Which Overland Vehicle and Why?

Metcalf

Expedition Leader
Certainly understand your viewpoint. And I do believe a lot of folks can "over build". However, a lot of people also have big plans and sometimes can execute them and other times life happens and are not able to.

To give some additional background and some of my thoughts.
  • There are areas I would love to see but are a long ways to drive. So, I would like to plan for something that is road worthy (long highway trek) to get where we want to go but be able to handle some off-road too (not real extreme rock crawling or mud bogging).
  • Can double as a daily driver.
  • I do have a wife and 3 kids (family of 5), so daily driver needs to accommodate 5 people.
  • We have a suburban 2wd for our family travels. But I would like something that me and my sons (or me and a friend or two) could take.
  • Don't really see sleeping in cab unless it's just me.
  • Kind of thought maybe a 4 door small truck might be a good option. Would give the versatility of having a pick up when home, can accommodate 5 people for in town, can have a shell or bed cover for gear when traveling, be smaller and lighter for off-road driving.
That helps steer the conversation....

I would go look at the mid-size double cab trucks with the entire family and see how it goes. My guess, especially with the kids growing, that 5 people in a non-full size truck cab will be tight, especially for long trips. I would however look at the new Chevy Colorado ZR2 package...with or without the diesel. That is about the 'most' you can get in a mid-size truck in the USA right now out of the box. Add a hidden front winch mount and you would basically have something that would do just about everything in the USA except maybe breeze through the Rubicon Trail.

I would probably say a short bed 4-door full size truck would be about the right fit, but you will just have to suck up the daily driver bad mileage.
 

Shovel

Explorer
There are as many answers to this as there are stars in the sky. If we're talking about long distance adventures in North America with maximum versatility your answer is probably going to be a Toyota Highlander Hybrid and yes I am absolutely 100% serious.

* Vanishingly few legal scenic off-pavement routes actually require more off-road chops than a Highlander's got. There are feature trails like Rubicon or whatever but that's a trail you drive for the trail itself. Equivalent scenery is available on pavement.
* Available across a decade and a half of model years so there's one in everyone's budget.
* Toyota's hybrid synergy drive CVT is pretty much immortal because they are constant mesh with no friction drive components. While I think the "Toyota = Reliable!" trope is false in general, the Highlander platform seems to have proven itself pretty well and has had long enough in the market to have shown major flaws if it was to have them.
* Nothing that roomy with AWD gets that kind of MPG, so you can afford fuel on a longer trip and if you swap drivers the out of service driver can sleep comfortably, if you bring friends there's ample room for gear, etc.
* In North America you simply don't need to carry ten tons of sh(..oes) because there's almost nowhere you can legally drive that's more than 2 hours from some kind of civilization where you can buy or arrange just about anything you forgot to bring with on your trip.
* A hybrid that can tow a 3500lb A-frame, pop up or a small boat for greater versatility in adventures.

The down sides pretty much are that first gen's (pre-2008) are kind of crude and less roomy despite getting worse mpg than later ones, and pre-2012 models all get weird in icy conditions (you can't turn off traction control or put it in snow mode so if you are stopped on ice they don't want to get moving without some argument) ... basically the newer the better on those. And of course the biggest down side of all is they don't look all SUPER OVERLANDER BRO HASHBROWN #VANLIFE CHECK OUT MY INSTAGRAM, which means you get no vanity points for driving one. Depends how much that stuff matters to you.
 
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deserteagle56

Adventurer
* Vanishingly few legal scenic off-pavement routes actually require more off-road chops than a Highlander's got.
* In North America you simply don't need to carry ten tons of sh(..oes) because there's almost nowhere you can legally drive that's more than 2 hours from some kind of civilization where you can buy or arrange just about anything you forgot to bring with on your trip.
Sir, you obviously have never been west of the Mississippi.

Most of the western states I travel have many areas that are several hours from civilization. Several hours from a gas station. Very few paved roads! But those dirt roads are all "legal" and they are all "scenic"! Below photo - thiis is a "maintained" county road...the county MIGHT run a grader down it once a year. The rest of the time it is up to the traveler to do what it takes to drive the road. That wash is 3' deep so even my Rubicon cannot drive across it. It was necessary to drive out through the brush and rocks until I found a place to cross. A Highlander might make it...but I'm willing to bet there would be undercarriage damage.

P1100099r.jpg

Come out and drive some of the high roads in Colorado...not going to find many Highlanders!
 

85_Ranger4x4

Well-known member
Sir, you obviously have never been west of the Mississippi.

Most of the western states I travel have many areas that are several hours from civilization. Several hours from a gas station. Very few paved roads! But those dirt roads are all "legal" and they are all "scenic"! Below photo - thiis is a "maintained" county road...the county MIGHT run a grader down it once a year. The rest of the time it is up to the traveler to do what it takes to drive the road. That wash is 3' deep so even my Rubicon cannot drive across it. It was necessary to drive out through the brush and rocks until I found a place to cross. A Highlander might make it...but I'm willing to bet there would be undercarriage damage.

