Whether you’re looking for inspiration or a blueprint on how to make life on the road happen, you’ll find what you’re looking for in our list of best overland books.
While the world is changing at an incredibly fast pace, learning from those who came before us is still a great place to start when considering overland travels. Online content is great for keeping up to date with the latest happenings, but the in-depth stories for inspiration and practical knowledge are many times still found in longer-form books.
Whether read physically on paper or through digital means like Kindle, books about overland travel are well worth your time. From true classics to the latest releases, our best overland book list has it all.
I’ve been lucky enough to know and work with a vast majority of the authors of these books, and I can attest to not only the quality of the writing but also the impressive characters behind these titles. These books are the next best thing to sharing a campfire in some remote corner of the planet with these legends.
Our list was compiled from personal experience and through recommendations from the preeminent overland travelers and industry professionals of our time. While we surely missed a few quality reads, we also included a large majority of the books you should be reading about overland travel. Let’s dive into the best overland books out there.
GearJunkie’s 15 Best Overland Book Picks
‘Vehicle-Dependent Expedition Guide’ by Tom Sheppard and Jonathan Hanson
The VDEG ($80) is a 620-page softcover tome of knowledge that is now in its fifth edition, released in December 2021. There is likely no better single source for all the skills you’ll need for an overland adventure than this resource.
“An expedition can be a half-day exploring a hill track near home, two weeks off-road in Turkey or the Pyrenees, a major journey in Africa, or a development, aid or research project in a remote area. The demands are often surprisingly similar. Work or pure adventure, every expedition needs planning, selection, training and reliability as its ethos.
“To forty years’ expeditioning experience has been added a cumulative five years’ concentrated research to produce and later revise this book — shipping, equipment, clothing, fuels, oil, communications, vehicles, driver training and navigation are dealt with, distilled and summarised.” — Tom Sheppard
This book regularly sells out, and each edition has historically sold for more than the original asking price on the used market only a few years after its release.
This 456-page paperback ($20) came out over 25 years ago and continues to inspire. Not only did Ted Simon have a truly world-class overland adventure on his motorcycle back in the 1970s (4 years, 78,000 miles, and 45 countries), but he is also a super-accomplished writer. He can convey his experiences in vivid suspense-filled detail and has inspired such travel legends as Ewan McGregor.
Excerpt from the book: “In spite of wars and tourism and pictures by satellite, the world is just the same size it ever was. It is awesome to think how much of it I will never see. It is not a trick to go round these days, you can pay a lot of money and fly round it nonstop in less than forty-eight hours, but to know it, to smell it and feel it between your toes you have to crawl.
“There is no other way. Not flying, not floating. You have to stay on the ground and swallow the bugs as you go. Then the world is immense. The best you can do is to trace your long, infinitesimally thin line through the dust and extrapolate.”
All of Simon’s books are worth a read, and probably a few rereads. You can check out his other titles.
‘First Overland: London—Singapore by Land Rover’ by Tim Slessor
One of the most legendary and epic overland stories of all time is the 1955 Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition. The trip took 7 months and traveled over 12,000 miles, from London to Singapore in two 1956 Land Rover Series 1 Station Wagons.
Written by Tim Slessor, this 224-page paperback ($15) is an overland adventure tale like no other and was republished in 2016 (originally published in 1957). It has a foreword by the one and only Sir David Attenborough. If you enjoy adventure and history, this is the overland book for you.
‘Overlanders’ Handbook: Worldwide Route & Planning Guide’ by Chris Scott
Now in its second edition, this classic overland preparation guide ($30) takes you through every step required to get ready for a big overland trip in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Chris Scott lays out the best practices and useful tips and tricks for setting up your vehicle — and your life — for life on the road.
Excerpt from the book: “Time to stop beating around the bush and pretending that there’s anything other on your mind than a chunky fourbie. Sure, it’s a lifestyle phenomenon with an image of aspiring adventurousness and the desire to (literally) stand above the crowd, but you’re not aspiring, you’re actually taking your four-wheeler right to the places that feature so commonly in the ads.”
The 224-page softcover ($15) became an instant classic when it debuted in 2013. Once you crack it open, it’s very hard to put down.
Pablo Rey’s writing somehow manages to intimately connect the reader to these faraway and unfamiliar places with their diverse landscapes and cultures. If you love adventure, travel, and delving into the human spirit found in distant cultures, “The Book of Independence” is a must-read.
