What To Look For in an Overlanding Rig

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izzywolf

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Hi everyone. Just joined the forum yesterday, got into overlanding recently (hope I'm in the right section!).

I've hiked since as long as I can remember, and used to be a welder some years back (I do bookkeeping now. Quite a contrast, I know).
Grew up in Northern Ohio (live in Central Jersey now), been to all kinds of far-off places (lived 4 years abroad in a non-English speaking country too),
and love the outdoors, trucks, and custom builds.

So I did my research with google and now I know everything there is to know about overlanding. Period. (hey, what's that sarcastic look on your face?)


Seriously though, here's what I think I know so far, and would love to hear your opinion (and especially criticism).

Seems like to start:
  • I should get a used 4x4 truck (still not sure which make and model), preferably from outside the Salt Belt, less than 125k miles, with (at least) a limited differential.
  • I'm thinking a truck as opposed to a Jeep or SUV since I'd think it could also pay for itself with occasional side jobs.
  • Look for easier trails at first before taking on harder trails.
  • Get additional equipment when the time comes.
So, am I on the right track? Any advice? Things to consider?


P.S. I currently drive a 2019 Corolla sedan. I'm too self-conscious to drive it to a corporate office with a lifted frame and a front winch Lol.
Call me a close-minded- That's just how I feel about it.
 

Dlnuckolls

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Hi everyone. Just joined the forum yesterday, got into overlanding recently (hope I'm in the right section!).

I've hiked since as long as I can remember, and used to be a welder some years back (I do bookkeeping now. Quite a contrast, I know).
Grew up in Northern Ohio (live in Central Jersey now), been to all kinds of far-off places (lived 4 years abroad in a non-English speaking country too),
and love the outdoors, trucks, and custom builds.

So I did my research with google and now I know everything there is to know about overlanding. Period. (hey, what's that sarcastic look on your face?)


Seriously though, here's what I think I know so far, and would love to hear your opinion (and especially criticism).

Seems like to start:
  • I should get a used 4x4 truck (still not sure which make and model), preferably from outside the Salt Belt, less than 125k miles, with (at least) a limited differential.
  • I'm thinking a truck as opposed to a Jeep or SUV since I'd think it could also pay for itself with occasional side jobs.
  • Look for easier trails at first before taking on harder trails.
  • Get additional equipment when the time comes.
So, am I on the right track? Any advice? Things to consider?


P.S. I currently drive a 2019 Corolla sedan. I'm too self-conscious to drive it to a corporate office with a lifted frame and a front winch Lol.
Call me a close-minded- That's just how I feel about it.
So my initial thoughts are…
- Good for you! Sounds like you’re off to a good start at planning
- The actual rig/vehicle (or insert whichever descriptor you prefer) is less important than the intended purpose. There is no “right”, “wrong”, or “perfect overland setup. So never let folks tell you there is.
- Personally I like my Wrangler (4-door 2019 JLU). It affords me a good blend of capacity, sleeps my wife and I comfortably, and is quite capable of taking us most anywhere.
- Most people I have followed, read about, or talked to tend to be of the mindset of getting out there. As you start adventuring, you can always add or remove gear from your rig as your needs change.

So the shorter answer is there is only a preference for a particular vehicle setup, no clear right or wrong! Welcome to the overlanding community, perhaps we shall meet somewhere on the journey!
 

