Home Tips Overland Rig Wants Vs. Needs
Overland Rig Wants Vs. Needs

Overland Rig Wants Vs. Needs

30

So you bought your first rig, or you want to outfit your current setup even more…

Most Overlanders have one question on their mind when it comes to rig enhancement and improvement: Where do you start?

After attending the 2016 Overland Expo West, the Overland Bound Team walked away clear reminded: There are a TON of gear and accessory options for Overlanders, and chasing after the newest, shiniest thing can be very seductive (and expensive).

One of the best ways to filter through your options is to ask yourself three questions before making your decision to upgrade and modify:

  1. What situations on the journey am I preparing for? (Scope)
  2. How much of my budget do I have to allocate to the solution? (Cost)
  3. How long will it take to be “overland” ready? (Time)

Overland Bound’s core principle number two is,

“It doesn’t matter what you drive: The only requirement of an Overlander is that the vehicle serves the job required, safely.”

Consider this carefully! Our core principles: Core Principles on OB Forums

Once you distill down the functionality you are seeking, you can focus your time and budget on the solutions specific to you.

We asked Overland Bound Members to tell us about more about their vehicles, and how they made their modification decisions. Read on to learn more about what inspired them on their overlanding journey! Each member has different requirements! 

What did you modify first?

STeve0202_Subaru

 

Steve – Overland Bound Member #0202

Vehicles: 2008 Subaru Outback and 2016 Toyota 4Runner

“On both, tires! Road biased all-terrain Geolandars on the Outback, and BF Goodrich KO2s on the 4Runner with 50 miles on the odometer. Tires, because that’s the best bang for the buck on any non-paved surface when compared to stock tires. On both vehicles, this simple improvement opened a huge range of places I could go.”

‘Winterpeg’ – Overland Bound Member #2861

Vehicle: 2008 Toyota FJ Trail Teams

 

“First was a winch. I like to “Outfit and Explore” and make it back. My previous 4×4 did not have a winch and I got into a LOT of trouble with my wife because I was late for supper due to being stuck on a “quick” little detour on the way back home. Four hours later, and a long distance call to a friend to get me out, I was home. This was almost a decade ago and I STILL hear about this…”

Jeff – Overland Bound Member #0327

Vehicle: 2007 Jeep JK (2-Door)2016-07-18_0913

“Lighting. (It’s a) cheap and good way to learn about the simple parts to take on and off.”

Mason – Overland Bound Member #0364

Vehicle: 2010 Toy FJ with Off Road Package

“Tires and suspension – BFG AT. Road behavior with the BFG AT was bad (My FJ did not like them), so now I run GY Duratrack and they work very well. The street stock tires just did not work.”

Kevin McC. – Overland Bound Member #0102KevinMc-Ties

Vehicle: 2014 Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition

“We cut a factory tire down on our first trail and promptly made our way to the tire store the very next morning for a complete set of BFG KO’s All-Terrain tires. Since this upgrade, we have NEVER had another flat.”

JDunk – Overland Bound Member #0446

Vehicle: ’06 Jeep XK (Commander)

“Lift and tires was the first thing. The XK is basically a massive station wagon from the factory: long
wheel base and comparably short ground clearance.”

What is the biggest factor in your jdunkdecision making for what and how much you spend on your rig?

Jordan B. – Overland Bound Member #0750

“For me all initial mods/repairs or upgrades were based upon gaining reliability. For me the rig being reliable is most important.”

What are your additional thoughts on this process?

“There are a lot of projects left to do: armor on the undercarriage, sliders, new roof rack, RTT, new lights, on board air… the list goes on and on. It’s a time thing. If I’m always working on the rig, I can’t enjoy it or the world it’s built to explore. Though, budget is a pretty big reason also.”

Long story short, it’s about tires and suspension first and foremost. After that, the sky’s the limit, but be sure to carefully consider the needs of the journey! Head to our forums to ask members directly!

As you endeavor to create or enhance your Overland rig… It doesn’t matter what you drive. There is no modification point that magically tips you into the Overlander category. If you feel the call of adventure… Welcome to the crew.

The best journeys are in front of you. Get outside and find them!2016-07-18_0925

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New to Overlanding? Looking to share adventures with an awesome crew of explorers? Become an Overland Bound Member by purchasing your Member Emblem. Each Emblem is laser etched with a unique Member Number that is yours for life.

 

 


Michael

Backwoods country bumpkin. Overland enthusiast and lover of the great outdoors.

