Overlanding: Tackling the Roads Less Traveled

For Overlanders with a Thirst for Adventure, These Built-Tough RVs Will Take You Off the Beaten Path for Exploring the Unknown

Image Caption: Photo Credit: Bruce W. Smith

One of the fastest-growing segments of the RVing world today is overlanding—a combination of camping off the grid for multiple days, weeks, or months at a time while exploring the more remote areas of the country.

Extended trips exploring the backcountry where the pavement ends is a relatively new vehicle-based RVing trend here in the US. But overlanding started in Australia back in the early 1900s as intrepid explorers risked life and limb to find vehicle routes for cattle and trade across the vast interior of the rugged continent.

Those early pioneers had to be totally self-reliant for their survival needs, and their vehicles were equipped to endure all sorts of challenges, from crossing barren deserts to fast-flowing streams and rivers to navigating through deep sand, rocks, and muddy tracks. They camped under the stars and lived off the land.

Today’s much-less-taxing version of overlanding has become a vast niche market dedicated to the building and accessorizing of vehicles and trailers to accommodate extended off-pavement travel and wilderness camping.

Manufacturers from around the world now offer a wide range of choices in RVs and camping gear designed around the modern off-the-pavement lifestyle.

Overlanding Vehicle Equipment

Because overlanding requires off-pavement and oftentimes actual off-road travel, vehicles for this type of RVing are generally four-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel-drive (AWD) setup to handle the rigors of off-road travel.

They are typically set up with all-terrain (A/T) or mud-terrain (M/T) tires that provide more ground clearance and better traction off-pavement, along with suspension lift kits and high-end shocks for better ride and handling.

Serious overlanding vehicles are usually equipped with aftermarket bed and roof racks to carry rooftop tents (RTT), extra fuel and water, and essential boondocking gear and toys. Aftermarket auxiliary lights, an electric winch, and sturdier bumpers and skid plates are also common accessories. Many also tow special trailers built for camping off-grid.

what is overlanding

Photo Credit: Ford

Vehicles Suited for Overlanding

The demand for overlanding has prompted vehicle manufacturers to offer new 4WD and AWD models with special off-road option packages that are ideal for this use, like the Ford Raptor Ranger, Bronco, and F-Series pickups; Toyota TRD Pro packages; Jeep Wrangler Rubicons; GMC Sierra AT4X, and Chevy Silverado ZR2.

Even RV manufacturers have jumped into the fray over the past decade with custom Class B AWD camper vans and 4WD Class B and Class C motorhomes designed for boondocking.

EarthRoamer, EarthCruiser, Storyteller Overland, Vorsheer, Tiffin, Thor, Pleasure-Way, Winnebago and a number of other RV manufacturers and custom builders offer a wide variety of turnkey camper vans and motorhomes where all that’s needed to enjoy your overlanding adventures is food, water, and clothing.

what is overlanding

Photo Credit: OPUS Camper

Overlanding Trailers Built Tougher

While conventional travel trailers provide many of the comforts and conveniences of a home on the road, their size, and weight are not well-suited for overlanding where gravel roads and rocky, muddy, snowy, or sandy terrain are typical towing environments.

Overlanding or off-road/expedition-style trailers are built specifically for such use. They are typically smaller in overall size and lower in weight than a conventional travel trailer, ride on robust frames with independent suspensions, and roll on beefy A/T or M/T tires that provide excellent ground clearance.

Many are also equipped with special articulating hitches (C U Off Road, Cruisemaster, and Lock N Roll) that allow the trailer considerably more movement when overlanding than a standard trailer hitch, thus eliminating the clang-and-bang of the typical trailer ball hitch.

Whatever the body style, be it a teardrop, conventional, tent, or hybrid, they all focus on maximizing the trailer’s relatively small footprint to carry food, water, fuel, and your adventure gear stored or secured in a variety of rooftop, slide-out, foldout, and pop-up compartments and configurations. Some of the larger high-end models have a bathroom inside.

Many also come equipped with a rooftop tent (RTT; see below) or are designed to accommodate one as an option, which allows off-pavement adventurers the opportunity to expand their sleeping accommodations as the needs arise.

what is overlanding

Photo Credit: Off Grid Trailers

Overlanding RV Options and Pricing

Overlanding RVs vary tremendously in type and price, from $15,000 off-road teardrops to custom-built expedition 4×4 trucks costing more than $500,000. Nearly all offer options and special packages, which can easily add thousands of dollars to the base MSRP.

