The Status of Overlanding Today

Is overlanding becoming a glorified excuse for more bolt-ons and less about travel today?

  • Yes

    Votes: 100 93.5%
  • No

    Votes: 7 6.5%

  • Total voters
    107

JCliftonB

Member
I'm new to posting on the forum, not reading it, or keeping up with the industry. I've spent months at a time traveling by vehicle in both North America and Europe. Like a slow tide sneaking up on you when you're camping on a beach, the "overland" industry seems to have shifted quite dramatically to gear-oriented consumerism rather than travel and exploration on land via two-wheeled, four-wheeled, or six-wheeled vehicle outfitted and curated carefully to accomplish the specific task of transporting its inhabitants and pilots to and fro.

Looking at Overland Expos and events, it seems to me that gear, sales, and "keeping up with the youtube influencer" has become the name of the game and if your rig is not pristine AND sitting on the biggest tires that a body-mount-chop can accommodate, then what are you even doing here?

I have always admired this forum, as well as Ih8, for how most of the users are DIY'ing roof racks, discussing mapping and logging info, figuring out the best way to defecate comfortably en route to their destination, etc.

Now before you think I am a relic on a soapbox, know that I understand the need and benefit for the community and lifestyle at large that said consumerism plays. I think what the industry does for forwarding innovation is great as a whole and love seeing new products and tactics for the job at hand.

So I am curious to hear others' opinions on the matter here specifically at EP. What is your opinion on the status of the overland industry? Is it the nature of the beast being general American "car-culture"? To those in different countries, are you seeing the same thing where you are or is travel still the name of the game?

Thanks for taking the time to discuss and maintain the civility that is great about EP's forum for discussion.
 

Florida Native

Active member
I’m not an overlander and have never claimed to be, though I do enjoy vehicle based travel and love to read and hear about what others are doing to improve living out of a small mobile space for both temporary and extended time periods.

I am slowly coming around when it comes to car culture. Some things used to really bug me, but I’m getting over that and trying hard not to be so judgmental. The mass consumerism and applying every type of “overlanding” kit to one’s vehicle without ever using it for purported “overlanding” purposes is just one type of car culture.

As long as it doesn’t interfere with the safety of others on the road, then by all means, they should go for it if it makes them happy. Why should we care if they never venture off road or out of town with all of the kit?

-Mike
 

big a

Adventurer
Good morning,

This is an interesting topic. I think it's multifaceted though. It's a journey where the hobby of automotive customization crosses over to aging/perspective as well as the influence of others on the inexperienced dreamer.
When I was in high school, I had a base XL rcsb F-150 4x4 manual 4.9L with a leveling kit and 32's (very simple truck with very basic upgrades). I'd grab the mattress from the guest pull-out couch, throw it in the bed with all my camping/fishing gear and explore every pond/lake within 200 miles. Then, went into the Army, and slept on the ground for 3 yrs (too old to do that anymore!). On top of all this, I LOVE automotive projects of all types to include engine swaps et al.

So, where does a person draw the line?

I agree that if the vehicle is solely for overlanding, then simple is best to retain reliability (perhaps mild modifications such as small lift, slightly larger tires, lighting etc.). Now, as I've aged comfort has become increasingly more important as is ease of use, i.e. packing/unpacking. My truck is a simple XL rcsb with a leveling kit, 33s for clearance, decked storage and a RTT. No tunes on the engine and as stock as possible. I also have a JK with a 4bt, and have done other 4bt swaps. As long as left in relatively stock form and with a manual transmission, hard to beat for reliability. But even here my age shows because I'm not interested in high hp modifications because they ruin long-term reliability.

Back to consumerism... well, I completely agree with you! Seems everything has become "you need this this and this" to be successful in your journeys. Some of it though just falls in line with a desire for more comfort and ease of set-up/take-down, but has it gone crazy? Oh yeah... Add in the influence of social media, and the "bigger is better" mantra, and boom! Sales galore!!! But, on a positive note, one cool aspect of this is ingenuity and innovation. Interest and competition drive new sectors in the economy, and provide jobs and dreams for those people starting new businesses!

