Do You Need 4WD for Overlanding? Our Thoughts

By Derrick •  Updated: 12/07/22 •  6 min read

Overlanding has become increasingly popular for exploring the great outdoors. But what exactly is Overlanding, and do you need a 4WD vehicle to do it? In this post, we’ll answer those questions and more, so you can decide if Overlanding is right for you.

What is Overlanding?

Overlanding is long-distance travel that takes you off the beaten path and into the backcountry. It’s about self-reliance and exploration, and it often involves camping along the way.

There’s no definitive way to overland, but most enthusiasts agree it’s more about the journey than the destination. That means taking your time to enjoy the scenery and experience everything that the wilderness has to offer. It’s also about being prepared for anything, which is why many overlanders outfit their vehicles with all the gear they need to camp comfortably and safely in remote areas.

Do You Need 4WD for Overlanding?

So, do you need a 4WD vehicle to overland? The short answer is no; however, a 4WD vehicle will make your Overlanding experience much easier and more enjoyable.

Off-road driving requires specialized skills and knowledge, so if you’re planning on doing any off-roading on your trip, it’s best to have a vehicle that can handle it. That said, even if you don’t have a 4WD vehicle, you can still enjoy plenty of beautiful scenery by sticking to dirt roads and fire trails. Just be sure to research your route beforehand, so you know what to expect.

If you do not have a 4×4 vehicle, you can still overland, but you need to consider a few things we will discuss below.

How Capable Is Your 2-Wheel Drive Vehicle?

For example, are you driving 2 Wheel Drive 4Runner or a front-wheel-drive sedan? Both will have different strengths and weaknesses and have limits on where you can take them.

A 4×2 vehicle such as a 4Runner or a Tacoma still has decent ground clearance, whereas a sedan will have minimal, and ground clearance can become a limitation in some circumstances.

It is essential to keep limitations in mind and only tackle terrain that will work with the vehicle you are working with.

Driving Skills Become More Important

In overland and off-roading circles, it is common to hear discussions about tools, gadgets, and overbuilt rigs that only mask the need for quality off-road driving skills. You can take an inexperienced driver with all the gear and fancy vehicles, and they can struggle overland or off-road, whereas giving a reasonably basic vehicle to an experienced off-roader can drive a circle around many of us.

Working on your driving skills is excellent because you can also fall back on experience and skills, where tools and gadgets work if you have them on your vehicle, and the gadgets only work if the machinery doesn’t fail.

Can You Put All Terrain Tires on a 2wd Truck?

All-terrain tires are more common on 4×4 vehicles, you rarely see them on 4×2 vehicles, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an option.

Most 4×2 vehicles are designed for pavement and hard-packed surfaces, so all-terrain tires would significantly upgrade your rig to help you tackle more challenging trails. All-terrain tires provide better traction on dirt roads and mud, which are essential for any off-roading. They are usually also available in higher load ratings, often allowing them to stand up to towing and rougher terrain, which is common when getting off the pavement.

What Gear Can You Get To Make Your 2-Wheel Drive Vehicle More Capable?

Winch – A winch will be ideal for a 4×2 vehicle because it will allow you to self-recover when traction becomes the limiting factor assuming you have an object or another vehicle to hook to.

Traction Boards – Traction boards are great for any vehicle but beneficial for 4×2 vehicles with limited traction. They can provide a platform to drive up and out of a stuck position or mud hole.

Air Down Tires – Having tires with enough sidewall to air them down. Airing down your tires is an easy way to increase the footprint of your rig, allowing it to have better traction.

Another Vehicle – Overlanding with a partner rig can be indispensable in case you need assistance, whether someone spots a tricky line or gives you a hand if the trail becomes incredibly tight.

Shovel – A shovel can help you dig your vehicle out of the sand or fill in low spots to help your drive wheels maintain or gain traction. This is a standard tool for any overland rig and is especially important for those of us with a 2WD vehicle.

Benefits of 4WD

– Increased ground clearance allows for traversing over rough terrain

– Increased traction provides stability and safety while off-roading

– Ability to handle a variety of terrains, including mud, snow, and sand

– Often includes features such as all-terrain tires and a winch that can help get out of tough spots

Negatives of 4WD

– Increased fuel consumption

– Higher maintenance costs

– Heavier vehicle = more wear and tear on suspension, driveline, etc.

Other Things To Know About Overlanding With a 2-Wheel Drive Vehicle

Mud and/or Ice Can Be Challenging

Mud and ice can be very challenging for a 2-wheel drive vehicle because they can easily cause the vehicle to become stuck. In mud, the wheels can lose traction and get stuck in the mud, making it difficult or impossible to move. In ice, the tires can slide on the surface, leading to a loss of traction. A 4×4 can help tackle these situations or give you another “tool” at your disposal.

Consider Staying On Easier or More Established Trails

This goes back to what we were talking about earlier to know your vehicle’s limitations and work within or around them. Sticking with more accessible trails or more established trails that are graded for 2WD vehicles. This can help you avoid situations where your vehicle can’t overcome them.


Overlanding is a great way to explore nature at your own pace. And while you don’t necessarily need a 4WD vehicle to do it, having one will make your trip much easier (and more fun). So if you’re looking for an adventure off the beaten path, Overlanding might be for you.


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