokform’s dash mounts feature super-strong magnets that hold your phone in its Rokform case over big hits and hard accelerations up rocky inclines. Find your perfect dash mount today!
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