If you’re putting your blood, sweat, and hard-earned money into an overland build, you don’t want to make willy-nilly decisions regarding SUV modifications. Every aspect of an overland build requires thought and consideration for how it will impact your adventures. Conflicts between mods to your vehicle can be expensive mistakes.
Today, we’re sharing some of the best overland SUV modifications out there. Let’s explore your options!
What Is an Overland Build?
An overland build is a custom-built vehicle designed for living and self-sufficiency. The vehicles of choice for many overlanders are 4x4 trucks, SUVs, RVs, and vans. These typically provide the most muscle and capabilities for off-roading and navigating rugged terrains.
An overland build can be as basic or luxurious as the driver desires. Overlanders are typically only limited by their imagination and bank account. However, the finished products you see from many people are beyond impressive. Many create vehicles capable of spending weeks or even months exploring some of the most remote locations.
➔ Want to see some amazing overland builds? Check out Our 5 Favorite Overland Vehicles on YouTube.
Do You Need 4x4 for Overland Travel?
Because many overlanders choose vehicles that have 4x4 capabilities, many believe it’s all but mandatory for overlanding. However, overlanding and off-roading are entirely different styles of adventuring. A 4x4 vehicle can help in some situations but is not required. 90 percent of the roads and places most overland vehicles go never need 4x4 at all, and can be visited by most vehicles. 4x4 comes in for that last 10 percent to make the journey easier or, get out of a sticky situation.
Many overlanders venture off paved roads to explore. However, they don’t typically focus their energy on conquering large boulders and pushing their vehicle to its limit like those that enjoy off-roading for the sake of off-roading.
So is 4x4 nice to have in an overland vehicle? Absolutely. Is it essential for overlanding? Absolutely not. However, we do think you’ll be glad to have it when you eventually need to use it.
→ Want to get off-road with your camper without building? Check out these awesome, ready-to-go 4x4 RVs that will take you anywhere.
Best Modifications to Make to Your Overland SUV, Van Or Truck Build
First, think through which overland SUV modifications are essential. You want your overland build to enhance the vehicle’s capabilities and make for a more enjoyable and comfortable experience. Let’s look at what mods you should consider.
Suspension upgrades are one of the first overland modifications you should consider making. However, before tossing suspension parts into your shopping cart, think about how you’ll use your vehicle. If you dream of cruising through more maintained forest roads than exploring the tough and rugged desert, you wouldn’t need a heavily modified suspension system.
You also need to have an idea of all future overland modifications. You’ll add and subtract weight to your overland build until it is complete. Your suspension system will need to carry the load and absorb the impact along the way.
Compared to a build just for off-roading, weight is a huge consideration. Overland vehicles are designed to carry you and gear for multi-day excursions and need to handle more weight. Because of that consider disconnectable sway bars, stiffer springs, and heavier build steering components. This is all particularly important if you add a lift. The more you lift the vehicle the more it will rock and sway, and these things need to be controlled for comfort and safety.
Upgrading your suspension can make for a smoother overlanding experience and help protect your vehicle. If you choose the most capable system you can afford, you’ll find more comfort and have a more reliable overlanding vehicle.
Off-Road Tires and Wheels
You must first know how you plan to use your finished overland build. While stock tires and wheels can get the job done in some instances, we have several reasons you should consider upgrading them.
Many serious overlanders choose to change their rims so they can install different tires with thicker sidewalls. Sometimes this entails a smaller tire on a larger rim. Having one with a thicker sidewall can help protect it when the driver airs down the tires to improve traction on sand or other loose driving surfaces.
Conversely, many overlanders go the opposite route and install large wheels and all-terrain or mud tires instead. Creating more contact between the tires and the road helps improve the ride and absorbs impacts more efficiently.
When going larger we recommend keeping the rim no more than half the diameter of the sidewall of the tire. For example, a 40-inch tire should have at least a 20-inch rim or a 35-inch tire on a 17-inch rim. This gives you enough rubber for flex while keeping the sidewall firm enough so that it’s not excessively squirmy on the road.
Another important consideration is the width of the tire. A wider tire spreads the weight over a larger area while a narrower tire provides better sidewall protection and bead retention.
One of the most important factors for heavier off-road vehicles is the weight capacity of the tire. Always make sure that your tires are rated for the weight of your vehicle when fully loaded. Running too heavy can overheat the tire and cause a catastrophic failure that can cause a crash.
