The Ultimate Guide to Overlanding your Ford Ranger
When Ford announced the Ranger was coming back, Ford fans knew it was going to be a hit. Ford sat back and saw what was working and not working with other mid sized trucks on the market. That allowed them to check off almost every demand mid sized truck owners had for a truck.
However, for those of us looking for a little more of an extreme truck such as a rock crawler or overlanding beast, we have to turn to the aftermarket. Let’s be real… No manufacturer can mass produce an overlanding truck and expect it to sell in high numbers. Thankfully the Ranger has an aftermarket out there to help you create the overlanding truck of your dreams on a tank of a platform.
WHAT IS OVERLANDING?
Overlanding is a journey to remote destinations across the open land. This isn’t your typical weekend rock crawling. This is a journey where you are one with your vehicle, your lodging is typically camping, and nature is all around you. The destination is the journey. It is one heck of an experience!
WHY DO RANGER OWNERS LOVE OVERLANDING?
Ask them! The Ranger is the perfect size to get in and out of tiger spaces that the bigger brother the F-150 can’t, but it still has all the power you need with even better fuel economy. Despite the smaller size, there is plenty of space to carry all that you need including tents, trailers, and more. All of this needs a bit of help to mount, and that is where the continuously growing aftermarket comes in allowing you to create the overlanding beast you need.
WHAT OVERLANDING EQUIPMENT DO YOU NEED?
The Ranger is a great truck, but if you’re going to be out on the open land for days or maybe weeks at a time, there are a few things that you need to do. What you get will depend on the terrain and how long you will be gone for. Will it be rocky, snowy, sandy, muddy, or flat? Do you have to worry about rivers? Will you be driving at night? There are a few key things to get dependent on the answers to those questions.
Suspension is huge as it’s usually always good to have a little extra clearance. You’ll also want to protect your vehicle, especially if you’re in rocky conditions. Rock sliders, push bars, and cages/roll bars are excellent additions for that. Snorkels help for river crossing and aggressive tires help for the terrain, but don’t forget about you! Where are you going to sleep and eat? What about gas for your truck and lights? These are all things to consider.
There are a good number of suspension upgrades for the Ford Ranger, but it’s important to remember that when overlanding, you’re generally not attending a rock crawling event. Clearance is always a good option if you have some bumps or rivers to get through, but you don’t usually need to get too carried away.
There are many different ways you can get clearance on your Ranger, but it would be a good idea to start out with a basic lift kit. A coilover kit would be your best option overall for overlanding.
Coilover kits are one unit (piston and spring) that are plug and play. Simply take your stock spring and piston out, and place the new one in. While these are more expensive over spacer lift kits, which simply stretch your stock spring and piston, coilover kits are far more durable. Durability is what you are after for overlanding, hands down.
Coilovers can be ordered in various heights including adjustable heights, and there are plenty of name brand options to choose from. You can expect to spend anywhere from $1300 to $2500 for a complete kit, but it’s worth it.
Your ride will get beat up and get dirty as your overlanding life continues, but there are steps you can take to cut down on serious damage, especially if you’re dealing with rocky and hilly conditions. Rock sliders, push bars, cages, roll bars take the impacts so your body panels don’t have to.
Rock sliders bolt to your frame and are designed for protection. The average cost is going to be around $500 to $800 depending on brand and material. Some sliders offer built-in steps as well, which will aid you in getting in and out of your lifted ride. Keep in mind that when you’re shopping you’re getting sliders and not steps. Steps are usually just meant for your feet and don’t offer the same protection that sliders do.
Push bars/grill guards go on the front of your truck and can be as simple as a small trapezoidal tube in the middle, or a complete network of tubing and mesh designed to protect all your lights and grille. These range from $230 to over $700, but the average cost is generally in the middle.
For ultimate front end protection, replacement bumpers will be your best options. Front bumpers generally replace the lower part of your front bumper with a much more aggressive and durable metal one instead of the factory plastic bumper cover. These are generally far more expensive but can include things like winches and light bars. Rear bumpers replace the factory bumper with metal ones. They are far more durable and can even include extra features such as LED lighting.
If you’re at risk of rolling, you may want to look at a cage for your truck. This is most likely a rare occurrence for overlanding, but know your environment. This generally has to be custom made, so do a search around your area for someone who offers that kind of service.
You can get a roll bar that mounts behind the cab for about $400 to $850, but it sits pretty far behind you, so the amount of protection you get really depends on how your truck rolls. Keep in mind that if you do get one, it might interfere with bed racks and roof racks, which we will get into later in this article.
If you think you might be crossing some rivers, a snorkel might be a wise investment. Snorkels move your engine’s air intake closer to your roof. While you will need to cut holes in your truck’s body to make the modification, it’s better than hydro locking your engine (seizing your engine because water gets sucked in). These will run you about $500 to $700.
Tires and the amount of air in them depend on where you are going. Mud, snow, sand, and dirt might all need different tires. Don’t forget about driving to and from your start point on the highway! There are so many points to consider when choosing a tire, and there are so many options. In all honesty, there are too many to cover here. However, just know where you’re going, and plan accordingly. A good set of off-road tires these days will run you over $1000.
There will be no streetlights where you are going. Stock headlights and high beams work well, but you’ll need more in the pitch black darkness you’ll experience. I cover lighting terms and options in my Ultimate Ford Ranger LED Lighting Guide, but in short, it would be wise to invest in an LED light bar. LED light bars are extremely efficient, durable, and bright. They will flood the area in front of you with bright and clean light, which is terribly important if your overlanding trip requires you to drive at night.
