2017: What Does the Coming Year Hold for Overlanding?

It seems like every year magazines and websites take a nostalgic look backwards at the year when frankly, it really wasn’t that long ago. To shake things up a tad I thought I would consult the seer, give my two-pence to the sage, and peer into the murk of a crystal ball. As the new year unfolds, what does it have in store for overlanding?

Automotive news to watch

If the last year offered teases of new vehicles, the next 12 months should reward us with substantive details. In 2017 we will finally get to meet the forthcoming successor to the Wrangler throne, the new Jeep JL. Looking deep into my tea leaves I can see throngs of pitchfork wielding rabble who will loathe the new Jeep. Looking even further into the future, I can see those same miscreants will love it dearly within a matter of months. Such is the way of the Wrangler.

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 9.42.57 AM

No, this is not the new Wrangler. The future is terrible with providing images so we’ll have to make do with a bit of imagination.


The news which might eclipse the that of the Wrangler, and represent one of the most eagerly awaited vehicle debuts in the last fifty years, is of course the arrival of the new Defender. The scuttlebutt suggests the actual launch won’t fall within the coming year, but I suspect details will begin to leak as the announced 2018 release date nears. Like the Wrangler, I can foresee clinched teeth and frustration as hordes decry the demise of the green oval. At the same time I also see lines of people throwing wads of cash at their nearest dealer to get their hands on the first units to hit our shores.


We can only hope the first new Defender to roll of the line next is as cool as the last Defender to roll off the line.


Throughout the painfully long 2016 presidential election, many interesting facts, and un-facts, were flushed out. Amidst rumors that Ford was sending their entire enterprise to Mexico, one of those un-facts I was referring to, we learned that the Ranger, Bronco, and Everest might be coming to our shores, or rather built here on home turf. I suspect we’ll know the full scoop as the summer rolls around. We do have confirmation the Bronco is tentatively scheduled for 2020. Maybe we’ll know more by the end of the year.


Count me amongst the many buyers holding out for the new Ranger. I’ve seen it in South America and want to make it mine.


The other Jeep we know about for sure is the newly redesigned baby Grand Cherokee, otherwise known as the 2017 Compass. Smaller SUVs and crossovers will continue to dominate the automotive industry in the coming year with the Renegade and Compass doing their part to win drivers over to the dirty side. Considering how tight-lipped Jeep has been with the Wrangler, don’t expect to learn much about the second coming of the 2019 Grand Wagoneer. And at a rumored price of over $85,000, do we really care anyway?


I really hope the Wagoneer looks nothing like this. I know it won’t, but that is terrible looking. Image credit: Car Dissection


Travel trends

Hard to believe, but 2017 puts us within reach of the ten year anniversary of the economic poop storm of 2008. While it is safe to say there is still some financial healing to be had, people are once again enjoying at least some pocket cash and that always stimulates travel opportunities. More overlanders will travel internationally in 2017 with fly-and-drive and fly-and-ride tours gaining in popularity. Motorcycle touring companies like Elephant Moto in Colombia and Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental will continue to do a land office business. Iceland will once again lure in more Defender crazed tourists, and people who haven’t dusted off their passports in a while will board planes and end up in places like––Cuba.

IMG_5887 - Version 2

We will also see a greater shift in how overlanders travel. Sprinter, Transit, and ProMaster vans have spawn a cottage industry of companies offering basic to elaborate live-aboard conversions. I see off-road prowess being swapped for creature comforts next year. Overlanding will take on many forms and for some, may barely exceed a graded gravel road.


Overlanding will continue to take on many forms with soft-roading likely to grow in popularity.


Sometimes to look forward one must look backwards. A quick review of the last view years illuminates an undeniable trend towards adventure trailers and I don’t see that changing in the coming year. As overlanders swap heavily built overland trucks for modestly built daily drivers, the trailer is a perfect solution. We may see a reduction in the number of trailer options in 2017 as there has been a glut of startups hoping to snag a corner of the market, but trailers as a whole are going nowhere. Or, everywhere as the case may be.


Live aboard vehicles will continue to gain in numbers. The whole #vanlife culture has become a huge movement as of late.


Trailer sales don’t seem to be losing any momentum. With the introduction of more options from Australia and South Africa, the trend for finely appointed trailers seems to be on the rise.

DSCF1708 - Version 2

The Earthroamer and other large format 4×4 campers will still be much coveted, but rare as hen’s teeth for another year.


Domestic trucks, once quickly dismissed by the overland audience, are now quite common. AEV’s Prospector Ram made a big splash last year. We expect to see more positive movement on the domestic truck front in 2017 with the arrival of the new Raptor and Colorado ZR2.


Beyond the Truck

Another trend to expect with our diversifying audience of overlanders is the importance of adventures that take place beyond the vehicle. It seems that for many years the truck itself and the time behind the wheel were enough to hold our attention. Not to say we’re no longer enamored by cool rigs and bumpy roads, we’re just now squeezing the full potential out of those resources. In 2017 more then ever before, our trucks will deliver us to fishing holes, ski slopes, mountain bike trailheads, river put-ins, and countless other fun having opportunities.

DSCF8305 - Version 2

Adventure Motorcycle

I’m not going to say the reign of the big bike is over, but this year BMW, Kawasaki, CSC, and Honda will begin selling their sub 500cc adventure bikes. This will only serve to get more people on two wheels with entry prices hovering around $5,000. With these new steeds hard off-road riding will take a backseat to gravel crushing. Maybe we can finally bury this silly notion that the harder the trail, the more legit the experience. In 2017 we should all go ride, anywhere, on anything, and however we want to.


The new BMW 310 GS will be the hot ticket for new riders. Although we won’t see it here in the coming year, other small displacement bikes will be arriving soon.


Land Access

When I query the soothsayer about land access in the new year, all I get in return are grumbles and predictions of discordance. All eyes will be on Southern Utah with the recent presidential designation of the Bears Ears National Monument. Utah has always been the battleground for opposing interests. One thing is evident, the overland community, just because they all favor wheeled things, does not mean they all see eye to eye on this issue. Time will tell.


Image credit: Bearsearscoalition.org


On a more positive note, areas recently introduced to stricter permitting requirements have proven effective at improving the user experience while not severely limiting opportunities. The new year brings a metric ton of political uncertainty far beyond land access issues, so it’s difficult to see what the year holds in store.


Expedition Portal

As our community of adventurers continues to grow, we see nothing but more collective fun on the horizon. I look forward to another year of sharing our mutual exploits. There will be good times around the campfire, a few struggles and recoveries on the roughest roads, but all in all, nothing but overlanding fun to be had. Or, at least that’s what my Magic 8 ball tells me.

Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.