Is Overlanding Just an Expensive Fad? 5 Important Facts


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Overlanding has become more and more popular in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people want to travel self-sufficiently and flexibly. Overlanding, traveling with everything you need in your vehicle, allows you to travel on your terms and go where the open road beckons you. But is overlanding just an expensive fad?

Overlanding isn’t an expensive fad. It’s a timeless activity that can fit one’s budget and personal style. Social media may portray overlanding as a lifestyle that requires hundreds of thousands of dollars into an overlanding setup. However, in reality, overlanding doesn’t have to be expensive.

Overlanding is highly customizable, and there are no formal guidelines to tell you the “right” way to do it. A considerable benefit of overlanding is figuring out what works best for you and what you do and don’t need. Below, I’ll discuss some key facts about overlanding that you should know before outfitting your adventure rig.


What Is Overlanding?

Overlanding is simply the act of traveling over long distances by road. It’s characterized by self-sufficiency, resourcefulness and often involves taking the “long way” from point A to B.

There’s an emphasis on discovery and enjoying the journey rather than the destination. Overlanders prefer remote backroads to major highways and frequently camp rather than stay in hotels.

According to Overland Expo, overlanding differs from car camping, offroading, and van life in that overlanding is about exploration and long periods of self-sufficient travel. Overlanders immerse themselves in their environment for months or years rather than taking weekend trips to established campgrounds.


5 Important Facts About Overlanding

1. Overlanding Has Been Around Since the Early 1900s

Far from being a recent fad, overlanding has its origins in early 1900s Australia, where it initially referred to herding livestock across large distances to take them to market. Overlanding was popularized in the 1940s and 50s as an outdoor activity after Len Beadell constructed the roads that opened the Australian Outback up to travel.

Overlanding has recently seen a boom in popularity in the United States, but it has been around for decades and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The rise of “digital nomads” and remote work jobs has also contributed to the increased interest in overlanding.

2. You Can Go Overlanding With the Gear You Already Have

Before dropping a bunch of money on a rooftop tent and a fully decked-out rig, you can give overlanding a try with the gear you have. Getting out on a car camping trip will help you figure out what you need and can do without. 

While rooftop tents are undoubtedly convenient, plenty of folks get by with a regular old tent and save their money. If you decide that an overlanding lifestyle is for you, you can always upgrade your gear down the road.

Starting small and improving your setup piece by piece is a viable option for the frugal overlander, and with time you’ll have a better idea of what you want to invest in and what you can do without.

3. You Might Not Need That 4×4

Many overlanding setups you see on Instagram feature massive 4×4 vehicles with roof racks, lift kits, and the whole nine yards. The truth is, a 4×4 vehicle is by no means a requirement to go overlanding. 

Unless technical offroading is also one of your passions, there are many places you can go with a two-wheel-drive vehicle. You may be limited in certain areas, but you’ll have to weigh that against the cost of buying and maintaining a 4×4. Graded dirt roads are no problem for most two-wheel-drive vehicles, and if you do your research, you can still get into the backcountry with the car you have in your driveway.

The most critical requirement for an overlanding vehicle is reliability. You want a car that won’t break down on you in the middle of nowhere and that’s capable of taking you long distances. Keep up with regular maintenance and make sure your car is in good working condition before taking it into the backcountry.

Related Article: Pickup Truck vs. Van for Camping: Which Is Better?

4. Some Gear Is Essential, While Some Isn’t

If you’re serious about getting into overlanding, some items of gear are essential for self-sufficiency. These are the things you need to survive in the backcountry for potentially long periods without resupply. Just a few examples of essential gear would be:

  • Water storage and filtration capabilities
  • First-aid supplies
  • Vehicle recovery kit and tools
  • Emergency food
  • Backup power supply

The overlanding industry is a big business these days, and there’s no shortage of fancy gadgets for your adventure setup. Some can undeniably improve your comfort on long journeys, and it’ll be up to you to decide which extras you want to invest in. If you’re on a budget, you can make it work with relatively affordable gear.

Related Article: Do You Need a Winch for Overlanding?

5. Overlanding Is All About the Journey

Overlanding may seem like it’s just a social media fad. Still, there’s a considerable overlanding community that’s committed to get lost, experiencing new places and cultures, and embarking on real adventures. The journey is more important for many than the price tag on their rig or how many likes they get on social media.

Many people get into overlanding to experience what it’s like to live on the go and be self-sufficient. You never know where the road takes you, after all. If you’ve never traveled on land using a vehicle of your own, overlanding can be a great start. For many overlanders, it’s not only about the destination but the journey and experience. 

If you want to experience slow travel and see the world, overlanding may be right for you.

Related Article: Just How Hard is It to Go Off Grid?

Final Thoughts

Overlanding doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive if you use the gear that you have. With the increased interest in overlanding in recent years, many new companies have popped up to sell expensive decked-out rigs or extra accessories for the sport.

In addition, overlanding is very customizable and possible to do on a budget, provided that you’re resourceful and willing to do some DIY work on your vehicle.

Overlanding is a fantastic way to travel that many generations have enjoyed. Venturing into the unknown will never get old for those who crave new experiences, no matter the current trends.

Here are some of my favorite van life essentials:

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you’re experiencing your life on the road. Here are some tools and gadgets I use on a daily basis that made my van life a lot easier. I hope you’ll also find them as useful as me. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to purchase any of them, I’ll earn a commission.
But in all honesty, these are the exact tools that I use and recommend to everyone, even my closest friends and family.

Kitchen: I’m cooking a lot and I’ve finally found my perfect cookware set: The Magma Cookware 10 Pcs that you can nests and store in less than 1/2 cubic foot of cabinet space is really handy. Since I’m also spending a lot of time working at my desk, I use my favorite coffee mug from Yeti. For more, check my list of kitchen accessories I can’t live without.

Outdoor: Even though I’m spending a lot of time in my van working, I do enjoy getting out and explore my ever-changing neighborhood. This sometimes requires me to take my portable solar battery with me. And when I just want to chill outside and take a nap, I use the Winner Outfitters Hammock.

Clean/Tidy: Space is precious and therefore I used these heavy-duty storage bins from Homs to store my material. They’re robust and you can stack them together. Regarding showering, I like to use this portable solar shower from Advanced Elements when it’s hot outside.

To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations about van life, check out this resource that I made for you!

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