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Should You Overland in an SUV or a Pickup Truck?

Should You Overland in an SUV or a Pickup Truck?

Is it really a matter of preference whether to overland in an SUV or a pickup truck? Or is there a clear winner among these platforms for 2022 and beyond?

Starting with some primary characteristics for an overland vehicle in North America. Choosing between 4WD and AWD is the first consideration; the former is recommended because it comes with a proper transfer case and high-low range.

The ease of repair is second. Most North American-made automobiles have readily available components and skilled mechanics to repair them.

The selection of aftermarket parts comes last but not least. If you’re on a tight budget, this enables you to discover a good deal on a less competent vehicle and upgrade it over time to an overland vehicle with the characteristics you want.

An Argument for the SUV

Passenger Space and Comfort

An SUV might be a better option if you have a large family or pets because the back seats are likely to be more comfortable, especially if you need a third row. Speaking about comfort, an SUV typically provides a smoother ride on the road as well.

Furthermore, based on the size, you might even be able to sleep inside while traveling. This offers the added protection of being able to leave the campsite immediately if something doesn’t feel right.

Maneuverability and Cargo Room

The improved off-road capability of an SUV is another benefit. We realize this is a strong claim, but bear with us. A small to medium-size SUV with enough ground clearance often has a smaller turning radius, making it simpler to navigate on a trail and around hazards, especially if you choose a two-door model (assuming we are not referring to a full-size SUV).

Your gear will be better protected from the weather than it would be in a pickup truck with an open bed due to the covered cargo space of an SUV. This includes protection from dust and theft.

Additionally, operating the A/C in the cabin will help your portable fridge or camping cooler keep food and beverages colder on hot summer days.

Payload and Fuel Efficiency

The payload is one thing to think about. For instance, an SUV’s lower payload capacity may be advantageous. It will cause you to reevaluate how much gear you really need to take on your expeditions.

The more room you have, the more gear you will often bring—oftentimes even stuff you don’t really need. However, if you have a mid-sized or larger SUV, you can always attach a trailer if you need to transport more things for longer outings.

With an SUV, fuel economy may or may not work in your favor. This is dependent on a few elements. If you’re looking for a mid-size, brand-new, body-on-frame SUV, your options are limited. You might give a Jeep Wrangler, Ford Bronco, or Toyota 4Runner some thought.

Toyota 4Runner

All are fantastic options. Even Land Rovers and Grand Cherokees are unibody now. Nowadays this is the new reality. A unibody can work really well for Overlanding, depending on the type of terrain you wish to explore. Many people even overland in a Subaru since it has an AWD system because it is all they need.

You may go further and more frequently for less money with smaller unibody SUVs since they typically have superior gas mileage. Consider the Cadillac Escalade, Ford Expedition, GMC Yukon, Chevy Tahoe, or Chevy Suburban if you require or want a full-size, body-on-frame SUV.

SUVs make up the majority of genuinely classic off-road vehicles. In North America, Jeep has a long history of successful models, and Toyota has the FJ Cruiser & 4Runner.

A few others are the first-generation Ford Bronco, Chevy K5 Blazer, and International Harvester Scout 80. Globally, SUVs like the Toyota Land Cruiser, Land Rover Defender, Nissan Patrol, and Mercedes G-Class are the most dependable adventure vehicles. Every continent’s millions of off-road enthusiasts agree that SUVs make the ideal overland vehicles.

A Rebuttal from the Pickup Crew

There are more new and used body-on-frame options for pickups than there are for SUVs. You’re more likely to locate a 4×4 you like at a price you can afford if you have more options. The selection of new mid-size trucks is a tad slimmer. The Toyota Tacoma is the most widely used platform, but fantastic alternatives include the Jeep Gladiator, Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Ford Ranger, and Nissan Frontier.

Jeep Gladiator

Since only the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier have been in continuous production since 2012, your options for used pickups in the mid-size category are relatively narrow. There are, however, a number of additional, more economical options available for the 2011 and prior model years, such as the Dodge Dakota and early Ford Ranger and GM Canyon/Colorado iterations.

Pickups have nearly always been primarily designed as work tools, therefore their sturdy build is built to withstand abuse. A vehicle with greater payload and towing capacity can carry all the things necessary for a fantastic journey without placing undue strain on the suspension or drivetrain.

Some reasons to choose a pickup as your next Overland vehicle:

  • They typically have better carrying capacity and towing capabilities.
  • More power equals less strain on the engine which means better fuel mileage if you’re towing an off-road trailer
  • The average longer wheelbase gives it more stability.
  • For longer overland trips, the truck bed can be configured to securely hold a lot of gear.
  • The right Overland bed rack will hold your roof top tent at a lower level making it easier to get in and out.
  • It is also simpler to park in a garage or carport without removing your roof top tent due to the overall height.
  • If you use a 3/4 or 1 ton truck, you can use a truck camper for a rather comfortable, all-weather overland journey.
  • The truck bed can store dirty or wet items, keeping the interior of the truck clean and fresh.
  • You might be able to use a pickup truck as both your road and overland vehicle if you need one for business.

And the Winner is…

You guessed right. There isn’t a single, obvious winner for everybody. All of the arguments we’ve made are solid advantages. It all depends on how heavily you consider them in light of your lifestyle and adventure requirements.

If a clear answer doesn’t come to you right away, test drive each option before asking your trail and Overlanding buddies what they believe will work best for you. There are moments when the people we are with understand us better than we do.

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