Comment(30)

  1. Couldn't agree more. Tires are the most important. But I would add that you should know what size you want to run ahead of time, and what kind of terrain you would be driving through. Maybe stock height is fine for the trails you plan on running.

  2. I've built more than a couple of rigs over the years. So, in my humble opinion a very mild lift is all you need in order to travel on 99% of all two track trails in North America. I've never lifted a vehicle any more than what would void any factory warranties, in other words, no more than 2.5"s Once you go higher than that, you may as well open up your wallet and understand it'll cost you upwards of a thousand dollars an inch, and that's just to get the geometry corrected. Then as a lot of folks would agree, TIRES..  What will you be doing? Hard core recreational off road,  overlanding, or a little or a lot of both?  The size of your tires should match your drivetrain. I'd love to run 315s but that would entail spending a pile of money re-gearing to at least 4:88s.  So, to mate well with my 4:11s,  I stick with 285s,  Whatever tire you choose, don't cheap out and do your research.

  3. Great article. My rig came with a 3" lift, but honestly I'm thinking of re-doing it and going with an OME 2.5" or something of the sort. Front bumper is coming in soon though, so I'm pumped about that!

  4. Very good article, I agree with the tires, number one place to start. I'm a bit cautious with lights, early on I got sucked into that, having more lights was a priority; but then I realized, I stop and make camp before it ever gets dark. If we are running late breakdown on the trail or get stuck, I find making camp there till the morning to be a better course of action for myself. Other mods like suspension for one, if it's needed for where you go, by all means go for it. Back in 98-99 my dad and I took his stock 91 Jeep Cherokee into Death Valley with some friends who had some seriously built rigs. We went everywhere they went, only scrapped the skid plate a couple of times, and unlike several others in the party, didn't end up frame deep in the mud. Later that year he put a three inch lift on it…. and never took it off road again. It's hard to live, but remember that just because you can make the mod, doesn't mean you should.

  5. Very good article, I agree with the tires, number one place to start. I'm a bit cautious with lights, early on I got sucked into that, having more lights was a priority; but then I realized, I stop and make camp before it ever gets dark. If we are running late breakdown on the trail or get stuck, I find making camp there till the morning to be a better course of action for myself. Other mods like suspension for one, if it's needed for where you go, by all means go for it. Back in 98-99 my dad and I took his stock 91 Jeep Cherokee into Death Valley with some friends who had some seriously built rigs. We went everywhere they went, only scrapped the skid plate a couple of times, and unlike several others in the party, didn't end up frame deep in the mud. Later that year he put a three inch lift on it…. and never took it off road again. It's hard to live, but remember that just because you can make the mod, doesn't mean you should.

    Yea, I agree 100%. I don't get the light thing either. We had some years ago and never, I repeat, never used them. Somehow it seemed sacrilege to light up the night sky out in the middle of nowhere, when simple fog and headlamps on the rig, and a headlamp on our foreheads is plenty.

  6. Good article, I agree with pretty much all the comments, the best mod you can make to increase the performance of a vehicle off road is good tyres.

    One thing I haven't seen posted however is recovery points. If your rig doesn't have any way of getting out if it is stuck it doesn't matter how capable it is you shouldn't take it off road unless you are happy to lose or damage it. Also one of the cheapest mods you can do.

  7. Good article, I agree with pretty much all the comments, the best mod you can make to increase the performance of a vehicle off road is good tyres.

    One thing I haven't seen posted however is recovery points. If your rig doesn't have any way of getting out if it is stuck it doesn't matter how capable it is you shouldn't take it off road unless you are happy to lose or damage it. Also one of the cheapest mods you can do.

    That's true, I forget that most of the new rigs don't really have a good place to tug and pull on or from. The older trucks and Jeeps, you could almost put a chain on anything to free them up.

  8. Hey guys getting into the overland scene and just researching and reading up on all the info and advice you guys are giving out. Just got me a JKU-Rubicon and the first thing I did was add a front bumper and 10,000lb winch. I also was looking into getting me a 3.5-4" lift but I'm digging the 2.5" with some 33"s or maybe some 35"s.  What would you recommend on this and if you all have had experience with either your advice would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks Jose

  9. As far as a lift, depends on what you want to do. The 2.5 with 33"s would take you almost anywhere you would want. From experience I personally wouldn't go that large on the tires, the strain on the drive train is significant and could cause severe damage.

