What Is an Overland Vehicle?

Photo Credit – acela_trucks

Many people think that off-roading and Overlanding are synonymous, but that cannot be further from the truth. These two terms refer to two different things. Overlanding encompasses more and goes beyond just off-roading. 

An Overlanding vehicle is one that can handle all types of terrain, including dirt roads. It provides the driver with everything they need to live, including a place to sleep and a way to prepare food. Overlanding is a lifestyle and refers to long-term vehicle-based travel. 

In this article, we will explain what Overlanding is. We will also explain what an Overlanding vehicle needs to have to be good for Overlanding. Let us get into it. 

What Is Overlanding?

Before we can explain the difference between an off-road vehicle and an overland vehicle, we need to explain what Overlanding is. By understanding what Overlanding is, you can understand what an overland vehicle is. 

Overlanding refers to taking a long, extended trip for long distances. You might go across the entire country, from New York to California, or you may even go across an entire continent like Europe, Australia, Africa, or South America. 

Overlanders aim to experience different landscapes, see other things, and enjoy the outdoors and nature. You might visit national parks on the way, like Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. You might see different countries and experience different cultures, or you might visit parts of the United States that you never visited before and have never met anyone from. 

Part of the goal of Overlanding is the challenge that it presents. Overlanding over many weeks, months, or even years is not for everyone. It requires you to deal with whatever obstacles might come your way. Most people who go on Overlanding trips do not stay in hotels. Instead, they often remain in camping sites for the night. They may bring along a tent and camp in forests and natural parks. At other times, they may travel in a van or RV and live in the van. 

People who go on an Overlanding trip have free spirits and are open-minded. They know that they will not have the normal comforts of living that everyone else experiences, but they do not care. Instead, they would rather experience the world, test their limits, and expand their horizons. 

Overlanding vs. Off-Roading: The Difference

Now that you know what Overlanding is, you can understand why it is different from off-roading. Off-roading is more limited. People who go off-roading also want to test their challenges and push their limits. However, off-road trips might last only for half a day or a few days. It might last a week or a month, but it is not as long-term as Overlanding. 

That is the difference between Overlanding and off-roading: Overlanding is a lifestyle and a way of living. The goal is the journey and to experience new destinations. Off-roading is limited to off-road terrain – that is what off-roading is all about. An off-roader might try to constantly try out harder terrains, including rocky and muddy terrains. 

Overlanding, on the other hand, might include off-roading as well. During the journey, the overlander might have to drive through difficult terrain, including forests and deserts. However, it is not necessary to go off-roading to go Overlanding. Overlanding encompasses all kinds of terrain: Paved highways and dirt roads leading to campsites. 

However, some overlanders might not like going off-roading and may spend most of their time on paved roads, whenever possible. 

The primary goals of off-roading and Overlanding are different. For Overlanding, the main goal is to explore new parts of the world and overcome obstacles. At its core, it is long term vehicle-based travel. An overland vehicle has to provide you all you need for reaching the destinations you want to reach, at your own pace, with everything you will need to live for months or years. 

With off-roading, on the other hand, the terrain is the goal. You can’t off-road on a highway, but you can overland on a highway. With off-roading, the goal is usually not long-term vehicle-based travel but rather challenging your obstacles and overcoming your limits while improving your off-road driving skills. 

Overlanding vs. Road Trips

After reading the above, you might think that Overlanding is just another synonym for a road trip. However, there is a major difference. A road trip has, at its core, the destination as a goal. The journey is fun as well, but it’s a secondary factor. Also, road trips involve almost exclusively on-road travel. 

On the other hand, Overlanding is not just about the destination – the journey itself is just as important, if not more important. While it does not have to include off-road travel, it usually does, to some extent. It is about overcoming obstacles along the way, not just getting to a destination. 

Also, Overlanding tends to focus on vehicle-based living, as mentioned above. A road trip starts in one place and ends in another; the road tripper does not live on the road for an undetermined period. Road trippers often stay in motels along the way, and even if they do camp, it is not their primary lifestyle – it is just for the duration of the trip. 

What an Overland Vehicle Needs

While off-road vehicles need things like large tires with deep tread, an overland vehicle is more subjective. A lot of vehicles can be overland vehicles. It boils down to this: An overland vehicle is a vehicle that will facilitate YOUR overland journey. 

Suppose you are on a budget and do not have the money to maintain an expensive rig with large tires, and you don’t have money to make modifications like installing a lift kit to boost your ground clearance. In that case, your overland vehicle might be a simple van, truck, or even car. 

You might try to avoid dirt paths when possible and only drive on simple dirt terrain when it is necessary. That is okay – if that is what facilitates your overland journey, that is the kind of overland vehicle you need. 

If you plan on sleeping in your vehicle, your overland vehicle will need a bed. Alternatively, you can buy a truck with an ample roof and buy a tent designed to fit on top of your truck’s roof. You might also need a small kitchen or burner so you can cook, a way to hook your truck up to an electricity source, and a bathroom with a shower. 

If you plan to take your vehicle on tough terrain, you might want to consider investing in a truck designed for off-road riding. Again, it might just need to handle relatively easy or moderately difficult terrain – it does not necessarily have to handle the most difficult terrain. You can invest in larger tires with more tread and use a suspension lift kit to increase your ground clearance. You might invest in better shocks and a heavy-duty axle. 

Many RVs and vans are designed for off-roading. It is hard for extremely large vehicles to be as good off-road, but these vehicles are equipped with all of the regular modifications an off-road vehicle has. You might see these monsters referred to as off-road campers. Earth Roamer is one company that makes a decent selection of off-road vehicles that are designed for living and Overlanding. 

Earthroamer vehicles are usually the type of vehicle people refer to when talking about “overland” vehicles. 

Here are walkthroughs of the exterior and interior of an Earthroamer:


Overland vehicles tend to be livable vehicles, such as vans and RVs. They tend to have moderate modifications for off-road optimizations, although some are fully optimized for off-road – it all depends on the overlander and their intentions. 


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