Traveling by vehicle is a great way to see places that are normally difficult to get to. Having a car or truck makes it easier to camp and cook, giving you ways to save money and enjoy natural and cultural heritages that may be out of reach of traditional backpacking travelers. In this section we offer advice for choosing the right vehicle, renting, outfitting and staying safe while driving in foreign countries.
Our first 4x4 overland trip was in 2008 through eastern and southern Africa. Before the trip it was recommended that I take a 4x4 training course from the Four Wheel Drive Club of Southern Africa.
I questioned the $100 fee for a long, hot day of driving. I was under the impression that I knew how to drive and had faith that my 4x4 could go anywhere. I was about to discover how ignorant I was about 4x4 driving and the limitations of my truck.
The course changed the way I look at and use the road. I had no idea that there were so many facets to driving an overland vehicle that could not only save the lives of other drivers, but also everyone in the vehicle.
Prior to the 4x4 training course I had done research on how to drive through soft sand, gravel roads and overcome small obstacles. I watched videos on how to use my recovery gear and thought that I was prepared for the road ahead. It’s true what they say, you cannot learn to drive from a book.
There are many types of spares and safety equipment to consider packing, whether you are on a weekend getaway or a year long adventure. To help you decide which equipment you need, I have compiled the list below. It is by no means comprehensive, rather an overview of the vehicle spares and safety equipment we carry with us on our overlanding trips.
A small set of basic tools can help out in many situations, even those that are not vehicle related. On big trips we carry two sets of screwdrivers (one large, one small), vice grips, pliers, electrical tape, adjustable wrench, Allen wrenches, a socket set and wrench set with the most common sizes for our vehicle. On shorter trips, or when space is a concern, we omit the wrench sets and extra screwdrivers.
Adjustable wrenches are compact and at times will be all you need. But there are tight spots where the adjustable wrench head will be to big, and not provide the secure fit to apply the necessary force to loosen or tighten a bolt or nut. If you have the space, carry a set.
Read the factory service manual for your vehicle to see what the most common sizes of nuts and bolts are. Make sure to buy hi-tensile nuts and bolts as replacements and then make sure you have the wrenches that fit.
Unless you are positive spare parts will be easy to find everywhere on the road, bring a set of belts, air, oil and gas filters and fuses. Also consider the most vital sensors for your model of vehicle. If the lack of a $2 fuse could leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere, you might want to pack it.
1001 uses, 'nuf said.
Long distance international road travel requires a lot more from of your vehicle than normal driving. Some vehicle modifications are necessary to make your life on the road safe, convenient and more comfortable.
Road conditions and obstacles in underdeveloped countries are frustrating, to say the least. Drivers accustomed to U.S. or European roads can find many situations terrifyingly dangerous.
Many destinations have roads that are seldom marked or in a state of complete disrepair. Traffic is a maze of sketchy public transportation, motorcycles, donkey carts, pedestrians and animals of all shapes and sizes. The rules of the road may be wildly different than your home country. In many places traffic laws are completely ignored. Making sense of the chaos is something even locals find difficult.
Have you ever tried to rent a vehicle and end up staring at the guy behind the counter like a deer in headlights? An hour later you’ve upgraded to a car you don’t need and are unknowingly paying for a pile of unnecessary insurance and other hidden fees. This article will help you decide whether to rent a car and how to avoid these extra costs.
Buying a car that will take you to faraway places is a big investment. It’s also very risky. You will rely on your overland vehicle to make your trip successful and comfortable. A breakdown at home may mean 30 minutes waiting for a tow truck followed by a day carpooling to work and a couple hundred dollar bill. In a foreign country this will undoubtedly be more traumatic. Your car will contain everything you own, and may be your sole means of transportation or even your home.