Turning a Daily Driver Into An Overlanding Ride Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank

Overlanding is basically camping with an everyday car, like an SUV or a truck. There’s a lot to consider logistically, starting with the car. Overlanding is typically done with a car that’s either all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, is high off the ground, and has a lot of cargo space. It’s possible to turn an econobox into an overlander, as long as there are suspension upgrades that give it the ground clearance it needs for rocky terrain. However, outfitting something like a Honda Civic for overlanding adventures may be more expensive than just buying a used Honda CR-V from the early 2000s. Here is some basic equipment for taking on overland adventures.

Basic necessity: roof rack

yakima roof rack on display at a show
Yakima roof rack on display | Getty Images

Yakima makes some of the best roof racks. Some are made of aluminum, so they’re lightweight, and they are aerodynamically shaped. They’re also surprisingly strong. They’re sold in different lengths, so be sure to pick the one that’s appropriately sized for your roof. Any car can have a roof rack, so if considering converting a Camry into an overland adventure vehicle, getting a roof rack won’t hold up the process.

Borderline camping luxury: rooftop tent

Overlanding rooftop tent pitched next to a cliff
Rooftop Tent | Sven-Erik Arndt/Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Overlanding needs shelter. Tents that mount above a truck bed abound for less than $200, but a rooftop tent will run closer to $2,000. It hooks into the roof rack and sits collapsed and strapped to the roof, ready to be unfolded and set up. Tepui rooftop tents come with ladders, and some are big enough for three people. Other brands sell for around $1,500. Fortunately, this may be the most expensive part of the conversion. REI sells many different kinds at multiple price points. It’s also possible to skip the tent altogether and go for a van instead, as long as it stays on the pavement.

Pure convenience: rolling table and chairs

people sitting on picnic chairs in front of a portable table
People sitting on picnic chairs in front of a portable table | Photo by Frank Rumpenhorst/picture alliance via Getty Images

Overlanding is much more fun with niceties like a rolling table and folding chairs. The table runs about $100 at one of the cheapest parts of this conversion, and collapsable chairs can be found at Walmart for $10 each. A rolling table comes in multiple sizes and easily packs away, taking up very little trunk real estate. 

Portable barbeque: 2-burner stove

steaks grilling on a camping stove
Six steaks grilling on a camp stove | Getty Images

A camping stove with two burners is also one of the cheapest parts of overlanding. Coleman Gas sells a tried and true, highly rated camping stove for $43. Getting one with a grill top would add to the functionality as well. There are even camping stoves that come with legs, so they don’t need a base. However, those cost closer to $150. 

Preserve food: ice box

friends gathered for a picnic
Friends having a picnic | Getty Images

Bringing fresh food across the country while overlanding requires a dependable way to transport it. Consider the Yeti Tundra or Pelican cooler boxes. Thanks to several layers of insulation, Yeti coolers can keep food fresh for days and can defend from bears and other wildlife thanks to the solid construction. They cost around $350, but are worth it.

Power supply: electric generator

portable power generator
Portable power generator | Getty Images

Cars can charge small electronics like cell phones on the road. As long as the engine is running, the car can charge anything. This does waste gas, if not driving anywhere, so consider a generator of some kind. Amazon sells solar-powered portable generators that provide enough power to charge several electronic devices at once. Bluetti makes a portable charger with solar panels included that provides 500Wh for $700.

Overlanding is getting more popular, and remains affordable. All this equipment rounds up to $3,600 on Amazon. It isn’t a bad price, considering these are all one-time purchases. A cheaper tent could cost $1,500, or if overlanding with a truck, a proper size tent only costs $200. Trucks don’t need roof racks either. It depends on the kind of car that’s going into the wilderness. Again, it is possible to overland with a commuter sedan but could cost considerably more just to outfit the car for the terrain. Shop around for equipment, and get quality that’s comfortable.

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