4x4 Overlanding: Everything You Need To Know

4x4 Overlanding: Everything You Need To Know

We Aussies have a need to explore the great unknown. From the sun-kissed sands of the inland desert to the crashing waves of the blue oceans that surround this breathtaking country, overlanding (four wheel driving) in Australia is one of the best ways to see it all. Although, what exactly is 4x4 overlanding? And what's the difference between camping and overlanding?

Whether you're looking for top tips before heading out or you're a beginner wanting to know everything you'll need, our complete guide to 4x4 overlanding will cover everything you need to know. But first, let's go through some common questions when it comes to 4x4 overlanding.

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Commonly Asked 4x4 Overlanding Questions

Commonly Asked 4x4 Overlanding Questions

What is overlanding camping?

When simply summed up, overlanding is the act of self-reliant travelling to remote destinations in a country where the journey, rather than the destination, is the main goal. Overlanding is most commonly done in a vehicle such as a 4x4, especially in Australia where the terrain can wildly vary.

Why is it called overlanding?

The origins of overlanding in Australia go all the way back to the early 1900s, which was when the country was starting to set up routes to allow long-distance travelling and trading 'over the land'. However, it would be in the 1940s when the word took on a different meaning. Inspired by outback pioneers, overlanding became a popular outdoorsman activity and remained so since then.

Is overlanding the same as touring?

Although very similar, there is a key difference between overlanding and touring. Touring is the activity of setting out to a destination and focusing on experiencing the journey, yet is done by mostly sticking to highways and roads. On the other hand, overlanding mostly focuses on remote areas and getting off the beaten path.

Do you need a 4x4 for overlanding?

No, you do not need a 4x4 for overlanding - however, it mostly depends on what your plans are. For example, if you're planning to go overland camping in a remote area where rainfall can turn a lot of the dirt roads into mud, then a 4x4 (also referred to as 4WD) would be highly recommended to safely traverse the terrain.

Why is overlanding so popular?

There are plenty of reasons why overlanding has not only remained popular but is also increasing in popularity as well. A large reason is that technology and electronics have made it so much easier. Rather than relying on one's orienteering skills to traverse the landscape, inventions such as GPS have made it simple and easy for anyone to know where they are going, even out in the most remote parts of Australia.

What Vehicle Is Best For 4x4 Overlanding?

What Vehicle Is Best For 4x4 Overlanding?

This is mostly a subjective question because the answer depends on various personal factors such as the amount of space you'll need, your driving style and your budget.

However, if your main focus is 4WDing, then a Toyota Land Cruiser is objectively one of the best options. It comes in a range of engine/transmission combinations, it's got plenty of room for the family and storage, it's designed with a high focus on safety, and most of all, it's built for tough 4x4 driving.

But if a Toyota Land Cruiser doesn't tick all the boxes for you, then just make sure that the 4WD vehicle you are venturing out in offers increased control and road traction. Even though you'll most likely be using your vehicle's 4WD capability only about 10% of the time, depending on your journey, it's essential to make sure it's there when you need it.

Can You Go Overland Camping In A 2WD?

Can You Go Overland Camping In A 2WD?

Of course you can go overland camping in a 2WD vehicle, but as mentioned before, you don't want to end up bogged in a remote area with tough terrain and not have a 4WD capable vehicle to get you out of trouble.

If you do find yourself bogged in a 4x4 vehicle, one of the first things to check is that your vehicle has 4WD engaged (it may sound silly but it's more common than you think). For example, if the back wheels are spinning without any traction in the mud, then the two front wheels will have more traction when in 4WD mode and the vehicle is in a low gear. For more information, read our guide to recovering a bogged 4WD.

Basically, it's perfectly fine to go overlanding in a 2WD vehicle, but just make sure you fully plan your trip to make sure you don't find yourself in a sticky situation with no way to get yourself out of it.

How To Prepare Your 4x4 For Overlanding

How To Prepare Your 4x4 For Overlanding

Apart from everything you will be packing, common sense is the most important. The lure of 4x4 overlanding is enjoying the experience of an outdoor adventure, and this can be quickly ruined if you find yourself with an unexpected problem.

Before starting up the 4WD and heading out, it pays to first inspect your vehicle and consider factors such as:

  • When was the last time a maintenance check was done?
  • What condition are the engine, tyres, brakes and gearbox in?
  • Does the bottom of the vehicle have enough clearance for rocky or sandy terrain?
  • What condition is your suspension and driveline in?
  • What pressure are the tyres set to and do you have the equipment to adjust if needed?

What Equipment Will You Need For 4x4 Overlanding?

What Equipment Will You Need For 4x4 Overlanding?

