To define the term Overlanding as simply as possible, it is a self-reliant adventure to wild locations where the journey itself is as important (if not more important) as the destinations. 'Wild' locations can be described as those spots which are typically not accessed by regular tourists, road trippers or even by locals.
Overlanding is about the adventure of discovering new places, while taking routes which are inaccessible to normal cars or road vehicles. However it is not hardcore off-roading. Off roaders tend to seek out difficult and challenging terrain, the purpose of which is to overcome tough obstacles pretty much for the satisfaction of doing so and of course for bragging rights. Overlanding is about exploration, rather than conquering obstacles.
With such massive amounts of open, public land throughout, the US is an excellent country to try Overlanding for the first time. Depending on where you are in the US, there are countless websites and blogs providing endless information on where to go, how to get there and what equipment you will need.
We are more familiar with California and the nearby states, so will give a brief overview into the options in the West.
We have some of the most famous deserts in the world nearby. Death Valley, Mojave, Joshua Tree, Zion, The Grand Canyon - heard of any of these? These deserts each have multiple Overland routes which provide access to hundreds of 'hidden spots' away from the tourist information booths and RV campsites. This means limitless free camping and no need to worry about being bothered by a neighboring campsite.
A false perception is the deserts are inhospitable and consist only of sand and rock. Outside of summer, most desert regions have 'perfect' weather, i.e. warm during the day and ideal for hiking and discovery. The huge variety of colors (especially during sunset/sunrise), plants and geologic formations is awe inspiring to first time desert visitors.
In California we have the Sierra Nevada mountain range, hosting places like Sequoia National Park, Mammoth and Yosemite. Snow and skiing in the winter, hiking, mountain biking, swimming in the summer - it's pretty much nature's playground. Primitive camp sites are again plentiful and they are frequently located right in the heart of the most stunning, unspoiled scenery in the state.
The West Coast has pretty much been 'well discovered', but that doesn't mean there's nowhere to camp off the grid. The Overlanding attitude lets you explore some dirt tracks and will lead to stunning locations, again which are not frequented by tourists or day trippers. Big Sur is one such location - 99% of visitors stick to the blacktop and enjoy the scenery from the safety of the roadway, nearby hotels and restaurants. Very few actually get up into the elevated, off road tracks to discover the real hidden gems.
Can I go Overlanding in my own truck or SUV?
If prepared, the answer is 'Yes', as long as it has proper 4x4 capabilities! However, Overlanding can be hard on a vehicle and you will need to ensure you have the right equipment, safety gear and a solid plan available. Sleeping in your truck or SUV is possible, but not particularly practical as every night you have to dump all your gear outside, so you can stretch out inside.
Be prepared to accept your vehicle will encounter some damage. U-joints can sheer, tires rupture and paint will get scratched.
We recommend you get hold of the following at the bare minimum if taking a trip:
1. Roof Top Tent: Fast to set up, fast to take down and you are sleeping off the ground. There's something satisfying about sleeping high up ... could be the childhood love of sleeping in a treehouse? You will need to ensure you have a suitable roof rack too - most standard racks are not up to the job of taking the dynamic weight of a roof top tent.
2. Safety Equipment: Most good remote locations do not have cell signal, so having a Satellite messenger/GPS is a must have. Things happen and no amount of adventure is worth someone suffering from an injury (or worse) and being unable to call for help).
3. High quality camping equipment: Camp kitchen, trash containers, water source - all need to be of good quality. You can get by with the cheaper items you might use for regular campsite camping, but usually you get what you pay for. Additionally, bringing enough water is critical - primitive campsites do not have potable water. you need it not just for drinking, but for washing dishes, showering etc.
4. Off road tires: At the absolute minimum, your vehicle needs to have proper off road tires. Not only for grip, but for durability. Even the easiest forest trails have ruts and rocks which standard road tires are simply not designed to withstand. Added to that, if you do get a puncture, the small jacks or fix-a-flat kits provided with you personal vehicle likely will not get out of trouble when trying to get going again on soft or uneven surfaces.
There's an entire industry quickly growing around Overlanding, especially now that Covid-19 has changed how we travel. The movement is towards travel that avoids flying, corwds or even staying in hotels.
The answer: Rent an Overland equipped vehicle. Here at Funki Adventures, we provide not only a fully equipped Jeep for Overlanding, but custom trip plans are avaialable too. No spending weeks researching, or driving around during your trip trying to find good spots or routes - we set you up for success from the minute you commence your trip.
Trips can be from 3 days to 6 months, you get to decide and each excurison is uniqie to your needs and preferences - this is not a package coach vacation!
No matter where in the world you want to explore, there are quality Overland providers willing to take care of you, provide the best equipment and work with you on preparing for your trip. Here are some companies we recommend:
- Vancouver, Canada: Hastings Overland
- Northern California: Cypress Overland
- Scotland: Highland Defenders
- Portugal: Dream Overland
- New Zealand: Overlanding New Zealand
Finally, to learn more about Overlanding, subscribe to Turas Magazine (www.turas.tv) as they provide endless tips on equipment, vehicles and articles on how to prepare for an Overland trip.
You can always reach out to us directly with questions - we love helping getting people out into the wilderness!