The Toyota RAV4 is a popular compact crossover, and it’s now being used for a combination of remote travel, off-roading, and camping.
Also known as… overlanding!
RAV4 overland travel is becoming increasingly popular. If you’re ready to hit the road and utilize your RAV4’s ample storage, excellent comfort, and off-road capabilities, keep reading. Here’s everything you need to know about diving into RAV4 overlanding as a beginner.
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What Exactly Is Overlanding?
Overlanding is a type of travel that is entirely self-reliant. People use overland travel to go to remote destinations where the journey itself is the principal goal.
In many cases, overlanding uses mechanized off-road transport like bicycles, trucks, etc. The main form of lodging in overlanding is camping. People may overland for days, months, or even years and sometimes span international boundaries in the process.
Toyota RAV4 Overland Build Photos
Overland vehicles are created to accommodate living out of the vehicle. This set-up is usually not compatible with extreme off-roading, four-wheeling, and rock-crawling because of the balance and weight loads of the car.
There’s a variety of basic materials that everyone overlanding should have including (but not limited to) remote communications, mapping and navigation tools, medical training and equipment, bug out bag, tools, spares, recovery essentials, proper recovery points, proper tires with a full-size spare, loading and lashing points, proper straps, minimalist camping gear, etc.
We’ll cover more details about what you need in the sections below. However, if you’ve never seen a equipped Toyota RAV4 overland build, here are some photos:
Is the Toyota RAV4 Good for Overlanding?
Are RAV4s good for overlanding? Thankfully, the answer is YES. The Toyota RAV4 is a great choice for an overlanding vehicle. It provides all the necessary components of a well-equipped overlander. These include:
- Storage space
- Off-roading capability
It’s also fairly easy to modify the RAV4 to become a well-equipped overlander. If you’re wondering which RAV4 to purchase specifically for overlanding, the first, second, and fifth-generation Toyota RAV4 models are the best choices.
All three models feature AWD systems that are essential for tough terrain you may see while off-roading. They also offer good ground clearance and ample traction because of their rugged construction. While the third and fourth-generation models are decent, there are some consumer reports of rear differential overheating and some other minor issues. I recommend sticking to these three models if you’ll be driving on a variety of terrain types.
RAV4 Overland Build Videos
Check out these cool YouTube videos about RAV4 overland builds for a more in-depth look!
Getting Started with Overlanding in Your RAV4
Before overlanding, you’ll need to get your vehicle equipped for the adventure. This includes adding off-road modifications and camping accessories. The modifications and accessories you select will depend on the terrain you plan on driving on as well as how long you plan to adventure.
I’ve broken down my recommendations into the best modifications for the RAV4 as well as the best camping accessories.
Best RAV4 Off-Road Modifications for Overlanding
Here are the best modifications for your RAV4 to ensure your vehicle is prepared for off-road travel.
1. Lift Kit
A lift kit increases the ground clearance between your vehicle and the road. Increasing the suspension and clearance of your vehicle can make a significant difference in the look, feel, and capability of your RAV4. If you’re interested in learning more about lift kits and how they’ll improve your overlanding experience, read my article – Lift RAV4: How a Suspension Lift Can Make a Big Difference.
2. All-Terrain Tires
All-terrain tires are a stellar off-road modification. They increase traction on all kinds of surfaces, including on and off-road drives. All-terrain tires combine the open-tread design of off-road tires with the solid handling and functionality of street tires. If you’re looking for great All-Terrain Tires, consider the Falken Wildpeak A/T Tires. I have these tires on my 2021 Toyota RAV4 and couldn’t recommend them enough.
3. Roof Rack
A roof rack helps you hold all the gear you need for your overland adventure. This modification consists of a base and crossbars that allow you to securely stow your gear while you drive. Check out the Prinsu Roof Rack that’s been able to handle all my gear during my adventures. Note that this roof rack doesn’t work with any RAV4 models that are equipped with a panoramic sunroof.
A light bar is used to illuminate in front or behind the vehicle. It’s a great install for people who often find themselves wishing they had more light. For overlanders, it makes sense to install a light bar because you’ll often be using your car in the dark. It can even be useful when navigating, especially when roads aren’t well-lit or marked.
Here are two light bars that are great options for a RAV4 overland build.
- LED Light Bar
- Front Light Bar Mountain System (my personal favorite)
Best RAV4 Overland Camping Accessories
You’ll also need camping accessories to transform your RAV4 into an overland vehicle, so here are the top purchases I recommend.
1. Rooftop Tent
A key RAV4 off-road modification is a rooftop tent, which allows you to sleep comfortably on top of your vehicle. Many people prefer this solution for accommodations when overlanding because it’s so much cheaper than a trailer and more convenient than a ground tent. With a few tweaks, your RAV4 can become a mobile home transported by your car.
Additionally, having the tent on top of the car also frees up storage space inside the vehicle for other gear. Being high up means you won’t be easily accessible to people or animals, and this greatly aids in feeling secure.
My favorite rooftop tent for a RAV4 overland build is the Nomadic 3 Rooftop Tent By Overland Vehicle Systems.
2. Water Tank
Since you’re essentially living out of your RAV4 while overlanding, you may wonder how you’ll gain access to water. Water tanks are an ideal storage option during overland trips. They’re relatively inexpensive, durable, and portable — holding between two and seven gallons depending on the tank.
Here are two different water tank options that you can choose between:
- WaterPORT Day Tank (3.8 gallons)
- WaterPORT Weekender (8.0 gallons)
3. Retractable Awning
If you’re planning to overland regularly, a retractable awning is one of the best RAV4 camping accessories. You’ll be spending a lot of time hanging out and around your car or truck, and a roof awning is a great way to add shelter and shade to your setup.
This ARB Retractable Awning with LED Lights is perfect for camping, road trips, or long-term expeditions. It’s a self-standing awning that takes just 30 seconds to deploy.
RAV4 Overland FAQ
Overlanding may sound intimidating initially, but outfitting your RAV4 properly can help you get over the initial hump and love the freedom that comes with this style of travel. The tips above can help you create a RAV4 overland build that you love and use.
Check RAV4 Resource weekly for more information about how to customize your Toyota RAV4 for your needs.
Visit my shop to see the most popular modifications and accessories for the Toyota RAV4.
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Which RAV4 trims do you recommend? Would a hybrid do well in overlanding? I ask because I am a fan of the higher mileage. Thanks!
In terms of ground clearance, your best options are the XLE Premium, Limited, TRD Off-Road, and Adventure which have 8.6 inches (21.8 cm) of clearance. The last two are also equipped with some better drive modes that would be useful for overlanding as well. The TRD has upgraded suspension.
The Hybrid trims are 8.1 inches (20.6 cm) of ground clearance which isn’t too much lower. The suspension isn’t too terrible to overlanding. It can still get the job done.
Ultimately, I would recommend the TRD Off-Road.