Overlanding is growing in popularity, as it combines the joys of camping and backpacking with the challenge of off-roading. People often overland in groups, but many enjoy the solitary experience of overlanding on their own. However you do it, overlanding has a few key concepts:

  • First, you take everything you need with you. Other than gas or supply stops, you won't be staying at a hotel.
  • Everything you need goes in (or on) your vehicle.
  • Your vehicle goes wherever you want to go, obstacles or not.

The best overlanding vehicles are rugged 4WDs with lots of room for gear. You won't see a Toyota Camry overlanding anywhere (or at least we hope not).

Here's a list of 10 overlanding vehicles to consider, in no particular order:

1. Jeep JKU (JK Unlimited)

Overlander jeep

Image credit: JamesHenry

The JKU's long frame means it has a lot of cargo volume for gear. But, like the regular JKs, it offers plenty of off-road capability and great reliability. While it's not quite as big as some overlanders would like, the JKU is a great choice for overlanding.

And if you're the type of overlander that wants to tackle difficult obstacles, the JKU is a great choice.

2. Land Rover Defender

Overlander Defender

Image credit: Land Rover MENA

The Defender is one of the most popular overlanding vehicles for 3 good reasons:

  • Incredible off-road ability. This might be the best off-road vehicle in the world.
  • Good size, which makes it capable of hauling a surprising amount of gear.
  • Very good reliability, even in the tough stuff.

If the Defender has a problem, it's that it's hard to buy one. They're pricey, and there aren't many used models available. You can import them, but even that is expensive. But, if you have the means...

3. Land Rover LR3

Overlander ls3

Image credit: Land Rover Our Planet

If you want a more affordable (and easier to find) Land Rover with cargo space, the LR3 might be what you’re looking for. The LR3 features:

  • A low center of gravity
  • The ability to support greater roof loads than many other 4WD vehicles
  • Like all Land Rovers, excellent off-road abilities

4. Toyota 4Runner

Overlander 4runner

Image credit: Michael Gil

The Toyota 4Runner makes for a great overlanding vehicle because of:

  • Good off-roading abilities with the stock suspension - good OE suspension travel and ground clearance.
  • Bulletproof reliability
  • There are a lot of great accessories available for the 4Runner, making it easy to customize

4Runners are also easy to come by, and pretty affordable if you're open to buying a model from the 80s or 90s.

5. Toyota Land Cruiser

Overlanding Cruiser

Image credit: Imconfused11887

The Land Cruiser is an iconic off-road vehicle. While the newer US-spec Land Cruisers are very luxurious (perhaps too luxurious), it's relatively easy to buy an older import that offers all the off-road capability you'd expect without leather seats, air suspensions, and sunroofs.

Check out CruiserImportCompany.com and LandCruisersDirect.com to see for yourself.

6. Subaru Outback

Overlander outback

Image credit: David Villarreal Fernandez

Why is the car-based Outback on this list among rugged off-road SUVs? Because it’s a pretty darn reliable car that can take you most places with the right tires and accessories. It's never going to conquer the same trails as a Jeep, but it's surprisingly agile off-road. Good fuel economy too.

Not to mention, you can pack quite a bit of gear into an Outback wagon.

7. Mercedes Benz G500 4x4

Overlander g500

Image credit: B Moore

The Mercedes Benz G500 4x4 is such a great overlanding vehicle that militaries around the world use it to navigate rough territories. It’s no wonder, with all the solid features that come with this beast. A few include a high ground clearance, heavy duty axles, and a durable frame and body.

Like Toyota's Land Cruiser, it might be a bit too snazzy for overlanding...but that's up to you.

8. Mercedes Unimog

Overlander unimog

Image credit: Norbert Schnitzler

The Unimog is another vehicle favored by different militaries across the world. Despite it looking like a freightliner, the Unimog can tear through many different kinds of terrain and carry a small camper in the back!

Not only that, but the Unimog boasts:

  • The ability to ford with thrust tube technology and an air intake pipe at cab roof height
  • A Central Tire Inflation system that adjusts the pressure of each tire when it enters different terrain
  • A dual-circuit braking system that provides safe braking on steep hills

9. Nissan XTerra

Overlander xterra

Image credit: Eric Johnson

This affordable SUV delivers more punch than expected. Just slap on a few accessories and a good set of off-road tires and you’re good to go. Its solid frame guarantees durability on even the roughest overlanding trails. The wheelbase is short enough to climb boulders, yet long enough to provide stability. Last, but not least, it boasts plenty of cargo space to store your stuff and to provide some sleeping space.

Like Toyota's 4Runner, the XTerra offers excellent reliability. It's a very affordable option for overlanders on a budget.

10. Honda Element

Overlander element

Image credit: Ildar Sagdejev

At a first glance, the Element may seem like an SUV only good for taking your kids to soccer practice, but it’s actually so much more than that.

Its boxy body allows you to slide a queen-sized mattress in there whenever you don’t feel like pitching a tent. Of course, you can also stash a bunch of gear back there with plenty of room to spare.

Keep in mind that you can’t pluck any Element off of a car dealership lot and head over to the nearest off-road trail. While a basic Element can take you on some off-roading trails, it still needs to sport the correct equipment and mods to handle any type of territory on a real overlanding trip. It is most comparable to a Subura Outback in terms of capability.

Recommended Overlanding Accessories

Finally, here's a list of helpful overlanding gear you can take with you:

  • Fuel and water cans, in case you get stranded
  • A Hi-lift jack, which is great for recovery
  • LED lights in the front and rear of the vehicle
  • A winch
  • Upgraded off-road tires, preferably load range E
  • 2 bottles of compressed CO2, allowing you to re-inflate your tires if you need to "air down" at some point
  • A small 12VDC fridge to keep your perishable food fresh
  • A dual battery setup, which helps make sure your winch or other accessories don't kill your starter battery
  • A steel front bumper
  • A roof tent
  • Upgraded heavy-duty suspension parts

Overlanding is a great way to see the landscape, and with the right vehicle and equipment it's safe and fun.