MOAK

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You are on the right track. I will add that your primary concern when choosing a medium size truck, is dependability. ( notice I said “medium size truck”) Dependability usually goes hand in hand with how many 100s of thousands of miles the vehicle was designed to last. I’m not a fanboy of any brand, if it is easy to maintain and has a very long lifespan, then I’m in. I drive a 1990 Ford Ranger on the street. Our expedition vehicle is a Toyota Landcruiser. I’m very impressed with Chevy’s offerings with their mid size pick up. American made pickup trucks are very well built machines designed to last decades, however, 4x4 expedition type trucks are now and has always been an afterthought from the big three. Put em out in the wild upon thousands of miles of rough technical trails and or washboard roads and they just cannot take the beating without upgrades and/or modifications. Dependability also goes hand in hand with less electronic gizmos. I really want a vehicle that I can maintain. If it goes bad when you’re hours away from any paved road, I at least want a crack at fixing it myself, or at least get back to civilization. If I were looking for a later model pick-up to build as a back country explorer I’d be looking for a Tacoma with a manual transmission. I’d beef up my gvwr using an OME suspension upgrade, then go from there. I know I’m stirring the pot here as everyone has opinions, so I’d suggest you do unbiased research, forget about brands, and come to your own conclusions. However, the rest of the world chooses Toyota trucks for a lot of very good reasons. Good luck with your journey.
 

loper

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Look for reliability and capability. It isn't as much fun when you're breaking down all the time. In terms of capability, you want something that will support your build goals without overloading/overstressing it.

I'm a Ford guy through and through, but I have to say Toyota builds some seriously reliable, capable vehicles. The aftermarket supports Toyotas pretty well, too (better selection and better prices).

Sounds like you have a workable plan. Trucks have a lot of utility. You should be able to find a decent used pickup at a decent price, just look around and don't get in a hurry. Get out and play a little and figure out what add-ons you really want as you go along.

You're in for a fun ride...
 
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freak4life

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Hi everyone. Just joined the forum yesterday, got into overlanding recently (hope I'm in the right section!).

I've hiked since as long as I can remember, and used to be a welder some years back (I do bookkeeping now. Quite a contrast, I know).
Grew up in Northern Ohio (live in Central Jersey now), been to all kinds of far-off places (lived 4 years abroad in a non-English speaking country too),
and love the outdoors, trucks, and custom builds.
said Toyota is an incredibly
So I did my research with google and now I know everything there is to know about overlanding. Period. (hey, what's that sarcastic look on your face?)


Seriously though, here's what I think I know so far, and would love to hear your opinion (and especially criticism).

Seems like to start:
  • I should get a used 4x4 truck (still not sure which make and model), preferably from outside the Salt Belt, less than 125k miles, with (at least) a limited differential.
  • I'm thinking a truck as opposed to a Jeep or SUV since I'd think it could also pay for itself with occasional side jobs.
  • Look for easier trails at first before taking on harder trails.
  • Get additional equipment when the time comes.
So, am I on the right track? Any advice? Things to consider?


P.S. I currently drive a 2019 Corolla sedan. I'm too self-conscious to drive it to a corporate office with a lifted frame and a front winch Lol.
Call me a close-minded- That's just how I feel about it.
I have an affection for Toyota as I am terrible at turning a wrench and I do not enjoy doing so, that being said, Toyota‘s are an incredibly reliable vehicle and it will keep it‘s value for a long time. You will pay more for a used one than other similar vehicles but quality costs. Your Corolla will handle FS roads, just not much more than that. Save for quality and you will have less chance of being stranded in the middle of no where. Good tires are the next must, probably more than any other modification. You are on the right track, don’t lift the Corolla.
 

MegaBug

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I totally agree with previous posters that reliability should be at the top of your priority list! I didn't always realize that and previously owned a Range Rover. Don't get me wrong, that was a wonderful vehicle in many respects but it is a Land Rover product, and subject to their well deserved reputation as maintenance queens :-( Even though carefully maintained, it got to the point we couldn't trust it to go too far from a dealership. When looking for a replacement reliability became our number one priority. Toyota quickly became the #1 choice and we'd had very good experience with 2 previous Toyota vehicles. We ended up buying a 5th gen 4Runner as they are highly customizable and we now feel comfortable going to the ends of the world (next stop Arctic Ocean!).
I, like you, don't have an extensive mechanical background and would much prefer exploring than wrenching.
 