  10. Hey guys getting into the overland scene and just researching and reading up on all the info and advice you guys are giving out. Just got me a JKU-Rubicon and the first thing I did was add a front bumper and 10,000lb winch. I also was looking into getting me a 3.5-4" lift but I'm digging the 2.5" with some 33"s or maybe some 35"s.  What would you recommend on this and if you all have had experience with either your advice would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks Jose

    What do you want to use it for? The requirements for a rig are different if you want to use it for touring, rock crawling, etc… Be careful with large lifts like you mentioned unless you need them. Rubicon stock are very capable and if you lift it 4 inches and put 35s on it it will be more capable however it will also increase the rolling resistance, cause greater strain on the vehicle, decrease ride quality, increase fuel consumption and throw out the gear ratio. I'm not saying don't do it, just be aware of the pros and cons and make sure it is what you want to do to make your vehicle do what you need it to so you don't have any regrets in the future

  11. What do you want to use it for? The requirements for a rig are different if you want to use it for touring, rock crawling, etc… Be careful with large lifts like you mentioned unless you need them. Rubicon stock are very capable and if you lift it 4 inches and put 35s on it it will be more capable however it will also increase the rolling resistance, cause greater strain on the vehicle, decrease ride quality, increase fuel consumption and throw out the gear ratio. I'm not saying don't do it, just be aware of the pros and cons and make sure it is what you want to do to make your vehicle do what you need it to so you don't have any regrets in the future

    Thanks for the info and advice! I've been leaning between 2.5 and a 3.5" lift, either from Rock Krawler or Tera flex suspension and sticking between 33s or 35s.  I want the jeep to be capable of heading out in the trails of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, for camping and exploring nature but would also like it to be able to hit the rubicon and Utah rock trails as well. I'm not looking to do extreme rock crawling or build a rock crawler but would like to have the clearance to tackle those places just incase.

  12. As far as a lift, depends on what you want to do. The 2.5 with 33"s would take you almost anywhere you would want. From experience I personally wouldn't go that large on the tires, the strain on the drive train is significant and could cause severe damage.

    Thanks Kingazjay for the info. I have  lot of researching and asking questions before I make my choice just don't want to make the wrong decision and have to pay more and do it twice if you know what I mean. Lol

  13. Rubicon is pretty setup stock but they are long and could use some ground clearance. My fuel tank skid plate is evidence of that

    You can run 35s witha 2.5 inch lift. 35s will be no issue for the drive train. The stock ball joints wont like it but they are junk anyway so once they fail replace with some quality (not mopar)o you have 3.73 gears or 4.10?

    All suspension systems are not created equal. Different spring types are used. So.e are set for lots of flex some made just to lift it up higher. Some are geared more towards ovverlanding. And what I've read is that ride quality is better then stock with some suspension systems. This what I've read so take it with a grain of salt.

    I personally going to pick up the teraflex 1.5 budget boost kit. I have another set of new rubicon tires I'm going to use when the current ones wear out. So this simple lift kit will give the added clearance while I run the stockers.

    Once they are done I'm looking at the Metalcloak suspension 2.5 system.

  14. Rubicon is pretty setup stock but they are long and could use some ground clearance. My fuel tank skid plate is evidence of that

    You can run 35s witha 2.5 inch lift. 35s will be no issue for the drive train. The stock ball joints wont like it but they are junk anyway so once they fail replace with some quality (not mopar). Do you have 3.73 gears or 4.10?

    All suspension systems are not created equal. Different spring types are used. Some are set for lots of flex some made just to lift it up higher. Some are geared more towards overlanding. And what I've read is that ride quality is better then stock with some suspension systems. This what I've read so take it with a grain of salt.

    I personally going to pick up the teraflex 1.5 budget boost kit. I have another set of new rubicon tires I'm going to use when the current ones wear out. So this simple lift kit will give the added clearance while I run the stockers.

    Once they are done I'm looking at the Metalcloak suspension 2.5 system and 33's

    Thanks Stoney for the input. I have a automatic with 3.73 gears and stock 32" tires right. I'm pretty sure I will need to new gearing if I jump up to 35" but what if I stick to 33"s do you think I would need new gears as well?

  15. Thanks Stoney for the input. I have a automatic with 3.73 gears and stock 32" tires right. I'm pretty sure I will need to new gearing if I jump up to 35" but what if I stick to 33"s do you think I would need new gears as well?

