Thoughts on this article-the 10 commandments of modifying an overland vehicle

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Advocate II

Found this article on Expedition Portal. Figured I would share it here and see what everyone's thoughts are. The 10 commandments of modifying an overland vehicle

I agree with most of this. But find it hard to meet these "commandments". For instance I am currently planning my WJ build and no matter what I do the only thing I can think of to carry my spare is a rear bumper with tire carrier. Now this adds anywhere between 250-400 pounds when you include the bumper and tire carrier, rim and tire, gas can, etc.... Now this of course leads to more weight and less performance. Trying to design a rig to get decent gas mileage and still go anywhere you need it to seems like a give take proposition.

What do you guys think?
 
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TreXTerra

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Generally I agree with those concepts, but I think it is funny that the author shows his spare tire on the roof and is driving a complex vehicle with limited dealership/repair support. Some people give domestic marquees crap, but they tend to have better dealer networks than high-priced complex imports. For example, if your Land Rover broke in southern Utah, you are looking at a significant tow to a major city for repairs, a Jeep or Ford may be able to find parts in any town with a stop light. -- While making things light is nice, you also have to balance that with durability, I am not a fan of aluminum armor because it is more prone to cracking or gouging and hanging up on rocks. I put steel on my rig, sure it is heavy, but it has also taken hits that I k kW would have cracked an aluminum skid.
 
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Tim

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Likewise, in principal I would agree. Having built something that was very much what does this 4x4 accessories company do for my rig, OK, must be good I'll have one of each. It's easy to get carried away over time! I'm now in the process of working out what I really need. Bash plates, for example add a lot of weight (even if it's low in the vehicle) and for the type of driving I do and given it's already got a suspension lift, the oem stuff will do. I'd never be able to lift a wheel up to roof height so a rear bar mount was my only option. With advances in design I'd probably buy an aluminium roof rack next time around too. Definitely agree with the electrics bit. I've seen vehicles with with fried wiring looms just because of fitting updated headlamps or adding driving lights. Some vehicles will run with out electrics but not many these days even if you can see in the dark without lights.
 

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Overland Bound does not define overlanding as anything more than "vehicle dependent travel".

It's hard to have a 10 commandments of outfitting without imposing a specific view of what Overlanding is. That's a slippery slope. In fact, it gets quite ugly.

I like a lot of this list, and agree with most. Complexity IS the enemy. But the bit about roof load assumes you'll be at a 45 degree angle, and raising the center of gravity 5" takes quite a bit of weight. What if your overland rig *gasp* only sees pavement?

It's a nice list for discussion.

M
 

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I agree with a lot of it. When I had my new 3" Zone lift put on a couple months ago, my intention was to go up to 35's. I even had the front axle sleeved and gussetted. However, I'm finding I like the ride on 33's and will probably just stay there. 35's would degrade performance to some degree without a regear to 4.88's. I'm at 4.10 right now. As for roof storage, I had to add a roof rack. A fastback jeep does not offer a lot of storage space. As long as the load is distributed properly, and kept relatively low, it's not a problem. RTT's are the thing now. Seems like every other vehicle has one. My self, I'm looking for an M416 to put an RTT on. The roof rack is more for lightweight items such as chairs, small tent, shovel, ax, maxtrax, etc. I still may move up to 35's eventually, but for overlanding, I've been reading that 33's are the sweet spot. It's something I will have to figure out for myself as to what my specific needs are. Good article. But I agree with administrator, it's a slippery slope to consider them commandments. My needs may not be the same as others.
 

TreXTerra

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I was on my mobile before, so I wanted to expand on my previous comment. Of course, what follows is only my thoughts and should no more be taken as gospel than the original article.

