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Do You Need 4×4 for Overlanding?

Do You Need 4×4 for Overlanding?

For many adventurers and travelers who prefer to go off the beaten path, discovering Overlanding means love at first sight. However, Overlanding is not one of the most affordable hobbies one could take on. There is some gear that you really can’t do without in the wild, but do you also need to buy a 4×4 vehicle?

You don’t need 4×4 for Overlanding. But you should have recovery and safety gear with you at all times, and your 2WD vehicle should be equipped with all-terrain tires. A locking rear differential can help by synchronizing the back wheels. Above all, Overlanding with a 2WD comes down to practice.

Overlanding might represent the ultimate adventure, but it is crucial to find the best vehicle for your needs because of the challenges you will face while on the road. Learn all about how to pick your truck below. 

Pros and Cons of a 4×4 for Off-Roading

So, now you know that you don’t necessarily have to invest in a 4×4 truck to enjoy the best Overlanding adventures – you can make the most of your current 2WD SUV. However, investing in a 4WD truck might be a suitable choice for many adventurers looking to engage in more extended or more intense expeditions. 

Find out the pros and cons of this choice below. 


  • 4WD is a mechanical system that will require you to engage it manually when in need.
  • 4WD is a mechanism specifically designed for off-roading and pick-up trucks.
  • 4×4 vehicles are more suitable for driving in muddy, snowy, or icy conditions. 
  • It offers increased road traction and control.
  • 4WD cars can clear larger objects, which is a considerable advantage in rocky, off-road terrain. 
  • You can disengage 4WD to improve the vehicle’s fuel economy.


  • 4WD vehicles are usually much more expensive than 2WD ones
  • This system is also much more complicated than 2WD, which can make repair and maintenance more expensive.
  • 4WD considerably increases the truck’s weight, which worsens its fuel economy.
  • The system needs to be engaged manually.
  • 4×4 vehicles are perfect for driving in icy, snowy, muddy, or off-road conditions. It is not suitable for normal and dry road conditions.

What Is the Best Vehicle for Overlanding?

It is impossible to pick the best vehicle for Overlanding because the same car might not be suitable for two travelers. Depending on your driving style, space needs, and the journey ahead, you might pick a different truck type. And, of course, budget and personal preferences also come into play. 

However, below you can find some great models to help you kickstart your search. 

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is a great model if you don’t wish to modify your truck as much. Indeed, this well-designed vehicle is already extremely capable of off-road terrain, and it is likely to get you across the greatest obstacles. 

The Wrangler Rubicon has been elected 2019 SUV of the Year thanks to the modern touches and the cutting-edge technology that it boasts. But you won’t be able to miss the unique style that has made Jeep trucks recognizable throughout history. 

2020 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

Like the Jeep Wrangler, you can trace back the Ram 2500 Power Wagon history to World War II. While you can still find the historical lines that made this vehicle famous throughout history, the Power Wagon boasts high-tech options such as an electronic anti-roll bar disconnect and a sturdy steel body armor.

This Ram 2500 is an agile and versatile pick-up that is also extremely off-road-capable – perfect if you prefer to have extra storage space for your gear at the back. 

Toyota Tundra

The Toyota Tundra is a full-size, highly off-road-capable truck that offers plenty of space for your gear and travel buddies. This truck might not be the most suitable option because of its size if you know that you will be driving through tight spaces or narrow streets. While maneuverability is not excellent, the truck does have an impressive towing capacity – perfect for attaching a trailer to it for a different type of traveling. 

Also read: The Top 10 Best Vehicles for Overlanding

Is a 4×4 The Best Option For Overlanding?

4×4 or 4WD trucks are undoubtedly among the best ones for Overlanding. Indeed, with 4WD, you can count on all four of your wheels to help you when you get stuck. 

In a 4×4 truck, when the engine sends power to the transmission, all four of them receive torque. So, if the back ones are stuck in mud and spinning without traction, you can count on the front two to find traction on a solid terrain and get you out of that patch. 

When Overlanding, the terrain can be extremely uneven, and muddy patches can be just by more solid road stretches. In such situations, driving a 4×4 will help you reduce the road stretches you can’t access by offering you more traction and torque. 

However, the vehicle’s 4WD power is not always engaged, and it comes into action only in certain situations – when you are stuck in mud or water. For over 90% of the time, you will only be using your truck’s 2WD capabilities. 

Therefore, Overlanding with a 2WD truck or SUV is entirely possible – with certain adjustments. As we are about to see, the tires you pick will make a significant difference in enhancing your truck’s off-roading capabilities. Of course, don’t forget that your experience as a driver can influence how you respond to obstacles. 

You can learn more about the kind of vehicle you need for your adventure below:

Can You Overland in a 2WD?

As we have seen above, you don’t necessarily need a 4WD to enjoy your next Overlanding adventure. Of course, this depends on where you have decided to travel. If your destination is the Australian Outback or Africa, your 4WD will be your best friend when facing more considerable obstacles on muddy roads. 

However, if you are thinking about touring in the US lower 48 or around Europe, you will mostly be dealing with gravel or roads that are well-packed. Therefore, in these places, most drivers won’t be engaging their truck’s 4WD capabilities anyway. 

At the same time, in these areas, you might need to deal with steep uphill and downhill roads, which can turn out to be challenging for your 2WD vehicle. That’s because these trucks won’t have enough traction and torque to keep the wheels turning at lower speeds. In this case, keeping the car rolling can help. 

Ultimately, Overlanding on a 2WD vehicle is entirely possible. However, you must prepare properly and understand the road and weather conditions of your destination. Examining your itinerary before getting on the road will also give you a clear understanding of the obstacles and conditions you will find. 

You might have to turn back in some cases, which is recommended when driving a 2WD on tricky terrains such as mud, ice, and deep sand. 


How To Turn Your 2WD Into an Off-Road Vehicle

When planning your first Overlanding expedition, it is crucial to start with a briefer, more accessible journey. This strategy will help you build confidence and knowledge and refine your driving skills. 

However, some modifications can help you make your 2WD vehicle better prepared for the challenges ahead. These include:

  • Invest in All Terrain (AT) tires
  • Modify the tires’ air pressure
  • Invest in recovery equipment (snatch strap, shovel, ax, gloves, MaxTrax)
  • Consider a locking rear differential (locker for back wheels)
  • Have a safety kit at hand (first aid kit, etc.)
  • Practice 2WD off-road driving
2WD vs. 4WD for Overlanding

The key differences between driving a 2WD and a 4WD during your Overlanding experience are:

  • 2WD vehicles will struggle on icy, muddy, and deep sand road conditions
  • 2WD offers you better fuel efficiency, and they are much lighter
  • 2WD cars are driven on standard roads, while 4WD is created for off-roading and challenging road conditions. 
  • 2WD gives you the chance to add a locker and experience most of the 4WD benefits
  • 4WD might not be suitable for novices
  • 2WD is easier to modify and repair
  • 4WD allows you to get out of more complicated situations and can overcome greater obstacles.

Closing Thoughts

Overlanding can be an inspiring and life-changing experience but might feel inaccessible by most people because of the preparation it requires. If you are ready to embark on your first adventure, but you don’t have a 4WD vehicle, don’t worry! Your 2WD, with the right tires and recovery gear, will do just fine!


Up Next In Overlanding:

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Toyota Tundra For Overlanding – Pros/Cons and Owner QnA

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