Overlanding Gear Setup: How we build our vehicles

We used to own a 4x4 overland rental company based out of San Francisco (and have since sold that business because we wanted to focus on the product side of things) - in this post we will share what we have learned about overland builds. We often get this question from our community: what was your favorite overland rental vehicle in your fleet and why?

Even though the 4x4 campers pass a very high bar for off-roading requirements, all 3 vehicles were built out differently. Some had roof top tents and others were setup as pop-up camper.

Overland build gear  Overland build gear

What was your favourite overland vehicle out of the rental fleet?
Our favourite overland vehicle and overlanding equipment selection really depended on what we wanted to do for a particular road trip adventure. And while we were choosing gear for our overland rental vehicles, we developed a framework helps others in the community select their own overland vehicle.

We started off by thinking about the type of trips we and our clients would want to go on. We tried to answer this question as honestly as we could: “What is the mission for our trip?”.

Purpose: For us, overlanding has always been about exploration and adventure, just as much as arriving to a beautiful location and enjoying a campfire. There is a subtle difference between exploration and adventure that lies in the mindset and of course the gear that comes with each.

Duration: a 3-day camping trip at a nearby campground with a fire pit and a table is different from a two week trip to a remote area, which is very different from a month-long road trip to Baja, which in-turn is not the same as heading north to Alaska for the entire summer... You get the point. 

Overlanding vehicle

Longest leg between re-supply: this is important - it will determine the amount of fuel, food, and water to carry. As a consequence, it will also restrict the space and weight for other adventure gear - like kayaks, bikes, or paddle boards. Additionally, this will place a constraint on the type of recovery gear you will need.

Self-reliance: this is a difficult requirement to meet and it will “cost” you in money, space, and weight, especially when coupled with a long time between re-supply points. In reality, the remote areas of California, most of West Coast and especially East Coast are far from desolate.

Camping: our first choice is always public land and dispersed camping. We also love exploring remote and established campgrounds. We are OK with Wallmart parking lots being monopolized by #VanLife.

Terrain: Overland vehicles and gear should handle technically challenging terrain like Steele Pass in Death Valley, but that’s about as far as we would want to push it - we chose to leave rock crawling like the iconic Rubicon trail to others.

Climate: It’s easy to enjoy the warm-summer Mediterranean climate of California or hot desert climate of Baja with minimal gear. But how will the setup handle the subarctic climate of Eastern Oregon (if that’s your mission)? Heater and warmest rated sleeping bags to the rescue. 

And here are the main principles that we used for our overlanding vehicle setu

1. Build for the last mile (steep or rocky hill to get to your favourite camping spot, just as example)
2. Nobody gets extra points for being uncomfortable (that's the trick to staying a consistent overland - your set up has to be comfortable for you)
3. Weight is your main enemy

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

Purpose: Relaxing getaway and reconnect with nature for 2-3 people
Duration: up to 7 days
Leg between re-supply: 2-3 days
Self-reliance: Some
Camping: remote and established campgrounds
Terrain: technically difficult
Climate: 4 seasons in warm-summer Mediterranean climate

Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

Purpose: Exploration and adventure for 2-3 people
Duration: up to 30 days
Leg between re-supply: 4-5 days
Self-reliance: Some
Camping: remote and established campgrounds
Terrain: technically challenging
Climate: 4 seasons in warm-summer Mediterranean climate


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