Once you've given your car a good look over, you'll also need to make sure that you are bringing along everything that you'll need for the trip. When it comes to the most important equipment for going overlanding in Australia, make sure you have the following:

A good set of tyres

Just like it's not a good idea to wear high heels down to the beach, it's not a good idea to go 4x4 overlanding without wearing the right type of tyres. There are three main types of 4WD tyres: HT (Highway Terrain), AT (All Terrain) and MT (Mud Terrain) tyres. Each has its own strengths depending on what type of outdoor adventure you are planning. However, the best all-rounder option is a set of AT tyres for overlanding.

Navigation & communication equipment

Since you will be exploring remote areas in the outback, you're going to need a quality GPS (Global Positioning System), and with an immense network of GPS satellites currently orbiting the planet, you'll always know exactly where you are and what's around you.

And as you'll be far out in remote areas, communication is also another crucial factor to consider. Rather than relying on network coverage from your mobile phone, it's best to bring along a 2-way satellite communicator. No matter where you are, you'll always be able to make a call and inform loved ones of your location.

Camping gear

When it comes to overlanding vs camping, the difference is that most people will make a makeshift campsite using their vehicle. Unless you have the luxury of bringing along a camper trailer, there's still important camping gear you can bring along to make your trip much more comfortable and pleasant, such as:

Camping stoves

Overland camping doesn't mean living off of packets of crisps and chocolate bars. There are plenty of small camping stove options that allow you to still cook a delicious home cooked meal while exploring the outback. If you need some inspiration for recipes, then check out our easy camping food guide.

4WD awnings

Make sure you've always got protection from the sun, wind and rain by quickly mounting an awning onto your 4x4. They're also a lifesaver when needing to set up a quick campsite before sundown.


To save on storage space and to keep you off of the ground, rooftop tents are a great investment, however, they don't suit everyone. If you fall into this category, then bringing along a smaller ground tent might be a better option. To help you decide between the two, read our rooftop tents vs ground tents guide to help you make the best choice.

Proper recovery gear

4WDing and recovery gear go together like meat pies and tomato sauce - and it's better to bring them and not need them than to need them and not have them. Some of the main 4WD recovery gear you should always bring with you include:

  • Portable 12v air compressor
  • 4x4 tyre pressure deflator
  • Protective gloves
  • Long handled shovel
  • A jack
  • 4x4 recovery tracks

To learn more information about what recovery gear you'll need to bring along, check out our recovery essentials buying guide.

Always carry safety gear

Whether you're overland camping out in the bush or staying at a campsite, safety should always be your top priority, and a first aid kit should always be in your 4WD. To know exactly what should be in your first aid kit, read our guide on what to have in your first aid kit.

But safety also means other factors such as:

  • Knowing where it's safe to swim
  • Carrying insect repellent and sunscreen
  • Avoiding driving after dark whenever possible
  • Being extra aware of wildlife on the roads
  • Ensuring you have enough water

Top Tips For 4x4 Overlanding In Australia

Top Tips For 4x4 Overlanding In Australia

Now that you've got everything sorted and are ready to head out and hit the great open road, here are some top tips to ensure your 4x4 overlanding adventure doesn't come to a screeching halt.

Always make sure you're self-sufficient

According to Murphy's law: anything that can go wrong will go wrong - and 4x4 overlanding is no different. This is why it always pays to be self-sufficient and prepared for the worst.

This means knowing the basics of vehicle maintenance, such as how to change a tyre (and making sure you have a spare), knowing what to do if you get bogged, having the right equipment, and even having a 4WD training course under your belt.

Don't overpack

There's a difference between packing light and packing smart. When going overlanding, you won't have the same level of luxury when it comes to storage space as with traditional camping.

Apart from ensuring that you have enough storage boxes in your 4x4, make sure you aren't overpacking on less-important items such as too many shoes, clothes or cooking utensils. You should only be packing for what you will be needing. If you can't think of a scenario where you know you will use it, then don't bring it. Simple.

Ensure you have the latest GPS

Having the latest GPS serves two main purposes: ensuring you never get lost and also letting you know points of interest around you such as cafes, restaurants, parks, scenic roads and more. And since 4x4 overlanding is all about enjoying the experience of rustic exploration rather than the destination, an advanced GPS will make sure you don't miss a single thing - or get lost along the way.

Always fill up on fuel

Australia is a vast and massive landscape that stretches out far beyond the horizon. This means that the next servo or petrol station might not be as close as you might think. One way to make sure you always have enough fuel is to bring some filled-up fuel containers just in case.

The other solution is always filling up the tank whenever you pass a servo, even if you've only used a quarter of a tank. It's not the cheapest solution - but it's a better solution to running out of petrol before the next fuel pump. Plus it's a good excuse to take a quick break and stretch your legs.

When looking for the ultimate getaway, very few things come close to 4x4 overlanding in Australia. It's a life-changing and inspiring experience that you have to do at least once in your life. To make sure that you have everything you need before venturing out into the great outdoors, explore our entire 4WD range to stock up on everything you'll need.

For more 4x4 info, check out our guide on essential tips and 4WD basics, and for more 4WD content, be sure to regularly visit our travel and adventure centre.




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