Overlanding: Five things you might be doing wrong

Over the last several years, the Expedition Portal team has watched as the overlanding audience has evolved, not just in the volume of participants, but with regard to how people travel overland. We have watched as countless newcomers become seasoned adventurers, their skills honed with the passing of every mile. There are however, some who still struggle. What are they doing wrong? Here are five things many overlanders don’t always get right.


Going Unprepared: This could be as egregious as not packing the necessary recovery gear for a difficult off-road epic, or simply forgetting to bring along enough water. Knowing precisely what to bring, and how much of it, is something best learned from experience, and hopefully not the hard way. The takeaway here is––bad things happen. The solution: Make a list. Dream up as many unfortunate scenarios as you can, then assemble the gear and skills necessary to overcome those setbacks should they arise. Start with the obvious elements like first aid and recovery gear. Then refine your list to how many cans of Pringles you’ll need for those snack attacks that hit mid day.





Taking too much stuff: If going with too little gear is problematic, don’t think for a minute that taking too much is a lesser offense. While it’s tempting to take the glamping concept to new levels, cramming every inch of your available storage space with the latest widgets does come at a cost, primarily fuel costs. A heavily laden vehicle consumes more fuel than a modestly loaded truck, something to consider the more protracted your journeys become. Copious amounts of gear also adversely impact handling and can even compromise the safety of the vehicle’s occupants. Lastly, setting up a camp replete with tables, chairs, shower rooms, solar panels, and all of the other trappings of a comfortable camp takes up more than just storage space, but a great deal of effort. Sometimes simple camp living is the way to go, particularly if you break camp daily. The solution: On your next trip, take an inventory of the things you think you could do without. You might be surprised you don’t need those things.


Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 1.09.06 PM


Destination-itis: Many overlanders get fixated on completing a big traverse, an ambitious circumnavigation, or some other travel objective. Although cliches are loathsome things, the trite phrase, “the journey is the destination,” does ring true. I recently spoke with an overlander who spent 15 days driving from San Diego to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and back. It was a commendable achievement, but he admitted he didn’t see much outside of the view afforded by his windshield. He conceded that with his limited time, he would have been better off exploring a smaller area of Alaska in more intimate detail. The solution: Just be aware that when connecting point A to point B, there are often many interesting things to see and do along the way. Things that might even be more compelling than the target destination.




Having but not doing: We’re all aware of the scenario. An eager overlander spends all of their time, energy, and precious funds building a stunning overland truck, only to have it rot in the driveway. There is no denying that the build process is fun, and undoubtedly necessary for some travels, but should the process of creating the ideal adventure mobile come at the cost of the adventure itself, what’s the point? The solution: Put the experience of overlanding first. Buy what you need as you genuinely need it. For the price of a bumper you may not really need, you could travel for a week. Overlanding should be about experiences above acquisitions.


Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 1.10.30 PM


Not going overlanding: It would be impossible to catalog all of the valid life challenges that conspire to keep the would-be overlander homebound. One of the more common reasons overlanders miss opportunities to get away is simply a matter of taking the time to do so. For some overlanders, they postpone trips because they’re waiting to finally install that next vehicle modification they always wanted. Others delay getting away because they’re saving up for that multi-week expedition they always wanted to tackle. The solution: Overlanding isn’t always about crossing continents. Take the weekend and explore your backyard. The more frequently you go, the easier it is to, well, go more frequently. Pack your gear during the week and be ready to charge out the door on Friday.


You could do a lot worse in life if the above missteps are the only things you’re doing incorrectly. However, if you heed these small unsolicited words of advice, you’ll find you will have more fun, come home more satisfied, and go more often.


There’s certainly nothing wrong with that.



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.