Excerpt from the book: “I’ll never forget that Monday when I put the barrel of a gun to my head and fired until I was out of bullets, without stopping to think of what I was doing so I wouldn’t have a chance to change my mind. It was my resignation to a future which I already knew, a farewell to a secure job, an adieu to a brilliant career in advertising, the microcosm where I had lived for the last twelve long years. It was ten minutes after ten in the morning and my last words were, more or less ‘keep the corpse, I’m leaving.’ My body collapsed and I walked out the door.”
If you fall in love with Rey’s writing like we did, be sure to also check out his latest book, which details the darker side of overland travel: On the Wrong Path: Breakdowns, assaults, crooked cops, floods, and other things which should never happen while crossing Africa.
Dan Grec drove 40,000 miles from Alaska to Argentina in an essentially stock Jeep over 2 years, which he wrote about in his The Road Chose Me Volume 1 book (which is also worth a read). For his latest book, Grec chronicles his circumnavigation of Africa over 3 years and 54,000 miles, visiting 35 countries in his dream Jeep overland machine.
Grec is a natural storyteller and extremely detail-oriented and pragmatic traveler. His books are easy to digest and relatable to a wide range of readers. Over the 383-page “The Road Chose Me Volume 2” ($20) paperback, Grec delivers equal measure inspiration and travel knowledge/best practices.
There will no doubt be a Volume 3 from Grec, as he’s currently on a massive Australian overland adventure in a custom-built Jeep Gladiator.
‘Travel the Planet Overland’ by Graeme and Luisa Bell
The Bell family is South African and have traversed a large portion of the planet in their Defender 130 as a family of four. We’re talking 67 countries and five continents over the past decade. They have learned a lot along the way on what it really takes to keep life on the road rolling and enjoyable.
“Travel the Planet Overland” ($45) is a 240-page paperback practical instruction guide on how you can get out and explore the world through vehicle-based adventure travel. The Bells use their vast experience to illustrate just how easy, and how hard, it really can be.
Volume 2 of this instant classic is being released very soon and can be purchased through their Kickstarter now.
The Bells have produced a full line of books in the past few years, from how-to guides to stories from the road. You can check out all the titles on their Amazon page.
Lois Pryce not only has a way with words but has also done some of the most impressive overland motorcycle adventures around the globe, many times as a solo female adventurer. “Revolutionary Ride” ($14) is a travelogue of her 3,000-mile motorcycle adventure across Iran in 2011. The 304-page paperback paints a picture of the real contemporary Iran.
Pryce’s first book to gain international acclaim was “Lois on the Loose,” which chronicles her solo motorcycle adventure from Alaska to Argentina. She has many other impressive book titles to her name as well, all worth a read.
“Distant Suns” ($20) is the third book in a series by prolific motorcycle adventurer Sam Manicom. This 390-page paperback paints a vivid picture of landscapes, people, and the deep feelings one experiences when traveling through foreign lands.
“A completely different aspect of this book is that it’s written based on Birgit’s diaries rather than purely my own. She was a very important part of this journey and it was vital to me that she didn’t get sidelined as ‘the girlfriend’. She’s certain she isn’t a writer, so left that to me.
“It was fascinating to see the things from each day that she’d considered important enough to write about in her journals. She is a fantastic observer and each of those observations brought memories flooding back to me. Her journal has been of incredible value. I think you’ll see what I mean and I hope you enjoy reading ‘Distant Suns’.” — Sam Manicom
If you want to read through Manicom’s books from the start, you can find all his titles on Amazon.
‘I Can. I Will. Women Overlanding the World’ by Sunny Eaton, Laurie Holloway, and Karin Balsley
Inspiration, women’s empowerment, and travel stories are wrapped up all in one beautiful 264-page hardcover coffee table book. This book ($34) tells the story of 50 different female overlanders who have traveled all over the globe by motorcycle, bicycle, van, and SUV. Finely crafted words combine with stunning images from real travelers exploring the planet overland.
All of the women behind this book have a deep wealth of knowledge on what overland travel is all about, from living for years on the road themselves to guiding overland 4×4 trips for others around the globe.
