What is Overlanding?

It’s a term that’s become ubiquitous among outdoor and off-road enthusiasts. Overland this, overland that, overland everything. What does it really mean? Honestly, I haven’t seen a canonical definition that nails it yet. Some define it as “vehicle dependent travel”. But, wouldn’t that apply to a retired couple in a class A motorhome? Others point out that overlanding is the pursuit of the journey rather than the destination. Again, how’s that different from #vanlife?

The term clearly means different things to different people, but one thing I know for certain about overlanding, it’s good for marketing. 🤑 I’m guessing many a credit card limit has been exceeded, retirement account pillaged, college fund depleted, all in the pursuit of overland flair.

Roof top tents, Max Trax, RotoPax, shovels, Hi Lift Jacks, jerry cans, GMRS, CB’s, HAM radios (and licenses), antennas, lift kits, 37 inch tires, gears, lockers, lift gate ladders, roof racks, bed racks, light bars, ditch lights, steel bumpers, winches, soft shackles, dual battery systems, solar panels, drawer systems, Tembotusk, 12 volt refrigerators, storage bins, recovery gear, stoves, cutlery, tire inflation systems, trailers, “not all that wander are lost” sticker, local craft beer and Patagonia goose down puffy jackets. That’s just enough flair to earn entry-level overlander status.

Last weekend I attended an overland event put on by a local product company. I’ll tell you this, there were some sweet 4×4’s there (notice I didn’t use the word rigs 🤢). As I perused the parking lot surrounded by trucks, adorned with tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear, I couldn’t shake a certain feeling in my gut. It was familiar, yet I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Ah yes! I had the same feeling outside of Phoenix Comicon once. And then it hit me.

Overlanding is Vehicular Cosplay.

A bunch of adults, dressing their trucks up like super heroes.

photo credit; Sergey Galyonkin 

I know, that’s pretty harsh, but it’s not wrong either. I mean, we buy these expensive trucks and outfit them as if we’re headed for a 6 month expedition across the Serengeti when really, we’re just running to Starbucks for an Americano. The gear is always on the truck. It’s part of the show. Maybe on the weekend we’ll hit a local trail and camp where there are no toilets, you know, dispersed camping®.

Marketers love buzzwords and we’re all suckers.

The truth is, overlanding, for like 90% of people (myself included), is simply this: off-roading and camping. And that’s fine. I love those things. Put them together and you have modern overlanding. Sure, you could forgo the $3000 roof top tent, the lift and tires, etc, but then you’re just car camping and that doesn’t sound nearly as cool.

By donniefitz2

Family guy, software nerd, photographer and a gear-head.

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