Dress for Success: The Aesthetics of Expeditionary Trucks

If you spend enough time on the Expedition Portal forums you know there are literally thousands of posts dedicated to discussions about vehicle modifications. Surprisingly, none of them involve important considerations with regard to overland aesthetics. While it is perhaps practical  to debate the merits of portal axles and pinion gears, those discussions are laborious at best, and let’s face it, can anyone even see your new lockers to appreciate them?  I think we all agree that an overland rig needs to be far more than just capable, it also needs to look the part. Lacking such a thread in our expansive forums, we’ve put together a short guide to help you prepare your truck properly. Consider it a primer on how to dress for success.




Add a snorkel. It really shouldn’t matter if you live in a region of the world where water crossings are as common as winged pigs. Floods happen, at least that’s what you should tell your neighbor when he points to your snorkel and asks, “what the heck is that thing?” A snorkel isn’t so much a mechanical improvement to your truck as it is a conversation starter. With your neighbor’s attention grabbed, you’ll soon be regaling him with romantic, albeit theoretical, accounts of fording rivers in far away lands. By the time you fold in words like “bow wave,” you’ll have said neighbor so worked up, his next vehicle mod will be a lit match lobbed into the front seat of his mini van. A snorkel is also like a raised hand for your truck. Who’s serious about adventure? “I am,” says your truck. One last tip, you don’t even need to connect it to your engine. Just sitting there it does all it needs to do.




Get a gigantic roof rack. I’m talking a rack with the square footage of the flight deck on the USS Nimitz. A roof rack is a fedora for your truck, and we all know how cool a fedora is. A roof rack stands out in a crowded parking lot (handy for locating your truck at Home Depot), and suggests something serious is afoot, especially if that rack is further accessorized with a few Pelican boxes. What’s in the boxes? When someone asks, just give a coy pause and say, “overlanding stuff,” and watch as the expeditionary sugar plums dance in their heads. Oh, what could be in the boxes, they’ll wonder. It’s also important to not just stop at the rack. You have to get up there.  Okay, you probably never will, but the point is––bolt a ladder to your truck. File this under one more thing your neighbor doesn’t have on his truck…er…mini van. 


Bump it up a notch. Nothing says get the hell out of my way like a big bumper with a gratuitous bull bar. It really shouldn’t matter if you’re 10,000 miles away from the nearest suicidal kangaroo, there’s ample justification for a bull bar. Shopping carts are often punchlines included in the bull bar joke rotary, but trust me, those suckers damage front ends every day of the week. Think about it, a kangaroo isn’t made of chromed steel. I once had a garage door run into my bumper.  A big bumper is also a necessary landing pad for a winch you’re afraid to use, a Hi-Lift jack that you should be afraid to use, and of course….lights!




I see the light. Or, maybe I don’t, it doesn’t matter. Lights, especially light bars, are not necessary to see in the dark. Your truck came with at least two fine lights conveniently pointed forward. Accessory lights are like gold chains on a hairy chest. Bolt’em on and let the ladies flock. Like the snorkel, they don’t even need to be wired and functional to do what they are really intended to do––which is to illuminate your awesomeness. I’m not a statistician, but I’d wager most accessory lights are used never-percent of the time. That’s no reason not to drop $1000 on LED technology. If anything it’s one more thing to lord over your lowly neighbor. And, don’t forget to mention that impressive price tag.






With everything in place, your truck should now look like Indiana Jones on wheels. You should also realize this article is pure satire. The humor lies in the veracity of the above mods and how it is relatable to nearly all overlanders. My first overland build was the inspiration for this editorial, and it still makes me drop my head in my hands. It was an overlanding lampoon, an unnecessary inventory of doodads, all consuming money best spent on the center locking diff I never got around to obtaining.


As we build our trucks, the temptation to reach for aesthetic mods––first––is hard to resist. This is not to say snorkels, roof racks, bumpers, and lights are not vital additions to some overland trucks, but for many they are just expensive trinkets, differentiating callouts that announce your passion for overlanding. The trucks pictured above are examples of beautiful builds wearing all of the overland bling anyone would ever want. They’re also astoundingly capable with the fundamental modifications in place.


In an upcoming feature, we’ll discuss the first five essential mods every overlander should incorporate into their vehicle preparation, most of which will not change the appearance of your truck one bit. Until then, keep thinking of ways to impress your neighbor.




The author’s Disco II sure looked the part, but needed a center locking diff above all. 





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Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.