1) Complexity is the enemy:
This is entirely correlation, not necessarily causation. Highly modified vehicles tend to get pushed father and harder than unmodified vehicles, it is expected that they will break more. If an aftermarket part or group of parts are done properly, they can be stronger than OEM. Any time something on my XTerra wears out or fails, I search for the strongest, longest lasting part - I will also prioritize parts that are serviceable. For example: zerk points. Almost no vehicle today comes with chassis zerk points, all my drive shaft u-joint were replaced with aftermarket parts with zerks, the UCAs and LCAs were replaced with stronger parts than the stamped steel OEM and have servicesable ball joints. The rear drive shaft was modified to remove the OEM sealed CV joint and was custom built to have all U-joints that are serviceable. Springs were upgraded to something stronger, as were shocks.

My dad had the same attitude towards OEMs, that there were a bunch of engineers making the best-built, best-engineered product they could and we were foolish to mess with it. But this just isn't the case, any of us can look at mainstream vehicles and see where the accountants forced corners to be cut. Something as simple as removing zerk fittings, or making sealed wheel bearings that can't be repacked and must be broken to get to a $0.10 axle seal.

2) Weight is the enemy of performance:

This is simply unreasonable for many. As I mentioned before, the weight of armor is often a necessity depending on how much you are using it. If you are traveling mostly fire-roads and are not in need of serious bash plates, then maybe you can get by with aluminum - if you are willing to accept that one good knock may crack the plate. Others, like myself, have armored the crap out of their rigs because we actually need that protection. Sure, I could get someone to make me some super-light armor out of aluminum and replace or re-weld the plates when they break, or even buy fancy titanium armor and cookware, but that is getting stuck on the gear and it will keep me home in the driveway. My rig isn't light, but it sees plenty of dirt and does what I need it to do. I am also able to take on challenging terrain that would turn back lighter-built vehicles.

3) Suspension Performance:

I agree with having a robust suspension that can carry load over rough terrain, but this just doesn't make any sense. The author makes it sound like he wants a rig that handles like a sedan or a sports car on the pavement but can also carry heavy loads off road and handle technical terrain. Everything is a tradeoff, a heavy suspension won't handle the same on the road as a light one with less unsprung rotating mass. Speaking of unsprung rotating mass, just fitting heavier off road tires will have a dramatic effect on acceleration, braking and handing - and that's before we even start talking about suspension. The fact is that trucks and SUVs are not good at this stuff to begin with; many of us modify our rigs based on our own priorities. I know my XTerra doesn't handle as well as a stock one, but I am aware of that an modify my driving. I don't travel as fast, I leave more room between vehicles, I corner slowly and carefully.

Here, the author states that there is "no excuse" for a vehicle that can't handle "like a car" on the road and still have the articulation needed for off road use. I call BS, but I would love to see a vehicle that is the rolling mechanical embodiment of "have my cake and eat it too."

4) Keep the Engine Stock:
If I did the work myself, then I probably know more about my vehicle than someone who only opens the hood to run an air compressor. Anyway, if you are in the middle of the Gobi Desert, I don't think there is a Napa near by with OEM parts any more than there is one with aftermarket parts. Besides, what happened to "all the parts of the vehicle need to work together"? Perhaps I have a great chassis and suspension, but it won't do me any good if the engine can't move all my food, fuel, water, gear, and passengers around. This also depends on environment, if my primary area of exploration starts at 5,000 ft, I'm way down on power compared to someone at sea level. Take an FJ80 that performs fine on the coast and can easily rotate those big 33" or 35" tires and try taking it over some of the high passes in Colorado. Sometimes these upgrades are necessary, especially in older rigs with lower-output engines. Things like snorkels (which are also cold air intakes) and exhaust systems are passive - they don't tax the engine and only allow it to breathe better. An ECU tune can literally be done with an OBDII computer in a matter of seconds, my brother keeps his tune computer in his Subaru and will put on a "Valet Tune" that limits the vehicle to 2,000 RPM if he ever has to let a valet drive it. This section sounds like someone who opens the hood and says, "yep, that's an engine" and closes it again.

That being said, my engine is bone stock ... ok, I put a "+5 HP" sticker on my intake as joke. I just have other mods that are higher priority right now than the engine, which is currently doing just fine for me.
 