    No you won't. The difference in tire size doesnt really warrant it. To be honest ive seen 35s with 3.73 gears, not very beneficial when trying crawl around and would make your shift points a bit screwy .Like was posted before it really depends on what your getting into and how you want to build the rig. I'm very entry level to offroading so I'm building as needed and money allows.

  16. No you won't. The difference in tire size doesnt really warrant it. To be honest ive seen 35s with 3.73 gears, not very beneficial when trying crawl around and would make your shift points a bit screwy .Like was posted before it really depends on what your getting into and how you want to build the rig. I'm very entry level to offroading so I'm building as needed and money allows.

    What @stoney126 said. I run my stock gears with 2.5" lift and 35s, no issue. Now, if you have a 4-banger that might be a different issue!

  17. I have the 3.6liter in mine and will be using it more for trail and exploring plus some occasional rock crawling if needed. Thanks again guys for you input and help.

  18. I've got the 3.6 as well. 2014 rubicon jku. Stock gearing drive train and tires.

    So far I've found I could a bit more ground clearance. Love to get a winch here soon though too

  19. You will be fine with the stock gearing. I currently run a 2010 JEEP JKU Sport with 2.5 AEV Lift and 35" General GT tires, 373 gears.  I am able to do highway speeds and use it as a daily driver. Its slow and gets terrible gas mileage, but I did not buy it to drive fast nor did I care about MPG.

  20. You will be fine with the stock gearing. I currently run a 2010 JEEP JKU Sport with 2.5 AEV Lift and 35" General GT tires, 373 gears.  I am able to do highway speeds and use it as a daily driver. Its slow and gets terrible gas mileage, but I did not buy it to drive fast nor did I care about MPG.

    Lol. That's the truth.  I almonds mine as aDD but once I get everything set up how I want it, most likely I'll do 4.56 or 4.88 gears F/R and calibrate envy thing back to stock mode.

  21. My list of "want" is as long as my leg and always changing, but that says more about me as a person than anything else.  The "needs" list is much shorter: good tires, real 4WD, and experience.

    Looking at upgrades, I break it down into two categories: Optional upgrades, and opportunistic upgrades. The fact is that you can overland in any vehicle, it's just a matter of planning your trip around the vehicle you have. If you have a stock Subaru Outback you will do different route planning than a built Toyota Land Cruiser. If you have a 250 mile range and no ability to carry fuel, you will take that into consideration and plan differently than the Ford Excursion with a 400+ mile range.

    An optional upgrade is when the part/system being replaced or upgraded is currently working fine, but you are wanting something more that it currently is not providing. A lift kit is an example of this, if the suspension isn't currently broken there is really no need to replace it with upgraded parts, you are doing it because you want to.

    An opportunistic upgrade is where the part must be replaced because of a failure and the owner installs an upgraded part rather than another OEM component. An example here would be an alternator failing and being replaced with a high-output waterproof alternator.

    I look at my vehicle as a Swiss Army knife. It is my rock cralwer, overlander, daily driver, motorcycle tow rig, and does the Costco/Home Depot/IKEA run. That means my build will make sacrifices in one area to serve another. Lots of my mods have been optional, a few have been opportunistic.

    The next step is prioritizing where the money gets spent. Opportunistic upgrades are a little easier to swallow because you would have to get the OEM part anyway, so you are only really "spending" the difference between the stock part and the upgrade. In some cases the upgrade ends up being cheaper than the OEM. I had this happen with my XTerra; the OEM rear drive shaft uses a traditional U-joint at the transfer case and a CV joint at the diff. When the CV joint failed I was given the option of replacing it with an OEM drive shaft or getting a custom drive shaft with serviceable U-joints custom built for $20 less.

    This is already long-winded, so here is my list of optional upgrades in order of priority (more or less).

