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Overland Vehicle Layout

When you’re building your own overland vehicle, one of the most important elements is designing your living quarters.

After all, your overland vehicle will be your home so you’ll want to make the maximum use of the space available to meet your needs. It needs to be functional, ergonomically sound and comfortable.

The build quality will need to cope with the driving conditions you expect to meet. Once it’s built, it will be very difficult and expensive to make radical changes to the layout. You can never over research the solutions but even then, you’re likely to have to make some compromises along the way. What follows is our overland vehicle layout.


The room is split into four main functions: sleeping, lounge/dining, cleaning and cooking.

Overland Vehicle Layout

The right side of the living quarters are given over to sleeping and dining; the left to cooking and cleaning. All this is located around a middle walkway providing access to each area and leading from the access door. We like to refer to this as our hall.

Light coloured walls and ceilings and wooden floors all add to the effect of a light and airy space. It’s ideal for 2 adults on a long term trip. It could accommodate 2 extra children, or even adults but it might become a little cramped if we all stayed indoors for long periods.

Temperature control

We have an air-top diesel heater installed for cold nights and large roof vents, a split opening front door and a small back door to let air circulate through out. There was originally an air conditioning unit installed, but it operated on 240 v hook up and the opportunities to use it were few and far between, so we took it out and replaced it with a large roof vent.

Electrical System

By the split door entrance we have a small narrow storage cupboard that houses our domestic batteries and electrical systems.

Are you looking for a simple explanation of overland vehicle electrics? Click here


Floor level LED spotlights and ceiling LED strip lighting is installed, providing a flexible arrangement for subtle and direct lighting throughout the living quarters.

The West Wing

Overland Vehicle Layout
Overland Vehicle Layout


A fixed 2m by 1.5m bed for sleeping and a wardrobe for clothes. Underneath are the external garage, tool shed and some internal storage with drawers.


Our sitting room has two 2 seater benches and a stainless steel table top. Beneath the seats are more storage drawers accessed from the hall and the seat tops can be lifted for access to yet more storage.  The table top can be dropped and the cushions rearranged to make up another bed. It’s not a full length bed but is ideal for children, a couple of very short adults or one person to lie diagonally. This arrangement sits on top of our extended reserve fuel tank.

The East Wing

Overland Vehicle Layout
Overland Vehicle Layout


We have a full wet-room installed. This provides us with a hot and cold shower, chemical toilet and hanging space for wet clothes when the shower is not in use.  A toiletry cabinet is also installed.


The kitchen is complete with an integral gas 4 ring cooking hob and an oven/grill and a small sink with mixer tap along with a separate filtered water tap. We also have a front opening fridge, a blessing compared to the chest fridge we used to have in the Landcruiser. The space above the fridge is a tiled work bench that stretches around the cooker and the sink unit. These appliances sit on top of an enclosed water tank and front access food storage cupboards.

Are you looking for a simple explanation of overland vehicle water systems? Click here.

Things We’d Do Differently

Even after two years, I still sometimes wonder if we changed the layout, would things work better for us. If I were to redesign our overland vehicle’s layout, I would probably move the bathroom to the front doorway. This is a smart idea for three reasons:

  1. Firstly it acts as a dirt trap and you can leave your muddy boots and dust in the shower tray and away from the main living quarters.
  2. It would utilise an area that currently is only used for entry and exit, in effect, a dead space most of the time. This would free up just under 1m2 of floor space.
  3. In some parts of the world, you may encounter checkpoints where the authorities have the right to ask to see the inside of the truck. Usually, if the first thing they see is your toilet upon opening the front door, they will be repulsed. This is often all that is needed to ensure they look no further.

Read more about checkpoints in Africa here.

To make such a change to the layout now, would mean a considerable amount of work. We’d need to decide how to utilise the extra floor space. Then we’d probably end up moving the kitchen and turning the bed sideways. Then we’d talk about opening the cab up to give access to the living quarters, moving the reserve fuel tank and spare wheel stowage. And so it goes on. In reality, we need none of this. Why fix it, if it’s not broken? Given we’ve been on the road for almost 2 years now, we figure that our overland vehicle layout works just fine.


Thursday 5th of November 2020

What are the dimensions of your living quarters?

Lennie Sym

Sunday 15th of October 2017

Thanks for sharing your layout. We build a four tonne van a few years ago and are thinking of moving to a Unimog in another couple. We have a transverse bed arrangement, so were intrigued to see your different solution. I’ve seen some with a connecting compartment from the living area to the driving cabin. Would you think that necessary? Would you think that feasible? Cheers, Lennie


Saturday 21st of October 2017

Hi Lennie, because we're not able to stand up in the driving cab of the Unimog, any hatch through to the living area would always need be a crawl through hatch/tunnel thing. This could be the full width of the driving cab or smaller. So yes, it's feasible but remember the cab and the box are independently of each other attached to the chassis so the hatchway has to have a flexible coupling to allow for the movement - a bit like between to carriages on a passenger train. We din't bother. :-)