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MMc

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Welcome to the campfire! You do you.
Everybody’s truck is pretty reliable these days.my friends that drive to town on long dirt roads prefer to drive full sized trucks or SUV’s they say they hold up better, me, I buy what a can afford and use the crap out it. I problems are with me and not the rig, I can break most things. I would look for a rig that a leased and has about 15 to 20k per year. Something to consider is after market parts availability. Anybody that says only this mfg. will do isn’t being very objective. I have owned most of the major mags and they all work.
 

Billiebob

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Hi everyone. Just joined the forum yesterday, got into overlanding recently (hope I'm in the right section!).

I've hiked since as long as I can remember, and used to be a welder some years back (I do bookkeeping now. Quite a contrast, I know).
Grew up in Northern Ohio (live in Central Jersey now), been to all kinds of far-off places (lived 4 years abroad in a non-English speaking country too),
and love the outdoors, trucks, and custom builds.

So I did my research with google and now I know everything there is to know about overlanding. Period. (hey, what's that sarcastic look on your face?)


Seriously though, here's what I think I know so far, and would love to hear your opinion (and especially criticism).

Seems like to start:
  • I should get a used 4x4 truck (still not sure which make and model), preferably from outside the Salt Belt, less than 125k miles, with (at least) a limited differential.
  • I'm thinking a truck as opposed to a Jeep or SUV since I'd think it could also pay for itself with occasional side jobs.
  • Look for easier trails at first before taking on harder trails.
  • Get additional equipment when the time comes.
So, am I on the right track? Any advice? Things to consider?


P.S. I currently drive a 2019 Corolla sedan. I'm too self-conscious to drive it to a corporate office with a lifted frame and a front winch Lol.
Call me a close-minded- That's just how I feel about it.
Sounds like a good track, but unoless you tell us what you will do, how meny people you want to accommodate, we are shooting blanks.
Any overland vehicle needs to meet the needs first.

ps, my Wramgler is my work vehicle, 2 trialers and it does it all. So glad I passed on a great deal $3300 F150 10 years ago.

Camper on the beach

DSCN2868.jpeg

Work duty minus the slider in camper, square box. plus a brick chimney.

DSC_0001.jpeg

Work daily driver hauling 2000# of tools.
12K miles a year towing for work, plus 12K miles a year with the camper or firewood or daily driver.

DSC_0072.jpeg

This IS my daily driver, add a trailer it does way more than a pichup csan dream of.
More wood than a pickup can carry, 5x10 deck, 3500# - 1100# empty = 2400# payload.

\trlr 017.jpg

Last week, cannot beat this.
Great clearance, incredible durability.
Darned affirdable. The trailer cost $1100 10 years ago, I ve invoiced out 10 fold that number hauling chimneys to the dump.
The cargo trailer, my toolbox cost $2900 12years ago, best toolbox ever.

So far the Square Box is under $1K...... soon to be doubled with a cooler, solar, cooker. But a bargain considering the price of any camper/trailer today.

Retired the Black '05 TJR last fall with 400K kms.
Bought the orange "06 TJR with 100K kms in September.

On the beach it is unbeatable.

IMG_0816.jpeg

I love Wrangler, best stock fully equipped vehicle ever AND for overlanders, they are supported on every continent, almost every country.
 
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Billiebob

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I'll say two routes here.
Tow a trailer,
yes or no.

No right, wrong choice.
My choice yes, behind a 2 door Wrangler, I know I can turn around on tight dead end trail faster easier than an equal Pickup, camper thing.

For me trailers mean a fast change, I drop the work trailer, offload the ladders, hook up the Square Box and I'm out of town in 15 minutes.
Home late Sunday, same thing, trade trailers, load the ladders, done. If the trailer is setup right, plug it in and the cooler, battery are charging.
Set it up with solar............. no beed to plug in ever.

I think trailers offer the best flexibiliiy. Straight trucks offer the best international travel options. If you are a part time overlander with a home base..... I thonk a trailer or two are the best choice.
 