Unfortunately, our society has become increasingly judgmental, condescending, arrogant, elitist and unsupportive. Sometimes as we age we miss the simple days, those of yore, and forget about the joys of dreaming and the fun and pride of execution! There's really no other way to learn than just doing! A person will figure out what they need and don't, and if you don't believe me, just check out the classified ads. Ultimately, the answer lies within the intended "overall" purpose which includes the dreams and goals of the builder/traveler! We will never all agree, but we should be able to see the perspective of others free from negative emotion!

Thx for posting the question! Kind of a fun thought and distraction... well, back to work, LOL!
-Andy
 

DiploStrat

Expedition Leader
Been doing this for about 50 years. I LUV all the gear heads, off road racers, etc., because, from time to time, they produce stuff I can use. Examples from my past include Vic Hickey's extra fuel tanks, Lonnie Woods (Rough Country) with his Blazer suspension, whoever invented roof top tents, etc. Same is true on the RV side - we have nesting cookware (30 years old) from ******** Cepek, collapsible bowls, and a few other things.

At the end of the day, buy what you need for the way you travel and ignore the rest. But it is still fun to window shop at Overland EXPO. ;)

EDITED TO ADD: Seems the Forum doesn't like the first name of a gentleman from South Gate who was the first major purveyor of large, high flotation tires, and who coined the phrase "Baja Proven."

1636390503120.png

 
Last edited:

tacollie

Glamper
If anything overlanding and traveling is more popular in the US. That's what's driving the overlander consumerism. It's a lot easier for most people to buy a vehicle and build it while working. It's a lot harder for most people to figure out how to get time off to actually travel. I think what we're seeing in the US is just people working and building vehicles. I do think people actually do want to get out and travel and the "overland lifestyle" offers them the idea of freedom. Ironically they could get out and travel more if they spent the money on traveling versus building. But it's hard to get out of your daily norms. I think the influencer craze has caught on because most people don't have that much time off work and they want to figure out how to make money traveling. People like having the "security" of regular income.
 

Victorian

Approved Vendor : Total Composites
I get your thought process. When I started travelling for months at a time (by motorbike in Africa) we called it vacation. We had basic gear and no money. I then moved onto Bicycle travelling (back to basics). Now that I'm older I need/want more comforts. The thought of wearing 3 pairs of socks at night and using a stinky outhouse doesn't appeal to me anymore. Lucky me, I can build any camper I want.... When I build my own the focus is in durability, comfort, the least maintenance possible and it needs to stay affordable. Not many people understand that concept anymore... Attending many of the Overland shows thought me one thing: Visitors where more interested in seeing lift kits, big tires, winches bumpers etc before they consider anything overland worthy. More than once was I in defensive mode explaining the stock tires on my vehicle...
I think that most people are made to believe by forums and online groups that you need a $100.000 kitted out Jeep to start exploring. This makes me sad. After all, I had my best memories in Africa with my Ford Taurus station wagon. One day we had a Tunesien family (6 people total) in our car after they broke down. Space was tight was we had so much fun singing while they used our toolbox as a drum.

In any case, no matter what you own/drive. Go out and have fun!
Africa01.jpegAfrica02.jpegAfrica03.jpeg
 

RoyJ

Adventurer
Agree 100%. "Overlanding" has turned into a fad, deviating from the original spirit of over the land expeditions. Blame social media, consumerism, what have you.

Back in the day (80s/90s), recreational off-roading and over the land exploration seemed fairly separate. These days, people strive for rigs built up looking like they're crossing the Sahara, only to do day trip "trail runs". All we're doing is making our rigs over-weight and top heavy.

I have a 2 door JK, moderately modded (low lift long arm 37s). I use it mostly for scouting, or as a scouting support vehicle in a convoy. But it's not an "overland" truck. It has no RTT, just winch bumper for protection, and tent camping supplies onboard. My "overlander" is a near stock 99 Ram 2500 with a bigfoot. It's taken me everywhere I wanted to on 7+ day plus trips.
 