View attachment 562107

Come out and drive some of the high roads in Colorado...not going to find many Highlanders!
Its been a day or two since that road has seen a grader...
 

al_burpe

Observer
There are as many answers to this as there are stars in the sky. If we're talking about long distance adventures in North America with maximum versatility your answer is probably going to be a Toyota Highlander Hybrid and yes I am absolutely 100% serious.

* Vanishingly few legal scenic off-pavement routes actually require more off-road chops than a Highlander's got. There are feature trails like Rubicon or whatever but that's a trail you drive for the trail itself. Equivalent scenery is available on pavement.
* Available across a decade and a half of model years so there's one in everyone's budget.
* Toyota's hybrid synergy drive CVT is pretty much immortal because they are constant mesh with no friction drive components. While I think the "Toyota = Reliable!" trope is false in general, the Highlander platform seems to have proven itself pretty well and has had long enough in the market to have shown major flaws if it was to have them.
* Nothing that roomy with AWD gets that kind of MPG, so you can afford fuel on a longer trip and if you swap drivers the out of service driver can sleep comfortably, if you bring friends there's ample room for gear, etc.
* In North America you simply don't need to carry ten tons of sh(..oes) because there's almost nowhere you can legally drive that's more than 2 hours from some kind of civilization where you can buy or arrange just about anything you forgot to bring with on your trip.
* A hybrid that can tow a 3500lb A-frame, pop up or a small boat for greater versatility in adventures.

The down sides pretty much are that first gen's (pre-2008) are kind of crude and less roomy despite getting worse mpg than later ones, and pre-2012 models all get weird in icy conditions (you can't turn off traction control or put it in snow mode so if you are stopped on ice they don't want to get moving without some argument) ... basically the newer the better on those. And of course the biggest down side of all is they don't look all SUPER OVERLANDER BRO HASHBROWN #VANLIFE CHECK OUT MY INSTAGRAM, which means you get no vanity points for driving one. Depends how much that stuff matters to you.
I like this suggestion. I had been looking at Highlanders recently though and was surprised that the first gen wasn't that much bigger than the third gen RAV4. I definitely struggle with making a vehicle choice based on what I think I might want to do someday rather than the reality of what I actually do.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
Sir, you obviously have never been west of the Mississippi.

Most of the western states I travel have many areas that are several hours from civilization. Several hours from a gas station. Very few paved roads! But those dirt roads are all "legal" and they are all "scenic"! Below photo - thiis is a "maintained" county road...the county MIGHT run a grader down it once a year. The rest of the time it is up to the traveler to do what it takes to drive the road. That wash is 3' deep so even my Rubicon cannot drive across it. It was necessary to drive out through the brush and rocks until I found a place to cross. A Highlander might make it...but I'm willing to bet there would be undercarriage damage.

View attachment 562107

Come out and drive some of the high roads in Colorado...not going to find many Highlanders!
LOL, this was along a county road in southwestern Wyoming. His point though is valid, the route selection was specifically to not use pavement so vehicle selection depends on intent. Sure, we could have spent 6 hours taking Interstate or Federal and State two-lane instead of 3 days plodding along routes that see a sheep herder or rancher maybe every couple of years but that wouldn't have been as enjoyable.

DSC02692.jpg
 
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Recommended books for Overlanding

Happy Joe

Apprentice Geezer
IMO any, well built , well designed, off road/highway vehicle should also be capable of safely & enjoyably doing 18+ hour runs down the interstate at interstate speeds (and above) to get to the unmaintained trails & roads that are worthy of 4WD. (Liked the pics!).

For some the biggest issue is seating; get/build one with enough, comfortable, seats.
For some the issue is toy carrying capacity; get one with a big enough bed or towing capability... finding a secure place to park the toy hauler, after arrival,may be an issue.
For me a properly modified, old, 2 seat, 2 door, Jeep is more than enough (gave away the Ranger pickup last fall)...

Be aware that, over time, the amount of stuff will, likely, grow to more than fill (overload) the available space no matter what vehicle is chosen; at which point it is time to go through the stuff and reduce the load.

Enjoy!
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
IMO any, well built , well designed, off road/highway vehicle should also be capable of safely & enjoyably doing 18+ hour runs down the interstate at interstate speeds (and above) to get to the unmaintained trails & roads that are worthy of 4WD.
I think it's maybe a grey area as to what a safe and enjoyable speed might be (one might argue a brand new 4 cylinder 1980s Toyota truck was marginally safe when speed limits went from 55 to 75) but your point is right on. If you've built a truck to the point it's not really suitable for Interstate travel at all then it's a purpose built vehicle just as much as a Corvette or even a plain old sedan is purpose built to be excellent at Interstates (be that performance or simply mileage) at the sacrifice of dirt and trails. So the right vehicle in that grey area is going to depend on what you want to do. If you want to put down miles on decent roads often then a Subaru with aggressive tires will be ideal while a Jeep on 33s will be ideal if the Interstate segments are a day here or there to link less improved routes.
 

