How To Get into Overlanding

Dec. 16, 2016 By Jaime Hernandez

So you’ve caught the Overlanding bug--you’re not alone.  It’s hard to resist such an alluring form of off-roading, where adventure and self-reliance is at the core of the experience.  The places you’ll explore and travel through are also pretty amazing.  Not to mention all the cool expedition gear and products designed to support this type of travel.  But where to start?

To get into Overlanding, you need to have a sense of adventure.  The hunger to explore and get out there to experience new places, people and things.  If you don’t have the slightest clue what the heck Overlanding is, here’s a coffee
cup’s worth. 

Releated story: What is Overlanding?

Although each person must forge their own path, it doesn’t mean we can’t help each other along the way.  We’re going to share a few ideas that have helped us over the years.  It’s not the only way, but it should help get you moving in the right direction.

Overland vehicles come in all sizes and platforms: trucks, SUVs, and even motor bikes.  Although not 100% necessary, it helps to own a 4x4 vehicle to get into overlanding.  If you don’t own or have access to a 4-wheel drive vehicle, make friends with someone that does.  Pitch in for gas and be a good navigator/spotter.  It may turn out to be one of the best adventures you’ll have.  At minimum, it should give you a taste of what the buzz is all about.  For many, all it takes is one good outing to get into off-roading.

We’ll go into further depth on what to look for in an overland vehicle in the future, but first we need to establish if overlanding is your cup of tea.

Camping is a big part of overlanding, since many of the remote places you’ll visit don’t have a Holiday Inn.  I’ve heard overlanding referred to as backpacking with an automobile.  The difference is you can carry more gear, cover more ground in a day, and on most occasions--you’ll even have a warm, dry place to rest your head at the end of the day.  If you already enjoy pitching a tent and cooking in the field—overlanding can be a welcomed addition to your outdoor lifestyle.

If you’ve never been camping, don’t sweat it. It’s never too late to go wild.  Start with a car camping trip to your local forest or desert. These mini adventures can help you become more attuned to the lodging arrangement and help you make any necessary adjustments to make your outdoor experience more enjoyable.

You’ll need some basic camping supplies to survive your weekend adventure.   Here’s a good starter kit. 

Related story: Top 10 Off-Road Camping Essentials
As you become more comfortable with camping, leave the developed campground for a more remote area—preferably with a second vehicle in your group.

If you’re serious about overlanding, then one of the best things to do is meet and talk to other overlanders.  From the weekend warrior to the lifetime vagabond—meeting other explorers will help give you insight into this exciting world.  We’ve met many good spirited overlanders over the years that have provided invaluable information on places to travel to, vehicle modifications necessary to globetrot, survival tactics, and even colorful stories.
If you don’t know any off-roaders that are into overlanding, a good place to meet is through a club.  4x4 clubs have been around for many years, but we’re starting to see more specialized groups that focus on overlanding itself.  They can be vehicle specific, regional, or global. A good place to meet other overlanders and clubs is on Expedition Portal. Many overlanders plan trips, share info, and give updates of progress they’ve made on their adventures. 

Overland Expo is also a great place to meet in person with fellow overlanders, see their overland vehicles and set-ups, as well as training for the overland lifestyle. 

Subscribe to Overland Journal, it’s the best overland off-road magazine--period.  Scott Brady, Chris Collard and many high caliber explorers contribute from the field, bringing the world of overland travel and adventure to your fingertips in this high quality print publication. It’s truly inspirational and insightful.

Overlanding requires learning navigation skills, working communication devices, GPS, reading maps and searching for adventures. Find and read books of the regions you want to explore.  From well documented journeys to stitching together your very own trip—it’s important to know where you’re going, what you plan to do, and ways to keep things moving forward for a successful overland trip.
Off-road trail guide books, Topo maps, and shared notes from other overlander’s trips make good resources in your planning. Yes, overlanding requires planning-- with the degree of planning going up in relation to the length and complexity of the adventure at hand.  Start with mini adventures, reach for the stars and find your own groove.  It’s a big world.

TIP: Don’t just drive all day, stop and explore. You never know what you may find just around the corner. Build in some downtime, it will make your overland experience that much greater.

For some, solitude is sacred.  For others, it’s not much fun.  We suggest you try and find an in between. DON’T travel by yourself, especially if you’re hitting remote trails or areas.  It’s always a good plan to travel in groups, with a minimum of two vehicles. Bring repair parts, First Aid Kit and such.

Related Story: Tools Every Off-Road Explorer Should Have 

In our opinion, overlanding shouldn’t break the bank, vehicle or heart—instead it should make you feel alive, yield some amazing adventures with good people. 
Being outdoors is good for the soul.  Get out there and start exploring!

“The Mountains Are Calling and I Must Go”
-John Muir

Here are some of our favorite off-road overland Adventures:
Bradshaw Trail - Overland Route
Colorado's Scenic Alpine Loop

Mojave National Preserve
Death Valley 

Where have you been, where are you going? We want to know. Please comment below. Newsletter
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