Our desire to get outside and discover new places is as ancient as the human imagination. And if there is one form of travel that allows you to push your limits, explore vast uncharted territories, and witness nature at its rawest, purest form, it’s overlanding. While overlanding has been around for ages, not everyone knows exactly what it entails. In this post, we will discuss everything from its meaning, history, popularity and then give you some helpful advice.
What is Overlanding?
Overlanding is a type of vehicle-assisted travel where you explore remote places while relying on the gear you carry with you and your preparation skills. It’s like backpacking out of a vehicle. You bring only what you need, and you need to know how to use all the equipment since you’ll be away from civilization most of the time. The experiences you encounter in the journey are the main draw, not the destination. There is also an emphasis to push the technical limits of your vehicle.
A Brief History of Overlanding
The term overlanding was originally coined in Australia to describe the herding of livestock over long distances in search of greener pastures or to transport them elsewhere. The word took on a different meaning when outdoorsy individuals started using vehicles to traverse areas where few have set foot before. In recent decades, its been popular in South America and sub-Saharan Africa, but its popularity in North America has grown significantly over the last few years.
Overlanding Vs. Car Camping Vs. Off-Roading
Modern overlanding is a combination of off-road travel and camping, but it’s still different from car camping. Car camping typically involves driving right up to a campsite and pitching a tent. Overlanding is also different from off-roading/recreational four-wheeling, where the primary objective is to drive over rough terrain and overcome challenging obstacles.
The key point to understand is that the purpose of overlanding is to venture into unexplored or under-documented places for extended periods of time and being self-reliant throughout. Unlike the other forms of mechanized travel, it requires detailed planning to tackle any mechanical, environmental, and geographic issues that you may encounter on the way.
Reasons Overland Adventure is Popular Right Now
Overlanding is one of the top buzzwords of today’s outdoor enthusiasts. But what’s fueling the rise of this trend, which was once seen as old-fashioned?
Organized Events are Helping to Spread the Word
Overlanding events have helped popularize this style of travel. Overland Expo, is one of the first exhibitions focused on educating people on the activity. During its premier event in 2009, only 900 people attended. In 2019, the event attracted over 22,000 visitors and hundreds of exhibitors. People come to learn about new systems, get new ideas from experts, network with like-minded people, and shop for the latest products.
New Technology is Promoting Safety
Overlanding has its risks, which kept many from giving it a try. Fortunately, there are now new innovations that are helping reduce these hazards, allowing more people to focus on enjoying the expeditions. With GPS, you no longer have to worry about getting lost in the wild, and the internet can help you consult others and fix mechanical issues you encounter on the road. There are also portable solar systems to power your devices and appliances and special survival gear to help you fend off danger.
Availability of Rugged Vehicles
Today, you don't have to build your overland vehicle from scratch to explore new frontiers. Many companies are designing and modifying vehicles that have all the capabilities you need to travel and stay off the grid for lengthy periods. The idea of finding a complete overland beast on the dealer lot is attracting more people to take up the lifestyle.
Flexible Work Arrangements
Overlanding trips can last days, weeks, months, or even a year. This can pose challenges for people who work in an office setting. Fortunately, more employers are now allowing employees to work remotely. That means people who didn't have the freedom to venture into the wild can now make their dream come true. By utilizing technology such as solar panels and satellite internet, you can now work while traveling.
Plenty of Overlanding Information
Learning key overlanding skills takes lots of time and practice. But the amount of information available on the internet today has shortened the learning curve and allowed many interested people to join in the fun. There are lots of guides, videos, and resources to help you assemble the right gear, plan your route, navigate the wilderness, maintain your vehicle, and eat healthily. There are also online communities ready to help you overcome obstacles.
Millennials are Prioritizing Experiences Over Stuff
Millennials are joining the overlanding community in droves because they value experiences over material goods. And an outdoor adventure is the experience most crave for. It doesn't matter whether they'll rough it as long as they spend time in nature. It's not only the young who are seeking experiences. Retirees are also choosing adventure trucks over RVs to help them explore further or even across borders.
Overlanding Offers a Getaway from the Crowds
The fact that overlanding involves traversing places that are away from civilization makes it a perfect option for those looking to avoid crowds. In this era of uncertainty caused by the pandemic, overlanding has become popular for people concerned about overcrowding in RV parks, campsites, and other outdoor recreational spots. It's an excellent option for those who want a peaceful escape or prefer to go beyond the usual campgrounds and trailheads.
Important Factors to Consider Before You Go for an Overlanding Trip
Before you try overlanding, use these tips:
Picking the Right Vehicle
In the case of car camping, you've probably heard that the best vehicle to get you started is the one you already own. But for Overlanding, that notion doesn't work. You'll need to invest in a vehicle that's well-equipped to handle the terrain you plan to explore without requiring frequent repairs. On top of that, it should offer enough storage.
Where to Adventure
If you're new to overlanding, it's best to start small. Before you start to machete your way through the unexplored wilderness, start with a well-trodden track. There are many routes other overlanders have used, and some are best for beginners. Once you develop the right skills set and become completely self-reliant, you can now plan a tougher and longer expedition.
What to Pack
The items you pack will depend on the terrain you're traversing, the weather in the region, and the duration of your trip. The basics include camping gear, repair equipment, recovery gear, food and water, and a first aid kit. And don’t forget every day carry items like a multi-tool equipped for the wilderness. Make sure you consult the checklists of seasoned overlanders when creating your own supply list.
How to Stay Safe
Since you're venturing into remote areas, you'll most likely find yourself far from help during an emergency. So before you pick a route, assess the risks and determine whether it’s worth it. Understand the limits of your vehicle, carry a satellite communication device, tell someone you trust where you're going, practice using all equipment you bring outdoors, and create a fool-proof contingency plan.
There is an incredible support group for overlanders. Many of the manufacturers have their own Facebook groups that allow for open dialogue about challenges, mods (modifications that people do to their vans), upgrades and meet ups. #overlanding is great hashtag to follow on Instagram too. There are also a number of overland events you can attend to find out more about overlanding and meet other overlanders. Here are some of the expos and rallys that you can check out:
Learn the Ropes Before You Go Off the Beaten Track
Overlanding is making a comeback, thanks to the emergence of sophisticated vehicles, the lure of the unknown, and the development of high-tech gear. But before you decide to see the world from the road less traveled, do your research, talk to seasoned overlanders, learn new skills, and invest in the right gear.
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