The Overland Journal Podcast #18
Principles of Overlanding :: What is Overlanding?

For this Principles of Overlanding, Scott and Matt discuss the history of the term “overland,” and how to properly define it within the context of experience, with input from a large quorum of other overland travelers. They also pose a series of questions to help provide a framework for what makes an overland journey.

what-is-overlanding-1.jpgA remote area of Northern Arizona, heading out to a Grand Canyon overlook on the Navajo Reservation.

What is Overlanding?: Vehicle-supported adventure travel. (first used by Overland Journal in 2007)

Overlanding is ancient as a term, originally popularized in describing long-distance cattle drives in Australia. For vehicle travel, it has been around since the first automobile, a trip completed by Bertha Benz in 1888 (considered the first overland vehicle journey).

Ask the right questions: If the answer is yes to any one of these (assuming the travel is by vehicle), then it is most likely overlanding.
1. Am I traveling remotely?
2. Am I experiencing a culture or region unique from my own?
3. Am I visiting an under-explored or under-documented region?
4. Am I traveling self-supported in unfamiliar territories for multiple days, weeks, months, or years?

Overlanding is Defined as:
Overland Journal (Written by Jonathan Hanson and Scott Brady in 2007)

Definition (simplistic): Vehicle-dependent adventure travel
Definition (thorough): Vehicle-supported, self-reliant adventure travel, typically exploring remote locations and interacting with other cultures.

A remote camp in Wulff Land, during the Expeditions7 crossing of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Let’s look at the more popular definitions from experienced travelers.
Dan Grec: Overland Travel (commonly called “overlanding”) is all about traveling through countries “on the land,” with some kind of vehicle, for an extended amount of time.
Chris Scott: He described overlanding as really only starting after weeks or months on the road.


Driving the frozen MacKenzie River leading out to the Arctic Ocean in Northern Canada.

Note: While we have used the description of “vehicle-dependent travel” since 2009, we have never considered it a proper definition, as it requires significant context. For example, it would be easy to confuse a simple road trip with overlanding if it is defined as such. As a result, we feel it is critical to include “adventure” as part of the definition, as it provides the necessary context. I am on an adventure with my vehicle. . .

It is also critical to note that this effort is not intended to be dismissive of any other definition, or if someone wants to call their weekend camping trip an “overland” journey. We are simply suggesting that proper definitions are as valuable for overlanding, as they are for any other activity. Are you hiking or mountaineering? We can all agree there is a difference, and that distinction carries value in our communications.

A remote region of Tasmania, along the Balfour Track.

Links: (Defined in 2008) (Defined in 2010)

Other terms worth reviewing:
OFFROADING or FOURWHEELING Recreational sport using a 4wd

CAR CAMPING- Traveling in a vehicle to an established campground. If there is a picnic table there or a toilet, it is probably car camping.

BACKCOUNTRY ADVENTURE or 4WD TOURING- A one-day or multi-day off-highway trip on an adventure motorcycle or in a 4WD vehicle.

VEHICLE-DEPENDENT EXPEDITION-An organized, vehicle-dependent journey with a defined purpose, often geographic or scientific in nature.

EXPEDITION VEHICLE- A 4WD vehicle or adventure motorcycle prepared for self-reliant travel over long distances, through unpredictable weather and over variable terrain.


Host Bios:
Scott Brady
Scott is the publisher and co-founder of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal and is often credited with popularizing overlanding in North America. His travels by 4WD and adventure motorcycle span all seven continents and includes three circumnavigations of the globe. His polar expeditions include two vehicle crossings of Antarctica and the first long-axis crossing of Greenland. @scott.a.brady

Matthew Scott
Matthew is a leading expert in automotive adventure. He has extensively explored the world’s most remote places by 4WD and is considered an industry authority on overland travel. He is the only American to ever become an editor of a major Australian 4WD publication and has over 15 years of competitive auto racing experience. @mattexplore