    • Tires. The best rig in the world will be SOL without good rubber. Look for something with the right tread, compound, and carcass for your environment. I went with the BF Goodrich TA KO and later the KO2 for durability and puncture resistance.
    • Rock Sliders. Being able to drive through with more confidence and not worry about expensive panel damage opened up a lot of trails.
    • Upgraded Skid Plates. My vehicle had light-duty skid plates from the factory. I upgraded them to protect the vital oily bits under the chassis. Most vehicles these days use aluminum casings for engines, transmissions, and transfer cases; smack one just the wrong way and it will crack and leave you stranded. I also added a diff guard to the rear differential.
    • Lift Kit: I waited and saved to do my lift kit. I don't recommend spacer kits, they can actually reduce suspension performance and even result in damage. My kit involved new shocks all around, new front springs, a rear add-a-leaf (my rear end was sagging), and new upper control arms. Yes, it is pretty involved, but it's the right way to do it. Later I replaced the add-a-leaf with custom made springs from Alcan.
    • Rear bumper. A lot of people say to do a front bumper right away to protect the engine from impacts with livestock and wildlife. While that is a concern, I opted to go with a rear bumper for added utility. This allowed me to carry a high-lift jack, my CB antenna, and to step up to two spare tires. That original bumper was later upgraded to one with an built in carrier for two NATO cans.
    • Roof rack. It just makes it easier to carry "overflow" gear that won't fit inside or wet and dirty junk you'd rather not have inside the rig.
    • Front bumper. Added clearance and front end protection.
    • Lighting. Upgraded to LED off road light pods in the front, more are planned as utility lights for around camp and dust-lights.
    • +5 HP sticker – because I liked watching my mechanic and friends facepalm when they saw it on the intake.

    Non-mechanical upgrades include things like a cell phone mount, GPS mount, ham radio, CB radio, red LED dome lights (to preserve your vision when you open the door at night to get stuff) and an overhead work light recessed into the lift gate.

    Opportunistic upgrades: U-joints with zerk points, heavy duty lower control arms with zerk points on the ball joints, upgraded rear drive shaft, upgraded clutch, heavy duty battery, and brake pads and rotors.

    Reducing Breakage

    Preventative maintenance is key, inspect your vehicle regularly and have a mechanic to give it a second look. I could do my own oil changes, but I take it to a local shop because I like the peace of mind that someone else has inspected the vehicle.

    • Oil changes. I don't care what the manual says, I do 3,000 miles or three months with synthetic blend. I use blend because I can top-up with conventional, blend, or synthetic if I'm out in the boonies. Off roading is hard on a motor and oil looses its ability to lubricate as it ages.
    • Air filter. Don't use K&N or other oiled filters, they are a high-flow system designed for racing, that means that they are more "open" and let through more crap. I've tried running them in the past and found all kinds of oily dirt and dust on the wrong side of the airbox. They also have a tendency to foul up the mass airflow sensor in the intake. Stick with paper filters and keep a spare in the vehicle.
    • Lube the chassis. When at all possible, add parts with zerk points. Most modern rigs don't come with these from the factory because each one saves the manufacturer a quarter of a cent or something. Lubricate the chassis regularly to push dirt, water, and grime out of critical joints.
    • Maintain seals and gaskets. Especially on fuse boxes and other electrical parts, make sure dust and moisture stays out.

    Most importantly: Pay attention to your vehicle; If you notice even a hint of an odd noise, vibration, or harshness address it immediately. This will help keep the vehicle in good working order so you don't have a catastrophic failure on the trail. When in doubt, swap the part out; if it still has some life left in it, toss it in the spares bin for emergencies.

    This will help prevent wear and tear, but not abuse. Proper technique and good judgement are your best assets. The most common cause of breakages I see is due to over application of the skinny pedal. The rule of thumb is "As slow as possible, as fast as necessary". Look ahead and plan your line, get out and scout the trail to make sure you won't damage anything – and don't be afraid to detour or change your plans if the road conditions are too much to handle comfortably.

    Repairs

    My tool kit isn't super extensive, but it is enough to get me out of most things I will encounter. A basic socket set, pliers, screwdrivers, vice grips, and other basic hand tools. Spare fuses, a spare belt, spare bulbs, lots of zip ties, JB weld, ratchet straps (seriously, I've seen sheered u-bolts replaced with ratchet straps so a vehicle could limp back to pavement. I've even seen someone use a tree branch and a ratchet strap to suspend a motor when a motor mount broke.) gorilla tape, teflon tape, and spare bottles of all the fluids. For longer trips I also throw in my breaker bar and torque wrench.

    Most OEM jacks are garbage and may not even reach a lifted vehicle anymore, I added an upgraded bottle jack to the kit.

    1. Wow, you covered it all…thanks for sharing all your years of offroading. I’m sure that was the condensed version. Hope to meet you out on the trais to continue this great convo over a hot cup of coffee. Thanks again!

  22. My list of "want" is as long as my leg and always changing, but that says more about me as a person than anything else.  The "needs" list is much shorter: good tires, real 4WD, and experience.

