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Finding the Best Overland Trailer for Your Needs

Whether you’ve been overlanding before or are brand new to this experience, it can be overwhelming and difficult to narrow your search for a new trailer. Depending on the types of trips you want to go on, who you’re going with, and what you’re planning on doing can have a big influence on what vehicle you select. At TAXA, we have a lot of personal experience around overlanding, so we’re going to break down all of the information you might need to make a decision so it’s digestible and easy to follow. If you’re ready to find the perfect trailer for your overlanding needs, let’s dive in!

Why use a trailer for overlanding?

While some go overlanding in just a truck or RV, this can be pretty limiting in space or mobility. Towing a trailer (one that’s made for the terrain) gives you the best of both worlds, with a versatile basecamp that can get to more places than an RV, but gives you much more space than just a truck. When it comes down to it, having an overlanding trailer allows you to sleep more comfortably, bring more equipment, and not have to worry about converting your daily vehicle back between trips. You can also park the trailer at your base camp and unhitch it to keep exploring with your main vehicle.

Considerations when looking for an overlanding trailer

Because trailers are so useful to bring overlanding, it’s not hard to see why so many are adopting this strategy. But what should you be keeping an eye out for when researching a new trailer? There are some key features that are critical for any overland trailer, as well as some comfort factors that are also worth mentioning.

Need-to-haves

The first and potentially most important key to actually being able to overland with your trailer is ground clearance. We’d recommend checking that any trailer you’re looking at has at least 10” of ground clearance, preferably more (all of our overland trailers have at least 14” of ground clearance, with the TigerMoth Overland having 18”). Because you’ll be on your own in the outdoors for an extended period, it’s also important to look for a trailer with a good kitchen setup. A kitchen and lots of storage will make your life much easier, and can make a big difference if you get stuck in snow, mud, or sand and didn’t have room to pack traction boards.

Other important features to look for in an overlanding trailer are the wheels and hitch. Overlanding can take you across a huge variety of terrain and conditions, so having large, rugged wheels is a must for surviving most trips. When it comes to attaching the trailer to your vehicle, a standard bumper, fifth wheel, or gooseneck hitch won’t cut it and could actually be dangerous when going over terrain that isn’t flat. Instead, look for an articulating lock n’ roll hitch that won’t break, come off, or drag your vehicle as the angle moves up, down, and side-to-side.

Nice-to-haves

Once you’ve narrowed your list to trailers that have the essentials and will functionally allow for an overlanding excursion, it’s time to look at additional features that might help separate some options. One of our mottos at TAXA is “inside designed to keep you outside,” and that’s no exception when it comes to overlanding. Having features like pop-up capabilities not only give you significantly more space, but also maintain the feeling of being in nature, while protecting you from rain and cold.

You’ll also probably be out and exploring for a while, so having an external shower or wet bath will be a relief after a long day. Another nice feature to have in your trailer is a modular interior that can fill several different functions. A bedroom is an obvious one, but the ability to convert that space to a more communal area with couches and seating can keep everyone happy and dry on rainy or cold days, or act as a dining room for the whole group. When planning your trip, you should also have multiple sources of energy, just in case. Propane is a common source for many trailers, but also having a solar (or another alternative) option can save the day if something goes wrong or you decide to extend your trip.
One other note that can sometimes be forgotten (and one that we emphasize with our trailers) is also how convenient it is when you’re not using it. Many overlanders end up having to store their trailer somewhere else, or leave it in their driveway. We pride ourselves on all of our trailers being “garageable,” or able to fit in a standard garage, so you don’t have to pay for storage or leave it outside.

Scenarios & use cases

Now that you know what to look for in any overlanding trailer, what about if you have specific interests or needs that you want your trailer to fit? Below, we’ve listed some common scenarios that you might find yourself leaning toward and wanting to tailor your trailer choice around.

Cold-weather overlanding

While many winterize and pack away their trailers for the colder months, this doesn’t mean that you have to. In fact, depending on where you live or want to travel, avoiding cold months might severely limit your windows to go overlanding. So when it comes to looking for an overlanding trailer that can handle the cold and snow, what do you need to look for (besides a heater)?

