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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A white 2022 Chevy Silverado 3500HD LTZ is shown driving on a mountain highway.

Overlanding in a One-Ton Truck?

One-ton trucks like the 2022 Chevy Silverado 3500HD and the 2022 Ford F-350 are no stranger at the job site or towing just about anything down the road. However, when it comes to off-roading, most enthusiasts will tell you to steer clear of these monsters and get something smaller – usually a half-ton truck or even a midsize truck. Now, there are a lot of good reasons for this preference for smaller trucks (although with things like the Ford Raptor and Ram TRX, calling them “small” may be a bit of a stretch). If your idea of off-roading is spending the day navigating Moab or running the Rubicon trail, then there is much to be said for a smaller truck, but what if you want to set out on a week-long overlanding adventure?

The word overlanding means different things to different people, and a good overlanding adventure can certainly include technical off-roading. However, the key to overlanding is being able to carry everything you need on your vehicle, and that is where a lot of light-duty trucks fall short. Once you start adding tents, food and water, cooking equipment, clothing, and whatever else you need to enjoy your adventure, the pounds start adding up quickly. Throw a few essential mods at your truck, like a steel bumper, winch, and topper, and even more payload is gone. And that’s before you figure in the weight of the passengers! Needless to say, a huge number of overlanding rigs are seriously overweight, and that increases the chance of being left stranded on the trail.

The cargo bed and multi-flex tailgate are shown on a black 2022 Chevy Silverado 2500HD.

Payload Advantages of a One-Ton

To demonstrate the tremendous benefits of a one-ton truck on the trail, let’s take a look at some real-world figures from Chevy’s line of trucks:

  • 2022 Chevy Colorado: 1,550 lbs
  • 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500: 2,280 lbs
  • 2022 Chevy Silverado 2500HD: 3,979 lbs
  • 2022 Chevy Silverado 3500HD: 7,442 lbs

You might be looking at those max payload figures and thinking, “why would I ever need 7,442 lbs in an overlanding rig? 2,280 lbs is more than enough for my uses.” However, those are max payload figures for each model and are only obtainable in the most basic configurations. While a regular cab two-wheel drive truck is great for hauling, it makes a pretty poor base for a quality overlanding rig. So let’s look at a more reasonable configuration and only consider the payload ratings of the crew cab 4×4 trucks:

  • 2022 Chevy Colorado: 1,500 lbs
  • 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500: 2,010 lbs
  • 2022 Chevy Silverado 2500HD: 3,760 lbs
  • 2022 Chevy Silverado 3500HD SRW: 4,365 lbs
  • 2022 Chevy Silverado 3500HD DRW: 6,610 lbs

That’s a noticeable drop in payload, and those numbers are still only for the base trim trucks with no special features. Upgrading the Silverado 1500 to the Trail Boss trim, for instance, would further drop the truck’s payload down to 1,990 lbs. To get an idea of what some real off-roading mods do to payload figures, just look at the Colorado ZR2 Bison and its 1,100 lbs rating. Put two adults in the cab of that truck, and you only have around 500 lbs left for everything else you want to take with you! That’s not going to work on a multi-day expedition.

With a one-ton truck like the Silverado 3500HD, you will still have almost two tons of payload to play with even after you throw on that steel bumper, steel skid plates, and winch. That means you will be able to load up the cab with four adults (who will also fit more comfortably in the larger cab of a one-ton), stash all their gear in the back, and still have plenty of payload left over. Opt for the Silverado 3500HD dually configuration, and you can put a whole camper body on the bed and still have enough payload to safely load up the truck with all your stuff.

Size Advantages of a One-Ton

On a narrow trail, having a big truck can hurt you more than it can help. Even if you have the space to physically fit without a problem, a larger vehicle can limit your choice of line and make a tricky trail even more difficult to traverse. However, you might be surprised to realize that when it comes to the important dimensions, a one-ton truck is considerably more compact than you might think. Compare the body width of these trucks:

  • 2021 Ram 3500: 79.4”
  • 2021 Ford F-150: 79.9”
  • 2021 Ford F-350 SRW: 80”
  • 2021 Chevy Silverado 1500: 81.2”
  • 2022 Chevy Silverado 3500HD: 81.85”
  • 2021 Ram 1500: 82.1”
  • 2021 Ford F-150 Raptor: 86.6”
  • 2021 Ram 1500 TRX: 88”

If the two most hyped off-road trucks on the market can get away with their wide-body designs, then why can’t a one-ton truck handle the trail? You will have to deal with having a longer truck with a longer wheelbase (the 2022 Silverado 3500HD measures 250” at its smallest while the 2022 Silverado 1500 is 232”), but that isn’t a huge problem unless you are trying to make a u-turn on a narrow trail and it also brings a number of advantages.

Remember, when overlanding, you will be living with your truck. Having a smaller rig is nice for those few minutes you spend squeezing through a tricky section of trail, but having a larger truck is far more comfortable for the hours you spend behind the wheel or sleeping in the bed. Like most heavy-duty trucks, the 2022 Silverado 3500HD allows you to pair a crew cab with either a standard bed (82”) or a long bed (98”). In contrast, the 2022 Silverado 1500 only offers a crew cab with a short bed (70”) or a standard bed (79”). If you want the long bed option in the half-ton model, you will need to opt for the base trim with a regular cab.

If you prefer to use a ground tent when overlanding, that difference in bed length may not matter much to you. But if you like the convenience of a bed-mounted tent (or even a truck bed camper), then the extra room afforded by a one-ton truck is amazing. Having an extra foot of space to play with means that you can even stash a bunch of gear in the back and still have more space for yourself than you would with an unloaded light-duty truck.

A man is shown opening the tailgate of a red 2022 Chevy Silverado HD LTZ with a keyfob.

Taking a One-Ton Truck on the Trail

Every one-ton on the market currently offers a decision that smaller trucks don’t – single rear wheel vs dual rear wheel. The vast majority of off-roaders will tell you that a dually has no place on the trail, but few of them have any experience actually trying. Aside from the usual objections raised against one-tons in general (too big, more truck than you need, etc.), there are few technical reasons you can’t overland in a dually. The biggest issue is finding the right tires, as large all-terrain and mud-terrain tires may have difficulty fitting properly in a dual rear wheel configuration. However, if you can find off-road tires you like, a dually can go just about anywhere and will actually offer lower ground pressure than a single rear wheel truck with the same load.

If you have run the numbers and found that a midsize or half-ton truck simply can’t offer you the payload and space that you require for your overlanding adventures, don’t be afraid of looking at bigger trucks. A one-ton model like the 2022 Chevy Silverado 3500 HD or the 2022 Ram 3500 may seem out of place on the trail, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t belong out there. When it comes to overlanding, you don’t want to leave behind the gear you need, and you don’t want to venture into the wilderness with an overloaded truck. So make sure you get a truck that can handle all your adventures, even if it is a less common model.

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