JCliftonB

Member
Thanks for the responses! Please keep them coming as I think opinions on the matter are very interesting!

I think we all need to do better at living by the mantra: "To each, their own."

There are definitely benefits from the lifestyle-turned-industry of overlanding coming from the innovations and ingenuity that the market pressures create. We all benefit from this which is fantastic. But, I tend to think that education cannot keep up with consumerism which can pose a real problem. When John Doe decides to bolt on an extra ton of weight to his Tacoma without knowing the harm that it will cause to his vehicle's specifically designed componentry, his and potentially someone else's life is potentially on the line when John Doe decides he is ready to drive Black Bear Pass in a vehicle with a braking system that is not suited for the job.

What's the solution to this? More education? Easier access to education? Event organizers putting an emphasis on the subject matter rather than selling as many booths to vendors as possible?

We all have a personal responsibility when it comes to modifying anything in general. It is our responsibility, whether we know it or not, to know what should be done and what should not be done. Ignorance is not bliss when you are denied your insurance claim because your vehicle far exceeded its GVWR. But at the same time, there is a lot of fine print from manufacturers that claim deniability (rightfully so) when selling their products to consumers. I'd love to see a manufacturer that emphasizes some education on the proper use of their equipment as a whole. Jut thinking out loud here really.

What are your thoughts?
 

Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
Been doing this for about 50 years. I LUV all the gear heads, off road racers, etc., because, from time to time, they produce stuff I can use. Examples from my past include Vic Hickey's extra fuel tanks, Lonnie Woods (Rough Country) with his Blazer suspension, whoever invented roof top tents, etc. Same is true on the RV side - we have nesting cookware (30 years old) from ******** Cepek, collapsible bowls, and a few other things.

At the end of the day, buy what you need for the way you travel and ignore the rest. But it is still fun to window shop at Overland EXPO. ;)

EDITED TO ADD: Seems the Forum doesn't like the first name of a gentleman from South Gate who was the first major purveyor of large, high flotation tires, and who coined the phrase "Baja Proven."

View attachment 691743

That ad is too good!
 

Christian P.

Expedition Leader
Staff member
I get your thought process. When I started travelling for months at a time (by motorbike in Africa) we called it vacation. We had basic gear and no money. I then moved onto Bicycle travelling (back to basics). Now that I'm older I need/want more comforts. The thought of wearing 3 pairs of socks at night and using a stinky outhouse doesn't appeal to me anymore. Lucky me, I can build any camper I want.... When I build my own the focus is in durability, comfort, the least maintenance possible and it needs to stay affordable. Not many people understand that concept anymore... Attending many of the Overland shows thought me one thing: Visitors where more interested in seeing lift kits, big tires, winches bumpers etc before they consider anything overland worthy. More than once was I in defensive mode explaining the stock tires on my vehicle...
I think that most people are made to believe by forums and online groups that you need a $100.000 kitted out Jeep to start exploring. This makes me sad. After all, I had my best memories in Africa with my Ford Taurus station wagon. One day we had a Tunesien family (6 people total) in our car after they broke down. Space was tight was we had so much fun singing while they used our toolbox as a drum.

In any case, no matter what you own/drive. Go out and have fun!
View attachment 691817View attachment 691818View attachment 691819

We bought this LandCruiser in Australia for $10000 and spent years driving it across Australia and Africa. It was awesome. There was nothing fancy...

 

GBGCR4x4

Member
Interesting topic. I think consumerism has taken over most industries, and it's a result of the age of Internet and social media. Everything is so accessible now, and we are constantly bombarded by ads, videos, entertainment and such, and it's all just a click away or a "scroll" away which makes it so easy to buy or "consume more". I think being so connected to our phones or computers has led our brains to automatically look for more, want more and "consume" more.

That said, I do believe the whole overlanding industry seems to be going a bit mainstream. Not a bad thing if you are someone who likes to focus more on enjoying your own "overlanding way". If you'd rather spend time DIYing stuff or on the road, that's admirable and frankly the best way, in my opinion. There are others who will prefer to build up their rig and test it every now and then, which I guess is fine too.