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Roots66

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Like everyone else has said, reliability should be your main priority. No matter where you go or what you do, you will always need to drive it back home. Look for the best, newest vehicle you can afford. Low miles are great, but time degrades everything. A 20 year old truck with only 10,000 miles is ripe for things like electrical failures. Second consideration should be capability. What do you plan to add to it and can the engine, transmission, suspension, electrical system, frame, etc handle that additional load. Third, aftermarket support. If you plan to build it up and not make everything from scratch, make sure companies actually make the parts for your vehicle. I love my truck, but finding nearly anything for it is a real challenge.

As for build, your path will be different upon whether this will be a dedicated overland rig or not. If all you plan to do with it is go out on adventures, you can rig it to the max and leave it. If you plan to use it as anything else, you will need to consider things like ease of install/removal, storage when not in use, modifications, space limitations, etc. My truck is first and foremost my daily driver, it is also a farm truck, work truck, grocery getter, and family hauler. After all that, it is used for overlanding.
 
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Alanymarce

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Essentially repeating others' comments - it depends on what you want to do. If it's short local trips to interesting back trails the advice will be very different for that for trips of many months in other continents.

In our case we've had vehicles which are as new as we can afford, kept them relatively standard, kept them as light as possible (e.g., take out all of the seats except the ones we need to use), and chosen vehicles for which we can find spares easily where we're going.

So, for example, if you're staying at home a Hilux or LC80 is probably not a good choice; if you plan to drive from Cairo to the Cape an F150 is probably not a good option.
 

LostWoods

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Sneaks

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I won't repeat what others have said, though I will add a few things:

1) If you get a truck, expect those "side jobs" will be greatly outnumbered by "favors" to coworkers, friends, and family that do not have a truck and don't want to pop up the $20-50 to rent one for a few hours from HD or U-Haul to "just move one thing".
2) If you get a truck, remember that you will need to accommodate your plans to use it as a truck as well as an adventure vehicle. In other words, the more permanent modifications you make in the bed, or the more stuff you add, that's more work you have to undo to bring home a new chest freezer, get a load of loam, etc. as well as taking into account (if you sleep back there), that the lingering smell of cow dung isn't really awesome for falling asleep.
3) Set a reasonable budget, then double it. The little things can add up fast. Rarely when people start planning things do they take into account the need to buy a tool they don't have, wiring, connectors, crimpers, bolts, etc. $5 here, $19 there becomes a couple hundred $ that wasn't factored originally.
4) If you don't have like-minded friends, consider finding them, even if you are highly introverted (speaking from experience). There's some tasks in prep that are just way easier with a second set of hands, and if that set of hands is attached to someone that has skills you do not (welding, electronics, planning, carpentry, etc.), all the better.
5) When you find your vehicle, you'll know it. It will speak to you. Listen for it. Listen to it. Then get out there. The best adventure rig out there is the one you have and enjoy.
 

North40overland

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Happy to hear you are thinking of getting into overlanding. It is tons of fun and never seems to get old (I have a short attention span so that is saying something). I have owned all manner of off-road vehicles (Jeeps, hummers, dodge trucks, Chevy trucks, Chevy SUV's) over the years and for me personally I like the midsize truck as my platform. There are many arguments for and against this but for me, it seems to be the best. I like midsize because it is small enough to go where the jeeps go and I like a truck because it can haul like a truck. I am a GM guy so I am running a Colorado ZR2. There are a few pro's and con's I considered when making this choice. Hopefully, some of these strings of thought will help you in your decision:

Pro - The ZR2 has front and rear lockers, as well as an upgraded, factory lifted suspension with stronger shocks and control arms. It also comes with factory rock sliders and skid plates.
Con - Even though it only has a rear locker option and no sliders the Toyota Tacoma is the only midsize truck that legitimately has good aftermarket support. This being the case everything for my truck costs more, or has to be modified to work on my truck from a Tacoma part. As such, it is an expensive pain to upgrade my rig. Also, let's be honest, the Toyota is more reliable than a Chevy (sorry GM gods but it is just true)

