While searching for your perfect Overland vehicle, remember that nothing is perfect, and everything is a balance. This match making process is about making those four wheels do what you really want them to do. There are opinions everywhere declaring THE perfect travel vehicle, or THE answer to all of your adventure prayers. I urge you to not get lost in other’s opinions, as knowledgeable as they may be. This adventure is yours, your inspirations, your mishaps, and your future of miles of stories woven into the wrinkles on your face. Only you know how you want your adventure to unfold.
Here is a breakdown on how to shape your own Adventure Mobile.
How much do you want to spend on your vehicle, vs. travel?
If you get too lost in the never-ending rabbit hole of vehicle modifications, you might never leave your driveway, or you’ll just be too broke to put gas in the tank. Setting up an overall budget on what your projected travel expenses look like, food, visas, shipping, vehicle maintenance, etc, will largely dictate what you build. This will also make you put some priorities in order. Do you really need that eight-inch lift? Or do you want that money to go on a guided rainforest tour?
How are you camping?
If you have a tent/roof top tent, you will need to find places to set up, in all weather situations. This means campgrounds, BLM land, friend’s yards, etc. In areas like the California coast, it can be seriously difficult to find free places to set up camp, either changing your route, or adding to your camping budget. If you can ‘stealth camp’ in your van/wagon/SUV/truck bed, you are going to be able to fly more under the radar, therefore opening up city camping options. If you’re going big with an RV/Trailer/Unimog, then parking starts to become an issue. No more access to garages in cities, parallel parking is a nightmare, and you stick out like a sore thumb.
Where is your living space?
How much set up is required to have a place to relax, also what does relaxing look like to you? Traveling in a small vehicle will push you into creating a living space outside, every time you want one. Having a larger vehicle can give you an already defined living space. When you’re parked and waiting out wet weather, where is your space to be alone, or to read a book?
How are you bringing your adventure gear/How much do you really need?
If you plan on putting gear on the roof, you have to think about security, the clearance for overhangs, and access. If your storage solution is to bring a trailer, well then you have a trailer. If you’re breaking down and reassembling your bikes to stuff them away, are you making it too much of a hassle to actually use them often? If you have wet muddy gear, do you have a place to store it? Remember, a lot of adventure gear might just be easier and cheaper to rent at your destination than lugging it around the countryside with you.
How are you cooking?
If you plan on cooking most every meal, make sure you have the tools you need and the power/fuel to support them (refrigerator, clean water, stove and/or grill). Want to go to Alaska in the summer? Think bears, mosquitoes, and black flies. How about spring rains and fall winds? The perfect bluebird days of sunshine and rainbows do happen, but you still have to eat in a hailstorm. How are you making it easy for yourself to do what you need to do? Do you have a bug tent, an awning, or a windscreen for your stove? Does your set up allow you to cook inside with proper ventilation that doesn’t let bugs in?
How are you handling storage?
Everything must have a home; clothes, shoes, dirty laundry, shower kit, food, toilet paper, towels, books, stoves, camera gear, etc… Remember to make sure everything is secured as well, because things do shift in transit. Also know that if you have to move a ton of things around everyday, in order to do simple things like crawl into bed, it can get old REALLY fast. While this might not bother you on a weekend excursion, it might drive you nuts on longer journeys.
How are you washing up?
Do you have an outside shower/shower bag? Then you need to think about what kind of shampoo/soap you’re going to be putting back into the water system. Plan on showering at RV parks, campgrounds, and Laundromats? A well thought out shower kit will save you a LOT of grief when it comes to the various shower environments you will encounter. And please, for the love of everything holy, have SHOWER SHOES. From sketchy shower floors, to showering in dirt, a cheap flip flop that can be hosed off, dried quickly, bleached clean, or just plain thrown away can make all the difference to your happiness and health.
Where are you going to ‘go’ when you need ‘to go’?
From stealth camping in a city, to it being 18 degrees outside your vehicle, there will be situations where ‘just going outside’, will become less than enjoyable. When the stars do align, and you have yourself a wide-open space just to yourself, do you want to dig a hole, or do you want the option of a toilet throne with a disposable waste bag? Interior options like a cartridge toilet can work as well, however they do take up quite a bit of space and aren’t exactly enjoyable to clean up after. Just know this, you WILL need to go at some point on your journey where there is not a bathroom available. Having a back up plan might save your relationship, or your desire to keep traveling.
The world awaits you. You have a vision, you have the drive, and now you have an outline to design the platform on which your adventures will unfold. While building your four legged Adventure Mobile, keep your dreams close and don’t let necessary compromises slow you down. This glorious, traveling itch, that you must scratch, is alive and well, but the question is, how are you going to get there, and everywhere? You could say that this adventurous life begins, where the rubber meets the road.