Overlanding: What Is It And Why Is It So Popular?
Over the past few years, Overlanding has grown over 200% in popularity. With a sustainable lifestyle in mind, many have taken to the road. Tons of fully kitted jeeps and SUVs looking to the layman like some sort of Mad Max movie character are choosing the nomadic life.
So what is Overlanding and why is it so popular? The short answer is: Overlanding is a means to travel to remote locations while having everything you need to survive strapped to a capable vehicle so you can have a bit of back-to-nature off-road fun. Everyone from the retired ironworker to the digital nomad, Overlanding is for everyone.
The details of this glorified camping trip are completely up to you. You can copy your buddy's ideas or steal ideas from the internet, you can even base your build completely on bolt-on parts. In the end, it will be your rig, designed by you and ready for the weekend trip or the month-long journey to remote destinations.
As with any passion project or extracurricular activity, everyone loves what they run. Toyota lovers don’t mingle with Jeepers, Dodge Ram owners will segregate within themselves via Diesel vs Gas, and so on but within the Overlanding community it has become just the opposite…a community.
The region of the country has a lot to do with what you’ll run and how effective it will be. There will always be a few outliers but within a city or area, it becomes the norm to have one particular vehicle over another. Tribalism is alive and well even in the off-road community.
Within the Overlanding community, there is only one common ground and that is the niche itself; Adventure and off-grid living. Including all forms of vehicles and setups, Overlanding can be accomplished with any vehicle spanning international boundaries. We have seen full decked-out vans and school buses to armageddon-style jeeps and racked-out pickup trucks. We’ve even seen a Volkswagen beetle with a rooftop tent and two happy passengers with a dog just diggin life grillin some burgers for dinner.
Whether you’re rolling in a house on wheels with all the amenities of a suburban home or your 20-year-old truck with a camper shell and a sleeping bag, it makes no difference to the Overlanding community. The emphasis is on traveling and getting out into nature. How comfortable you want to be is really the only differentiating factor between rigs.
Picking Your Poison
Most if not all overlanders use what they already own to modify and manipulate into an off-the-grid rolling adventure mobile. Some that have the means buy a ready-to-roll rig and customize a few bits to their liking while others find a jeep or truck to their liking and handpick every detail until it is ready finished.
Whichever path you chose it all starts with the base of the operation, which vehicle to use? That decision could make or break your plans and should be chosen carefully. Imagine what your journey will look like. Imagine the terrain and environment you’ll be traveling to. Have no fear that most vehicles will be capable enough to get you to your destination except for the hardcore individuals that want to get away from everything and everyone deep off the grid.
Regardless of what your friends are running, an overland vehicle is or rather should be specific to your needs. So let's answer some questions so you can make the right decision for you and your application.
What Level Of Comfort Are You Willing To Accept?
An expedition rig will be heavy and slow but have all the creature comforts of home strapped to your back. Comfortable beds, television, cupboards for storage of real eating utensils, heat and air conditioning, a fully functioning shower. Amongst other features, an expedition rig can be the right fit for you because maybe you’re older or have a large family. Maybe you simply like to be comfortable while amongst the wild open air but want to retreat to a relaxing fluffy chair as you watch a movie.
This option will come at a hefty price. Most expedition vehicles are based on a Ford F550 or Dodge Ram 5500 frame but have a fully functioning RV setup bolted to the frame. This being the case, the sky is really the limit as for options. The capabilities for extreme off-roading can be limited by his level of comfort though so choose carefully.
Are you wanting to climb up and over literal mountains or descend steep trail chutes? Maybe a Jeep Wrangler is more your style for the adventures ahead. While you can have everything you could possibly need strapped to a Jeep it comes at a price both figuratively and literally. It’s quite easy to sink $100,000 into a Jeep setup but you will be sacrificing comfort for off-road ability.
People that own jeeps will tell you that it’s not a big deal but when it’s raining or snowing, gale force winds are blowing, it becomes an issue to open up your Roof Top Tent and maintain some form of humility. Will this be an issue for you or is it all part of self-reliant travel?
When the weather is nice and beautiful outside, it’s an amazing experience to drive your jeep through epic forests and over mountainous terrain to arrive at a natural overlook to the land below. Setting up your RTT and awning, unfolding your lawn chairs, and firing up the grill while the kids or dogs run around in the background. Making a fire in your SoloStove for burnt marshmallows and stories into the night, this is the dream, right?
The key element in all of this camping Overlanding glory is exposure. The elements are literally outside the zip-up door of your tent and this might not be appealing to you. For millions of adventurers, it is completely acceptable and they welcome it. It’s why they built out their rig in the first place but also needs to be considered if you are just starting your Overlanding journey.
The terrain and weather should be your first consideration before you build. If the region you will be occupying is primitive and rough terrain a smaller vehicle might be a better fit. If your environment is open desert with rolling hills maybe a longer wheelbase full-size pickup truck is better suited to your plans. If you want the best of both worlds while bringing comforts from home, maybe you’d be more interested in an Earth Roamer behemoth?
How Much Is Too Much Gear?
A lot of thought should and will go into what you’ll bring with you. Your mind will be consumed with “Do I/we need this?” or “Did I forget that?” simply because you are participating in what is known as Modern Pioneering. You may not be discovering a new land or storming the wild west but it is much the same as a hundred years ago or the modern equivalent.