While a good heat source should of course be your top priority, insulation to actually keep that heat inside should be right behind. To avoid frozen or burst pipes, some trailers also have heated holding tanks. Also remember that batteries are less efficient in the cold, so bring extra power. Beyond these, storage will be your biggest friend in a cold-weather trailer. We mentioned storage being important for all overlanding trailers, but with the extra space that winter clothes take up, this is especially true for winter overlanding.

If you’re just looking to go camping during the winter, see our guide to cold-weather travel trailers here.

Overlanding mountains

Some of the biggest factors to keep in mind with mountainous terrain are your hitch, ground clearance, suspension, and wheels. Having an axle-less independent suspension like all of our overland trailers is a major bonus as well, because it allows for even better ground clearance, while also making the trailer much more stable and easier to control over even the roughest terrain. Having large wheels (we’d recommend larger than 14”) will also help tackle low-grip or uneven surfaces, and your hitch should be able to handle 360 degrees of rotation. For those looking to mountain bike while you’re exploring the peaks, don’t forget to look for a bike rack or accessible way to store them!

Water sports while overlanding

Depending on what activities you have planned, having some sort of carry rack on the back or top of your trailer will help you to carry kayaks, paddleboards, water skis, or even a jet ski. For others, a heavy-duty overlanding utility trailer might be enough, although you would lose out on the ability to sleep in or live out of the trailer. Either way, if you’re planning on bringing the trailer down to the water to unload gear, make sure it’s waterproof and you’re not putting it at risk of accelerated rusting.

Overlanding through the desert

With the heat of the desert sun, air conditioning is probably top of mind, and rightly so. In addition to looking for a reliable (and filtered) A/C unit, having the ability to open and air out a trailer and feel the breeze blow through in the beating sun will feel like a huge relief. Beyond air flow, look for a trailer with an attached tire deflator or bring your own, as letting some of the air out will allow more contact area with the ground and make them less likely to get stuck in the sand. While not a feature of the trailer itself, bringing traction mats or something to get your wheels out if they do get stuck is an important piece of gear for desert overlanding.

If you want to see what living in the desert in a Mantis Overland is like, check out Jalopnik’s story about doing this in the Mojave Desert.

Overlanding with your family

While overlanding might seem like an adventure to leave the kids at home for, it can actually be an amazing bonding experience and a way to get everyone outdoors. Many families across the country overland together, which can bring its own set of challenges. One of the biggest factors to look at is space. For two adults and two kids, you’ll need to take into account the extra storage and sleeping room that’s required, as well as the comfort of those beds (two tired and cranky children for several days with no escape is a recipe for disaster).

In this day and age, it can also be difficult for those older children to fully unplug, so decide whether you want to look at options without a way to get their phones up and running again, or one with USB ports and outlets. A good shower and bathroom are also important for family overlanding for those days when every bit of mud and dirt seems to be attracted to the kids like a magnet.

Solo overlanding

If you want to go it alone, you can cut back on a lot of features and space that you would need for traveling with others. In terms of features, this will largely depend on you — would you prefer a full kitchen to make different meals, or are you more than happy to eat the same things every day? Do you like having a ton of space to spread out in, or do you prefer a small space to only spend a limited amount of time in while you explore your surroundings? The basics that we discussed for all overland trailers still apply, so make sure your ground clearance, a sturdy hitch, and enough storage are all boxes you check. Other than that, find a rugged trailer that fits your needs and preferences, and hit the road!

For more information on how to get started solo overlanding and what to know before you take off, see our full guide here.

Start your next overlanding journey today

Overlanding is an incredible experience that can seem daunting to get started, which unfortunately prevents many from even beginning. Hopefully with this guide, you can start your own overlanding journey, whether it’s with the rest of the family or on your own, in the cold or the heat, and on the water or biking down the mountains. Just remember — the goal is the journey, so make it memorable.

For more information on our overlanding trailers, speak to one of our habitat specialists or check out their pages today!