DzlToy

Explorer
I would contend there is no such thing as an "over land vehicle" and that most people who say they want to go "overlanding" are merely camping out or temporarily living out of, whatever vehicle they have. I have camped out of the back of a Honda Civic and a Toyota Camry for more than a week. Those two vehicles and a few more, have been driven tens of thousands of miles for backpacking, hiking, camping and mountain biking trips all over the country for the last 25 years. A good friend of mine took a 9,000 mile road trip over 45 days and camped out of the back of a Mk5 Jetta TDI with his wife, for about 40 out of the 45 nights they were gone.

People have "overlanded" on mountain bikes and motorcycles for decades and some have even walked around the world. A long distance back packer would laugh his or her arse off at an LMTV carrying 160 gallons of water, lumbering slowly down the highway getting 7 MPG and being severely restricted on where it can go off road. The same goes for USDM Canter FGs with its fantastic 25:1 crawl ratio, and a complete lack of low range.

A vehicle built for a family of four to go camping for 7 days, then return home, is completely different from a vehicle built for 2 people to live out of for 2-3 months at a time.

You have to decide how you are going to use the vehicle, any vehicle, first. Four people in a JK for a 7 day camping trip means that you have hardly any room for gear and that you are going to be eating out at restaurants or shopping every day. You are also going to be sleeping in small tents and not doing much because there simply isn't enough room in the back of a JK for 7 days worth of gear for 4-5 people.

Other than not having kids and saving about $500,000 over the next 16 years, I can only say that less is more and if you do not have any experience with long term camping, living out of a vehicle or taking long road trips, you likely don't know what you want yet. So try a few things, join a club, rent a vehicle or just take a trip. If your wife and kids are going nuts on day 3, a 45 day camping trip in a specially prepared vehicle, may not be in the cards.
 

billiebob

My Uncle drove a government issued Jeep in Europe
Different strokes for different folks. For me, choosing a set-up is/was about dependability, reliability, long distance driving comfort, power, and some form of creature comfort in my camping set-up. For me their is no question that the compromise of having a full-size vehicle outweighs what I give up in the nimbleness of a smaller vehicle.

View attachment 562085
I call this ^^^ the ultimate overlander for 2. Easily serviced anywhere. Quite reliable. Affordable both to buy and run. Plenty capable
 

billiebob

My Uncle drove a government issued Jeep in Europe
LOL, this was along a county road in southwestern Wyoming. His point though is valid, the route selection was specifically to not use pavement so vehicle selection depends on intent. Sure, we could have spent 6 hours taking Interstate or Federal and State two-lane instead of 3 days plodding along routes that see a sheep herder or rancher maybe every couple of years but that wouldn't have been as enjoyable.

View attachment 562153
This is the contrast between traveling alone vs having a few vehicles for backup. Alone you'd be nuts to drop into that wash.
 

IdaSHO

IDACAMPER
Depending upon vehicle you are driving, and soil conditions, some time with a shovel might be a better option anyhow.

I know with our large setup, and potentially bottomless sand/mud on either side of the road, Id be much more inclined to move dirt...

Around here that's considered being neighborly anyhow.... as others can then get thru easier ;)


A vehicle built for a family of four to go camping for 7 days, then return home, is completely different from a vehicle built for 2 people to live out of for 2-3 months at a time.
+1

Many feel its a one-size-fits-all deal, which simply isnt the case.


For us, it is certainly the 2-people for months at a time scenario.
Add into it requirements to handle ANY weather condition the northwest can dish out, and things change again.

I have a history of breaking half-ton trucks, so these days I stick to 3/4 or 1-ton Fords.
Solid axles, real frame, real transfer case, etc...
But there are always compromises. Ride quality & MPG are the biggest ones.
But coupled with a true 4-season camper the setup will go everywhere we need it to go and keep us warm and safe regardless of weather.

For those commenting about roads.... hell, we still have dirt roads in town, and during the thickest part of winter, a 4wd is nearly a requirement just to get to work or go for groceries... :ROFLMAO:
What is normally a 20-minute commute can easily turn into 2+hours. So location in the country is a HUGE deal.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
This is the contrast between traveling alone vs having a few vehicles for backup. Alone you'd be nuts to drop into that wash.
Risk is of course a factor in any decision. This particular crossing we knocked the lip off and got the first truck across (you actually had to drop in and turn left) without much drama so in hindsight it wouldn't have been an issue solo. But your point is well taken. There wasn't much to anchor to so a winch pull would have been a major PITA to bury a spare tire.
 
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