You are going into the wild blue yonder and trying to survive so you should be as prepared as you can be. Issues will arise and be resolved but the number one thing you should have in mind is weight. You will be limited by your vehicle's Gross Vehicle Mass(GVM). How much your rig can handle before it becomes unsafe both physically and while remaining within the Manufacturers recommended limits.
Filling up every nook and cranny with some sort of gear or tool feels right until you get on the road and have to factor in gas mileage and off-road capabilities. Everything added to your truck or jeep will affect how it handles on the road or trail. This should be in the front of your mind as you design and load your rig.
Will you be able to resupply on the road? If you are planning a long trip with limited access to supplies, a larger vehicle makes more sense. Eventually though, you will have the same issue with storage space, and weight capacity, regardless of the vehicle you choose. The bigger you go, the more you have to think about mobility and fuel mileage.
Tools for any situation, spare parts, lubricants and grease, flares, air compressor etc etc… There are so many things that could go with you but it’s best to research the route you’re planning on taking. Find suitable repair shops along the way, service everything possible before you leave and remember while blazing the trail, you have to drive home!
Some overlanders go as far as having onboard welders, air compressors or air tank, and so on. The thing to remember is it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Within reason, spares are always a good idea but don’t get carried away.
On-Road Or Off-Road Repairs
Learning how to repair your truck is vital when on the trail so learn while you’re in the comfort of your home. Have friends come over, consider what might happen on the road and take it apart. Train as you fight and you’ll bleed less in war. It sounds a bit extreme but if you break it down it really makes sense. No one is expected to know everything but we can all learn something.
While on the trail it will be muscle memory if you have trained to repair XYZ back home and you’ll be back on the trail faster.
Basic Human Needs: What to bring
Picking a destination on the map is the easy part. It becomes exponentially more difficult beyond that point. If you have a few trips under your belt already then it becomes easier however if this is your first time then planning should be your main focus. Anyone can have a successful trip if properly planned.
Whether you’re bringing your earth roamer or an RTT and water jugs it all requires planning. Even an expedition rig needs to be tested and packed much like a camper shell and sleeping bag.
- water. 1.5 liters of drinking water per person per day
- Food. 1000 to 2000 calories a day
- Clothing. Research the weather at your destination and pack accordingly
- Shelter. Whether you are using an RTT, ground tent, or full-blown RV set up. Open and operate all aspects of your shelter to verify proper functionality
Your destination amenities can allow you to pack less but call ahead to see if they have fresh water onsite or local grocery stores for resupply. It’s a good idea to bring a form of water purifying solution. Whether iodine tablets, a hand pump, or a gravity filter, a water purification solution should be part of your kit.
Depending on what type of camp cooking setup will determine what food you can bring. The most important aspect of cooking is the heat source. A 16oz propane bottle is the preferred choice of most campers but you may have a full RV setup heading out into the wild. Either way, check for proper operation of your cooking solution so you can have warm food and/or boil water if needed.
Plan your meals for each day while adding an extra meal just in case a raccoon runs off with a burger or you knock over a freshly warmed up MRE (Meal Ready to Eat)
Making A Fire
It's easy to think making a fire is easy with all of the Fire Starters and prebuilt options that are on the market but knowing how to build a fire is always a key skill for when you don’t have a lighter or pre-soaked prepared piece of wood handy. Again, it’s a good idea to practice this skill at home in the backyard before you get in the middle of nowhere and the kids want to roast marshmallows.
The camping and Overlanding market is booming and the food storage aspect of it all is no exception. The options are plenty including 12v fridge freezers and as always the classy styrofoam party cooler. What you choose to use is completely up to you but should be durable enough to survive the journey.
Overlanding can be as extensive as you like it to be. The higher-end refrigerator units can get a bit expensive. Can you really put a price tag on bringing bacon or fresh veggies to camp though? Some units can be upwards of $3000 so many overlanders choose to go the cooler route or find a second-hand fridge for their build.
You can survive on dry goods or meals ready to eat to which you’ll just need to add hot water. For extensive and lengthy journeys it might be worth the time to rent or buy a refrigerator.
Surviving The Storm: What Shelter Is Best?
As mentioned before, overlanders come in all shapes and setups. This theme rings true for the shelter aspect of the adventure as well. From ground tents to an RV with pop-out indoor living space. It all boils down to how comfortable you’d like to be.
As I'm sure you have noticed already, everything affects everything when it comes to Overlanding. How well you sleep to how well you’ll eat to how prepared you are. It all comes down to weight and storage but why skimp on how well you’ll sleep? Some choose to opt for an air mattress and call it good.
Roof Top Tents were and still are for the most part the rage over the past few years. A somewhat affordable option for shelter that's pretty easy to set up. Seems logical until the weather moves in and you’re setting up in the rain, cold, or snow.
All things considered, you can find tons of options on the internet as far as second-hand RTTs go. Most people use this option for a proving ground and quickly find out that they want less hassle and more of a hard shelter in place.
The Over Under On Overlanding
We’ve covered almost everything that should be considered when it comes to Overlanding without getting into the lengthy list of gear. The reason being is because gear or equipment and all the details within could be a 5000-word blog in and of itself.
Preparing is the key when planning an Overlanding trip or lifestyle. Remember to consider each item as weight first and priority second. Most people tend to overpack but when you get home we are confident you will minimize your load substantially.
So get out there and start your build! Rip out the rear seats, build a slide-out kitchen, find some storage totes, and learn how to properly build a fire. Nature awaits you along with all the adventure between points A and B.