    Looking at upgrades, I break it down into two categories: Optional upgrades, and opportunistic upgrades. The fact is that you can overland in any vehicle, it's just a matter of planning your trip around the vehicle you have. If you have a stock Subaru Outback you will do different route planning than a built Toyota Land Cruiser. If you have a 250 mile range and no ability to carry fuel, you will take that into consideration and plan differently than the Ford Excursion with a 400+ mile range.

    An optional upgrade is when the part/system being replaced or upgraded is currently working fine, but you are wanting something more that it currently is not providing. A lift kit is an example of this, if the suspension isn't currently broken there is really no need to replace it with upgraded parts, you are doing it because you want to.

    An opportunistic upgrade is where the part must be replaced because of a failure and the owner installs an upgraded part rather than another OEM component. An example here would be an alternator failing and being replaced with a high-output waterproof alternator.

    I look at my vehicle as a Swiss Army knife. It is my rock cralwer, overlander, daily driver, motorcycle tow rig, and does the Costco/Home Depot/IKEA run. That means my build will make sacrifices in one area to serve another. Lots of my mods have been optional, a few have been opportunistic.

    The next step is prioritizing where the money gets spent. Opportunistic upgrades are a little easier to swallow because you would have to get the OEM part anyway, so you are only really "spending" the difference between the stock part and the upgrade. In some cases the upgrade ends up being cheaper than the OEM. I had this happen with my XTerra; the OEM rear drive shaft uses a traditional U-joint at the transfer case and a CV joint at the diff. When the CV joint failed I was given the option of replacing it with an OEM drive shaft or getting a custom drive shaft with serviceable U-joints custom built for $20 less.

    This is already long-winded, so here is my list of optional upgrades in order of priority (more or less).

    • Tires. The best rig in the world will be SOL without good rubber. Look for something with the right tread, compound, and carcass for your environment. I went with the BF Goodrich TA KO and later the KO2 for durability and puncture resistance.
    • Rock Sliders. Being able to drive through with more confidence and not worry about expensive panel damage opened up a lot of trails.
    • Upgraded Skid Plates. My vehicle had light-duty skid plates from the factory. I upgraded them to protect the vital oily bits under the chassis. Most vehicles these days use aluminum casings for engines, transmissions, and transfer cases; smack one just the wrong way and it will crack and leave you stranded. I also added a diff guard to the rear differential.
    • Lift Kit: I waited and saved to do my lift kit. I don't recommend spacer kits, they can actually reduce suspension performance and even result in damage. My kit involved new shocks all around, new front springs, a rear add-a-leaf (my rear end was sagging), and new upper control arms. Yes, it is pretty involved, but it's the right way to do it. Later I replaced the add-a-leaf with custom made springs from Alcan.
    • Rear bumper. A lot of people say to do a front bumper right away to protect the engine from impacts with livestock and wildlife. While that is a concern, I opted to go with a rear bumper for added utility. This allowed me to carry a high-lift jack, my CB antenna, and to step up to two spare tires. That original bumper was later upgraded to one with an built in carrier for two NATO cans.
    • Roof rack. It just makes it easier to carry "overflow" gear that won't fit inside or wet and dirty junk you'd rather not have inside the rig.
    • Front bumper. Added clearance and front end protection.
    • Lighting. Upgraded to LED off road light pods in the front, more are planned as utility lights for around camp and dust-lights.
    • +5 HP sticker – because I liked watching my mechanic and friends facepalm when they saw it on the intake.

    Non-mechanical upgrades include things like a cell phone mount, GPS mount, ham radio, CB radio, red LED dome lights (to preserve your vision when you open the door at night to get stuff) and an overhead work light recessed into the lift gate.

    Opportunistic upgrades: U-joints with zerk points, heavy duty lower control arms with zerk points on the ball joints, upgraded rear drive shaft, upgraded clutch, heavy duty battery, and brake pads and rotors.

    Reducing Breakage

    Preventative maintenance is key, inspect your vehicle regularly and have a mechanic to give it a second look. I could do my own oil changes, but I take it to a local shop because I like the peace of mind that someone else has inspected the vehicle.

