The Basics of Overlanding

By Lori Straus

Overlanding is a combination of off-roading, road trips, and camping. However, whereas camping and road trips focus on the destination, overlanding focuses on the journey itself. Overlanders rise to the challenge of self-reliance the pastime demands, and they love the community that has arisen over the past decades. In this blog post, I’ll introduce you to the basics of overlanding.

What Kind of Vehicle Do You Need for Overlanding?

The short answer: the one that best suits your needs. However, if you’re new to overlanding, then the answer may not be that simple. Most overlanders drive an off-road vehicle, because they never know what kind of terrain they’ll meet. Part of the allure of overlanding is heading into backcountry, off paved roads. Your city sedan likely won’t suffice.

The truck or SUV you choose needs to be reliable. Moreover, many overlanders turn to aftermarket parts to augment their vehicle, from roof-mounted tents to improved suspension. There’s an entire market to build up your vehicle into a powerful, off-roading machine that can take you almost everywhere.

However, this BBC reporter, when he was working in the US, travelled all over the States with his family in a 1978 GMC Kingsley van. You don’t have to restrict overlanding to backcountry roads. It simply acquired that reputation from its beginnings in Australia. From there, it moved to Europe, where overlanders would travel by truck or SUV from Europe to deep into Africa or Asia.

Overlanding Does Come With Rules

Tread Lightly is a US-based organization that specializes in teaching outdoor ethics for a range of outdoor activities, including wheeling and off-roading. Although overlanding focuses on the off-road journey, it doesn’t mean you can do what you want. For example, Tread Lightly’s 4X4 guide recommends travelling only in areas designated for 4WD vehicles and driving directly over obstacles instead of around them.

These rules are meant to protect the surrounding nature as much as possible so you and other overlanding enthusiasts can enjoy the terrains again and again.

How to Prepare for Your First Overlanding Expedition

Read, read, and read some more. Then join reputable online forums on the topic. Overlanding is about overcoming obstacles on long journeys, often by yourself. Don’t get taken away by the serene social media images you see. Yes, there are moments of beauty. But there are also moments of panic, for example, when your vehicle sinks into the mud and you don’t know how to get it out. Add an absent cell signal, and you’re on your own.

Don’t pack your whole household into your vehicle. Just take the basics. However, that includes tools to help you out of predicaments. For example, a shovel, recovery strap, high-lift jack, toolkit, sand tracks, and a first-aid kit are just the beginning. What equipment do you need for cooking? How will you sleep? What do you need to protect yourself from animals?

Preparing for your first overlanding expedition is not the same as planning for your first six-hour drive to another city. Yes, there’s a strong and supportive community of overlanders out there, but you’ll also find yourself alone on many occasions. Be prepared.

Remember to Enjoy Overlanding, Despite the Challenges

Overlanding is more than car camping: it’s about the journey, not the overnight stay. Prepare yourself for challenges, but also look forward to the serenity, beauty, and adventure that allures overlanding enthusiasts. If you’re thinking of starting on this journey, don’t rush into it, but once you begin, enjoy every moment.