9 Tips for building your dream overlanding vehicle

9 Tips for building your dream Overlanding vehicle

Equipping a standard vehicle for overland travel is as much a case of personal preference as function.  An Overlanding pickup or SUV is not just a vehicle, its an all-weather, offroader, off-grid tiny house on wheels ready for adventure.  As overlanders our needs very but there are critical equipment that can be found in many if not all Overlanding vehicles.  Join us as we take a closer look at some popular Overlanding vehicle modifications effected by overlanders.

1.  Suspension Upgrades

Fitting upgraded suspension components such as shock absorbers, coil or leaf springs that are correctly matted to the new weight of your Overlanding rig will offer a better ride, restore the vehicles factory ride height (or increase in some vehicles).

Aftermarket suspension components are designed to carry additional weight resulting in less bottoming out when traversing uneven terrain.  Provide more vehicle stability under normal driving conditions as well as emergency braking or lane changes to name but a few.

2.  electrical systems

12 Volt systems form the backbone of all modern-day Overlanding vehicles.  Dual battery systems can be seen as the ‘heart’ of an Overlanding vehicle providing essential ‘lifeblood’ (power) to vehicle accessories such as fridges, camping lights, induction cookers, drone batteries, laptops as well as satellite or cellular phones.

The secondary battery receives current from the vehicles primary battery via either smart/intelligent solenoid or DC-DC battery charger.  Supplementary power/charge can be facilitated by either vehicle or trailer mounted solar panels or blankets.

Overlanders are spoilt for choice when it comes to the selecting of a secondary battery for their vehicles.  End users can opt for either lead-acid, AGM or lithium batteries to ‘drive’ their power needs.

3.  tyres and rims

Contrary to popular belief, the fitting of larger tyres and rims to Overlanding vehicles are not done for esthetic purposes but rather with function in mind.  Most manufacturers fit highway terrain (HT) tyres to production pickup’s and SUV’s that is not conducive for Overlanding.

Upgraded All Terrain (AT) or Mud Terrain (MT) offers a better load index than HT, stronger sidewalls (some manufactures producing three-ply sidewall derivatives) that is less prone to damage or punctures.  Larger tyres will provide a more significant footprint when deflated as well as aid in obtaining more traction in sand, mud and rocky conditions.

4.  bar work

Bar work encompasses, bullbars, rock sliders, replacement rear bumpers as well as rated recovery points.  The primary function of ‘barwork’ is to protect your vehicle’s bodywork against damage when traversing difficult terrain.  Purpose build replacement front and rear bumpers will dramatically increase both approach and departure angles while eliminating possible vehicle damage.   A well-designed front and rear bumper will include rated recovery points aiding in vehicle recoveries by default.

Rock sliders are more critical for long wheelbase vehicles than their short wheelbase counterparts, as short wheelbase vehicles have a better break-over angle than long-wheelbase derivatives.

5.  air compressors

Inflation and deflation is a critical part of traversing different terrains whilst Overlanding.  Tyre pressure acts as part of modern vehicle suspension aiding in passenger comfort.  Deflation can be achieved with a deflation tool such as an Indiflate tyre deflator or even by the removal of the valve core, but we need to find a suitable way of inflating our tyres when the terrain changes.

A good quality compressor will either have a single or dual piston design.  It is advantageous to tie the compressor into the vehicles electrical system (to supply power to the compressor) as they can draw up to 90A during operation and thus not conducive for any 12V power socket.  It is advisable to look at compressors that displace more than 150L of air per minute for larger offroad vehicles.

R6,786.00
6.  winches

When attempting a solo Overlanding adventure, it is always advisable to include the fitment of a suitable winch as part of your vehicle build.  A winch acts like an insurance policy blissfully riding along till it is called upon to extricate a stuck vehicle.  In essence, a winch is a force multiplier providing additional vehicle recovery options when faced with vehicle extraction in the bush, desert or mud to name but a few.

7.  water and filtration

Water management is a critical part of Overlanding.  Even though water is readily available across Africa, the quality of water is not always suitable for human consumption, but this is where water storage and filtration comes into its own.  Water can be stored in multiple ways, from roof-mounted jerry cans to ‘built-in’ water tanks.

Do you prefer a gravity-fed system, or do you require a pressurised water source?  There has been tremendous development with regards to in-line water filtration systems as well as UV purification (killing of bacteria with UV rays).

8.  storage systems

Storage systems, as the name implies, refers to the different storage solutions that overlanders utilize to pack/store all the goods that they require for an overland adventure.  There are a plethora of storage systems on the market for Overlanders to choose from, ranging from cargo slides, modular drawer systems as well as cargo/ammo boxes to store and secure goods whilst Overlanding.

When designing a storage/packing solution for your overland vehicle, one needs to look at critical aspects such as ease of access, as well as weight and space required before fitment.

9.  personal skill

Invest in your skills, modifying your Overlanding vehicle is one thing but knowing how to ‘pilot’ your rig over different types of terrain such as sand, rock or mud is something completely different than driving on hard-packed dirt or tar.

Invest in accredited off-road training, attend refresher courses to rehone your skills.  Off-road driving is evolving daily as new equipment, vehicles and techniques are introduced into the market.

Do you have a rudimentary understanding of your vehicles 12V electrical system?  Do you possess the necessary mechanical skills to effect a bush repair when travelling solo throughout Africa?

concluding thoughts

There is no right or wrong way to ‘build’ an Overlanding vehicle, as Overlanders our designations differ and so too does our needs.  Still, our quest to build the ‘ultimate overlander’ is truly universal.  An Overlanding vehicle is more than the sum of its parts but rather an extension of its owner and the yearning to travel off the beaten track, find solitude and reconnect with nature.

Equipping the ‘vessels’, we utilise to reach our destinations properly could mean the difference between sitting and watching the sunset over Lake Malawi or the Maasai Mara in person… or seeing photographs of these stunning locations in magazines.

By Chris Blatherwick