    • Oil changes. I don't care what the manual says, I do 3,000 miles or three months with synthetic blend. I use blend because I can top-up with conventional, blend, or synthetic if I'm out in the boonies. Off roading is hard on a motor and oil looses its ability to lubricate as it ages.
    • Air filter. Don't use K&N or other oiled filters, they are a high-flow system designed for racing, that means that they are more "open" and let through more crap. I've tried running them in the past and found all kinds of oily dirt and dust on the wrong side of the airbox. They also have a tendency to foul up the mass airflow sensor in the intake. Stick with paper filters and keep a spare in the vehicle.
    • Lube the chassis. When at all possible, add parts with zerk points. Most modern rigs don't come with these from the factory because each one saves the manufacturer a quarter of a cent or something. Lubricate the chassis regularly to push dirt, water, and grime out of critical joints.
    • Maintain seals and gaskets. Especially on fuse boxes and other electrical parts, make sure dust and moisture stays out.

    Most importantly: Pay attention to your vehicle; If you notice even a hint of an odd noise, vibration, or harshness address it immediately. This will help keep the vehicle in good working order so you don't have a catastrophic failure on the trail. When in doubt, swap the part out; if it still has some life left in it, toss it in the spares bin for emergencies.

    This will help prevent wear and tear, but not abuse. Proper technique and good judgement are your best assets. The most common cause of breakages I see is due to over application of the skinny pedal. The rule of thumb is "As slow as possible, as fast as necessary". Look ahead and plan your line, get out and scout the trail to make sure you won't damage anything – and don't be afraid to detour or change your plans if the road conditions are too much to handle comfortably.

    Repairs

    My tool kit isn't super extensive, but it is enough to get me out of most things I will encounter. A basic socket set, pliers, screwdrivers, vice grips, and other basic hand tools. Spare fuses, a spare belt, spare bulbs, lots of zip ties, JB weld, ratchet straps (seriously, I've seen sheered u-bolts replaced with ratchet straps so a vehicle could limp back to pavement. I've even seen someone use a tree branch and a ratchet strap to suspend a motor when a motor mount broke.) gorilla tape, teflon tape, and spare bottles of all the fluids. For longer trips I also throw in my breaker bar and torque wrench.

    Most OEM jacks are garbage and may not even reach a lifted vehicle anymore, I added an upgraded bottle jack to the kit.

    Awesome post with good advice to take into consideration. Thanks TrexTerra.

  23. My list of "want" is as long as my leg and always changing, but that says more about me as a person than anything else.  The "needs" list is much shorter: good tires, real 4WD, and experience.

    Looking at upgrades, I break it down into two categories: Optional upgrades, and opportunistic upgrades. The fact is that you can overland in any vehicle, it's just a matter of planning your trip around the vehicle you have. If you have a stock Subaru Outback you will do different route planning than a built Toyota Land Cruiser. If you have a 250 mile range and no ability to carry fuel, you will take that into consideration and plan differently than the Ford Excursion with a 400+ mile range.

    An optional upgrade is when the part/system being replaced or upgraded is currently working fine, but you are wanting something more that it currently is not providing. A lift kit is an example of this, if the suspension isn't currently broken there is really no need to replace it with upgraded parts, you are doing it because you want to.

    An opportunistic upgrade is where the part must be replaced because of a failure and the owner installs an upgraded part rather than another OEM component. An example here would be an alternator failing and being replaced with a high-output waterproof alternator.

    I look at my vehicle as a Swiss Army knife. It is my rock cralwer, overlander, daily driver, motorcycle tow rig, and does the Costco/Home Depot/IKEA run. That means my build will make sacrifices in one area to serve another. Lots of my mods have been optional, a few have been opportunistic.

    The next step is prioritizing where the money gets spent. Opportunistic upgrades are a little easier to swallow because you would have to get the OEM part anyway, so you are only really "spending" the difference between the stock part and the upgrade. In some cases the upgrade ends up being cheaper than the OEM. I had this happen with my XTerra; the OEM rear drive shaft uses a traditional U-joint at the transfer case and a CV joint at the diff. When the CV joint failed I was given the option of replacing it with an OEM drive shaft or getting a custom drive shaft with serviceable U-joints custom built for $20 less.

    This is already long-winded, so here is my list of optional upgrades in order of priority (more or less).