‘Overlanding in the Southeastern United States’ by Izzy Sanchez
If you’re looking for some how-to advice on overland travel closer to home, this 173-page paperback ($25) that was published in 2018 by Izzy Sanchez is just the ticket. The book dives into the ins and outs of 4×4 vehicle-based travel, with a specific lens on off-road travel and camping in the Southeastern U.S. The lessons conveyed within are applicable for all overland travel, however.
‘The Essential Guide to Overland Travel in the United States and Canada’ by TeriAnn Wakeman
Another great read on how to be prepared and what to expect from overland travel in North America is this 358-page guidebook ($65). If you’re looking for practical, relatively up-to-date (published in 2016), knowledge on best practices for overland travel in the U.S. and Canada, this is the book for you.
‘Who Needs a Road?’ by Harold Stephens and Albert Podell
Two men, a 4×4, a camper trailer, and the world to explore in 1965. This 485-page paperback ($25) is an engaging read that recounts the Trans World Expedition.
The authors argue it is “the longest and last motor journey around the world.” It’s hard to argue with that, as the route, closest to the equator, around the globe that the duo took is fraught with all types of political turmoil in today’s world.
Originally published in 1968, this book was a bestseller and quickly traded for big money on the used market as new book stocks dwindled. The authors finally agreed to republish the book in 1999, to share the story with a new generation of overland travelers.
Excerpt from the book: “When we formed our expedition and set out in 1965 to drive around the world, we had two goals. First, we wanted to drive in a west-to-east direction wherever there was land on which to drive.
“And, second, by selecting a route that was closer to the Equator (where the Earth bulges) than the routes taken by the handful of expeditions that had previously driven around the Earth, we sought to set a record, an unbeatable record, for the longest such journey ever made. In quest of those goals, we crossed five continents, traversed six of the world’s most inhospitable deserts, and drove from the lowest place on Earth, at the Dead Sea, to within sight of the world’s highest, in Nepal.
“After many mishaps and adventures, bombings, burglaries, breakdowns, floods, fires, sandstorms, stonings, diseases, wars, and romantic entanglements we achieved both those goals and lived to tell the tale. Our story, Who Needs A Road?, was published in 1968 to unexpected critical acclaim; reviewers found it enthralling, wonderfully adventurous, and rollicking although some said we were crazy to have done what we did. Who Needs A Road? became our publisher’s second best-selling book of the year behind The Joy of Cooking.”
‘The Man Who Cycled the World’ by Mark Beaumont
One thing to always remember about overland travel is that it doesn’t require a big 4×4 or even a motorcycle. Bicycles are a great way to see the world, at a pace that truly lets you immerse yourself in the culture.
While this book ($16) is more about setting a world record (194 days and 17 hours around the globe by bicycle), it is still really about the sights, sounds, and smells you encounter at cycling speeds when traveling unsupported over 4 continents and 18,297 miles. This 2008 tale of triumph and hardships is worth a read for anyone who loves type two fun and big adventure travels.
‘Camel Trophy: The Definitive History’ by Nick Dimbleby
If overlanding was made into a competitive challenge event, it would be called the Camel Trophy ($91). There are so many lessons to be learned from the iconic Camel Trophy that apply to taking the road less traveled. This brand new book details the history of the event as well as answers questions that you didn’t even know you had.
The photographic history depicted in the book is world-class as well, and sure to inspire. This 336-page hardcover book is a great coffee table book.
Excerpt from the book: “Camel Trophy was neither a race nor a rally, but a combination of adventure, expedition, competition and a unique display of personal courage, resilience and driving ability.”
12 Honorable Mentions: Overland Books
There are too many good reads in the overland book genre, so here are some other titles very much worth your time.
- Lone Rider: The First British Woman to Motorcycle Around the World by Elspeth Beard
- Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World by Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman
- The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean by Philip Caputo
- Adventure Capitalist: The Ultimate Roadtrip by Jim Rogers
- On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads by Tim Cope
- Uneasy Rider: Travels Through a Mid-Life Crisis by Mike Carter
- Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
- Crossing the Congo: Over Land and Water in a Hard Place by Mike Martin
- Timeless on the Silk Road: An Odyssey From London to Hanoi by Heather Ellis
- The Butterfly Route by Michelle Lamphere
- Strangers Like Angels by Alec Forman
- Ureka: Finding the Line Between Desire and Contentment. Then Riding It. by Graham Field