Extra Fuel Tanks
Next, many in the overlanding community enjoy taking their vehicles out into remote locations. While these locations can provide silence and solitude, they don’t typically have many gas stations. You don’t want to be in a remote location without cell service and an empty fuel tank.
Commonly, people will increase the size of their vehicle’s fuel tank or mount an auxiliary fuel tank as an overland SUV modification. These can help you or a fellow traveler who finds themselves sitting on empty with no fuel stations in sight. You can also use extra fuel tanks to power generators or other toys that require gas. Keep in mind that extra fuel equals extra weight.
When overlanding, you’ll need a lot of gear. Depending on your setup, you may not have much storage inside of your overland build. Installing a roof rack can increase available storage space and help distribute the weight (albeit it is higher up which can be a negative impact)
You’ll find so many roof racks, so getting the right one for your vehicle is essential. Some have multiple options for adding accessories, and some come with cutouts for additional lighting. If you choose the right roof rack, you can increase the possibilities of what you can bring.
If thieves have enough time and willpower, they’ll find their way into just about any vehicle or compartment. However, upgrading your security system to include locked truck tool boxes and storage compartments can make it more difficult. You don’t want your valuables left sitting out in your vehicle.
If you have to have expensive items in your vehicle, ensure you keep them secure. We also recommend investing in security cables and padlocks to secure external items.
Another security feature that we encourage is tinting all of the windows. This can make it more difficult for thieves to peek inside your vehicle and spot any valuables. However, your window tint needs to follow a legal standard and not be too dark.
Easily Accessible Tool Box
Having an easily accessible toolbox can save your life while overlanding. The journey can be unpredictable, and things can and will eventually break. You don’t have to bring every tool in your garage, but having a compact toolbox or bag that easily fits into a storage compartment can greatly help. Adding this simple overland SUV modification can help in stressful situations.
You’ll need a power source if you want to spend extended time off the grid. When it comes to options for overlanding batteries, there’s nothing better than lithium. If you want the best, Battle Born Batteries are our favorite and go-to battery for off-grid adventures.
➔ You’ll never see us using any other lithium battery brand. Find out why: The Real Reason We Installed Battle Born Lithium Batteries (Again) [2022 Review]
Lithium batteries are durable, lightweight, last longer, and charge faster. If you consider solar panels or other charging methods, these batteries will give you the best bang for your buck. Are they pricey? Yes. However, the results they provide are worth every penny.
Other Gear to Add
When you plan your overland build, you’ll want to leave some room for your gear. You’ll need to get creative with storage. You should have a fire extinguisher, air compressor, and other important electronics. You may not require these every time you travel, but you will occasionally. And, the one time you leave one behind, you’ll need it.
While many vehicles come with spare tires, not all do. You never know what your adventures will throw at you. Having a spare tire can save the day if you find yourself on the side of the road with a flat tire. Due to the remote style of travel, you can’t always contact roadside assistance. You need to carry any gear you might need to change a tire or repair your vehicle.
How Much Is an Overland Build?
When budgeting for overland builds, you can go as cheap or expensive as you can afford. Many novice explorers set off on adventures making minor overland SUV modifications to their vehicle. They may spend anywhere from several hundred dollars to thousands. More experienced and full-time overlanders can spend upwards of $100,000 on a custom build.
If you’re mechanically inclined, you can save a ton of money by installing parts and modifying yourself. However, trying to save a few bucks is not worth jeopardizing your safety. If you’re not qualified or experienced to do a project, spend the extra money and pay someone else to do it.
Why Is Overlanding So Popular?
While overlanding was once one of the best-kept secrets regarding travel styles, the word has gotten out in the travel community. YouTube, Instagram, and other social media platforms have made it extremely easy for travelers to share their adventures with others.
The lifestyle of escaping the chaos of crowded campgrounds and noisy cities is appealing to many who crave adventure. People looking for alternative ways to travel and get out into the wilderness may love this option. Overlanding allows you to get out into nature and still live comfortably.
Are Overland SUV Modifications Worth It?
An overland build allows you to be self-sufficient and move at your own pace. You may find something special about slowing down and letting others race by you on the way to their destination.
You can create a lifetime of priceless memories throughout the entire overland build process. And you can grow your mechanical skills and knowledge. The learning doesn’t stop once you hit the road. You can constantly grow, adapt, and learn lessons while overlanding. Having the right vehicle to meet your needs will only make things better.
Ready to start overlanding but not quite ready to spend thousands of dollars modifying your rig? Check out the 5 Best Overlanding Roof Tents for Ultimate Adventure Camping.
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