The good thing about the industry being more popular nowadays, are the inventions, or the innovation in products and gear. In the end, they can make your life or trip a better one.

I spend a lot of time back and forth between Florida and Costa Rica. In CR, overlanding is a new thing. People don't have the same purchasing power, and although you see hundreds of Hiluxes, you don't see many that are equipped. Near the coast, you can see great builds from mostly expats. In the city, the builds tend to have DIY racks (in Costa Rica they call them "hechizos", which is slang for made at home). However, I've seen that thanks to innovation of brands, even the local brands are starting to do some pretty nice thins with racks and bumpers. Hence, I'd say the popularity of the industry is allowing other less wealthy countries to see, learn, evolve. As a whole,all types of overlanders benefit from it.
 

ricoisme26

Active member
Like many have touched on the spotlight/fad/attention overlanding has gained is both good and bad. It has led to innovation, added people to a community they may not have been exposed to otherwise, and shared an appreciation for nature, the outdoors, and cultures. Conversely it also can draw unwanted attention. The places we want to visit, the vehicles we want to drive, the activities we want to participate in can all change when people abuse them, cause laws to change, or overrun them.

We just have to make the best out of this and take the good with the bad. Use it as an opportunity to teach people.

That all being said, I cringe at the term "overland" or any variation of it. To be honest I don't know if I've ever participated in what would be defined as overlanding. But I am attracted heavily to this hobby/lifestyle because of my love for the outdoors and vehicle transportation. Maybe, as mentioned earlier as well, we just need to become more accepting of "to each their own".

Would I drop everything and live in a van on the road (or off the road?) for the next 6 months? Sure would if my bills could be paid and I could come back to my home/job if I decided that lifestyle wasn't for me. That reason alone leaves a lot of people in the hobby spectrum instead of the lifestyle spectrum of overlanding. On a personal note I have so many of these hobbies that I find myself not truly participating in many if any of them as I'm spread too thin (in terms of finances and time) and I still have to pay my bills and punch the clock Monday through Friday (fortunately not Saturday and Sunday like some).

Maybe overlanding is an exercise of risk vs reward? Test of our self confidence? Balancing act of our wants and needs? Casual hobby that's in fad right now? I don't know, and I digress. But I'll keep looking here, and everywhere else I can for the answers, maybe I'll find them one day.
 
I “came up” starting with a 69 FJ40 while in college and camping trips to eastern California and SE Utah in the early 70s. When I had a wife and 3 small daughters we were camping in tent on ground with 88 F350 CC south of Denali. Ran into young European family (French?) camping/traveling on long overland trip in NA in Land Rover Series 2 or 3.
Gave me ideas, put 4 Wheel camper on F350.
Got older and richer, desired indoor toilet and ability to take short hot shower qod, always liked Unimogs, knew about Unicat, in summer 2005 saw U500 on city Seward hwy!! Wife had put F350 into deep ditch previous summer to avoid idiot who stopped in the middle of a curve on busy narrow hwy to check trailer hitch, F350 was totalled, she and her sister were fine.
Went to dealer selling U500s, serendipitously walking distance (2 mi) from house. Checked out all options (by that point I knew enough to order just the right stuff, only mistake was not ordering switchable controls for RHD for Oz and Southern Africa; also should have gotten 1-2 more pairs of front hydraulic outlets), paid for it, drop shipped to Unicat early 06 and picked up camper summer 06. Many good trips before she got ALS, planning Southern Africa in ~a year with kids.
I certainly didn’t need any “driving training” by that point in my life, having owned several diesel 4x4s for about 35 years.
I read of big expo campers both in Europe and States for sale after 1 big trip, ~20k miles, for 60% new price.
I suspect some of the owners didn’t “come up” through less fancy, cheaper vehicles.
And what can I say about the Internet in general, social media and “influencers”?
 
Last edited:
Top