Skip to main content

What Is Overlanding?

roof rack tent

Have you noticed a tricked-out Jeep with a crazy roof rack driving down the highway? That tricked-out Jeep is for overlanding, and the crazy roof rack is a tent. What is Overlanding, you ask? Overlanding is not just the latest millennial buzzword; it represents a movement from backcountry camping to the exciting new world of adventure camping. 

Star Trek fans might remember the starship Enterprise sailing into the final frontier. Much like the crew of the Enterprise, overlanders want to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations and boldly go where no man has gone before. As we dive into this, don’t be surprised if you feel a calling to experience the challenge of overlanding. 

It’s All About the Journey

Traditional camping is fun and forever will be the choice of many. A trip to the lake is often the only time some families can get everyone together. The whole family heads to the campground to set up camp and goes straight to the water. Although many who enjoy overlanding also enjoy these trips to the lake, they also have a desire to get off the beaten path. Experiencing the journey is actually the goal, not simply reaching the destination. 

Overlanding is a self-reliant adventure to remote places with the goal to relish every experience along the way. Adventure travel does not include Holiday Inn or Walmart. Overlanding means you are putting yourself out there. You are getting off-grid and exploring the unknown as you go. Stopping to soak in a stream, picking blackberries for breakfast or just spending the afternoon on a hillside to watch the sunset turn into a sea of stars is what overlanding is all about.

It is true; some have boldly gone to Africa for an exotic overland experience that took years to finish. If you’re looking for places to overland closer to home, you may try places like Moab, Utah; Mojave Road, California or the Black Bear Pass in Colorado. Overlanding places like these means you’re living out of a tent, going without a shower and learning to like instant coffee. Enjoying the overland experience is also to relish the self-reliance and survival aspect of it.   

Traveling Off-Grid

You can overland with anything from a hunting ATV to a four-wheel drive truck. There are as many overland rigs as there are people who overland. Considerations like budget, where you plan to go and how many people are going with you will help you decide which vehicle is best. 

Many who plan to overland for a week or less will take their all-terrain vehicle or side-by-side. The all-terrain vehicle/side-by-side overland experience is one like no other. You experience the journey while riding with full exposure to the elements. You can see, smell and taste nature in ways not possible in the cabin of a truck. You feel the rush of the water as you creep through the mountain stream, the mud of the bog coats on your arms and the heat of the desert sun is hot on your neck. 

The all-terrain vehicle or side-by-side overland journey is not for everyone but, for many daring overlanders, it’s the only way to explore strange new worlds. 

You Don’t Need a Monster Truck

can am atv

You don’t need a monster truck or radically modified rock climber for overland transportation. It’s common to see Jeep Cherokees with mud tires, converted four-wheel-drive farm trucks or Toyota 4Runners on overland trails. Customizing your rig to suit your style of overlanding is a big part of the fun. By far, the Jeep is the most common overland vehicle. Its high ground clearance will get you over rough trails, its four-wheel-drive will get you through mud and its lower gear ratio is great for steep climbs. 

Self-reliance is a big part of overlanding. It’s common to bring water and gas cans, as well as shovels, tarps and rope. If you’re going it alone, you’re going to want a winch, recovery tools and off-road lights. If you’re overlanding with other vehicles, they can help you get out of sticky situations. Some prefer to attach everything they need to their vehicle and some prefer to store it in an overlanding trailer. Either way, it’s best to expect the worst and be prepared for it than to be surprised and not prepared.

Try Before You Buy

If overlanding is something you’re sure you want to invest in, there are many vehicles to choose from, supplies to buy and places to go. A big part of the fun is customizing your vehicle, camping gear and survival supplies to meet your overlanding style. You will probably discover something else that you need on each overlanding trip you take. Overlanding different climates is a blast, but each climate has unique challenges you must prepare for. 

You may prefer to make a minimal investment to see if overlanding is something you will enjoy enough to do again. You can buy as much as you want and rent the rest.

From Jeeps customized for overlanding to overland campers, you can always rent until you’re sure overlanding is for you.  


You Will Never Be the Same

Ordinary adventure seekers across America will return home with the same souvenirs and pictures as thousands of others who made the same trip. Overlanders will return home having challenged their vehicle’s off-road capabilities, experienced nature by living in it off-grid and tested their survival skills in a real way. Their souvenirs are scratches on the Jeep, a worn-out pair of hiking boots and memories that will last a lifetime. Now that you know what overlanding is all about, are you up for the challenge?

Latest Content