How to Start Overlanding in 2021

Feb 19, 21
How to Start Overlanding in 2021

Overlanding has a long, rich history in countries such as South Africa and Australia, but in North America it’s relatively young. Americans have typically been more enamored with hiking and camping but, thanks to classic books like We Will Be Free: Overlanding in Africa and South America by Graeme Bell and Overlanding 101 by Mark Fittall, the Overlanding community has started to grow in the Land of the Free.

What is Overlanding?

But, what exactly is Overlanding, or as we like to say, Roof Top Wandering? The Overlanding Journal describes Overlanding as “Vehicle-supported, self-reliant adventure travel, typically exploring remote locations and interacting with other cultures.” While Overlanders typically take week (or even year) long trips, you can also be a Back Country Adventurer and take shorter off-road trips to places others can’t.

We like how Ross Collicutt put it, “When it all boils down, overlanding is really just an off-road trip, exploring places by a dirt road for days or weeks.”

When you’re starting out, it’s best to be a Weekend Wanderer. Strap a roof top tent on your vehicle, throw your bags and friends in the back and hit the road for a long weekend adventure.

Getting the Bug

The journey into Overlanding typically starts with curiosity. Picture a hiker sitting at a camp site rubbing their tired, blistered feet when a Land Cruiser stops 50 feet away with big knobby tires and the iconic snorkel reaching to the heavens for fresh air. Within 10 minutes their roof top tent is up, the table is set, and four friends are gathered under the awning enjoying a meal together. The smell of fresh cooked bacon reaches your nose making your meager meal of freeze-dried pasta and almonds a little less appetizing.

Land Cruiser Overlanding rig.

That’s where it all begins. That’s where you get the bug.

When you start looking into Overlanding, you’ll find that it can be overwhelming.

  • What vehicle is the best?
  • What equipment do I need and which brands are the best?
  • How do I find epic trails to experience?
  • How do I stay safe on my adventures?

Ask these questions to 10 different Overlanders and you’ll get 10 different answers.

So, how do you start Overlanding the right way in 2021? Well, there isn’t really a “right way.” This article cannot answer all the questions you may have, but hopefully it will get you started on the right path.

What Vehicle Should You Use?

This is a common question we get at Roof Top Wanderer. The best answer is, “The one you have!” You don’t need to sell your current vehicle, computer, wife’s engagement ring, and first-born child to afford the newest Ram TRX or Ford Raptor. You can go overlanding in almost any vehicle! True, you may not be able to tackle the Mojave Desert or iconic Moab in a minivan, but you can certainly enjoy traveling up Highway 101 through the Redwood Forest.

That being said, if you’re ready to get an Overlanding vehicle, look for something that is reliable, safe, comfortable, and makes you happy. You’re going to be putting a lot of miles on your vehicle so also look for something that has low miles and under 10 years old.

Here are some popular Overlanding vehicles:

  • Toyota Land Cruiser
  • Toyota Tacoma
  • Toyota 4Runner
  • Ford Raptor
  • Lexus GX
  • Ram 2500/3500
  • Jeep Wrangler
  • Jeep Gladiator
  • Land Rover LR4
  • Subaru Outback
  • Subaru Forester
Things to consider when shopping for an Overlanding vehicle:
  • Size of vehicle (bigger is not always better)
  • Load capacity (how much stuff can it carry?)
  • Power (Horsepower and torque)
  • 4-wheel drive (this is a must)
  • Availability of aftermarket equipment and modifications (Jeep and Toyota are the best in this category)

What Equipment Do You Need?

Now that you have your rig, you get to start outfitting it with all the goodies!

The best advice we can give you is to take your time. Think about the things you dislike the most about hiking (like sleeping on the ground) and try to solve that problem (get a roof top tent).

What equipment do you need to start in overlanding?

At Roof Top Wanderer, we like to organize our equipment into rooms. It helps us keep things organized and ensure we haven’t forgotten anything.

Make a list of each room in your house and what you would like to include in your Overlanding rig. We’re not saying take your entire house! Just the things that will make life easier and more enjoyable as you wander through nature with your community.


  • Roof Top Tent
  • Sleeping bags or sheets
  • Storage packs
  • Pillow
  • Flashlight


  • Stove burner
  • Prep area (Cutting board, table)
  • Utensils
  • Pots and pans
  • Cleaning area
  • Fuel
  • Water
  • Organizers/storage
  • Fridge/freezer
  • Trash can

Dining Room

  • Table and chairs
  • Utensils
  • Plates, bowls, cups, mugs
  • Cloth napkins
  • Awning

Living Room

  • Awning
  • Chairs
  • Fire pit
  • Ax/hatchet
  • Firewood
  • Fire starting supplies


  • Shower
  • Portable toilet
  • Shovel

Utility Room

  • Water storage
  • Fuel Storage
  • Recovery Equipment
  • Packs
  • Safety Equipment
  • Electrical Equipment
  • Navigation

That’s a pretty exhaustive list! Don’t worry about getting all of it before you head out on your first weekend wandering adventure.

The Three Most Important Things

When I go camping there are three things that are the most important to me.

  1. Sleep – If you can get a good night’s sleep, then you can put up with almost anything during the day. So, get a good roof top tent and sleeping bag or sheets. You will not be sorry!
  2. Eat – You have lots of options here, but the end result is to avoid the “Hangry Monster.” You can start out with a simple hiking propane stove and a couple pots and cooler. Later you can add the pull-out kitchen, fridge/freezer, and Skottle.
  3. Safety – This should probably be listed first because it is the most important. So, what do you need to be safe? You should always have a fire extinguisher and reliable modes of communication. The SpotX 2-Way Satellite Messenger is a great companion on your adventures.

Take A Test Trip

Now that you have the basics gathered together, it’s time to take your first trip. Our advice here is to not be too ambitious. It may be tempting to go on a 2-week trip through Yellowstone, but you will be better served to spend a night or two at a campground close to your house. I know that may not sound that fun, but you need to figure out how to pack your gear, how to get it set up and torn down, and discover the things that you may be missing.

Take an Overlanding test trip.

The goal with your test trip is to learn how to pack, travel, and set up camp. These four questions are a great way to help you improve your Overlanding adventures:

  1. What worked?
  2. What didn’t work?
  3. What was missing?
  4. What was confusing?

Ask yourself these four questions after each adventure and your next adventure will be even better.

Don't Overthink Things!

The last piece of advice we can give you is to not overthink things. You’ll be better off starting small and building from there. It is so easy to get excited about the new adventures that await you and make things way too complicated (and expensive).

To start Overlanding the right way in 2021 you should outfit the vehicle that you have with the essential equipment that will help you travel safe, sleep well, and stay fed. Once you get your rig equipped then you should go on a short 2-3 night trip to learn what worked, didn’t work, was missing, and was confusing.

Overlanding through nature with your community.

Congratulations! Now you’re a roof top wanderer!

Like we said at the beginning, ask 10 Overlanders what you need to get started Overlanding and you will get 10 answers.

What do you think is missing from our list above?

Now go use Innovation to explore Nature with your Community.

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