It won’t hurt to look into ditch lights as well if you find yourself driving at night a lot for maximum illumination.
CARRYING YOUR GEAR
If you’re going to be gone for a long time, you need supplies: spare parts for the Ranger itself, tools for any repairs, food, water, first aid, survival gear, and extra fuel. While our trucks can hold a lot, space runs out fast when you’re getting all of your supplies together.
Bed racks are one of the best options for carrying more gear. These mount onto your bed and either give you a full length “roof rack”, sidewall storage, or both. Prices range from $350 to over $1200, but you’ll be able to pick the one you need for the amount of storage that you require. Some come with modular panels and containers designed to attach to the side. They are great ways to store spare water and fuel. For a complete guide with options, check out our Ultimate Guide to Ford Ranger Bed Racks.
While these take up more room in your bed, they are a good way to organize your gear, and keep it out of the way. These install in your bed, and raise the floor of your bed by adding a row of drawers underneath the new bed floor. Prices for these are around $1500 for one you can depend on.
Molle Seat Covers
While you’re not going to be storing spare tires on your seats, first aid supplies, flares, fire starting equipment, extra magazines, and other small items will be right at home. These covers offer plenty of storage possibilities and are one of the best ways to keep your small and loose items at hand. These range from $75 to $200.
KEEPING YOURSELF COMFORTABLE
When overlanding, there are no resorts, no hotels, and no cabins. You are on your own, so you want to be comfortable. Regular old tents are an inexpensive and easy option. They are tried and true, and they don’t take up much space. However, if you want to be fancy and camp in style, there are options made specifically for our Rangers.
Roof Top Tents
When you want the ultimate amount of personal space, luxury, and room on your truck’s roof, roof top tents are the best option, especially when paired with a cab height bed rack. While they can be pricey ($250 - $2000), they are amazing options if you’re serious about overlanding. You sleep up high, which not only gives you better views, but it keeps you safer from any lurking creatures. Some come with an annex room that goes from the ground to the sleeping section. They are great for a multi-person party, or a “living room” if you want it. Some of these annex rooms have “backdoors” that allow you to access the inside of your truck (through your side doors) giving you an incredible setup.
If you are going on a long trip on flat land, you might need a trailer. Trailers are a great option to carry a bunch of other gear for an extended journey, but only on flatter land. You can get a specific overlanding trailer, and while more expensive, they are designed for harsh off-road environments.
Trailers can be your tent, leaving your roof and bed rack available for more storage, or they can hold all of your extra gear and leave your roof available. A good overlanding trailer will cost you over $2000 and can be as high as $12000. If you’re all about the overlanding life, it could be a wise investment, but most weekend warriors won’t have a need for the extra space.
While fuel mileage isn’t the main concern while overlanding (beyond making sure you have enough), pulling a heavy trailer will result in the use of more fuel. You will also limit where you can go.
WHERE TO FIND OVERLANDING GROUPS
Going out on your own or with people that you can fit in your truck can be a lot of fun, but sometimes hanging out and going on an adventure with a convoy of like-minded people is a lot of fun. Not only can you form bonds with people who share your passion, but someone could save you or your Ranger if you’re in trouble. If you’re a novice, or this is your first time, I would highly recommend going with other people.
Facebook is a great way to find like-minded people/groups. There are many overlanding groups, and even some Ford/Ranger specific ones. Forums also have diehard fans when it comes to overlanding with Ford and Rangers. Reach out to these people through these mediums and find out what’s happening next and where. Go out and have some fun with some like-minded people!
While an incredible experience and lots of fun, overlanding is a serious and potentially dangerous adventure. However, rest assured knowing your Ford Ranger can be up to the challenge with some light modifications. Remember, a good overall, mid-range priced package to get your truck ready would consist of the following:
Moderate height coilover lift kit ($1500)
Rock sliders ($700)
Push bar/grill guard ($400)
LED light bar ($350)
Roof rack/tent ($700)
Fuel cans, water cans, and other incidentals/extras ($250)
All in all, you could be looking around $5000 for a complete kit. Keep in mind that this is mid-range. You can get much more expensive gear, or cheaper. Most of these things are one time investments as well. The only things you would need to replace are your tires. Anything else just needs to be replaced if it gets damaged.
You also have to determine what you need. If you’re driving through the Sahara, you probably don’t need a push bar or rock sliders. That’s $1100 taken off right there. If you are only going on weekend trips, you probably can get away with an inexpensive tent set up independently from your truck, and you won’t need a roof rack. That’s $700 gone.
There is no this-is-how-you-have-to-do-it way for overlanding. There are two rules to overlanding: get from Point A to Point B, and have fun doing it. How you accomplish it depends on how much money, time, and effort you want to put into it. Determine where you want to go, find out the best way to do it, and build and plan accordingly.
The Ford Runner is a safe, durable, and reliable truck. Use it, be safe, and have fun.
Overlanding Ranger - Courtesy of The Ranger Station
Suspension - Courtesy of Icon Vehicle Dynamics
Rock Sliders - Courtesy of Shrockworks
Bull Bar - Courtesy of Westin Automotive
Bed and Roof Rack - Courtesy of Roof Top Overland
Tent - Courtesy of Trucks.com
Overlanding Trailer - Courtesy of Off Road Xtreme