Most manufacturers of expedition/overlanding-style trailers give buyers a number of options to customize their trailers, such as the RTT system, the addition of exterior lights, the type and number of USB outlets, solar and battery configurations, and assorted accessories.

Class B and C motorhomes from the larger manufacturers offer fewer options because mass-produced RVs typically come equipped with the most popular features for off-grid camping. Most high-end custom expedition-style vehicles come equipped with many standard features and usually offer a long list of (pricey) options and upgrades.

Overlanding Weight Considerations

It’s equally important to make sure the intended tow vehicle is properly equipped and has the towing capacity to safely pull a trailer. Always make sure the trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is less than the maximum trailer towing capacity of the vehicle towing it. Towing a trailer that is heavier than the tow vehicle is rated for will result in vehicle handling, safety, and, potentially, insurance liability issues.

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Photo Credit: Thule

Overlanding Rooftop Tents

Rooftop tent (RTT) systems allow just about anyone with a vehicle the ability to comfortably sleep off the ground and away from those creepy things that walk around the campsite at night. RTTs can be mounted on the vehicle, trailer, or both, though an appropriately rated cargo rack is a necessity.

RTTs are durable and very popular among the overlanding community, especially with families who are towing a smaller off-road trailer that only has room inside for sleeping two. They typically provide sleeping space for two to four people, although the SMRT Tent Sky Loft can accommodate as many as six campers.

Today’s rooftop tents are easy to deploy and usually weigh less than 175 pounds, making transporting and camp setup a breeze. Here are four of our favorites:

what is overlanding

Photo Credit: Thule

Thule’s Approach series of RTTs are three sizes of rugged, self-deploying shelter ideal for cars, SUVs, and crossovers. The Approach M model sleeps two–three, weighs 128 pounds, supports up to 600 pounds, and is made from 600-denier ripstop polyester. It works best with Thule mounting racks and cross braces. MSRP: $2,799.95.

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Photo Credit: Roofnest

Roofnest’s Condor Overland hardshell-style RTT sleeps up to three and is an excellent choice for pickup and SUV owners. Made from heavy 320-gram poly-cotton canvas with a waterproof rating of 3,000mm, it weighs 165 pounds, measures 84 inches high, 55 inches wide inside, and is just 10 inches tall when the shell is closed. It’s very easy to open and close. MSRP: $3,595.

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Photo Credit: ROAM Adventure Company

ROAM Adventure Company’s Vagabond RTT system is great for SUVs and pickups. This softshell, all-weather tent sleeps up to three, weighs 150 pounds, and sets up in less than five minutes, according to the company. The annex room option adds extra space for gear or relaxing out of the elements. The telescoping ladder saves space, and two skylights add to the comfort of the spacious interior. MSRP: $1,799.

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Photo Credit: Cascadia Vehicle Tents

Cascadia Vehicle Tents’ Pioneer RTT is nice for vehicles and off-road trailers. It comes in three sizes with a 5-by-5-foot annex room. The large version measures 72 inches wide by 92 inches long by 44 inches high and weighs 171 pounds. The 280-gram poly-cotton ripstop canvas is tough, and the tent measures just 15 inches tall when packed. MSRP: $1,599–$2,099.

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Photo Credit: RCI Off Road

Crossbars for RTT Systems

OEM roof-rack crossbars on most cars, crossovers, and small SUVs are usually curved and limited to loads less than 165 pounds. RTT systems need to be mounted on flat crossbars and support the weight. Crossbars must also be positioned in accordance to the RTT manufacturer’s recommendations. RCI Off Road shown.

Overlanding Trailers

There are more than four dozen manufacturers of “off-road/overlanding” trailers and RVs available across North America. Most are manufactured in the US and Canada, with a handful of brands imported from Australia. Here’s a small sample of those offerings, which range in base price from less than $15,000 for a basic off-road tent trailer to more than $140,000 for a full-featured overlanding camping trailer.

Note: Prices listed are base prices and may not include all upgrades and/or options.

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Photo Credit: Off Grid Trailers

Off Grid Trailers Expedition 2.0

Off Grid Trailers 1,700-pound Expedition 2.0 is designed and built for use in the most rugged and difficult overlanding terrain. The all-metal-and-composites trailer features a 50-degree departure angle, independent suspension, rigid foam insulation, and a 10-speed reversible roof fan to ensure the climate inside your trailer is comfortable regardless of the weather outside.