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Part II - due to the character limit.

5) Isolate and Minimize All Electrical Modifications:

6) Use High Quality Tires in an Appropriate Tread:
These I pretty much agree with, but I'm not sure how a laptop or digital camera add to the complexity of the vehicle's electrical system. But again, everything is about compromise, an aggressive off road tire has its downsides too. Most mud-terrains don't particularly like wet pavement or snowy roads. You can't have everything.

7) Avoid Roof Loads at all Costs:
Where is the author getting these numbers? Even my stock roof rack is rated for more than 70# of load - and that's dynamic load. Now, it's true that I don't like weight up high if I can help it, but some of these assertions are simply unfounded. A proper roof rack will distribute the load and prevent roof damage, fuel economy is often a trade-off that we have to accept in order to carry what is needed. In an upcomming trip I will have four cans of fuel on the roof of my XTerra just so I can get to where I'm going and back. I will be getting that fuel in the tank as soon as I can to reduce the weight up high, but if I didn't put the fuel there, I would end up stranded. This is back to awareness - with the fuel up there I know I have to be more careful with off-camber turns and be much slower on any obstacles that will rock the vehicle. A good driver knows this and will adjust accordingly.

The only other option is to put all that fuel in the cabin, which is right up there with "getting involved in a land war in Asia" and "going in against a Sicilian when death is on the line."

8) Self-Recovery:


The best thing you can do for this is travel with another vehicle. Learning how to do any recovery safely is very important and I strongly encourage everyone to learn the safe way to recover. While trainings at expos are great, there are also some very good (and some very bad) YouTube videos about recovery. I personally think Ronny Dahl has some of the best ones.

9) Secure the Load:


Again, I find myself in agreement with the author. Safety in the event of a crash is important, but having things strapped down keeps them from shifting, slamming into the interior panels, and reduces the rattles you hear on the trail when everything stays put.

10) Quality and Design over Quantity:
I'm getting some mixed messages here, what aftermarket spring upgrade costs less than OEM and is more prone to breaking? If anything, I've found the OEM stuff needs to be upgraded to handle the abuse I throw at it. I also tried to buy a vehicle that is fairly simple from the start. I don't have adjustable height suspension, hill decent control, integrated cameras, depth-sounding sonar, computer controlled.... whatever. Hell, if I had my way, the computer would only handle the fuel injection and all linkages would be mechanical (or have a mechanical override). The author talks a great deal about simplicity and reliability while driving a very complicated vehicle with limited dealer support. If he does break one of his OEM parts somewhere, it is doubtful that another vehicle will have a spare or that anyone will have the know-how to make a field repair. This is one thing I really admire Jeep for, the community support is bar-none some of the best in the world (at least in North America). Buying a Ford or a Chevy might not be as cool as a Land Rover, but that F-150 can be fixed by nearly any independent shop in almost any farming or ranching community on the continent. My Nissan isn't quite that well supported, but it is much easier to find a Nissan dealer in a decent sized town than it is a BMW, Land Rover, or Mercedes dealer.

Really what this comes down to is that the author has written an opinion piece about what works for him and made it sound like gospel. Some of his points are contradicted by his other points, and some just don't make sense to me at all. The one thing I can agree with him on, without hesitation, is that it is about the experience, not the gear. The gear, the mods, the vehicle, those are all just tools to acquire experiences and memories - as long as you have picked the right tool to get the memories and experiences you want - who cares what anyone else thinks. Maybe traveling in a luxury import is part of the experience for you and helps get you out to see that fantastic sunset. Maybe a rattling, shaking, dusty old FJ40 or open top Jeep is your style. Maybe it isn't a good day until you have to spool out the winch, and maybe that graded fire road goes where you want to be. The point is that it doesn't matter at the end of the day as long as you have a nice camping spot, a painted sky overhead, some hot grub in your belly and another memory to add to the collection.