Pro - The midsize truck is smaller on the trail and can go where the jeeps go. It is also a truck so it can haul like a truck hauls. I like both of these things about my rig, or any midsize truck. Also, (Sorry jeep guys) the midsize truck has much better road manners.
Con - The cab on a midsize truck is small so it is really only comfortable with 2 people on longer hauls (and overlanding seems to always be longer hauls). The bed is also only 5ft so many Roof Top Tents are longer and either hang over the cab or the rear. There are currently only about 3 models of RTT that fit on a 5ft bed. Also your breakover angle is not that of a jeep. It is definitely better than a full size truck but you will want to consider rock sliders and skids if you go truck vs. jeep

Pro - The midsize truck is great because it has a bed vs. a cab and can haul more stuff. It also keeps your stuff lower on the center of gravity that stacking it high in the back of a jeep. You also don't have to lose your rear seats to get 5' of cargo space. It also rides much nicer on the highway than a jeep, especially when loaded.
Con - Most all midsize trucks are IFS so it costs double to lift or modify the suspension over the solid front axle jeep. Also, you MUST get a tonneau to cover your stuff or it gets completely covered in gravel dust, mud, rain, etc. Which means you have to get a rack system that works with a tonneau and that typically costs more than a drawer system for the back of a jeep. Oh, and you are going to want the drawers in your truck anyway so you are just gonna pay that much more my friend. You say you won't but you will. That pull kitchen haunts my dreams.

All in all I love my midsize truck. There are many times that I wish I had bought a Taco but at the end of the day I wouldn't trade my ZR2 for anything. Oh, and no I would not buy a Gladiator. My buddy has one and he HATES it. If you are going to go jeep 4-door wrangler all day long. If you are going to go midsized truck I would say Tacoma. If you are going to go full size you need to move to Utah, Arizona, or San Diego :-)

Best of Luck, hope that helps. Let us know what you end up with!
 
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izzywolf

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Thanks guys, you're awesome! I appreciate the responses; each post really helps me out!

And right, should've said what my goals are. Drives near Jersey or Ohio every weekend, with occasional week-long trips (probably a few times a year), within the continental U.S.
Going with at least 2 people, and definitely want to have back seats just in case.


I never thought about using a trailer (used them a bit when I did welding), but it seems like something to consider (especially with how much they can carry). Is there a reason why people don't buy an SUV and a trailer instead of getting a truck?

For some time I was all excited about the "buying a used GX470 owned by ordinary people" trick. Besides for how old they are, the timing belt, the fuel economy, and recc. Premium fuel, are there other issues to consider with GX470s?
 
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Johnbrown8907

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Hi. New guy here. I have a 2005 Ram 1500 with a 5.7 hemi with about 160k on the odometer but very well maintained Truck. Suspension recently started getting loud squeaky recently and I’ve been wanting to upgrade it so now is the time. Looking for recommendations on a 3” -4” lift and type and size tires to run on stock wheels.
I’ve off roadbed (mud) as a kid but I’m not wanting to do that anymore.
I currently live in western PA north of Pittsburgh. So suggestions for places to go would be appreciated.
 
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freak4life

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Thanks guys, you're awesome! I appreciate the responses; each post really helps me out!

And right, should've said what my goals are. Drives near Jersey or Ohio every weekend, with occasional week-long trips (probably a few times a year), within the continental U.S.
Going with at least 2 people, and definitely want to have back seats just in case.


I never thought about using a trailer (used them a bit when I did welding), but it seems like something to consider (especially with how much they can carry). Is there a reason why people don't buy an SUV and a trailer instead of getting a truck?