Inside is a fully upgraded electrical system that features an accessible (and removable) wire track for easy electrical wiring access. There are 36 cubic feet of cargo storage, a 31-gallon CSA-approved freshwater tank, a dual-bank smart shorepower charger, Zamp solar-ready port, and a long list of other features. MSRP: $32,750.

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Photo Credit: Airstream

Airstream Basecamp REI Co-Op Special Edition

The Airstream Basecamp REI Co-op Special Edition is adventure-ready, inside and out. The Basecamp has a rear hatch to load bikes, kayaks, and other gear. Inside, there’s a wet bath with a port to run the shower hose outside, a well-designed galley up front, and a curved lounge area that quickly converts to a comfy bed.

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Photo Credit: Airstream

REI-exclusive features include UV water filtration, a composting toilet, and 360 watts of solar power paired with a 200Ah lithium battery bank. The 2,700-pound (UVW) X-Package comes standard with Goodyear Wrangler A/T tires, a 3-inch lift kit, stainless-steel rock guards, and a solar window guard. MSRP: $52,900.

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Photo Credit: Oregon Trail’R

Oregon Trail’R Terradrop ALPHA

The 2024 Oregon Trail’R TerraDrop ALPHA is a heavy-duty overlanding teardrop that rolls on a tubular steel chassis with independent suspension and sports a durable, waterproof ALPHA coating over a marine-grade, custom Baltic Birch body. The 1,640-pound trailer has a 60-inch-wide-by-96-inch-long body with every inch crafted like fine cabinetry using void-less plywood, waterproof glues, and sealing all end-grain with penetrating epoxy. The company offers an excellent warranty.

what is overlanding

Photo Credit: Oregon Trail’R

The options list is long, which allows buyers to customize to their specific needs. Oregon Trail’R also has a great rental program for those who want to try before buying. MSRP: $24,000.

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Photo Credit: Patriot Campers

Patriot Campers Gen2 X3

Patriot Campers GEN2 X3 is a premium overlanding tent trailer with a number of unique features, including a remote-controlled composite hard roof for an almost entirely automated setup of the tent, a touchpad central electronic locking system for the hard doors/slides, a roomy interior, and a strong, light Rigilite chassis.

Everything inside and out is state of the art, including the X-Cruise independent suspension system with progressive rate airbags for trailer leveling and tire inflation. This 3,500-pound GVWR Australian-made off-road tent trailer is very well-built and designed to tackle any terrain. MSRP: $86,900.

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Photo Credit: Lance

Lance Enduro

The 3,500-pound (GVWR) Lance Enduro is a unique 12-foot adventure trailer designed for the active outdoors person. It centers around an interior wet bath with a full stand-up shower, a U-shaped dinette, an exterior kitchen, off-grid solar and battery technology, including a standard 1,500-watt inverter, and a 190-watt solar panel, a Truma Combi furnace and water heater, 40-gallon freshwater and 26-gallon gray tanks, and a cassette toilet.

Lance combined research of popular off-road teardrops with its nearly six decades of building adventure-ready truck campers to design this trailer. It’s an integration of key amenities and rugged capabilities to allow for extended off-grid travel without sacrificing usability, quality, or comfort. MSRP: $62,560.

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Photo Credit: Mammoth Overland

Mammoth Overland ELE

Mammoth Overland makes well-equipped off-road trailers starting at less than $30,000. But their 2024 Extinction Level Event (ELE) trailer takes everything to a whole new level. The ELE is equipped with just about every cool overlanding item there is, plus additional features to handle the apocalypse, such as remote-activated bear spray, a periscope, Starlink satellite internet service, a drone and launch pad, a pressurized cabin, air- and water-filtering systems, and even a Geiger counter.

Outfitted with four Renogy smart lithium batteries with self-heating technology, a Dickinson heater with an integrated propane system, and plenty of storage, this trailer is designed to protect you off-road for long periods of time. MSRP: $67,000.

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Photo Credit: OPUS Camper

OPUS Camper OP15 Off-Road Trailer

The hybrid pop-top OPUS OP15 comes fully equipped with a king-size bed, bunks, a full bath with shower, A/C, and a propane heating system. It also includes a 300-watt solar system mounted to the roof, 60 gallons of onboard water tanks, and offers options for lithium and DC-DC charging.

