Mods I wouldn`t do again for overlanding or vanlife

Do I need a snorkel, front bar, winch, 4x4 and differential locks for a world trip? Here are my experiences

After over 68350 miles of international overlanding (110`000km) with the rig showed above, done in the past 9 years it is definitively time for an analytic view. Which mod wouldnt we do again, which mod would we install on a newly buildup?

Therefore I did several overlanding trips with rental cars in the US and Asia who was near stock, done by tent and icebox, I can too compare a bit. 

For shure the travel region makes severall mods more necessary and handy. My rig was done to cross africa and feels very fine for that purpose. Later on the Panamericana it feels partly a bit overdone.

A lot of thos stuff is optional for many of us, like the reason why we are travelling extended. Therefore I will list each mod and write about where it was necessary, where not. I guess this way you can better decice if it is helpful for your own travel needs.

Too the choosen vehicle makes a bit difference, if you look at the Land Cruiser 200, that is a very capable rig in the original configuration.

An often neglected topic is the weight of the vehicle. Many trips completely overloaded, this is on the one hand not legal (but is usually not discovered in 4x4 off-road vehicles) and on the other hand leads to the tiresome repairs up to frame breakage in the pickups.

- Snorkel ( +Higher various types of venting )
- Front bar
- winch
- Ground anchor
- Underride protection
- Differential locks
- Maxtrax sand plate / recovery
- Larger tires (33")
- Mudterrain tire tread (MT)
- only 1x spare tire with rim
- Spare tire carrier at the rear
- Air heater (air vs water heater I explain below)
- Additional fuel tank 180Liter
- Heat exchanger to the engine (hot shower)

Snorkel: I used it several times (Iceland, Africa, South America), but also because it was there. An end in itself, so to speak. Twice I endangered the vehicle and the journey itself when I had to read the water level on the windscreen (after all, you don't know exactly what's lurking under water). Aerodynamically not optimal and leads to increased wind noise. Not necessary for pure touring, would not be used again.

Front bar: have "needed" it in three accidents, in two of which I was rammed while standing. Even when off-roading, I would have cleared the front skirt several times without the front bar. DH on long-term journeys it saves the one or other workshop visit and the issue that the other road user has neither insurance nor money....In the meantime it is becoming more and more difficult to get the front bar legally registered, I would therefore no longer install it today.

Rearbar: I didn't install a rearbar, for example, because my vehicle was already quite overloaded... I'm now with plastic skirt number 3, which costs about 1000 Euros each time, including painting. It would make sense to install them at least on the newer plastic apron carriers, but - too heavy.

Winch: has been used several times, but only once in 110,000 km when I got stuck unexpectedly. Otherwise it was needed because it was there - I knew beforehand that I wouldn't get through it so easily. My recovery kit alone, with extension, tree trap and pulley, weighs 15 kilos. With a new set-up, I would only have bogout and a tow rope in my luggage.

Ground anchor: with it you dare to get into the mud even on muddy hills when there are no trees, if you have a winch for that. Would be rationalised away together with the winch today.

Underride protection: I have 6mm aluminium plates. They are heavy but still too weak - and cost quite a bit of "ground clearance". I would not use them again... 

Additional differential locks: My Landcruiser comes with a centre lock and electric locks front and rear. Additionally, I have installed ARB differential locks with compressor. Only once I would not have been able to get out of the car without ARB locks, when I tried to cross a closed Andes pass. An end in itself... I would always start with differential locks, if the vehicle already has them, then electric ones are also sufficient... Important are the centre differential lock and the rear differential lock.

Maxtrax: Thanks to the winch, these have led a niche existence, but without a winch I would recommend them for use in sand and off-road.

33" tyres: With these, you usually have bigger tyres than the locals and get further accordingly. I would implement this quentchen "I get further" again (for a long-term trip). Since the 33" spare tyre no longer fits under the car, a "rear tyre carrier" is needed. It weighs a good bit and from then on the tyre has to be unfolded every time before opening the boot. With bigger tyres, the gear ratio is not quite right, but it doesn't matter if the car has enough power... Decide for yourself...

