Exploring Overlanding: More Than Just a Destination.

How to think about vehicle based adventure travel.

Lino Cappelli

6/19/20233 min read

Most people’s first impression of overlanding is that it’s an exclusive club for wealthy and

well-equipped adventurers, at least that is what social media would have you believe. The

image painted is one of extravagant equipment, vehicles modified with top-of-the-line gear,

and elaborate excursions to far-flung destinations. Unfortunately, in most cases, there is

a duality present between amount of vehicle modifications and how often someone gets

out there- the most modified vehicles either live off road or never leave the parking lot.

Like Nick Dimbleby says, “Don’t get caught up in the jingly jangles.”

Most of your resources should be directed

towards exploration, not gadgets.

"It's about the journey, not the destination.”

Although the vehicle is the main provider of adventure, we must remember that overlanding is not about the vehicle itself, but the opportunities it provides. The vehicle will take you places, let you see new things, and experience other cultures and terrains.

Vehicles used for overland travel should be outfitted for the specific purpose they are meant to fulfill. Vehicles traveling through the Sahara, whether for a day or for a month, must prioritize carrying water, and raising their intakes above the dust; vehicles attempting the Trans-Amazonian highway must prioritize being able to clear the unforgiving mud, out of the tire treads, wheel wells and radiators. Here in the United States, the highways are mostly, world class (looking at you- South Carolina and Louisiana) the distances are vast, and we have a very good grid. You will spend most of your time on tarmac, not too far from a gas station or cell signal, so prepare and outfit accordingly.

When building up a vehicle, specificity brings compromise. No vehicle can be outfitted to address every terrain and every adventure. A rock bouncing buggy is extremely capable off road but would become unbearable for hundreds of miles on highways, and an SUV with low hanging bumpers and street tires would eat up highway miles quietly and comfortably but would be very limited off road. The best modification, dollar for dollar, that you can make to your vehicle, is to make it reliable, the second-best use of your money is fuel. If you watch old videos or read articles of Camel Trophy, you will quickly notice that they start with brand new Land Rovers, immediately inspect them upon arrival, and meticulously examine them at the end of each day of travel.

To understand what is involved in overlanding, it's helpful to think of it as a multidisciplined activity. There are minimum competencies for route planning, navigation, terrain reading, radio communications, austere medicine, off road vehicle outfitting, off road driving, off road vehicle recovery, and minimizing the impact of the journey on the places visited.

Although learning all these skills, some of which you might have never heard of, may seem daunting, remember your first karate class. Everyone starts as a white belt, with white belt workouts and white belt expectations. With practice, competence increases, and so do the complexity of the workouts and level of expectations. The same thing applies to overlanding- if you are brand new, you will be doing white belt overlanding trips. As you get out there, you will gain perspective and identify new skills, or equipment you might need. The quickest way to put yourself at risk and ruin your outlook on this, new to you, hobby, is getting in over your head in a remote environment.

We’ve all heard a story about a recent grad backpacking across Europe. staying in hostels and taking buses. Despite the shoestring budget, these trips allow people to explored more in one trip that most will in their entire life. They are a living reminder that the desire to explore creates the way, regardless of financial situation. Remember, it has been 120 years since Horatio Jackson ventured across the United States by vehicle. 96 years before GPS, 45 years before 4wd vehicles became mainstream, 37 years before refrigeration and 25 years before antibiotics were commonly available to consumers.

An adventure is an endeavor to which we do not know the outcome (Yes, I stole this from Scott Brady of Overland Journal). Overlanding is a vehicle-based adventure travel that emphasizes the process rather than the outcome. But it's more than that; it's an opportunity for personal growth. It's a chance to break free from the routine, connect with nature, explore new places, develop new skills, and form meaningful friendships. It is accessible to everyone; you don’t need the most expensive gear or the most well-equipped vehicle, but you do need gear that will keep you safe, and a vehicle that will get you out there and back home.

Bright living room with modern inventory
Bright living room with modern inventory