    • Tires. The best rig in the world will be SOL without good rubber. Look for something with the right tread, compound, and carcass for your environment. I went with the BF Goodrich TA KO and later the KO2 for durability and puncture resistance.
    • Rock Sliders. Being able to drive through with more confidence and not worry about expensive panel damage opened up a lot of trails.
    • Upgraded Skid Plates. My vehicle had light-duty skid plates from the factory. I upgraded them to protect the vital oily bits under the chassis. Most vehicles these days use aluminum casings for engines, transmissions, and transfer cases; smack one just the wrong way and it will crack and leave you stranded. I also added a diff guard to the rear differential.
    • Lift Kit: I waited and saved to do my lift kit. I don't recommend spacer kits, they can actually reduce suspension performance and even result in damage. My kit involved new shocks all around, new front springs, a rear add-a-leaf (my rear end was sagging), and new upper control arms. Yes, it is pretty involved, but it's the right way to do it. Later I replaced the add-a-leaf with custom made springs from Alcan.
    • Rear bumper. A lot of people say to do a front bumper right away to protect the engine from impacts with livestock and wildlife. While that is a concern, I opted to go with a rear bumper for added utility. This allowed me to carry a high-lift jack, my CB antenna, and to step up to two spare tires. That original bumper was later upgraded to one with an built in carrier for two NATO cans.
    • Roof rack. It just makes it easier to carry "overflow" gear that won't fit inside or wet and dirty junk you'd rather not have inside the rig.
    • Front bumper. Added clearance and front end protection.
    • Lighting. Upgraded to LED off road light pods in the front, more are planned as utility lights for around camp and dust-lights.
    • +5 HP sticker – because I liked watching my mechanic and friends facepalm when they saw it on the intake.

    Non-mechanical upgrades include things like a cell phone mount, GPS mount, ham radio, CB radio, red LED dome lights (to preserve your vision when you open the door at night to get stuff) and an overhead work light recessed into the lift gate.

    Opportunistic upgrades: U-joints with zerk points, heavy duty lower control arms with zerk points on the ball joints, upgraded rear drive shaft, upgraded clutch, heavy duty battery, and brake pads and rotors.

    Reducing Breakage

    Preventative maintenance is key, inspect your vehicle regularly and have a mechanic to give it a second look. I could do my own oil changes, but I take it to a local shop because I like the peace of mind that someone else has inspected the vehicle.

    • Oil changes. I don't care what the manual says, I do 3,000 miles or three months with synthetic blend. I use blend because I can top-up with conventional, blend, or synthetic if I'm out in the boonies. Off roading is hard on a motor and oil looses its ability to lubricate as it ages.
    • Air filter. Don't use K&N or other oiled filters, they are a high-flow system designed for racing, that means that they are more "open" and let through more crap. I've tried running them in the past and found all kinds of oily dirt and dust on the wrong side of the airbox. They also have a tendency to foul up the mass airflow sensor in the intake. Stick with paper filters and keep a spare in the vehicle.
    • Lube the chassis. When at all possible, add parts with zerk points. Most modern rigs don't come with these from the factory because each one saves the manufacturer a quarter of a cent or something. Lubricate the chassis regularly to push dirt, water, and grime out of critical joints.
    • Maintain seals and gaskets. Especially on fuse boxes and other electrical parts, make sure dust and moisture stays out.

    Most importantly: Pay attention to your vehicle; If you notice even a hint of an odd noise, vibration, or harshness address it immediately. This will help keep the vehicle in good working order so you don't have a catastrophic failure on the trail. When in doubt, swap the part out; if it still has some life left in it, toss it in the spares bin for emergencies.

    This will help prevent wear and tear, but not abuse. Proper technique and good judgement are your best assets. The most common cause of breakages I see is due to over application of the skinny pedal. The rule of thumb is "As slow as possible, as fast as necessary". Look ahead and plan your line, get out and scout the trail to make sure you won't damage anything – and don't be afraid to detour or change your plans if the road conditions are too much to handle comfortably.

    Repairs

    My tool kit isn't super extensive, but it is enough to get me out of most things I will encounter. A basic socket set, pliers, screwdrivers, vice grips, and other basic hand tools. Spare fuses, a spare belt, spare bulbs, lots of zip ties, JB weld, ratchet straps (seriously, I've seen sheered u-bolts replaced with ratchet straps so a vehicle could limp back to pavement. I've even seen someone use a tree branch and a ratchet strap to suspend a motor when a motor mount broke.) gorilla tape, teflon tape, and spare bottles of all the fluids. For longer trips I also throw in my breaker bar and torque wrench.

    Most OEM jacks are garbage and may not even reach a lifted vehicle anymore, I added an upgraded bottle jack to the kit.

    I just got learnt.

  24. My list of "want" is as long as my leg and always changing, but that says more about me as a person than anything else.  The "needs" list is much shorter: good tires, real 4WD, and experience.

    This whole post belongs in the Sticky Hall Of Fame.

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