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Photo Credit: OPUS Camper

The full kitchen includes a large external 12-volt fridge, stainless-steel slide-out four-burner stove, wind guards, stainless sink, pantry access, and cutlery drawer, all within arm’s reach. The Cruisemaster articulating hitch, galvanized steel chassis, and twin shock absorbers on each trailing arm independent suspension are designed to tackle the roughest roads with ease. MSRP: $64,000.

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Photo Credit: Xpedition Trailers

Xpedition Trailers Voyager

The Voyager trailer by Xpedition Trailers is a true four-season trailer with an in-house engineered and manufactured independent suspension. Enjoy the luxury of a climate-controlled interior, the ability to have hot water, and enough power, managed by the state-of-the-art REDARC vehicle management system to keep you camping off-grid longer.

Its galley is unique in the overlanding world as the rear unfolds into a chef’s dream with multiple prep spaces and configurations. Storage areas are abundant, too. With a base dry weight of only 2,600 pounds and an all-aluminum construction, the Voyager is a thoughtfully built camper made here in the USA. MSRP: $47,000.

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Photo Credit: Imperial Outdoors

Imperial Outdoors XplorerRV X195

Imperial Outdoors is a new player on the upper tier of overlanding trailers. The all-season, all-terrain XploreRV X195 is the premier model. The 26-foot, 9,920-pound GVWR trailer sleeps up to four, is comfortable down to -40°F, has a 6-foot, 3-inch interior height, carries 60-gallon fresh- and gray-water tanks, has a full bathroom with a dry-flush toilet, and a nicely appointed galley.

The Xtreme Package includes a Cruisemaster articulating hitch and Cruisemaster ATX air suspension with up to 23 inches of ground clearance, thermal windows, heated tanks, a custom roof rack, and a 360Ah lithium battery for the 240-watt solar system. MSRP: $142,500.

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Photo Credit: Boreas Campers

Boreas Campers EOS-12

Colorado-built Boreas Campers EOS-12 is a 5,200-pound GVWR, luxury off-road trailer with a queen bed, 6.5 feet of headroom, accommodations to sleep five, a wet bath, shower, cassette toilet, and a big solar package among the many amenities. The body is composite-and-metal with a wonderful exterior slide-out galley.

A three-burner Furrion cooktop, 96-liter Truma Dual Zone fridge/freezer, Truma Combi eco plus forced-air heating, 23ZERO 270-degree awning, tons of gear storage, a rear entry, and an auto-leveling Cruisemaster independent suspension are just a few of this trailer’s great overlanding features. MSRP: $79,990.

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Photo Credit: Encore

Encore RV RŎG 12 RK Survival Series

Encore RV upgraded the RŎG Adventure Trailer lineup with the addition of an Overlanding Package that includes a red-powder-coated Timbren Axle-Less suspension and Max Coupler articulating hitch. The RŎG 12RK Survival Series trailer with the Overlanding Package has a 17-inch ground clearance, a full-featured rear galley, and a comfortable interior.

Its 2,000-pound (UVW) allows it to be easily towed by most midsize SUVs and some crossovers. Every RŎG Adventure Trailer has an aluminum frame, and wood-free construction is achieved by utilizing an array of composite materials and aluminum cabinets that are CNC laser cut, formed, and powder-coated. MSRP: $30,190.

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Photo Credit: Ember RV

Ember RV190MSL

The newest addition to Ember RV’s popular Overland Series is the 190MSL featuring a patent-pending, repositionable EmberTrack E-Track Bunk/Storage System. The EmberTrack is a 74-by-46-inch rear “Do-It-Yourself” cargo area featuring tie-down anchors on the floor, two easily removable/repositionable double-bunk composite laminated platforms that can also act as shelves, countertops, or even a desk.

It also features trailing-arm CURT independent suspension, European windows with integrated shades/screens, Goodyear off-road tires, Azdel composite laminated structure, a residential queen 60-by-80-inch Murphy bed, “Stargazer” skylight, a 10-cubic-foot 12-volt refrigerator, a big bathroom, a huge lockable side door, 200-watt solar system, and a rear kayak/bike door for easy access. MSRP: $58,378.

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Photo Credit: Taxa Outdoor

Taxa Outdoors Cricket Overland

Taxa Outdoors employs a NASA-inspired design and integrated plumbing and electrical systems into its Cricket Overland to keep this hybrid hardshell pop-up tent-top trailer light in weight yet very versatile in interior configurations to maximize space. The 1,978-pound (UVW) Cricket sleeps two adults plus two children and utilizes a Timbren 5,200-pound axle-less design that provides 4 inches of lift, 31-inch A/T tires, and a Lock N Roll articulating hitch for good off-pavement functionality.

