The Inconvenient Truth of Modern Overlanding

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I’ve been camping my whole life, building trucks for a decade, and somehow the term ‘overland’ only popped on my radar within the past few years.  Seems like I’ve been under a rock as the practice of overlanding has been in full bloom across the globe – dating back to the 1940s.  It originally defined the act of camping for weeks to months at a time, and commonly traveling through different countries.

Within the past 5 years, overland really began trending here in America.  What was once a moniker reserved for dedicated off-the-grid living is now a blanket term for anything involving a vehicle and some semblance of nature.

As with any community, you have your hardcore dedicants and casual enthusiasts, and the off-road realm is no different.  For any trip or experience, you’ll have one portion of the audience in awe, and another yawning at your mediocrity.  Engaging online can require thicker skin at times, and if you’re planning to include ‘overland’ in your name, expect some grumbles and added critique.

Another point of contention is technology and gear. The most dedicated thrive off the simplicity of car camping.  Overland and camping accessories have exploded onto the market in recent years, widening the gap between the old days.  Car refrigerators, pop up living rooms, portable and solar power stations – you’ll either get rolling eyes or big thumbs up.  We are tech geeks by nature and love these accessories while out on the trail.  We also realize we’re toeing the line between overlanding and glamping.

Overlanding in today’s world has become somewhat bastardized from its original roots.  And in the social media age, all it takes is a logo and Instagram handle to start your overland outfit. And it’s spread like wildfire, much to the ire of the overland overlords. 

Now this is a weird subject for us, because hell we’re Outworld Overland.  Where do we fall? Are we deserving of the name? Are we truly overlanding?

The truth is, it doesn’t matter.  If you lift the veil behind this project, it’s three friends who love building, exploring, and getting awesome footage.  I’ve never camped for months at a time or crossed country borders in our convoy…yet.  We’ve come a long way from casually building in our driveways, but still a ways to go in pursuit of some of our own idols.

It’s a term in which people find comfort.  Most of us are bound by the economy, and despite the passion for exploring know they have to drag their ass back to a desk Monday morning.  It’s an anecdote for those constrained by reality but wanting more.  It’s their way of emulating idols and adventures they can only imagine.

There are many who still keep true to the original spirit of overland, but many more who are simply inspired by them.  There’s a common ground between all of us, and the terminology shouldn’t cause a rift between ethos.

As a wise man once said, “haters gonna hate, and ainters gonna ain’t”. One way or another, just get out there and explore. The experience is what really matters.

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7 Comments

  1. It’s funny. All new sports, hobbies are like this. I to have been doing this all my life and only recently started calling it overlanding. Time was it was just my dad saying, “wonder where that road goes…”

    Now I think what I like is that there is name for it. We used to call it exploring, or campsite recon, and that eventually became the end in itself. Now it is its own sport! I’m sure what we do isn’t overlanding to some, but it’s still the same thing we’ve been doing for years. And it works for us.

    -M

  2. Great write up!
    I guess I’ve always wanted the campsite that felt remote. The one that people would struggle to get to. Because it seems like there, the mind can truly let go of the things that belong behind the desk at work. It’s the place where friends have a real conversation around the fire. As far as tech I always just ask what would make the trip smoother/easier without making it like sitting on my couch back home.

    -W

  3. A couple months back I suggested to some friends that I was going to make a “what is overlanding” video. It’s still on the back burner, but this short article hits the nail on the head of what I wanted to tackle: Those people who try to define it as some length of time in some particularly hostile locale on the most dangerous routes imaginable while living off the land. That’s great stuff for some, but it’s restrictive to define it in those terms. A part of the reason I’m working my current SW-EX project (check my YouTube channel) over an extended region, including the occasional paved road, is because of a desire to make “overlanding” more accessible. It’s personally experiencing places that are remote, communing with nature, seeing other cultures (including historical), and meeting new people–even if you share the same native tongue.

  4. Very well written. I definitely agree. I’d say to each their own, the gear is great but definitely not necessary. It’s whatever you want or feel you’d enjoy to get out and have an adventure.

    Great article, and great photos. Keep up the good work.

  5. Good perspective on the whole “Overlanding”moniker. I agree, some people get too tied up trying to define it… but in the end who cares? Just get our there and explore!

    Keep it up and thanks for the good posts/photos.

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