For some time I was all excited about the "buying a used GX470 owned by ordinary people" trick. Besides for how old they are, the timing belt, the fuel economy, and recc. Premium fuel, are there other issues to consider with GX470s?
I am going with the “suv and trailer” route. The GX is a fine base, luxury out on the trail, not sure how capable on the moderate to difficult trails though.
 

jolyn

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Like many users have mentioned, high clearance is a definitely must for South America, and having a smaller rig helps you get into a lot of cute towns here! 4x4 is useful and i would not do without solar or a fridge (:
 
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MOAK

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Happy to hear you are thinking of getting into overlanding. It is tons of fun and never seems to get old (I have a short attention span so that is saying something). I have owned all manner of off-road vehicles (Jeeps, hummers, dodge trucks, Chevy trucks, Chevy SUV's) over the years and for me personally I like the midsize truck as my platform. There are many arguments for and against this but for me, it seems to be the best. I like midsize because it is small enough to go where the jeeps go and I like a truck because it can haul like a truck. I am a GM guy so I am running a Colorado ZR2. There are a few pro's and con's I considered when making this choice. Hopefully, some of these strings of thought will help you in your decision:

Pro - The ZR2 has front and rear lockers, as well as an upgraded, factory lifted suspension with stronger shocks and control arms. It also comes with factory rock sliders and skid plates.
Con - Even though it only has a rear locker option and no sliders the Toyota Tacoma is the only midsize truck that legitimately has good aftermarket support. This being the case everything for my truck costs more, or has to be modified to work on my truck from a Tacoma part. As such, it is an expensive pain to upgrade my rig. Also, let's be honest, the Toyota is more reliable than a Chevy (sorry GM gods but it is just true)

Pro - The midsize truck is smaller on the trail and can go where the jeeps go. It is also a truck so it can haul like a truck hauls. I like both of these things about my rig, or any midsize truck. Also, (Sorry jeep guys) the midsize truck has much better road manners.
Con - The cab on a midsize truck is small so it is really only comfortable with 2 people on longer hauls (and overlanding seems to always be longer hauls). The bed is also only 5ft so many Roof Top Tents are longer and either hang over the cab or the rear. There are currently only about 3 models of RTT that fit on a 5ft bed. Also your breakover angle is not that of a jeep. It is definitely better than a full size truck but you will want to consider rock sliders and skids if you go truck vs. jeep

Pro - The midsize truck is great because it has a bed vs. a cab and can haul more stuff. It also keeps your stuff lower on the center of gravity that stacking it high in the back of a jeep. You also don't have to lose your rear seats to get 5' of cargo space. It also rides much nicer on the highway than a jeep, especially when loaded.
Con - Most all midsize trucks are IFS so it costs double to lift or modify the suspension over the solid front axle jeep. Also, you MUST get a tonneau to cover your stuff or it gets completely covered in gravel dust, mud, rain, etc. Which means you have to get a rack system that works with a tonneau and that typically costs more than a drawer system for the back of a jeep. Oh, and you are going to want the drawers in your truck anyway so you are just gonna pay that much more my friend. You say you won't but you will. That pull kitchen haunts my dreams.

All in all I love my midsize truck. There are many times that I wish I had bought a Taco but at the end of the day I wouldn't trade my ZR2 for anything. Oh, and no I would not buy a Gladiator. My buddy has one and he HATES it. If you are going to go jeep 4-door wrangler all day long. If you are going to go midsized truck I would say Tacoma. If you are going to go full size you need to move to Utah, Arizona, or San Diego :-)

Best of Luck, hope that helps. Let us know what you end up with!
I gotta ask, how are the bushings and ball joints holding up on your Chevy? My BIL has a Colorado and got the bad news that his ball joints are shot. Less than 25,000 miles. Maybe 4 or 500 on easy to difficult technical terrain, and he finesses it through. It’s just sad..
 

izzywolf

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I am going with the “suv and trailer” route. The GX is a fine base, luxury out on the trail, not sure how capable on the moderate to difficult trails though.
I don't know the ins and outs of frame mods, but from all the articles and videos I've seen online on GX470s (hey, if it's on YouTube it must be true, right?),
they seem to be able to go almost anywhere (not sure about the Rubicon trail or someplace like that).

Are there specific advantages of SUVs over trucks (besides more covered space, seats, and internal features)?

As a side note, from what I glimpsed online, the vast majority of SUVs for overlanding (within the U.S.) seem to be just 2 models:
the Wrangler and 4Runner (there's also the Lexus GX470 and FJ folks). Personally I don't know if I could trust a Jeep.
 
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