A trio of milk crates acts as drawers, and the full-size bed has 25 cubic feet of storage underneath. A Truma Combi eco furnace and water heater add to the comfort. Up front is a two-burner Dometic gas stove and a space to store a freezer/fridge; outside is a shower. The trailer holds 15 gallons of freshwater and carries dual 4.7-gallon propane tanks. MSRP: $55,477.

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Photo Credit: SylvanSport

SylvanSport GO

At just 840 pounds, SylvanSport’s GO is a unique hybrid ideal for crossover, Jeep, and small truck/SUV overlanders looking for a comfortable basecamp while exploring the roads less traveled. This is a spacious pop-up that offers room for up to four 6-foot-5-inch-tall people to stand or sleep comfortably. With up to 13 inches of ground clearance and 10-inch wide tires, it’s very capable over a wide variety of terrain.

The integrated rack and 42 cubic feet of storage space on the deck offers plenty of carrying and storage capacity, and its 810-pound payload can be utilized to carry ATVs or dirt bikes, expanding the possibilities. MSRP: $14,495.

Overlanding Trucks

Looking for a truck-based four-wheel-drive RV that can handle the rigors of true overlanding? There are a number of custom manufacturers in the US and Canada that build off-road/overlanding RVs more than capable of traveling over rougher terrain, all the while allowing you to camp in the lap of luxury. Here’re just a few examples.

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Photo Credit: Vorsheer

Vorsheer LMTV 4×4

Vorsheer builds numerous off-road/overlanding trailers, and they also convert Stewart & Stevenson 2.5-ton Light Military Tactical Vehicle (LMTV) 4×4 cargo trucks into fully equipped overlanding RVs. Each unit comes with a custom kitchen, full bath with shower, propane water heater/stove, 30-plus gallon fresh-, gray-, and black-water tanks, a primary bedroom, 1,200 watts solar/120-volt AC/12-volt power systems, diesel heating, interior and exterior storage, custom cabinets—the works.

These LMTV RVs, which have full-locking differentials, 395/85R20 traction tires, and 23 inches of ground clearance, are powered by a 245-hp 7.2-liter CAT C7 turbodiesel with a seven-speed Allison automatic. The LMTV allows you to camp in comfort while tackling just about any terrain that your overlanding adventures present. MSRP: $200,000.

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Photo Credit: EarthRoamer

Earthroamer SX

If you’ve got deep pockets, the ultimate RV for overlanding is the EarthRoamer SX. The vacuum-infused carbon-fiber camper body, which can sleep six, is integrated into a 2024 Chevrolet Silverado 6500HD 4×4 powered by a Duramax 6.6-liter turbodiesel V8 and Allison six-speed transmission.

With 100 gallons of fuel, 120 gallons of water, 270-degree window views, a full dry bath with a walk-in shower, washer/dryer, wine fridge, and a massive 18,000-watt lithium-ion battery capacity, you can travel the world. This RV lets you lounge in the luxuries of home while taking in the view of even the wildest destinations. Eat. Sleep. Enjoy. Explore the world. MSRP: $1,045,000.

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Photo Credit: Overland Explorer Vehicles

OEV Hudson Bay Camper

Overland Explorer Vehicles builds a wide variety of overlapping RV products, including the popular Hudson Bay pop-up camper mounted atop the OEV Aluma Tray ($11,548). The camper is built from thick fiberglass composites with an aluminum exoskeleton and fits pickups with either 6.5- or 8-foot truck beds.

The roomy interior has a shower, a four-person dinette at the rear, a forward galley, and a side-entry door. All furniture and cabinetry is built using powder-coated aluminum with polymer door and drawer fronts. Victron components handle the electrical needs, while propane is used for cooking, heating, and on-demand hot water via the Truma appliances. Freshwater capacity is 20 gallons. MSRP: $67,244.

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Photo Credit: Battle Born

Power Your Adventures

For those who want to ditch the generator and camp off-the-grid for an extended time, Dragonfly Energy is a great choice with its power-system products, including Battle Born lithium-iron phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries.

Maintenance-free LiFePO4 batteries charge four times faster than lead-acid, are about one-fifth of the weight for the same amount of usable power, and are toxic-free and environmentally friendly. Battle Born offers heated LiFePO4 batteries for cold-weather camping, and all batteries are backed by a 10-year warranty and lifetime technical support.

Bruce W. Smith
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