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What Is Overlanding All About? Why People Do It, and How

You may have seen the word overlanding pop up a few times as you research camping or hiking. Its becoming more and more popular. You might have even had someone ask you to go with them. But what is overlanding? Today, we’ll look at the definition and how you can take the first steps to get started. 

Overland Truck Camper - Bears Ears, Zion and White Pocket and More | Ep 3 - MOTM

What Is Overlanding? 

Overlanding means different things to different people but the overall concept is the same. Overlanding generally means traveling to remote locations, traversing land without a goal other than exploring the area. Typically, people who do this are self-sufficient, traveling with whatever they need to stay alive and comfortable wherever they are. 

Those who enjoy overlanding feel the adventure comes from the journey more than the destination—some overland for days, weeks, months, or even years. 

Overlanding can be done on foot, bike, ATV, Off Road Vehicle, or even camper. Overlanding typically is conducted in remote areas where self-reliance is key. Many times vehicles are heavily modified for the task to carry supplies to support modern life. This can range from a basic tent to a million-dollar custom vehicle.

Where Do People Go Overlanding? 

People go overlanding in underdeveloped and minimally maintained areas. Many destinations have very little documentation, making it feel almost as if you’re an explorer. Essentially, people head out and explore what feels like unchartered territory. Overlanding isn’t plugging a destination into a GPS and following it. Instead, it’s setting out to see where the next road leads.

Most overlanding happens on public lands such as National Forests or areas the Bureau of Land Management services. Those overlanding must be careful they don’t cross onto private property. 

Three friends on top of their vehicle while overlanding.
Overlanding will take you on adventures through underdeveloped and minimally maintained areas.

Why Do People Like Overlanding? 

There’s something exhilarating about exploring what feels like uncharted lands, with or without a destination in mind. There’s a sense of freedom and excitement that comes with exploring in this way. It requires primal instincts and gives adventurers a sense of accomplishment. 

It’s truly not for everyone. There are usually no modern bathrooms, and there are risks that come with this. But some people feel the call to rustic adventuring and go for it. 

Pro Tip: No bathroom? No problem! We put together 40 RV Boondocking Tips To Make Your Off-Grid Camping Better.

Is There an Overland Camper? 

Some vehicles are designed specifically with overlanding in mind, such as the EarthRoamer. These types of vehicles can handle rough terrain without damage. In addition to handling intense offroading, overlanding campers can be completely self-sufficient, allowing you to explore for long periods without needing services other than filling up with water. 

There’s one downside to the EarthRoamer. Even a used model can cost upwards of $750,000. If you shop around, you should be able to find something more affordable. Certain truck campers are also a good option for overlanding. 

Overlander vehicle parked at campsite with hammock and dog.
Self-sufficient overlanding campers are great options for people wanting to explore for long periods of time.

Can You DIY an Overlanding Camper? 

If the high price tag of specialized overlanding campers isn’t for you, it might be time to put in some hard work to make your own. You might be able to DIY your overlanding camper with enough research and effort. This is a great way to get a customized vehicle that gives you exactly what you need. 

But it’s not for the average DIYer. You’ll need advanced skills in electrical work, welding, construction, design, and more. Because overlanding campers must withstand rugged terrain, it requires precise engineering. Very few people have managed to build an overlanding camper as a result. 

Building a truck camper onto your off-roading vehicle might be your best bet for a DIY overlanding camper. If you don’t have to worry about your vehicle handling rugged terrain, you’ll have an easier time building up the camper. 

overlanding truck camper
Our Overlanding Truck Camper setup

What Do You Need for Overlanding? 

If you’re accustomed to staying at campgrounds when you camp, you might feel somewhat overwhelmed with the thought of overlanding, especially when it comes to what you’ll need. Here are a few things to get you started. 

Overlanding Vehicle or Camper

You’ll need something to get you out on those rugged roads. For true overlanding, a low-riding sedan won’t get you far. You’ll need a well-equipped vehicle capable of taking you on unmaintained gravel and dirt roads in addition to housing enough supplies to get by and keep you safe. 

Group of friends driving truck over rocks while overlanding.
Take advantage of solar power and generators when overlanding to extend the time of your adventures.

Power Source

Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid work during your time of exploration, you’ll still need to power up your devices and charge your in-house batteries. Solar power or a generator are popular options among overlanders, but you could also use propane. 

Pro Tip: Interested in DIYing an overlanding camper? This is how we went about Building a Rugged Overland Solar Off-Grid Power System.

Portable Toilet

As it does, nature will call, and you’ll need a place to go. Some vehicles that are capable of overlanding have built-in toilets, making this a nonissue. If that isn’t the case for you, you’ll need another solution. 

Composting toilets are popular due to their ease of use, and you don’t need a black tank for one, either. Another option is a basic portable toilet, which takes up little space and stores away easily. 

Toilet paper sitting in outdoor space.
There’s no need for a black tank when using a portable toilet while overlanding.

Waste Management

You’ll need a way to dispose of your wastewater as well as your trash. It’s illegal to dump your wastewater (both gray and black) on the ground in most cases. This means you’ll need to find a designated dump to dispose of it. It’ll take a bit of research and might limit your distance traveled. Limiting the amount of wastewater you use will let you extend your trip. 

You’ll also need a place to store your trash until you can find a trash receptacle. Be extra cautious with storing trash when in bear country. 

Fresh Water Storage

Water is essential to your travels. Water storage will likely be your weakest link when it comes to how long you can go without finding civilization. Your journey can only continue if you have fresh water available. You’lll need plenty of storage for freshwater if you intend on being out for long periods. To help extend your water, use a filter approved to filter natural water sources such as rivers and streams. 

Two overlanding vehicles setting up camp.
A solid fresh water system and cooking setup are necessary while overlanding.

Cooking Setup

Your body needs adequate fuel for energy to explore. Having a small but functional cooking setup lets you make fulfilling meals. Because you’ll likely have limited indoor space, considering ways you can cook outside. When selecting portable kitchenware, seek out multipurpose tools to save space and increase efficiency. 

Pro Tip: Looking for epic ways to get off-road? Find out Can You Go Rock Crawling With a Camper?

Overlanding 101: Overlanding Camp Kitchen Best Practices

How to Get Started Overlanding

One of the best ways to get started is to find others doing it. Find someone who will let you shadow their adventures, so you can learn from them. 

Taking advantage of online resources is another great way to learn from those more experienced. Watch YouTube videos, follow influencers, read blog articles, and hop on forums. You’ll be overlanding in no time.  

Woman researching on her phone sitting on her car while overlanding.
Overlanding gives you the opportunity to enjoy dispersed camping all around the country.

How to Find Overlanding Campsites

Overlanders will likely find themselves on public lands, meaning there should be plenty of dispersed camping opportunities. If you’re within a National Forest or on Bureau of Land Management land, check out their website to find allowed camping areas. There are many other websites such as Campendium, and iOverlander that show you campsite options. 

Ready for Adventure?

Sometimes, you’re looking for more of an adventure than just your standard camping trip. Overlanding can help satisfy that itch for some. 

Have you considered overlanding as a hobby or lifestyle? Drop a comment below!

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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