Mudterrain tyres: Only with mudterrain tyres you can get down from a wet meadow, you can manage a muddy passage without using the winch. The tyres are more stable and should even be able to handle one of those home-made nail boards in Africa. If you want to go wild camping, you are better off with them. For a world tour, I would always go for MT tyres. If I had to drive 60 km on the motorway twice a day to work, the decision would certainly be different - the rolling noise is definitely louder (in a modern touring vehicle, however, more for the people outside and not in the passenger compartment).

Spare tyre: A puncture on 110,000 km with a high off-road portion and longer driving with low pressure led to a puncture. Although the sidewall was torn open, it could still be repaired with an inner tube as a spare tyre. I would always take only one spare tyre with me.

Parking heater: Actually quite useful. Be sure to buy an air parking heater and not a parking heater that also warms the vehicle's cooling circuit. The latter only run for 20 minutes and are intended for the local winters to defrost and preheat the vehicle. There are manufacturers with altitude kits (Planar / Eberspächer) - so I would also recommend these. Otherwise there are problems from 2500m altitude...

Additional tank: This allows to refuel less frequently and at the good petrol stations, also allows to travel with Euro5 (or even Euro6). Allows longer self-sufficient journeys - I would always install it again if the Panamericana, Silk Road, Trans-Africa or other remote areas are on the wish list. It would also work without a jerry can, but I would still have had to leave beautiful areas for a fuel stop more than once (Iceland, Andes, Carpathians, Cameroon/Congo).  That's why the spare tyre carrier is needed anyway, because the space for the tank is needed under the vehicle.

Heat exchanger: today I would probably rather boil hot water, put it in a folding bowl at a pleasant temperature and let my girlfriend shower me off. On the other hand, I still use it quite often on weekends, after hiking, etc. Clearly a luxury item!

Do I need a snorkel, front bar, winch, 4x4 and differential locks for a world trip? Here are my experiences

If I always wanted to be optimally equipped on the road, I would have three vehicles. An off-road toy with a hefty conversion, a vehicle for travelling with sensible conversions and a vehicle for everyday use. Very few of us can afford this - and often the vehicle then becomes a personal compromise that can cover the journey and still be useful at home. A G-Class 6x6 with a camper van conversion showed in the price history that this can also become a "penny diner" if you optimise past the "market". Or you "can't" sell any more because the vehicle simply covers your needs too perfectly.

If you are building a pure touring vehicle, you can of course go a bit further with the off-road equipment - but you should still keep an eye on the weight.

My vehicle still fits into every parking space, every underground garage and I can also use the Landcruiser as a dailydriver. Although the vehicle is not inconspicuous, I would call sleeping in it "stealth". On my travels, I have parked and slept in the city centre from time to time, and no one gets the idea that someone is spending the night in it.

With a folding roof, it would be more difficult to use the vehicle in my everyday life (height) with a living trunk and rear extension, it would then be a purebred touring vehicle.


As you can see, I would not carry out many conversions on a new vehicle today. Partly for reasons of legality (front bar), but mainly because of the weight. Because I love off-road driving and no matter if it's mud, sand or track, the weight pulls you down - and makes the winch necessary after all.

Of course you can also drive around the highest dunes in Namibia with a 4 tonne truck, but it is more fun with an original and light 4x4 - or even better - your own 4x4 touring vehicle that is not too heavy!

The chassis should be designed for the weight. Therefore, it is also important to save weight when fitting out the interior and luggage. If you have 1 ton more on the road and the chassis is designed for it, you will have a "hard buck" at home, otherwise you will have a spongy feeling on the road and even more repairs.

Keep in mind how little you need to travel the world: a car, a tent and some camping equipment. The rest is optional and not absolutely necessary. If you like wild camping and off-roading, a discreetly converted 4x4 is a good choice. If you like it more substantial, you can also convert more - but always look at the weight - and whether the desired is still possible.

As you can see, I've done a lot of conversions myself, and I've driven the corresponding routes with it. Turning back now and then and making "sensible" decisions would have been a good way to go. The repairs on my journeys were always the result of "off-roading" - if you want to travel like that, you can interpret the above accordingly.

My recovery gear kit now looks pretty reduced, lightweight and all neccessary stuff is still there!

Other travellers have also evaluated their equipment in more detail after the trip: Toyota off the Map and a Traveller with a Suzuki Jimny 

Articles you might also be interested in