Already popular in places like South Africa and Australia, where it has roots in driving livestock, overlanding as an outdoor adventure is just ramping up in America.
Some have called it “glorified car camping” or “the road trip,” but by Overland Journal’s definition, overlanding is “self-reliant adventure travel to remote destinations where the journey is the primary goal.”
Typically this translates to using some mechanized transport — bike to truck — to go further off trail for longer periods of time, even internationally. But in the U.S. overlanding seems to be open for interpretation.
Since it’s more about the expedition than the exclusivity of an outdoor activity once you get somewhere, a variety of outdoor types — from hikers and campers to four-wheelers and hunters — are embracing the concept.
“There’s an overlander in each of us, as the journey not just the destination is important and fun,” John Griffith, director of sales and marketing for Tepui Tents tells GrindTV.
Tepui is the car-top tent company that introduced its two-minute pop-up overlanding option at Outdoor Retailer just three years ago and has seen an explosion of interest from outdoor gear aggregators like REI as well as directly from consumers.
Griffith suggests an overlander is anyone who likes to be outside — people who want to get away and be closer to nature.
“Even hard-core hikers or bikers, because they can drive further away, set up base camp, then hike, climb, ride from there,” says Griffith.
A typical American-style overlanding trip might mean jumping in a Subaru, tent on top, with a camping box containing all you need to camp for the weekend, or driving your four-wheeler to Joshua Tree with motorcycles and quads to see the full moon, according to Griffith.
Even “being prepared and self-reliant at a festival,” he says. “There are parts of overlanding that are applicable to all of us.”
Americans appear to be most intrigued by the instant gratification of a grab-and-go solution that’s always ready to roll. Preparing transport for the journey seems to be part of the fun and removes the gear-collection hassle factor that sometimes impedes going on adventures in the first place.
One could argue overlanding is not about acquiring more gear but rather less, yet with more preparation. “It can be a state of mind,” Griffith says. “The more you do it, the better you learn how to keep it simple.”
But like anything learning to overlanding is a bit of an art form. The first time Griffith tried it, he thought he was ready to go: tent locked and loaded, a sleeping bag from the garage, frying pan in hand, and a quick stop for groceries.
“All went well until it started to snow, which wasn't forecasted by a long shot,” he says. “My sleeping bag turned out to me my daughter's ‘Ariel’ bag, which came up to my belly button. I ended up spooning with a dude from work. Overlanding takes practice.”
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