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The Gearzette


- March 18, 2023

Choosing the right camping and overlanding vehicle 

We all dream of camping adventures to beautiful, faraway places. Choosing the right vehicle to get there safely and happily, is anything but straightforward. Answer the questions below so that YOU can make the right choice. Then once you have decided on a vehicle, just add the six suggested accessories and you’re ready to head off. ​

© Cezary Loj

What will I be using it for? ​

Decide on the purpose of your purchase. Have you just quit your job? Do you and your young family want to hit the tough trails for a year, while living in your vehicle? This is very different to the person who is still holding down a 9-5 job and only venturing away on the weekends or during holidays. ​

© Frauki

What is my budget? ​

In the aftermath of the global pandemic’s lockdowns, the need to explore, travel and adventure has just exploded. This has led to an increase in the price of new and second-hand 4x4s, overland trucks and campervans. How much we can afford obviously affects what we can buy. Decide on your budget and then stick to it. Whatever that budget is, don’t spend it all on the vehicle – you will doubtless need to buy accessories (unless you’ve bought a fully-kitted vehicle), and overlanding can be tough on mechanical parts, so keep aside a slush fund for repairs. ​

© Craig Kolesky

Type of terrain? ​

Some people think that they need the latest and most capable 4x4 for overlanding. This is most certainly not the case. Yes, it is nice to have low range, loads of ground clearance and some lockers: all these things increase off-road capability. But if 99 percent of your travel is going to be on tarmac, then these aids can amount to overkill.  ​

However, if you are crossing Australia’s Simpson Desert or trying to drive down northern Namibia’s Van Zyl’s pass, then most standard 4x4s won’t be up to the task. You’ll likely need an upgraded suspension kit, off-road tires and extra vehicle protection to safely tackle those tough tracks.   ​

© Denis Savescu

Who’s coming with me? ​

Traveling solo is very different to taking along the whole tribe. A Land Rover Defender 90 or Suzuki Jimny is great if you’re on your own, but once a partner, kids and a dog come there’s no storage space left inside the vehicle, so everything will have to go onto the Front Runner Roof Rack. ​

Try to think out of the box. Who says you can’t put two roof tents on the roof rack of a long wheelbase vehicle? A ground tent is another great way to create extra sleeping space for the tribe. Decide who will be traveling with you and purchase accordingly.  

© Sacha Specker

New vs Used ​

Purchasing a new vehicle is great if you can afford one. They come with a warranty and ought to be reliable. Plus, they have all the mod-cons and useful driving aids. On the debit side of things, what’s most likely to fail on a new vehicle is the electronics; you won’t be fixing those in the middle of the Savannah. Before buying the latest and greatest it can be worth waiting a couple of years for the model’s glitches to materialize and then be sorted out by the manufacturer.​

Used vehicles, of course, are far cheaper, but bring with them concerns about age- and mileage-related component failures. But most older models have their own enthusiastic fan-base that have​ already experienced any and all issues, learned how to fix them, and are more than happy to help you identify the potential problem areas.​ Whether you buy new or used, make sure that spare parts are readily available in the regions you’re heading off to.  

© Jesse Penfold

Get kitted​

Once the vehicle choice decision has been made, the fun part starts: turning it into an overlander or camper. It does not matter which 4x4, camper, sedan, SUV, pick-up, van or truck you decided to go with, if you add the following six bits of gear then you’re good to go on any adventure or road trip. 

© Front Runner

1. Slimline II Roof Rack ​

The Slimline II Roof Rack should be your first purchase as it creates lots of extra loading and packing space outside your vehicle. It can also be customised according to your needs.   ​

2. Awning

The ability to quickly create shade from the sun or protection from rain is a non-negotiable when overlanding. An awning can be secured to your rack using a number of Front Runner awning mounting options including the Quick Release Awning Mounting Kit.​

3. Dometic fridge ​

You want to be able to keep your milk and meat fresh when on an adventure and the Dometic CFX3 range of fridges does exactly that and much more. Available in various sizes, (6.6 to 26.4 gal).  ​

4. Front Runner Roof Top Tent ​

You cannot drive all day and night, so the ability to sleep on top of your vehicle where you park it has massive benefits such as security and the views.    ​

5. Storage solutions​

Making efficient use of the available space is best done by developing some sort of storage system. The water and dust resistant Wolf Pack Pro is a great starting point and can be easily secured to the roof rack. If you opted for a pick-up type of vehicle, then check out Front Runner’s Load Bed Cargo System. Our drawer system fits a variety of vehicles and is a great way to keep kit orderly.  ​

6. Cooking system

You can eat up the miles all you like, but at some stage you will need to stop and cook something hot and nourishing. Keep it simple. A Jet Boil is the perfect way to boil water for a cuppa but when you need something more substantial in a hurry, Cadac’s great cooking range will take care of that. If you have the time the Spare Tire Mount Braai/BBQ grate is superb for cooking on. Or else there’s the collapsible and flat-pack BBQ/Fire Pit.  ​