Enough rambling from me. Happy Trails.
 

deeker

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The author has lots of experience, but that still doesn't make what he says the gospel truth. There is room for discussion on all points as they relate to your vehicle, destination, intended use and driving style.
I disagree with the '... then you bought the wrong vehicle...' attitude. Not all of us have the budget to get the required, in-vogue vehicle for the journey. Sometimes you just 'run what you brung' and enjoy the trip.
 

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Nice article he has some good points but its by no means gospel, what works for one person may not work for another you cant define what modification's make an overland vehicle simply because every person has different ways of doing things and different need's at the end of the day it comes down to what works for you in your situation.
 

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G
Overland Bound does not define overlanding as anything more than "vehicle dependent travel".

It's hard to have a 10 commandments of outfitting without imposing a specific view of what Overlanding is. That's a slippery slope. In fact, it gets quite ugly.

I like a lot of this list, and agree with most. Complexity IS the enemy. But the bit about roof load assumes you'll be at a 45 degree angle, and raising the center of gravity 5" takes quite a bit of weight. What if your overland rig *gasp* only sees pavement?

It's a nice list for discussion.

M
Good point, when a mate of mine did parts of Africa on his bicycle, I'm pretty sure not much of this applied, if any.
 

hardtrailz

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Not a fan of the author myself. He made a list of commandments for him and a good portion is not applicable to others, but he figures he is the gospel. I can agree on some points, but others are just not right for most travelers.
 
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Steve

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Overland Bound does not define overlanding as anything more than "vehicle dependent travel".
And that's why I'm here and not there. Sure, there is a lot of technical info and amazing builds there and on similar sites, but the caste system is rampant on a lot of those sort of places based on how much money you throw at your vehicle instead of how much enjoyment you get out of using it! Thanks for keeping it real here, Michael and @Corrie !
 

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And that's why I'm here and not there. Sure, there is a lot of technical info and amazing builds there and on similar sites, but the caste system is rampant on a lot of those sort of places based on how much money you throw at your vehicle instead of how much enjoyment you get out of using it! Thanks for keeping it real here, Michael and @Corrie !
I agree totally. I used to frequent that sight all the time but realized trying to get solid information that someone in my financial situation could use was darn near impossible. I am glad I found this place, it is down to earth and info is easy to come buy for anyone.
 
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roamingtimber

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First, this is a great topic, a great conversation and an excellent example of why this community is the finest on the Internet. I think I just liked half the posts in this thread. Overlanding, like hiking and camping defy cut and dry explanations. They are what people make of them, what you want them to be, they are the freedom to define your own adventure. It's what makes them popular and enduring. Some try to define them, but they are small minded and only want to exclude others. This community embodies the opposite of that line of thought and is what makes Overland Bound great.

Second @Wildland Outdoors, check out my WJ build thread for a far lighter weight tire carrier option. My tire, rim and swing gate might hit 150lbs tops, but I doubt it's that much. I had my spare on the roof at first and hated it. I could feel the extra weight in the corners. I love the swing gate, feels like a whole new jeep. If you have any questions on how to do it, let me know, I'll help as much as I can.
 
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MOAK

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I agree totally. I used to frequent that sight all the time but realized trying to get solid information that someone in my financial situation could use was darn near impossible. I am glad I found this place, it is down to earth and info is easy to come buy for anyone.
Hmmm,, I read those 10 commandments years ago and I still read most all of the articles. Practical advise for North American over landers? Not always, but it's not much different than JP, Toyota, or 4wd magazines targeting the gear head demographic. All those highly modded rigs featured in those mags are impractical for most all of us, but we do take ideas from them and utilize those ideas to suit our needs/wants. EP and Overland Journal provide the same type of inspiration targeting the overlander. Yes, definitely out of reach for most all of us, but for myself, it's nice to dream about traveling across Siberia or Africa.. Overland Bound, ( Michael & Corrie ) does a great job of reflecting who I am and what I can afford to do here in North America.. It is true, (look it up) that Expo Portals targeted demographic is comprised of guys that have income of 125k a year and up. OB fills the reality gap for all the rest of us, and that's why I'm here..